Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

July 13, 2009

Wrestling Poetry Project

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Edited in December 9, 2009. This post was a call for wrestling poems. It was posted July 13, 2009. Four and a half months later, on November 29, 2009, the collection of 52 poems that came from this call was posted:
 
All-World Wrestling Poetry—a collection of 52 wrestling poems

 

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We don’t have nearly enough wrestling poetry.

This Wrestling Poetry Project is intended to foster poetry that is about or related to the sport of amateur wrestling. This can mean our ancient idea of wrestling, which was a sport in the original Olympics, or the current sport, which has essentially three major styles here in the US: (1) the American folkstyle (a.k.a. collegiate style) which is what we have in the high schools and colleges of the USA; (2) freestyle, which is a modern Olympic sport, and (3) the upper-body-oriented Greco-Roman style, also an Olympic sport, which significantly does not include leg holds. There is also Sumo wrestling, and martial arts grappling, and many others around the world. Some of these can be found at the Wikipedia site: Wrestling, which is where the photos came from for this post.

For the Wrestling Poetry Project, the poetry you write may also be about what happens between siblings, and may include parents as family time gets rambunctious in the parlor. It may also be about wrestling with ideas, or non-human beings, or something otherworldly or what have you, for instance Jacob’s wrestling match in Genesis 32:24-32 and David Hernandez’ “Proof”, a poem in which a bear is wrestled. What I don’t mean is the professional wrestling of the WWE or what Hulk Hogan and Randy “Macho Man” Savage would practice, with flying elbows off the top rope and tomahawk chops and whatnot.

Write a good wrestling poem, and submit it to be part of a collection of poems to be posted on Clattery Machinery on Poetry this coming November, near when wrestling season begins. This way, the collection will be available for reading by all the athletes and their friends and fans, when the online search for poetry on wrestling will once again intensify. I know it does because in 2006, when wrestling season was beginning, I made a post called Wrestling With Poetry in November, to alert readers that I would be turning my energies and focus from my frequent poetry blogging, to spend time as a moderator at MassWrestling.com. That post gets Google searched for “wrestling poetry”. There is demand for poems about wrestling, but scant supply.


 

Submissions will only be accepted in the submission thread at Babilu: Babilu: Wrestling Poetry Project Submission Area. To post a poem there, you will first need to be registered at Babilu. You can do that here: Register here. Babilu also has a workshop area, wherein you can post your wrestling poems for constructive feedback here: Wrestling Poetry Workshop–and please read the Read-Me. You don’t have to workshop the poem at Babilu or anywhere else. Or, you may workshop the poem elsewhere only, or at Babilu and elsewhere, and then post it in the submission area when you sense the poem is complete and ready. But, no e-mail submissions, and no private message submissions, please. This is a community project, such that we all participate and can see the collection forming as we get closer to the beginning of wrestling season.

You may submit your own work, or you may know of an old poem that is out of copyright, or maybe one that you didn’t write but you have the copyrights to. These are all welcome and wanted. You may also submit artwork that is easily posted between the poems. For instance, here is a collection of Banjo Paterson poems at Clattery MacHinery on Poetry, with pictures in between the poems: The Top 20 Greatest Banjo Paterson Poems of All Time. The number of art pieces that is acceptable depends, then, on the number of poems. We cannot have 300 pieces of artwork, if there are 3 poems. The reverse, however, can be true. And if there is only one poem, then I go with it. If we have one thousand, I’ll find a way to do that too.

Which brings up the copyright issue. These poems are to be freely shared by those who would enjoy them, for people to feel free to copy them, speak them and share them any which way. But if we poets and wrestler-poets are to give up our work for no money, it does not seem fair that someone else can use the same work for commercial purposes. Therefore, part of submitting a poem to the Wrestling Poetry Project, is that it shall come under Creative Commons–Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported. This way too, as a poem gets shared, the poet’s name remains attached, so you should continue to get credit for your work.

Poems that have previously been published elsewhere are acceptable, indeed welcome, as submissions into this project. Furthermore, you can write a fresh poem, even workshop it in Babilu’s Wrestling Poetry Workshop, but get it published elsewhere first, before November that is. This also means publishers and editors are more than welcome to join the workshop conversation and solicit the poets for their poems, to get them into other publications–even those editors and publishers who would be putting their own anthologies together, all-sports anthologies, smaller wrestling anthologies, any anthologies. None of this is antithetical to or competes with the vision of this project. On the contrary, all these activities get more wrestling poems out there via different channels. Any such work that has been published elsewhere first, will be given such credit in a line following the poem’s presentation at Clattery Machinery on Poetry.

On real names and pen names. You may workshop your poetry and give feedback to others with an online name, if this helps you to be creative, if it’s more fun for you, or makes you more comfortable. When November comes around, you can then switch to your real name, so that you receive credit for your work as you are known. The reverse is also acceptable. You may want to be around other poets using your real name, but prefer to publish with a pseudonym. However you do it, I will link to a web page you are associated with, for when readers click on your name, which will appear just before your poem. You might want this web page to contain your contact information.

There is the special case of wrestlers and former wrestlers writing wrestling poems. When this happens, I would like to give the wrestling credit–whether it be a high school, college, or a particular championship or accomplishment–before the poem’s title following the name, like so:

by John Doe
Western College State University, 1973-76, 165 lb

Who is invited to submit? Anyone who can write a good wrestling poem. This project is being announced at Clattery Machinery on Poetry and Babilu, but also many online poetry workshops, such as can be found at 25 Online Poetry Forums and Workshops, and many wrestling forums such as can be found at my post at MassWrestling.com, Amateur Wrestling Forums in the USA, and also at FaceBook.

That’s sums up the guidelines for the Wrestling Poetry Project. Below are two sections that may be useful first to those who want to know a little more about amateur wrestling before getting going with a poem, and another section for those of you who may want to know a little about approaching such a poem, depending on how much wrestling you’ve done or been exposed to. For you who are all set, don’t wait for the whistle, shoot, shoot!.
   

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Acclimating to Amateur Wrestling
   

Let’s begin with a collegiate wrestling match, Chad Mendes vs Jeff Jaggers for the 2008 NCAA championship at 141 lbs. I watched Jaggers become the 135-lb high school national champion and the outstanding wrestler at the 2004 NHSCA Senior Nationals in Cleveland Ohio. En route, he had to beat #2 seed Troy Tiparelle of California, who had beaten him earlier that year. So I am invested to a degree in the outcome of this match up. It’s a good one. I select it also because the announcers are clear about what is happening. You can get the gist of what’s happening without being an expert on the rules.


   

In the third period, there is that injury. Did you notice when Jeff Jaggers had his leg extended, that it looked potentially dangerous? That’s not supposed to happen, but it was in and out so quickly, and in and out again too quickly for the referee to make an assessment to call what was seen in the blink of the eye. Then before you know it, Jaggers is injured. The risk of injury is always there. Everyone who has been around amateur wrestling has injury stories to tell.

Here are some videos in a short series called Folkstyle Wrestling 101, in which the instructor talks over some wrestling situations, talking about take downs, escapes and reversals, the basics:


   


   


   

Significantly, wrestling is a team sport. High School teams field 14 wrestlers each in their 14 weight classes from 103 pounds through 275, and college teams field 10, from 125 pounds through 285. Therefore, it may not be that a given wrestler can beat his or her opponent, if that opponent is a known stud, maybe a regional champion. But the lesser opponent can win the meet for his or her team, if he or she does not get pinned, because a pin gives the opposing team more points than a decision. And the total points determine which team wins in what’s called a dual meet, when one team is against another, or a tournament.

I have been saying, “his or her opponent.” Women wrestle. There is a T-Shirt out there that reads, “Silly boys, wrestling is for girls.” Here is a freestyle wrestling match from the 1998 Pan Am Games, Jenn Ryz of Canada versus Olga Lugo of Venezuela.


   

I like the match, starting with the knee pick, so for the sake of illustration, the moves and types of moves are here expanded. Wrestlers have many such moves in their bags of tricks.

The Ryz-Lugo match also illustrates scoring differences between freestlyle and folkstyle. And, I confess to favoring folkstyle for the martial arts aspect, even though freestyle affords the wrestlers the chance to display their athletic prowess. For instance, what good does it do as a martial art, to keep turning your opponent over? Folkstyle is more control-oriented. In folkstyle you get back points depending on how long you can keep your opponent’s shoulders close to the mat–on the mat means a pin and you win. By the way, in the martial art called grappling, pinning your opponent does not give you victory, as your opponent can fight off her back.

Here is a highlight video of the Greco-Roman wrestling in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Notice there is no such thing as an ankle pick, as the wrestlers stay clear of the legs. There is also no commentary, which you don’t get if you’re in the crowd. What you see is what you get:


   

As for highlight videos, here is a freestyle one set to music:


   

But bear in mind, only once in a while do we get a match worthy of such an action video. Many wrestling matches are low-scoring events, that put the fans of either opponents on the edges of their seats, while nothing significant may seem to be happening for those who are not fans. At tournaments, while you wait, sometimes for hours, for your favorite wrestler to wrestle his or her next match, you occupy yourself, looking at the sometimes dozens of matches going on simultaneously in a large wide-open gymnasium or whatever other facility is available in a given community.

So what is it really like? Here is Victor DeJesus of Lowell High School in Massachusetts wrestling another 145-pounder, Joey Eon of Massabesic High School in Waterboro, Maine. They are wrestling for the 2008-09 New England Championship. It’s folkstyle, where we started. To be invested, pretend one wrestler is your brother, your son, or your teammate, and root for him from the opening whistle:

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Approaching a Wrestling Poem
   

There is the adage for poets to write what you know, and not what you don’t know. This leaves a lot of latitude, but on the other hand, it means it is going to be difficult to write a poem from the viewpoint of a wrestler if you have never wrestled. Let’s first look at poetry that is outside the realm of having to be a wrestler, or poems that come from outside the realm of having to be even an athlete or fighter of any kind.

It seems that in Genesis where Jacob wrestles with God, or the angel, the scribe did not have to be a wrestler. Although, my hunch is that the writer was at least exposed to wrestling matches. But, whether David Hernandez ever wrestled, his poem “Proof” could have been written by him anyway, or it seems so. And the point here is that your readers can tell.

This brings up the amount of exposure a poet needs to have in order to write from certain points of view–which in turn raises the question of how much of the wrestling perspective can be accomplished by a family member who is the fan and not the fighter, or more importantly, someone who has been en-culturated into the wrestling community. There is a poem with the first line, “My dad was a boxer and all his brothers,” and I believe from my reading that the poet is indeed the daughter of a boxer. In my view, she needed to be in order to write the poem: “Too Hurt Not To”, which is by Naomi Woddis. You decide. And my point here is not so much to limit what you write, but to show how there is much ground for anyone to write from. You can be a family member or a fan, and write a terrific wrestling poem.

Now let’s go to the observer poem. In Kelly Cherry’s “On Watching a Young Man Play Tennis,” we don’t ever have to know whether Cherry ever played tennis, or was even a fan of tennis. However, it seems that she has watched a match or two. By the way, the link to that poem is to the specific place where her poem appears in the anthology of poetry and fiction called Sports in America, edited by Peter Stine. You can read through it for other approaches and inspirations that you may favor. Note that there are no poems or stories in there about wrestling. You might also read Don Johnson’s Introduction in his book The sporting muse.

The most famous poems by fighters are the ones by war poets who were soldiers at war, either when they wrote the poem, or after they were off the battlefield. Here is a famous one by WWI soldier Wilfred Owen:


   

He gives an eye-witness view that would be difficult to achieve if he had not been there. He was exposed and he in turn is able to expose us to his experience of that war.

Tapping other emotions of wartime, we also have the famous poem, “Here, Bullet”, by Brain Turner, who was in Iraq:


   

Notice that, for the first half of the poem, you can very nearly replace his word “Bullet” with “Wrestler”. He has been a soldier/fighter, and if he had been a wrestler, he could have begun a poem in a very similar way. This ought to be the same for any athlete. If you have played a sport, especially at the varsity level, there are experiences that you have had that should transfer well, the facts of the athletic event that you can well relate to, and should make your poem come alive on the page for the reader.

I go into some underpinnings of the Brian Turner poem in a post at Clattery Machinery on Poetry called Alley War Poetry. The sport there is boxing, versus wrestling. But it could be worth a look. Other points are made in that article, such as that not all poetry needs to be or ought to be uplifting, nor should it necessarily take the reader into wise places in the cosmos. Poetry can take us to the heights, but also the depths, and then again to the ground where we live, or reveal the edges of it.

Start writing. And here again is the link to the workshop where you can get constructive feedback: Wrestling Poetry Workshop. Once it is ready, post it here: Wrestling Poetry Project Submission Area.

Thank you.
 

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April 20, 2008

The Pee in the Pool of On Line Poetry, by Terreson

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Editor’s note:

You’re a poet or you’d like to be, and you’re at home or maybe work, with your computer.    Wouldn’t it be great to write a poem and post it into a forum for others like yourself to read and give feedback on, maybe spiff up some of your work, get it ready to submit somewhere, learn a few things or a few things more, find some creative, inspiring people?

The forum conversations could tend along the lines of the letters between poet Hart Crane and the editor of Poetry, Harriet Monroe.    Within the recent article in the New York Review of Books, A Great American Visionary, Colm Tóibín discusses the give and take between Monroe and Crane after he submitted his poem “At Melville’s Tomb” to her.    Here is the end of that discussion:

Monroe had commented as well on the opening of the last stanza:

          Compass, quadrant and sextant contrive
          No farther tides….

“Nor do compass, quadrant and sextant,” she wrote, “contrive tides, they merely record them, I believe.”

“Hasn’t it often occurred,” Crane replied,

that instruments originally invented for record and computation have inadvertently so extended the concepts of the entity they were invented to measure (concepts of space, etc.) in the mind and imagination that employed them, that they may metaphorically be said to have extended the original boundaries of the entity measured?

In the same letter, he quoted from Blake and T.S. Eliot to show how the language of the poetry he wrote and admired did not simply ignore logic, it sought to find a logic deeply embedded in metaphor and suggestion.

Wouldn’t it be great to be a modern-day Hart Crane and find a Harriet Monroe to discuss such matters of creativity with? To this end, there is an article here at Clattery MacHinery on Poetry called 25 Online Poetry Forums and Workshops where you can click and explore select poetry forums.    To this same end, you could explore “The IBPC Boards” on the sidebar of The InterBoard Poetry Community web site to see where you might belong and how the conversations tend.    What a perfect place, the internet, where from the comfort of your own home, from wherever the creative urge strikes, you may share your poetry, and enter discussions on poetry with like-minded people.    Maybe, however, you cannot, or it is just not that easy.    Maybe there are community tendencies or social constrictions that would discourage you, and you would give up on this idea.    Maybe on line poetry has grown so large, that it is time for it to look at itself, like any legitimate field must.

Everything written below is by Terreson.

–Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

 

 

 

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Dear Reader,

Are poetry boards good for poetry?

I wonder if anyone else has wondered about something: are online poetry boards good for poetry?    A subset of questions might run something like this.    Do the boards benefit poets, the new and inexperienced especially who, in most cases, are grappling with the vital stuff of finding an authentic voice, gaining confidence in themselves, working through the canon, trying to figure out if they have something essential to say, and all at the same time?    Do the boards, viewed as communities, engender poetry whose language is also authentic or do they falsify the poetry experience?    Another question comes to mind.    Is even the notion of an online poetry community good for poetry?    And maybe one last question.    What impact on poets, and on poetry itself, do the parameters, the rules of conduct and the by-laws, of many boards have?

I think it possible that the poetry board experience falsifies poetry and renders it inauthentic, which is a peculiar thing to have to say about online sites many poets, new and experienced, flock to both in order to improve their skills and to find like-minded people who are devoted to the art in the first place.    In the history of poetry, and with rare exception, no such community of poets and their critics has ever produced first-rate poems.    To the extent poetry is a community it is more like an unendowed college, with each collegian operating in tandem and usually alone.    Simply put poetry has always had the features of a cottage industry standing outside notions of community.    A notable exception might be Mallarme’s famous Tuesday nights in Paris when fellow Symbolists gathered at his home to read their poems to each other.    Even here, however, I am not aware that those poets engaged in analysis, criticism, parsing and such.    Certainly they were motivated to create a, then, radically new aesthetic, a defined program in which they each had a vital interest.    But whether or not community, in and of itself, is beneficial or harmful to poetry is a larger question, looking almost existential actually, and best left to individual poets to sort through.    The smaller, more manageable question might again be this:    generally speaking, are public poetry boards operationally designed in such a way that they kill the art by falsifying the experience or do they benefit the art?

Here is some of what I’ve come to suspect, and drawing on nearly ten years of participating in various online poetry communities, both on the boards and in the chat rooms.
 
Terreson
 

 

 

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The Pee in the Pool of On Line Poetry: Are poetry boards good for poetry?

 

Notions of Community.

Boards and rooms tend to place first emphasis on community cohesion, with poetry, poetry-related conversation, and the free exchange of ideas viewed as secondary.    It is interesting to view a poem allowed in the name of free speech that expresses violence, threats of violence, bigotry, and sexism.    Then to notice how the exchange of views in heated debate is closely monitored by moderators, often admonished, sometimes deleted from a forum as inflammatory.    The contradiction is interesting.    What it signifies is that a particular board’s community cohesion, and its culture, is an animal in its own right and takes precedence over the artistic project(s).    The mantra frequently expressed is: ’be nice.’    The suspicion, however, is that what actually matters, and in top down fashion, is the board’s culture and not the poetry or the exchange over ideas concerning poetry.    So the question becomes: does such a culture falsify the poetry experience?    Does it tell the online poet, say, that parenthetical bitch language in a poem is okay, whereas honesty in critical discussion is not?    My sense is that the free exchange of ideas is viewed as dangerous to community, but that poetry is not, since, it honestly doesn’t matter.
 

Poet/Critic Dialogue.

Rarely, if ever, is the meaningful dialogue allowed between the posting poet and the posting critic.    Board guidelines tend to explicitly discourage the exchange.    Poets are even told to thank the critic no matter what has been offered in the way of critical response.    The password defining the parameters of the poet to critic relationship is “don’t crit the critter.”    It is a rule, an effective gag order, that causes the head to wag and wobble, and one again I believe designed more for the sake of community cohesion than for the sake of the poet and poetry.    The unfortunate consequence is that poet is put at the disadvantage, while critic is allowed to say practically anything with impunity, no matter how uncomprehending, or even biased.

Common sense suggests that the critic is no more likely to know the nature of good poetry than is the poet.    I know of no case in the history of literary criticism where a school of thought has not been superseded eventually by another or taken to task for what it failed to understand.    And the suspicion becomes twofold: comments on a poem are often made only to satisfy a required number of commentaries in order to get a poem posted, and critics can, often do, comment in a compensatory, self-serving fashion, or with a bias that frequently disenables their perspective.    Add to this the extent to which online critics often do not bother to ground themselves in both the canon of poetry and critical theory, and, again, question of motivation comes into play.

Why then should a commentator be given a license the posting poet is not allowed?    It was Auden who divided the world into two camps.    The prolific and the devourer.    In the first camp he put poets along with farmers.    In the second he put professional critics along with politicians.    This rather begs the further question: if poetry boards sanction the frequently inept critic for whom are the boards meant?    Are poets, the bread and butter of poetry boards, also its fodder?    If so, here again there appears to be a falsification of the poetry experience online that is not healthy, especially for the new poet.
 

Poetry Board as Workshop.

Then there is the proposition that poetry boards are intended to function as workshops.    I am satisfied that, by and large, the public boards fail in this function.    First, emphasis is placed on production and not on refinement.    Here too the system of criticism contributes by its own lack of authenticity, by its lack of in-depth reading, and by its lack of sincerity.    And, secondly, the sheer size of many boards is neither conducive to meaningful exchange nor to the kind of developed relationships between poets that can best benefit artistic growth.    Having been a member of a small, private board for nearly two years where the members have had the chance to follow each other’s progress and where, because of the shared history, each other’s poetry is followed, commented on, entered into with greater comprehension, I am convinced of the failure of the larger boards to function as workshops in a meaningful sense of the office.
 

The Insincere Reader.

Participating members can also contribute to the falsifying of poetry.    While I’ve met many poets, new and old, clearly devoted to the discipline for its own sake, and who have both the instinct and the hunger for authentic poetry, two contrary salients stand out.    First, there are the scores of posted responses to poems entirely lacking in sincerity.    They tend to be complimentary and generic.    Recently I was reminded how Donald Hall once decried America’s growing number of “McPoets,” products of false praise and encouragement without the supporting evidence of talent and ability.    If poetry is to be taken seriously the inflationary effect of the unwarranted compliment becomes a serious problem.
 

Anti-intellectual Element.

Then there is the anti-intellectual element on poetry boards.    If, as Yeats thought, poetry is to speak to the whole body and to the whole of the human experience, then it must speak to the whole soma, to the senses, to the ear, to the groin as much as to the head.    In brief: poetry must be as much a felt experience as the felt experience thought about.    And yet there are those, none too few, who would disallow from the boards exchanges in poetics, prosody, and critical thinking.    This is not a good sign.    It does not bode well for poetry.       

 

 
from Gitanjali and Fruit-Gathering by Rabinadrath Tagore, introduction by, the frontispiece by Nandalal Bose
 

Interboard Understanding.

There also seems to be a collusion between public poetry boards that speaks to something resembling a backroom politicians’ understanding.    On many boards, at least, members are not allowed to raise questions about other boards and, by extension, about the design and the parameters of the online poetry board system in general.    Again, the head is made to wag and wobble.    The circumstance speaks to a cartel of shared interests among board administrators.    It too suggests a culture that has less to do with poets and poetry and more to do with safe-guarding its own green zone, what again must end up falsifying the poetry experience on line.

If poets are discouraged from raising questions and challenging precepts in their own community how then can they be expected to see to one of poetry’s cardinal responsibilities, that of breaking taboo and challenging clichés in behavior, perception, and language?    Viewed from a certain standpoint, vital poetry keeps as a danger to the community, be the township bureaucratic, corporate, or domestic.    And I am persuaded that as much is expected of poetry by the many townships.    So what is to be made of a circumstance in which poetry’s own township displays the bunker mentality?   
 

Board Administrations.

I’ve saved the most serious question for last: does the poetry board infrastructure of moderators and site administrators benefit the poet and create a free range environment encouraging poetry?    Closest to the point, does it actually engender the community the system is designed to keep in place?    Here my question is rhetorical as I am persuaded the answer is no.    I have spent some few years as both a board moderator and as a poetry chat room host.    I am settled in the opinion that the greatest danger to poetry on line is the governing system of board moderators and site administrators, which system proves the Orwellian insight.    All animals are created equal, some more than others.    An insight that cannot be more abhorrent to artists in general, poets in particular, whose vocation requires they be slightly anarchistic, certainly free wheeling and passionate in their convictions, if they are to keep creative in their artistic personalities.

I’ve heard all the arguments for the necessity of the governance, which is what it is.    The salient of which might be that the system safeguards public poetry boards from so-called trollers.    The history of the system suggests that the abuses meted out by moderators and site administrators with the tools to delete posts and ban members rather outweigh the safeguards.    A poetry board’s rules and by-laws is often a matter of subjective interpretation, something that fundamentally comes into play.

On a member’s side of the divide, it is clear that moderators are allowed more liberties than they are.    And among members it is generally recognized that a moderator’s own poem should not be taken too closely to account, that a deferential comment, even if falsely given, is best.    (And I guess I must wonder how the circumstance affects the inexperienced poet who perhaps notices the insincere comment on a moderator‘s poem, often praising it without warrant.)    It is also clear that to question a moderator brings down on the member the approbation of other staff moderators, that to criticize a moderator’s poem can result in the same.    When this happens there is an unmistakable closing-of-ranks, and the divide that all too many members know becomes sharper, more well defined, and sends out a certain other, Orwellian message.    Of all the online poetry board features, the politics infused into the environment by the two-tiered system of moderators/site administrators and members may just be the most pernicious, may be what falsifies the online poetry experience the most, at least when the experience is viewed as an artistic project.

The on line poetry experience is not limited to the posting, public airing of a poem.    Nor is it limited to the poet/critic exchange.    To say it again, at its best it is a free range environment, call it a Montessori school yard.    As the system stands I think it possible it is not just a failure, but a betrayal of the instinct for poetry.    Back in 1991 Robert Bly put together a collection of essays on American poetry: “American Poetry: Wildness and Domesticity.”    The collection includes an interview with Bly, conducted by Wayne Dodd.    From the interview:

“Dodd: ‘It may also be that poets will be afraid to risk doing the really different thing, that might seem to be profoundly true to them nonetheless, for fear of being accused of peeing on the floor.’

Bly: ‘Oh, indeed!    That’s right!    I’m sure that the reviewers of Pound’s early work, which had a lot of freaky originality, accused him constantly of being poorly house-trained.    What would originality look like today? . . . It’s possible that originality comes when the man or woman disobeys the collective.    The cause of tameness is fear.    The collective says: “If you do your training well and become a nice boy or girl we will love you.”    We want that.    So a terrible fear comes.    It is a fear that we will lose the love of the collective.    I have felt that intensely.    What the collective offers is not even love, that is what is so horrible, but a kind of absence of loneliness.    Its companionship is ambiguous, like mother love.’”

In my view the collective Bly speaks of and the poetry board culture I draw attention to, at least as it perpetuates itself with an eye to its own maintenance, bear a certain family resemblance.
 

 

 

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Terreson is an itinerant poet, sometime novelist, short fiction writer, and essayist.    Originally from Florida he presently lives in Louisiana where he assists in research into honey bee genomics.    He welcomes your comments at terecone {at} aol {dot} com.
 

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February 8, 2008

The Long Abandon’d Hill, for Frank Wilson as he retires

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It is not quite right to say that Frank Wilson, books editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, is retiring today. It is better to say that The Inquirer is retiring.

In parts of the world where there is tyrannical rule, our journalists and poets are politically silenced as threats, because they start the fight; they bring to the people’s consciousnesses new and great directions for all; they cannot find it within themselves not to do this. And often these persecuted journalists and poets are the self-same. In this sense, at points of liberation, the seed of poetry is the seed of the journalism. Frank is just this kind of poet/journalist. Only we find him, not in Iraq or Burma, or even within some persecuted diaspora or trapped people, but as everyone’s brother, in the City of Brotherly Love.

While others were still looking for good poetry exclusively in book stores, print periodicals, and English departments, Frank has been seeking and finding it online, as it is written.    He brings to the fore fresh talent, and knows there are new channels to explore for this. All barriers may be broken, including whether someone has graduated 8th grade yet. If it’s good, it’s good. He’s at what we think of as retirement age, and he still looks for news ways to write his own book reviews. He’s cutting edge. He takes ancient wisdom and merges it with creative discovery. He’s even taken a good old newspaper, and brought the Books department into this 21st century we are all forming and adjusting to.

It seems newspapers do not know what to do with the web. Poets, on the other hand, do. We write and publish on it, and look for ways we can use our creativity through it. The web makes poetry thrive and live. Frank senses these developments like a poet does, and blazes them.    He is a leader for online poetry, selecting the finest to bring to wide readership.

The Philadelphia Inquirer is cutting back, though, while Frank is thriving. I wanted management there to be smart, recognize what they had, and open the vault for a new paycheck for Frank. But, maybe the Inquirer is just too old. Maybe it is time for the good old newspaper to retire from Frank Wilson.    Yes, let him find something else to take the old newspaper’s position. Frank has not retired, he has been unleashed–or, better yet, “untied”.
 

Reading Jack’s words after all these years, remembering how much they meant to me once, how I was sure I wouldn’t don any gray flannel suit and trudge to an office day in, day out, and knowing full well that tomorrow morning and the day after and after I’ll tie my tie and sit down at my desk yet again, well, it makes me wonder if I can still, even at this late date, salvage me some authenticity. Yeah, reading Jack has reminded me that living means more than just making a living, and that it’s always easier to get along by going along. As Ray confesses, “I had no guts anyway . . . .”
                                                                        –Frank Wilson, from Jack Kerouac’s sound of America
 

Below are seven retirement poems, the last being Cowper’s, that I have spent the evening preparing to untie, for Frank Wilson.
 


   

 

 

~~~~~

 

by Hezekiah Salem (Philip Morin Freneau, 1752-1832)
 

On Retirement
 

A hermit’s house beside a stream
    With forests planted round,
Whatever it to you may seem
More real happiness I deem
    Than if I were a monarch crown’d

A cottage I could call my own,
    Remote from domes of care;
A little garden walled with stone,
The wall with ivy overgrown,
    A limpid fountain near.

Would more substantial joys afford,
    More real bliss impart
Than all the wealth that misers hoard,
Than vanquish’d worlds, or worlds restored–
    Mere cankers of the heart!

Vain, foolish man! how vast thy pride,
    How little can your wants supply!–
‘Tis surely wrong to grasp so wide–
You act as if you only had
    To vanquish–not to die!

 

 

~~~~~

 

by William Ladd (1755-1786)
 

Retirement
 

    Hail, sweet retirement, hail!
Best state of man below,
To smooth the tide of passions frail,
And bear the soul away from scenery of wo.
    When, retired from busy noise,
Vexing cares and troubled joys,
To a mild serener air,
In the country we repair:
Calm enjoy the rural scene,
Sportive o’er the meadows green:
When the sun’s enlivening ray
Speaks the genial month of May,
Lo! his amorous, wanton beams
Dance on yonder crystal streams;
In soft dalliance pass the hours,
Kissing dew-drops from the flowers,
While soft music through the grove,
Sweetly tunes the soul to love.
And the hills harmonious round
Echo with responsive sound;
There the turtle-dove alone,
Makes his soft, melodious moan;
While from yonder bough ‘t is heard,
Sweetly chirps the yellow-bird:
There the linnet’s downy throat
Warbles the responsive note;
And to all the neighboring groves,
Robin Redbreast tells his loves.
    There, Amanda, we might walk,
And of soft endearments talk;
Or anon we’d listen, love,
To the gently cooing dove.
In some sweet, embowering shade,
Some fair seat by nature made,
I my love would gently place,
On the tender woven grass:
Seated by thy lovely side,
Oh, how great would be my pride!
While my soul should fix on thine,
Oh the joy to call thee mine!
    For why should doves have more delight,
Than we, my sweet Amanda, might?
And why should larks and linnets be
More happy, lovely maid, than we?
    There the pride of genius blooms,
There sweet contemplation comes:
There is science, heavenly fair,
Sweet philosophy is there;
With each author valued most,
Ancient glory, modern boast.
There the mind may revel o’er
Doughty deeds of days of yore;
How the mighty warriors stood,
How the field was dyed in blood,
How the shores were heap’d with dead,
And the rivers stream’d with red;
While the heroes’ souls on flame
Urged them on to deathless fame.
Or we view a different age
Pictured in the historic page–
Kings, descending from a throne;
Tyrants, making kingdoms groan,
With each care to state allied,
And all the scenery of pride.
Or perhaps we’ll study o’er
Books of philosophic lore;
Read what Socrates has thought,
And how godlike Plato wrote;
View the earth with Bacon’s eyes;
Or, with Newton, read the skies;
See each planetary ball,
One great sun attracting all:
All by gravitation held,
Self-attracted, self-propelled:
We shall cheat away old time,
Passing moments so sublime.
    Hail, sweet retirement, hail!
Best state of man below,
To smooth the tide of passions frail,
And bear the soul away from scenery of wo.

 

 

~~~~~

 

an ode
 

by Thomas Warton (1687-1745)
 

Retirement
 

On beds of daisies idly laid,
The willow waving o’er my head,
Now morning, on the bending stem,
Hangs the round and glittering gem,
Lull’d by the lapse of yonder spring,
Of nature’s various charms I sing:
Ambition, pride, and pomp, adieu,
For what has joy to do with you?

Joy, rose-lipt dryad, loves to dwell
In sunny field or mossy cell;
Delights on echoing hills to hear
The reaper’s song, or lowing steer;
Or view, with tenfold plenty spread,
The crowded corn-field, blooming mead;
While beauty, health, and innocence,
Transport the eye, the soul, the sense.

Not frescoed roofs, not beds if state,
Not guards that round a monarch wait;
Not crowds of flatterers can scare,
From loftiest courts intruding Care.
Midst odours, splendours, banquets, wine,
While minstrels sound, while tapers shine,
In sable stole sad Care will come,
And darken the sad drawing-room.

Nymphs of the groves, in green array’d,
Conduct me to your thickest shade;
Deep in the bosom of the vale,
Where haunts the lonesome nightingale;
Where Contemplation, maid divine,
Leans against some aged pine,
Wrapt in solemn thought profound,
Here eyes fix’t stedfast on the ground.

Oh, virtue’s nurse, retired queen,
By saints alone and hermits seen,
Beyond vain mortal wishes wise,
Teach me St. James’s to despise;
For what are crowded courts, but schools
For fops, or hospitals for fools;
Where slaves and madmen, young and old,
Meet to adore some calf of gold?

 

 

~~~~~

 

Villula, . . .
Me tibi, et hos unâ mecum, et quos semper amavi,
Commendo.
 

by W.R. Whatton (1790-1835)
 

To Retirement
 

Know’st thou the vale where the silver-stream’d fountain
    Reflects the sweet image of Peace as it flows,
Where the pine-tree and birch at the foot of the mountain
    Conceal in its bosom the myrtle and rose?

Where the wood-thrush and blackbird in wild notes are wooing
    The care that engrosses each mate’s anxious breast;
And the ringdove and turtle so tenderly cooing,
    Are grateful to Nature for being so blest!

Know’st thou the cottage where innocent pleasure
    Enlivens the circle round Virtue’s fair shrine,
Where the bright star of hope sheds its ray without measure,
    And Health and Contentment together entwine?

‘Tis there I’d retire from the world’s vain commotion,
    And calmly enjoy the sweet hope of release:
As the fisher’s frail bark on the storm-troubled ocean
    Views gladly the port where her dangers will cease.

‘This there the fond dreams of my infancy courting,
    I’d trace the gay visions of Mem’ry so bright,
And dwell on the scenes where so wantonly sporting
    Have fled the swift minutes of boyish delight.

 

 

~~~~~

 

by James Beattie (1735-1803)
 

Retirement
 

                    Shook from the purple wings of even
                        When dews impearl the grove,
                    And from the dark’ning verge of heaven
                        Beams the sweet star of Love;
                    Laid on a daisy-sprinkled green,
                        Beside a plaintive stream,
                    A meek-ey’d youth of serious mien
                        Indulg’d this solemn theme.

Ye cliffs, in hoary grandeur pil’d
    High o’er the glimmering dale!
Ye groves, along whose windings wild
    Soft sighs the sadd’ning gale!
Where oft lone Melancholy strays,
    By wilder’d Fancy sway’d,
What time the wan moon’s yellow rays
    Gleam thro’ the chequer’d shade!

To you, ye wastes, whose artless charms
    Ne’er drew Ambition’s eye,
‘Scap’d a tumultuos world’s alarms,
    To your retreats I fly:
Deep in your soft sequester’d bower,
    Let me my woes resign;
Where Solitude, mild modest power,
    Leans on her ivy’d shrine.

How shall I woo thee, matchless fair
    Thy heavenly smile how win!
Thy smile, that smoothes the brow of Care,
    And stills the storm within!
O wilt thou to thy favourite grove
    Thine ardent votary bring,
And bless his hours, and bid them move
    Serene on silent wing!

Oft let Rememberance soothe his mind
    With dreams of former days,
When soft on Leisure’s lap reclin’d,
    He caroll’d sprightly lays:
Bless’d days! when Fancy smile’d at Care,
    When Pleasure toy’d with Truth,
Nor Envy, with malignant glare,
    Had harm’d his simple youth.

‘Twas then, O Solitude! to thee
    His early vows were paid,
From heart sincere, and warm, and free,
    Devoted to the shade.
Ah! why did Fate his steps decoy
    In thorny paths to roam,
Remote from all congenial joy!
    O take thy wanderer home!

Henceforth thy awful haunts be mine!
    The long abandon’d hill;
The hollow cliff, whose waving pine
    O’erhangs the darksome rill;
Whence the scar’d owl, on pinions grey,
    Breaks from the rustling boughs,
And down the lone vale sails away
    To shades of deep repose.

O while to thee the woodland pours
    It’s wildly warbling song,
And fragrant from the waste of flowers
    The Zephyr breathes along;
Let no rude sound invade from far,
    No vagrant foot be nigh,
No ray from Grandeur’s gilded car
    Flash on the startled eye!

Yet if some pilgrim, ‘mid the glade,
    Thy hallow’d bowers explore,
O guard from harm his hoary head,
    And listen to his lore!
For he of joys divine shall tell,
    That wean from earthly woe,
And triumph o’er the mighty spell
    That chains the heart below.

For me no more the path invites
    Ambition loves to tread;
No more I climb those toilsome heights,
    By guileful Hope misled:
Leaps my fond flutt’ring heart no more
    To Mirth’s enlivening strain;
For present pleasure soon is o’er,
    And all the past is vain!

 

 

~~~~~

 

by Richard Garnett (1835-1906)
 

Garibaldi’s Retirement
 

Not that three armies thou didst overthrow,
    Not that three cities oped their gates to thee,
    I praise thee, Chief, not for this royalty
Decked with new crowns, that utterly laid low:
For nothing of all thou didst forsake to go
    And tend thy vines amid the Etrurian Sea,
    Not even that thou didst this–though history
Retread two thousand selfish years to show
Another Cincinnatus!    Rather for this,
    The having lived such life, that even this deed
Of stress heroic natural seems as is
    Calm night, when glorious day it doth succeed;
And we, forewarned by surest auguries,
    The amazing act with no amazement read.

 

 

~~~~~

 

. . . studiis florens ignobilis otî.
                                  Virg. Geor. lib. 4.
 

by William Cowper (1731-1800)
 

Retirement
 

Hackney’d in business, wearied at that oar,
Which thousands, once fast chain’d to, quit no more,
But which, when life at ebb runs weak and low,
All wish, or seem to wish, they could forego;
The statesman, lawyer, merchant, man of trade,
Pants for the refuge of some rural shade,
Where, all his long anxieties forgot
Amid the charms of a sequester’d spot,
Or recollected only to gild o’er,
And add a smile to what was sweet before,
He may possess the joys he thinks he sees,
Lay his old age upon the lap of Ease,
Improve the remnant of his wasted span,
And, having liv’d a trifler, die a man.
Thus Conscience pleads her cause within the breast,
Though long rebell’d against, not yet suppress’d,
And calls a creature form’d for God alone,
For Heav’n’s high putposes, and not his own,
Calls him away from selfish ends and aims,
From what debilitates and what inflames,
From cities humming with a restless crowd,
Sordid as active, ignorant as loud,
Whose highest praise is that they live in vain,
The dupes of pleasure, or the slaves of gain,
Where works of man are cluster’d close around,
And works of God are hardly to be found,
To regions where, in spite of sin and wo,
Traces of Eden are still seen below,
Where mountain, river, forest, field, and grove,
Remind him of his Maker’s pow’r and love.
‘Tis well if, look’d for at so late a day,
In the last scene of such a senseless play,
True wisdom will attend his feeble call,
And grace his action ere the curtain fall.
Souls, that have long despised their heav’nly birth
Their wishes all impregnated with earth,
For threescore years employ’d with ceaseless care
in catching smoke and feeding upon air,
Conversant only with the ways of men,
Rarely redeem the short remaining ten.
Invet’rate habits choke th’unfruitful heart,
Their fibres penetrate its tend’rest part,
And, draining its nutritious pow’rs to feed
Their noxious growth, starve ev’ry better seed.
    Happy, if full of days–but happier far,
If, ere we yet discern life’s ev’ning star,
Sick of the service of a world, that feeds
Its patient drudges with dry chaff and weeds,
We can escape from Custom’s idiot sway,
To serve the Sov’reign we were born t’obey.
Then sweet to muse upon his skill display’d
(infinite skill) in all that he has made!
To trace in Nature’s most minute design
The signature and stamp of pow’r divine,
Contrivance intricate, express’d with ease,
Where unassisted sight no beauty sees,
The shapely limb and lubricated joint
Within the small dimensions of a point,
Muscle and nerve miraculously spun,
His mighty work, who speaks, and it is done,
Th’invisible in things scarce, seen reveal’d,
To whom an atom is an ample field;
To wonder at a thousand insect forms,
These hatch’d, and those resuscitated worms,
New life ordain’d and brighter scenes to share,
Once prone on earth, now bouyant upon air,
Whose shape would make them, had they bulk and size,
More hideous foes than fancy can devise;
With helmet-heads and dragon-scales adorn’d,
The mighty myriads, now securely scorn’d,
Would mock the majesty of man’s high birth,
Despise his bulwarks, and unpeopled earth.
Then with a glance of fancy to survey,
far as the faculty can stretch away,
Ten thousand rivers pour’d at his command
From urns, that never fail, through ev’ry land;
These like a deluge with impetuous force,
Those winding modestly a silent course;
The cloud-surmounting Alps, the fruitful vales;
Seas, on which ev’ry nation spreads her sails;
The sun, a world whence other worlds drink light
The crescent moon, the diadem of night;
Stars countless, each in his appointed place,
Fast anchor’d in the deep abyss of space–
At such a sight to catch the poet’s flame,
And with the rapture like his own exclaim,
These are thy glorious works, thou source of good,
How dimly seen, how faintly understood!
Thine, and upheld by thy paternal care,
This universal frame, thus wondrous fair;
Thy pow’r divine, and bounty beyond thought
Ador’d and prais’d in all that thou hast wrought.
Absorb’d in that immensity I see,
I shrink abas’d, and yet aspire to thee;
Instruct me, guide me to that heav’nly day
Thy words more clearly than thy works display.
That, while thy truths my grosser thoughts refine,
I may resemble thee, and call thee mine.
    O, blest proficiency! surpassing all,
That men erroneously their glory call,
The recompense that arts or arms can yield,
The bar, the senate, or the tented field.
Compar’d with this sublimest life below,
Ye kings and rulers, what have courts to show?
Thus studied, us’d and consecrated thus,
On earth what is, seems form’d indeed for us:
Not as the plaything of a froward child,
Fretful unless diverted and beguil’d,
Much less to feed and fan the fatal fires
Of pride, ambition, or impure desires,
But as a scale, by which the soul ascends
From mighty means to more important ends
Securely, though by steps but rarely trod,
Mounts from inferiour being up to God,
And sees, by no fallacious light or dim,
Earth made for man, and man himself for him.
    Not that I mean t’approve, or would enforce,
A superstitious and monastick course:
Truth is not local, God alike pervades
And fills the world of traffick and the shades,
And may be fear’d amidst the busiest scenes,
Or scorn’d where business never intervenes.
But ’tis not easy with a mind like ours,
Conscious of weakness in its noblest pow’rs,
And in a world where, other ills apart,
The roving eye misleads the careless heart,
To limit Thought, by nature prone to stray
Wherever freakish Fancy points the way;
To bid the pleadings of Self-love be still,
Resign our own and seek our Maker’s will;
To spread the page of Scripture, and compare
Our conduct with the laws engraven there;
To measure all that passes in the breast,
Faithfully, fairly, by the sacred test:
To dive into the secret deeps within,
To spare no passion and no fav’rite sin,
And search the themes, important above all,
Ourselves, and our recov’ry from our fall.
But leisure, silence, and a mind releas’d
From anxious thoughts how wealth may be increas’d,
How to secure, in some propitious hour,
The point of int’rest or the post of pow’r,
A soul serene, and equally retir’d
From objects too much dreaded or desir’d,
Safe from the clamours of perverse dispute,
At least are friendly to the great pursuit.
    Op’ning the map of God’s extensive plan,
We find a little isle, this life of man;
Eternity’s unknown expanse appears
Circling around and limiting his years.
The busy race examine and explore
Each creek and cavern of the dang’rous shore,
With care collect what in their eyes excels,
Some shining pebbles, and some weeds and shells;
Thus laden, dream that they are rich and great,
And happiest he that groans beneath his weight.
The waves o’ertake them in their serious play,
And ev’ry hour sweeps multitudes away;
They shriek and sink, survivors start and weep,
Pursue their sport, and follow to the deep.
A few forsake the throng; with lifted eyes
Ask wealth of Heaven, and gain a real prize,
Truth, wisdom, grace, and peace like that above,
Seal’d with his signet whom they serve and love;
Scorn’d by the rest, with patient hope they wait
A kind release from their imperfect state,
And unregretted are soon snatch’d away
From scenes of sorrow into glorious day.
    Nor these alone prefer a life recluse,
Who seek retirement for its proper use;
The love of change, that lives in ev’ry breast,
Genius, and temper, and desire of rest,
Discordant motives in one centre meet,
And each inclines its vot’ry to retreat.
Some minds by nature are averse to noise,
And hate the tumult half the world enjoys,
The lure of av’rice, or the pompous prize
That courts display before ambitious eyes;
The fruits that hang on pleasure’s flow’ry stem,
Whate’er enchants them, are no snares to them.
To them the deep recess of dusky groves,
Or forest, where the deer securely roves,
The fall of waters, and the song of birds,
And hills that echo to the distant herds,
Are luxuries excelling all the glare
The world can boast, and her chief fav’rites share.
With eager step, and carelessly array’d,
For such a cause the poet seeks the shade,
From all he sees he catches new delight,
Pleas’d Fancy claps her pinions at the sight,
The rising or the setting orb of day,
The clouds that flit, or slowly float away,
Nature in all the various shapes she wears,
Frowning in storms, or breathing gentle airs,
The snowy robe her wintry state assumes,
Her summer heats, her fruits, and her perfumes,
All, all alike transport the glowing bard,
Success in rhyme his glory and reward.
O Nature! whose Elysian scenes disclose
His bright perfections at whose word they rose,
Next to that power who form’d thee, and sustains,
Be thou the great inspirer of my strains.
Still, as I touch the lyre, do thou expand
Thy genuine charms, and guide an artless hand,
That I may catch a fire but rarely known,
Give useful light, though I should miss renown.
And, poring on thy page, whose ev’ry line
Bears proof of an intelligence divine,
May feel a heart enrich’d by what it pays,
That builds its glory on its Maker’s praise.
Woe to the man whose wit disclaims its use,
Glitt’ring in vain, or only to seduce,
Who studies nature with a wanton eye,
Admires the work, but slips the lesson by;
His hours of leisure and recess employs
In drawing pictures of forbidden joys,
Retires to blazon his own worthless name,
Or shoot the careless with a surer aim.
    The lover too shuns business and alarms,
Tender idolater of absent charms.
Saints offer nothing in their warmest pray’rs
That he devotes not with a zeal like theirs;
‘Tis consecration of his heart, soul, time,
And every thought that wanders is a crime.
In sighs he worships his supremely fair,
And weeps a sad libation in despair;
Adores a creature, and, devout in vain,
Wins in return an answer of disdain.
As woodbine weds the plant within her reach,
Rough elm, or smooth-grain’d ash, or glossy beech
In spiral rings ascends the trunk, and lays
Her golden tassels on the leafy sprays,
But does a mischief while she lends a grace,
Strait’ning its growth by such a strict embrace;
So love, that clings around the noblest minds,
Forbids th’advancement of the soul he binds;
The suitor’s air, indeed, he soon improves,
And forms it to the taste of her he loves,
Teaches his eyes a language, and no less
Refines his speech, and fashions his address;
But farewell promises of happier fruits,
Manly designs, and learning’s grave pursuits;
Girt with a chain he cannot wish to break,
His only bliss is sorrow for her sake;
Who will may pant for glory and excel,
Her smile his aim, all higher aims farewell!
Thyrsis, Alexis, or whatever name
May least offend against so pure a flame,
Though sage advice of friends the most sincere
Sounds harshly in so delicate an snare,
And lovers, of all creatures, tame or wild,
Can least brook management, however mild,
Yet let a poet (poetry disarms
The fiercest animals with magick charms)
Risk an intrusion on thy pensive mood,
And woo and win thee to thy proper good.
Pastoral images and still retreats,
Umbrageous walks and solitary seats,
Sweet birds in concert with harmonious streams,
Soft airs, nocturnal vigils, and day-dreams,
Are all enchantments in a case like thine,
Conspire against thy peace with one design,
Soothe thee to make thee but a surer prey,
And feed the fire that wastes thy pow’rs away.
Up–God has form’d thee with a wiser view,
Not to be led in chains, but to subdue;
Calls thee to cope with enemies, and first
Points out a conflict with thyself, the worst.
Woman, indeed, a gift he would bestow
When he design’d a Paradise below,
The richest earthly boon his hands afford,
Deserves to be beloved, but not adored.
Post away swiftly to more active scenes,
Collect the scatter’d truth that study gleans,
Mix with the world, but with its wiser part,
No longer give an image all thine heart;
Its empire is not hers, nor is it thine,
‘Tis God’s just claim, prerogative divine.
    Virtuous and faithful HEBERDEN, whose skill
Attempts no task it cannot well fulfil,
Gives melancholy up to Nature’s care,
And sends the patient into purer air.
Look where he comes–in this embow’r’d alcove
Stand close conceal’d, and see a statue move:
Lips busy, and eyes fix’d, foot falling slow,
Arms hanging idly down, hands clasp’d below,
Interpret to the marking eye distress,
Such as its symptoms can alone express.
That tongue is silent now; that silent tongue
Could argue once, could jest, or join the song,
Could give advice, could censure or commend,
Or charm the sorrows of a drooping friend.
Renounc’d alike its office and its sport,
Its brisker and its graver strains fall short;
Both fail beneath a fever’s secret sway,
And like a summer brook are past away.
This is a sight for Pity to peruse,
Till she resembles faintly what she views,
Till sympathy contract a kindred pain,
Pierc’d with the woes that she laments in vain.
This, of all maladies that man infest,
Claims most compassion, and receives the least;
Job felt it, when he groan’d beneath the rod
And the barb’d arrows of a frowning God;
And such emollients as his friends could spare,
Friends such as his for modern Jobs prepare.
Blest, rather curst, with hearts that never feel,
Kept snug in caskets of close-hammer’d steel,
With mouths made only to grin wide and eat,
And minds that deem derided pain a treat,
With limbs of British oak, and nerves of wire,
And wit that puppet prompters might inspire,
Their sov’reign nostrum is a clumsy joke
On pangs enforc’d with God’s severest stroke.
But with a soul, that ever felt the sting
Of sorrow, sorrow is a sacred thing:
Not to molest, or irritate, or raise
A laugh at his expense, is slender praise;
He that has not usurp’d the name of man
Does all, and deems too little all, he can,
T’assuage the throbbings of the fester’d part,
And staunch the bleedings of a broken heart.
‘Tis not, as heads that never ache suppose,
Forg’ry of fancy, and a dream of woes;
Man is a harp, whose chords elude the sight,
Each yielding harmony disposed aright;
The screws revers’d (a task which, if he please,
God in a moment executes with ease),
Ten thousand thousand strings at once go loose,
Lost, till he tune them, all their pow’r and use.
Then neither heathy wilds, nor scenes as fair
As ever recompens’d the peasant’s care,
Nor soft declivities with tufted hills,
Nor view of waters turning busy mills,
Parks in which Art preceptress Nature weds,
Nor gardens interspers’d with flow’ry beds,
Nor gales, that catch the scent of blooming groves,
And waft it to the mourner as he roves,
Can call up life into his faded eye,
That passes all he sees unheeded by;
No wounds like those a wounded spirit feels,
No cure for such, till God, who makes them, heals.
And thou, sad suff’rer under nameless ill
That yields not to the touch of human skill,
Improve the kind occasion, understand
A Father’s frown, and kiss his chast’ning hand.
To thee the dayspring, and the blaze of noon,
The purple ev’ning and resplendent moon,
The stars that, sprinkled o’er the vault of night,
Seem drops descending in a show’r of light,
Shine not, or undesir’d and hated shine,
Seen through the medium of a cloud like thine:
Yet seek him, in his favour life is found,
All bliss beside a shadow or a sound:
Then heav’n, eclips’d so long, and this dull earth,
Shall seem to start into a second birth;
Nature, assuming a more lovely face,
Borr’wing a beauty from the works of grace,
Shall be despis’d and overlook’d no more,
Shall fill thee with delight unfelt before,
Impart to things inanimate a voice,
And bid her mountains and her hills rejoice;
The sound shall run along the winding vales,
And thou enjoy an Eden ere it fails.
    Ye groves (the statesman at his desk exclaims,
Sick of a thousand disappointed aims),
My patrimonial treasure and my pride,
Beneath your shades your grey possessor hide,
Receive me, languishing for that repose
The servant of the public never knows.
Ye saw me once (ah, those regretted days,
When boyish innocence was all my praise!)
Hour after hour delightfully allot
To studies then familiar, since forgot,
And cultivate a taste for ancient song,
Catching its ardour as I mus’d along;
Nor seldom, as propitious Heav’n might send,
What once I valu’d and could boast, a friend,
Were witnesses how cordially I press’d
His undissembling virtue to my breast;
Receive me now, not incorrupt as then,
Nor guiltless of corrupting other men,
But vers’d in arts, that, while they seem to stay
A falling empire, hasten its decay.
To the fair haven of my native home,
The wreck of what I was, fatigued I come;
For once I can approve the patriot’s voice,
And make the course he recommends my choice:
We meet at last in one sincere desire,
His wish and mine both prompt me to retire.
‘Tis done–he steps into the welcome chaise,
Lolls at his ease behind four handsome bays,
That whirl away from business and debate
The disencumber’d Atlas of the state.
Ask not the boy, who, when the breeze of morn
First shakes the glitt’ring drops from ev’ry thorn,
Unfolds his flock, then under bank or bush
Sits linking cherry-stones, or platting rush,
How fair is freedom?–he was always free:
To carve his rustick name upon a tree,
To snare the mole, or with ill-fashion’d hook
To draw th’incautious minnow from the brook,
Are life’s prime pleasures in his simple view,
His flock the chief concern he ever knew;
She shines but little in his heedless eyes,
The good we never miss we rarely prize:
But ask the noble drudge in state affairs,
Escaped from office and its constant cares,
What charms he sees in Freedom’s smile express’d,
In Freedom lost so long, now repossess’d;
The tongue whose strains were cogent as commands,
Rever’d at home, and felt in foreign lands,
Shall own itself a stamm’rer in that cause,
Or plead its silence as its best applause.
He knows indeed that, whether dress’d or rude,
Wild without art, or artfully subdued,
Nature in ev’ry form inspires delight,
But never mark’d her with so just a sight.
Her hedge-row shrubs, a variegated store,
With woodbine and wild roses mantled o’er,
Green balks and furrow’d lands, the stream, that spreads
Its cooling vapour o’er the dewy meads,
Downs, that almost escape th’inquiring eye,
That melt and fade into the distant sky,
Beauties he lately slighted as he pass’d,
Seem all created since he travell’d last.
Master of all th’enjoyments he design’d,
No rough annoyance rankling in his mind,
What early philosophick hours he keeps,
How regular his meals, how sound he sleeps!
Not sounder he, that on the mainmast head,
While morning kindles with a windy red,
Begins a long look-out for distant land,
Nor quits till ev’ning watch his giddy stand,
Then, swift descending with a seaman’s haste,
Slips to his hammock, and forgets the blast.
He chooses company, but not the squire’s,
Whose wit is rudeness, whose good-breeding tires,
Nor yet the parson’s, who would gladly come,
Obsequious when abroad, though proud at home;
Nor can he much affect the neighb’ring peer,
Whose toe of emulation treads too near;
But wisely seeks a more convenient friend,
With whom, dismissing forms, he may unbend.
A man, whom marks of condescending grace
Teach, while they flatter him, his proper place;
Who comes when call’d, and at a word withdraws,
Speaks with reserve, and listens with applause;
Some plain mechanick, who, without pretence
To birth or wit, nor gives nor takes offence;
On whom he rest well-pleas’d his weary pow’rs,
And talks and laughs away his vacant hours.
The tide of life, swift always in its course,
May run in cities with a brisker force,
But nowhere with a current so serene,
Or half so clear, as in the rural scene.
Yet how fallacious is all earthly bliss,
What obvious truths the wisest heads may miss;
Some pleasures live a month, and some a year,
But short the date of all we gather here;
No happiness is felt, except the true,
That does not charm thee more for being new.
This observation, as it chanc’d, not made,
Or, if the thought occurr’d, not duly weigh’d,
He sighs–for after all by slow degrees
The spot he lov’d has lost the power to please;
To cross his ambling pony day by day
Seems at the best but dreaming life away;
The prospect, such as might enchant despair,
He views it not, or sees no beauty there;
With aching heart, and discontented looks,
Returns at noon to billiards or to books,
But feels, while grasping at his faded joys,
A secret thirst of his renounc’d employs.
He chides the tardiness of ev’ry post,
Pants to be told of battles won or lost,
Blames his own indolence, observes, though late,
‘Tis criminal to leave a sinking state,
Flies to the levee, and, receiv’d with grace,
Kneels, kisses hands, and shines again in place.
    Suburban villas, highway-side retreats,
That dread th’encroachment of our growing streets,
Tight boxes neatly sash’d, and in a blaze
With all a July sun’s collected rays,
Delight the citizen, who, gasping there,
Breathes clouds of dust, and calls it country air.
O sweet retirement! who would balk the thought,
That could afford retirement, or could not?
‘Tis such an easy walk, so smooth and straight,
The second milestone fronts the garden gate;
A step if fair, and if a show’r approach,
They find safe shelter in the next stage-coach.
There, prison’d in a parlour snug and small,
Like bottled wasps upon a southern wall,
The man of business and his friends compress’d,
Forget their labours, and yet find no rest;
But still ’tis rural–trees are to be seen
From every window, and the fields are green;
Ducks paddle in the pond before the door,
And what could a remoter scene show more?
A sense of elegance we rarely find
The portion of a mean or vulgar mind,
And ignorance of better things makes man,
Who cannot much, rejoice in what he can;
And he, that deems his leisure well bestow’d,
In contemplation of a turnpike-road,
Is occupied as well, employs his hours
As wisely, and as much improves his pow’rs,
As he, that slumbers in pavilions grac’d
With all the charms of an accomplish’d taste.
Yet hence, alas! insolvencies; and hence
Th’unpitied victim of ill-judg’d expense,
From all his wearisome engagements freed,
Shakes hands with business and retires indeed.
    Your prudent grand-mammas, ye modern belles,
Content with Bristol, Bath, and Tunbridge-wells,
When health requir’d it would consent to roam,
Else more attach’d to pleasures found at home;
But now alike, gay widow, virgin, wife,
Ingenious to diversify dull life,
In coaches, chaises, caravans, and hoys,
Fly to the coast for daily, nightly joys;
And all, impatient of dry land, agree
With one consent to rush into the sea.
Ocean exhibits, fathomless and broad,
Much of the pow’r and majesty of God.
He swathes about the swelling of the deep,
That shines and rests, as infants smile and sleep;
Vast as it is, it answers as it flows
The breathings of the lightest air that blows;
Curling and whit’ning over all the waste,
The rising waves obey th’increasing blast,
Abrupt and horrid as the tempest roars,
Thunder and flash upon the steadfast shores,
Till he, that rides the whirlwind, checks the rein,
Then all the world of waters sleeps again.
Nereids or Dryads, as the fashion leads,
Now in the floods, now panting in the meads,
Vot’ries of Pleasure still, where’er she dwells,
Near barren rocks, in palaces, or cells,
O grant a poet leave to recommend
(A poet fond of Nature, and your friend)
Her slighted works to your admiring view;
Her works must needs excel, who fashion’d you.
Would ye, when rambling in your morning ride,
With some unmeaning coxcomb at your side,
Condemn the prattler for his idle pains,
To waste unheard the musick of his strains,
And, deaf to all th’impertinence of tongue,
That, while it courts, affronts and does you wrong,
Mark well the finish’d plan without a fault,
The seas globose and huge, th’o’erarching vault,
Earth’s millions daily fed, a world employ’d
In gath’ring plenty yet to be enjoy’d,
Till gratitude grew vocal in the praise
Of God, beneficent in all his ways;
Grac’d with such wisdom, how would beauty shine!
Ye want but that to seem indeed divine.
    Anticipated rents, and bills unpaid,
Force many a shining youth into the shade,
Not to redeem his time, but his estate,
And play the fool, but at a cheaper rate.
There, hid in loath’d obscurity, remov’d
From pleasures left, but never more belov’d,
He just endures, and with a sickly spleen
Sighs o’er the beauties of the charming scene.
Nature indeed looks prettily in rhyme;
Streams tinkle sweetly in poetick chime:
The warblings of the blackbird, clear and strong,
Are musical enough in Thomson’s song;
And Cobham’s groves, and Windsor’s green retreats,
When Pope describes them, have a thousand sweets;
He likes the country, but in truth must own,
Most likes it, when he studies it in town.
    Poor Jack–no matter who–for when I blame,
I pity, and must therefore sink the name,
Lived in his saddle, lov’d the chase, the course,
And always, ere he mounted, kiss’d his horse.
The estate, his sires had own’d in ancient years,
Was quickly distanc’d, match’d against a peer’s.
Jack vanish’d, was regretted and forgot;
‘Tis wild good-nature’s never-failing lot.
At length, when all had long suppos’d him dead,
By cold submersion, razor, rope, or lead,
My lord, alighting at his usual place,
The Crown, took notice of an ostler’s face.
Jack knew his friend, but hop’d in that disguise
He might escape the most observing eyes,
And whistling, as if unconcern’d and gay,
Curried his nag, and look’d another way;
Convinc’d at last, upon a nearer view,
‘Twas he, the same, the very Jack he knew,
O’erwhelm’d at once with wonder, grief, and joy,
He press’d him much to quit his base employ;
His countenance, his purse, his heart, his hand,
Influence and pow’r, were all at his command:
Peers are not always gen’rous as well-bred,
But Granby was, meant truly what he said.
Jack bow’d, and was obliged–confess’d ’twas strange,
That so retir’d he should not wish a change,
But knew no medium between guzzling beer,
And his old stint–three thousand pounds a year.
    Thus some retire to nourish hopeless wo;
Some seeking happiness not found below;
Some to comply with humour and a mind
To social scenes by nature disinclin’d;
Some sway’d by fashion, some by deep disgust;
Some self-impoverish’d, and because they must;
But few, that court Retirement, are aware
Of half the toils they must encounter there.
    Lucrative offices are seldom lost
For want of powers proportion’d to the post:
Give e’en a dunce th’employment he desires,
And he soon finds the talents it requires;
A business with an income at its heels
Furnishes always oil for its own wheels.
But in his arduous enterprise to close
His active years with indolent repose,
He finds the labours of that state exceed
His utmost faculties, severe indeed.
‘Tis easy to resign a toilsome place,
But not to manage leisure with a grace;
Absence of occupation is not rest,
A mind quite vacant is a mind distress’d,
The vet’ran steed, excus’d his task at length,
In kind compassion of his failing strength,
And turn’d into the park or mead to graze,
Exempt from future service all his days,
There feels a pleasure perfect in its kind,
Ranges at liberty, and snuffs the wind:
But when his lord would quit the busy road,
To taste a joy like that he has bestow’d,
He proves, less happy than his favour’d brute,
A life of ease a difficult pursuit.
Thought, to the man that never thinks, may seem
As natural as when asleep to dream:
But reveries (for human minds will act),
Specious in show, impossible in fact,
Those flimsy webs, that break as soon as wrought,
Attain not to the dignity of thought:
Nor yet the swarms that occupy the brain,
Where dreams of dress, intrigue, and pleasure reign;
Nor such as useless conversation breeds,
Or lust engenders, and indulgence feeds.
Whence, and what are we? to what end ordain’d?
What means the drama by the world sustain’d?
Business or vain amusement, care or mirth,
Divide the frail inhabitants of earth.
Is duty a mere sport, or an employ?
Life an entrusted talent, or a toy?
Is there, as reason, conscience, Scripture, say,
Cause to provide for a great future day,
When, earth’s assign’d duration at an end,
Man shall be summon’d, and the dead attend?
The trumpet–will it sound, the curtain rise,
And shew th’august tribunal of the skies,
Where no prevarication shall avail,
Where eloquence and artifice shall fail,
The pride of arrogant distinctions fall,
And conscience and our conduct judge us all?
Pardon me, ye that give the midnight oil
To learned cares or philosophick toil;
Though I revere your honourable names,
Your useful labours, and important aims,
And hold the world indebted to your aid,
Enrich’d with the discoveries ye have made;
Yet let me stand excused, if I esteem
A mind employ’d on so sublime a theme,
Pushing her bold inquiry to the date
And outline of the present transient state,
And, after poising her advent’rous wings,
Settling at last upon eternal things,
Far more intelligent, and better taught
The strenuous use of profitable thought,
Than ye, when happiest, and enlighten’d most,
And highest in renown, can justly boast.
    A mind unnerv’d, or indispos’d to bear
The weight of subjects worthiest of her care,
Whatever hopes a change of scene inspires,
Must change her nature, or in vain retires.
An idler is a watch, that wants both hands,
As useless if it goes, as when it stands.
Books therefore, not the scandal of the shelves,
In which lewd sensualists print out themselves;
Nor those, in which the stage gives vice a blow,
With what success let modern manners shew;
Nor his, who, for the bane of thousands born,
Built God a church, and laugh’d his Word to scorn,
Skilful alike to seem devout and just,
And stab religion with a sly side-thrust;
Nor those of learn’d philologists, who chase
A panting syllable through time and space,
Start it at home, and hunt it in the dark,
To Gaul, to Greece, and into Noah’s ark;
But such as Learning without false pretence,
The friend of Truth, th’associate of sound Sense,
And such as, in the zeal of good design,
Strong judgment lab’ring in the Scripture mine,
All such as manly and great souls produce,
Worthy to live, and of eternal use:
Behold in these what leisure hours demand,
Amusement and true knowledge hand in hand.
Luxury gives the mind a childish cast,
And, while she polishes, perverts the taste;
Habits of close attention, thinking heads,
Become more rare as dissipation spreads,
Till authors hear at length one general cry,
Tickle and entertain us, or we die.
The loud demand, from year to year the same,
Beggars Invention, and makes Fancy lame;
Till farce itself, most mournfully jejune,
Calls for the kind assistance of a tune;
And novels (witness every month’s review)
Belie their name, and offer nothing new.
The mind, relaxing into needful sport,
Should turn to writers of an abler sort,
Whose wit well manag’d, and whose classick style,
Give truth a lustre, and make wisdom smile.
Friends (for I cannot stint, as some have done,
Too rigid in my view, that name to one;
Though one, I grant it, in the gen’rous breast
Will stand advanc’d a step above the rest;
Flowers by that name promiscuously we call,
But one, the rose, the regent of them all)–
Friends, not adopted with a schoolboy’s haste,
But chosen with a nice discerning taste,
Well born, well disciplin’d, who, plac’d apart
From vulgar minds, have honour much at heart,
And, tho’ the world may think th’ingredients odd,
The love of virtue, and the fear of God!
    Such friends prevent what else would soon succeed,
A temper rustick as the life we lead,
And keep the polish of the manners clean,
As theirs who bustle in the busiest scene;
For solitude, however some may rave,
Seeming a sanctuary, proves a grave,
A sepulchre, in which the living lie,
Where all good qualities grow sick and die.
I praise the Frenchman*, his remark was shrewd,
How sweet, how passing sweet is solitude!
But grant me still a friend in my retreat,
Whom I may whisper–solitude is sweet.
Yet neither these delights, nor aught beside,
That appetite can ask, or wealth provide,
Can save us always from a tedious day,
Or shine the dulness of still life away;
Divine communion, carefully enjoy’d,
Or sought with energy, must fill the void.
Oh, sacred art, to which alone life owes
Its happiest seasons, and a peaceful close,
Scorn’d in a world, indebted to that scorn
For evils daily felt and hardly borne,
Not knowing thee, we reap with bleeding hands,
Flow’rs of rank odour upon thorny lands,
And, while Experience cautions us in vain,
Grasp seeming happiness, and find it pain.
Despondence, self-deserted in her grief,
Lost by abandoning her own relief,
Murmuring and ungrateful Discontent,
That scorns afflictions mercifully meant,
Those humours, tart as wines upon the fret,
Which idleness and weariness beget;
These, and a thousand plagues, that haunt the breast,
Fond of the phantom of an earthly rest,
Divine communion chases, as the day
Drives to their dens th’obedient beasts of prey.
See Judah’s promis’d king bereft of all,
Driv’n out an exile from the face of Saul,
To distant caves the lonely wand’rer flies,
To seek that peace a tyrant’s frown denies.
Hear the sweet accents of his tuneful voice,
Hear him o’erwhelm’d with sorrow, yet rejoice;
No womanish or wailing grief has part,
No, not a moment, in his royal heart;
‘Tis manly musick, such as martyrs make,
Suff’ring with gladness for a Saviour’s sake.
His soul exults, hope animates his lays,
The sense of mercy kindles into praise,
And wilds, familiar with a lion’s roar,
Ring with ecstatick sounds unheard before;
‘Tis love like his that can alone defeat
The foes of man, or make a desert sweet.
    Religion does not censure or exclude
Unnumber’d pleasures harmlessly pursued;
To study culture, and with artful toil
To meliorate and tame the stubborn soil;
To give dissimilar yet fruitful lands
The grain, or herb, or plant that each demands;
To cherish virtue in an humble state,
And share the joys your bounty may create;
To mark the matchless workings of the pow’r
That shuts within its seed the future flow’r,
Bids these in elegance of form excel,
In colour these, and those delight the smell,
Sends Nature forth the daughter of the skies,
To dance on earth, and charm all human eyes;
To teach the canvas innocent deceit,
Or lay the landscape on the snowy sheet–
These, these are arts pursued without a crime,
That leave no stain upon the wing of Time.
    Me poetry (or, rather, notes that aim
Feebly and vainly at poetick fame)
Employs, shut out from more important views,
Fast by the banks of the slow-winding Ouse;
Content if thus sequester’d I may raise
A monitor’s though not a poet’s praise,
And while I teach an art too little known,
To close life wisely, may not waste my own.
 

 

*Bruyère

 

 

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Click this picture of Frank Wilson to go to his blog post called “Well, here they are . . .”


   

 

 

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Click this picture of Frank Wilson to go to his blog post called “Why I decided . . .”


   

 

 

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December 6, 2007

Today is World Samina Malik Day: Terrorize your lyrics

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A reminder about December 6th, World Samina Malik Day. It is after 11:00pm here on East Coast USA, which means that it is already December 6th in half the world. I greet you in freedom, and with poetic license to do so–for now. Yet, this is the day Samina will be sentenced for writing poetry, no matter how lenient or harsh. Sentenced.

She is an online poet. Her being found guilty convicts us all, every poet who has ever imagined and wrote outside the bounds of the politically correct. Every poet.

Last month, she was found guilty of a “lesser charge” of “possessing documents likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.” What she downloaded, however, are documents likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of lyricism. In fact, she did not only think about committing lyricism, she did it.

After work tomorrow, which here will be after she is sentenced, I will dress like her (which for me will mean looking like an aging ninja in jeans). I will download The Koran, to align myself with Muslim thought, and consider myself a brother born foreign. Links are available here: Wikipedia: The Qur’an. I will visit Islamic forums and blogs, and download the al Qaeda manual. Links to some Islamic sites can be found at the bottom here: World Samina Malik Day.

I will surf and muse from there. I will look for the taboo, the non-PC. I will look into beheading, and surf and muse from there, to Torture, Al-Qaeda Style, and beyond. All this in preparation for an act of lyricism, to be a lyrical terrorist, to be a poet.

Please join me, where horror and political protest merge into the ears of those who would be politically correct, where terror enters lyricism, where Lyrical Babe became Lyrical Terrorist. Let’s do her taboo. You may.

   

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November 18, 2007

World Samina Malik Day December 6th

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        I remember this sister from another forum

        I’m sure she is sorry for what has happend and didnt mean any harm by it

        May Allaah help her, prison is a horrible place

                –Niqaabis
                IslamicAwakening.com
   

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Samina Malik became the first woman convicted under Great Britain’s Terrorism Act. She wrote poetry about terrorist acts, such as how to behead. She downloaded files, such as the one called How To Win Hand-to-hand Fighting, a manual for a sniper rifle, and the (relatively useless) Mujahideen Poison Handbook by Abdel Azez. Such downloading the folks at Scotland Yard consider “a serious criminal offense.” (See Sean O’Neill’s article in The Times: Poetic shop assistant guilty of building library of terror.)

Writing is not doing. A writer needs to be able to write whatever comes to her. No matter what real terrorist activity Samina Malik may, may not, or may some day be into, her writing is not, and must not be considered terrorist activity.

Every poet, in pursuit of the creative, has to be able to explore and fail, just as people who sing most often cannot carry the tune. And we cannot be out giving poetry licenses to people before they can participate in such activity. Each one of us must have poetic license.

Samina Malik was affected by the videos of beheading that were on the web, and decided to try her hand at the horror genre. A writer needs to be able to research, and explore sensitive territory, such as the info she downloaded–even live it to some degree, vis a vis Jack Kerouac. Period. And whether she is imprisoned for it or not, the next writer will do the same, whether he is imprisoned for it or not, and then the next.

I wonder, following her notoriety, how many others have gone looking to explore that “terrorist” information–and if they are poets, how much bad poetry will come from it. I went looking to download it myself, and could not find the links, otherwise I would share them with you.

[Edited in Nov 26: al Qaeda manual. Thanks to and note: ian.]

If a link appears on my monitor, here in my home, just as if it appears on a bookshelf, here in my home, I will open it, as I should be free to do. My judgment, nobody else’s. Period. Imprison me if you want, but another good citizen will follow me in turn, and you can imprison her too, and the next.

Instead of prosecuting and imprisoning her, we should celebrate a World Samina Malik Day, when we all dress up as her, or as close to it as we can, and download the information she did, the jihad encyclopedia, the poisons handbook, the sniper and hand-to-hand combat manuals–and then write on it. She is due to be sentenced on December 6th. This should be the day. If we cannot find the material for download that she did, note both the failed beheading scene, how hand-to-hand combat is won creatively, and the impending beheading at the end of this scene in Steven Seagal’s Out for Justice (WARNING: FOUL LANGUAGE):

Out for Justice: Bar Scene (‘Anybody seen Richie?’):

Or find something that works even better for you, The Godfather maybe, some documentary, something with violence or horror.

Let’s also make her rich with a Samina Malik line of clothing. She represents the average person’s freedom on this shared Earth of ours.

Just as most every other poet who has tried his or her hand at erotica, war poetry, love poetry, and the horror genre, and has then written in support of Samina Malik, I too was affected by a killing and wrote a syllabic sonnet sequence about it. It is here: Saint Anselm and the Murder of Addie Hall in New Orleans on October 5, 2006. (Also, see Hari Kunzru’s article for The Guardian: Terror stricken. And read Noorjehan Barmania’s ‘I have much in common with Samina Malik’.)

I wish I knew more about how Wilfred Owen’s poetry was brought out at Ms. Malik’s trial, but he is a poet who was able to cast killing into poetry, a difficult thing to do. Like Malik’s, my stab at it doesn’t approach Owen’s:
   

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by Wilfred Owen
   

Parable of the Old Men and the Young
   

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son. . . .
   

.
   

Even though Malik basically failed at it, some positives are that she cast the poem onto the page with care for line breaks, and made her writing very understandable. She’s sort of an advanced beginner like many of us, and I would encourage her to continue writing. Furthermore, the matter-of-factness has her readership recall terrorist activity so much so, that she got convicted as if she really were a terrorist.
   

.
   

recast from excerpts found on the web
   

by Samina Malik
   

How to Behead
   

Hold him
Tie the arms behind his back
And bandage his legs together
Just by the ankles
Blindfold the punk
So that he won’t hesitate as much
For on seeing the sharp pointy knife
He’ll begin to shake
And continuously scream like an eedyat
And jiggle like a jelly
Trust me–this will sure get you angry
It’s better to have at least two or three brothers by your side
Who can hold the fool
Because as soon as the warm sharp knife
Touches his naked flesh
He’ll come to know what’ll happen
It’s not as messy or as hard as some may think,
It’s all about the flow of the wrist.
No doubt that the punk will twitch and scream
But ignore the donkey’s ass
And continue to slice back and forth
You’ll feel the knife hit the wind and food pipe
But don’t stop
Continue with all your might.
About now you should feel the knife vibrate,
You can feel the warm heat being given off,
But this is due to the friction being caused.
   

.
   

Tomorrow, let’s all go and kill someone with her poems. We’ll print them out, and drop them onto people’s heads from rooftops. We’ll roll them into balls and throw them at passersby. We’ll roll them into tubesticks and hit people we approach over the head with them. We’ll get bad breath and recite them.

There are criticisms that her writing is not really poetry, that its main purpose is to incite terrorist activity. Can we call instructions for beheading poetry at all? Here is a poem, written by Harry Mathews, published by the Boston Review, and anthologized in The Best American Poetry 2002, wherein the instructions are how to make eggs, no metaphor, no symbols, no mystic “aha” experience: Butter and Eggs.

If there can be a poem about how to make eggs, then there can be a poem about how to kill. Indeed, there are many movies and many novels out there that instruct viewers on different ways people can be brought to death. We must keep our poets free. We must not silence them, either by cutting out their tongues, by killing them, nor by capturing them for imprisonment.

There is another side to this also, and that is Samina Malik: impressionable daughter of Great Britain. It’s a little late to be raising children, exposing them to world violence and such, telling them that Bush and Blair are criminals and should be hung like Hussein, and then telling them it’s not okay to write about it when they become young adults, that they will be jailed for it.

   


   

_____
   

mary-warnock-and-gore-vidal.jpg
On November 16th, the BBC radio program, World Have Your Say, discussed Samina Malik’s situation in terms of a thought crime. That segment begins 12:17 into the show and features Baroness Mary Warnock and Gore Vidal, along with several bloggers: BBC: WHYS: Bangladesh, thought crimes, the dollar (mp3) (while available).
   

_____

   

Some musical terrorists:
   

Killing an Arab, by The Cure:


   

Murder by Numbers, by The Police:


   

Cop Killer, by Ice T & Body Count (WARNING: FOUL LANGUAGE):


   

_____

   

155 blog posts on Samina Malik’s conviction:
   

جبهة التهييس الشعبية: في قضية سمينة مالك: عاجل لخدامين السيادة

مدونه الشاعر …ترحب بكم: سميه… كتبت شعر .. تبقى إرهابيه … وتخش السجن…..وتحيا الحريه الغربيه … posted by mohammed alsha3r

Ace of Spades HQ: British Law Convicts For Mere Possession of Records posted by Gabriel Malor

AcidDrip: Freedom to offend is part of freedom of speech

AcidDrip: “Lyrical Terrorist”–Samina Malik found Guilty

Alabama-Democrat: The Brits And Freedom posted by Altoid

Ben Aldin: Britain is no longer a free society

American Blog: The Age Of Thought Crime Has Begun posted by Ken

Anglofille: i am not a terrorist, just a writer

Behemoth Conspiracy: ‘Young Muslims ‘criminalised for harbouring silly thoughts…” posted by BTB

Rosie Bell: The Terrible Lyricist

Bibliobibuli: Britain’s Thought Police posted by Sharon Bakar

Bibliobibuli: Convicted . . . For Writing Poetry? posted by Sharon Bakar

Big Brother State: Poet Found Guilty of Terrorism posted by Winston Smith

Yahya Birt: Thought Crime comes to Britain

The Book Bitches: Guilty! . . . Er, for writing poetry? posted by Harlot

Book Blog: Is Writing Bad Poetry a Terrorist Act? posted by Keir Graff

Bookninja: Poetry as terror threat posted by George

Books Inq.: We link . . . posted by Frank Wilson

C L O S E R: Poetic (in)justice? posted by Martijn

C L O S E R: Terrorize your lyrics–Suspended sentence for Samina Malik posted by Martijn

The Chalybeate: Samina Malik posted by Moses

Chesler Chronicles: The Lyrical Terrorist Insists that her Poems are Meaningless posted by Phyllis Chesler

Chihuahuas Bite: From London to Salem . . . a journey of justice posted by Warrior Dog

Church of Virus: ‘Lyrical terrorist’ sentenced over extremist poetry posted by Blunderov

Circle of 13: “the inner monologue is in peril” posted by Augustine Touloupis

Citizen Sane: “Lyrical terrorist”? More like terrible lyricist.

Hugh Cook–Cancer Patient: Fascist British state hauls cute girl creative writer into court

Counterbalance: The lit life in los angeles: A New Twist on What Your Books Say About You posted by Callie Miller

Geoff Coupe’s Blog: The Mugwump Youth

Current: ‘Lyrical Terrorist’ Spared Jail posted by richjm

Dave’s Part: The Lyrical Terrorist versus Sturmgeist89 posted by David Osler

Deborama: Victim of laws against thoughts posted by Deb

Voyou Desoeuvre: Support Samina Malik

Done With Mirrors: Sad, Vicious, and Stupid: But is it criminal? posted by Callimachus

Done With Mirrors: Terror Poet Girl posted by Callimachus

The Dragon’s List Kung Fu Community: Tried for writing poetry posted by john100

Dublin Opinion: ‘You have been in many respects a complete enigma to me.’ posted by Conor McCabe

Edshugeo The GodMoor: Guilty Of Owning Manuals?

Edshugeo The GodMoor: Happy Samina Malik Day!

email blog: Free Samina Malik

EURSOC: Lyrical Terrorism: Self-censorship, Islamists and the art world

ex-lion tamer: a real life poetic terrorist?

FictionBitch: The Terrorism of Intellectual Repression posted by Elizabeth Baines

Free Samina Malik by Nawara Negm

Good Ol’ Boy: Lyrical Terrorist

GotPoetry.com News: Suspended Sentence for the ‘Lyrical Terrorist’ posted by Robert Verkaik

GotPoetry.com News: Update on The Lyrical Terrorist posted by chameleon (D.P.)

Great War Fiction: No Worse than Owen? posted by George Simmers

El Gringo Rumbero: Justice for Samina Malik!

The Guardian: Comment is free: An attack on liberty posted by Inayat Bunglawala

The Guardian: theblogbooks: Terrible poet, laughable terrorist posted by Shirley Dent

The Guardian: Comment is free: Don’t even think about it posted by Inayat Bunglawala

Herald Sun Blog: Gangsta in a hijab posted by Andrew Bolt

Heresy Corner: All the nice girls love Osama posted by Heresiarch

Heresy Corner: Why Free Speech Matters posted by Heresiarch

Helmintholog: A very quick further note on censorship posted by Andrew Brown

Hitchens Watch: With a legal system this effective, why should England tremble? posted by Christopher Hitchens

Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain: The crime of rhyme: the extraordinary case of Samina Malik post by Fahad Ansari

Hoff Limits: Talking with the lawman about poetry posted by Mike Hoffman

Hunting Monsters: Samina Malik Day: December 6th posted by ian

Hunting Monsters: Thoughtcrime or Lolcrime? posted by ian

Rupa Huq’s home on the web: Dubious Distinction

I Hate All of You: Thought Crimes posted by Hitler616

Index Research: Fox News: Guilty of Incitement to Terrorism? posted by Sarah Meyer

IndyBlogs: Minority Report: Thought crime coming to a town near you posted by Jerome Taylor

Islam in Europe: UK: ‘Young Muslims are being convicted of thought crimes’ posted by Esther

IslamicAwakening.com: 1st Sister Convicted Under Terrorism Act posted by Umm

Islamics: Gillian Gibbons and Samina Malik posted by Shukran

Islamophobia Watch: The lyrical non-terrorist posted by Martin Sullivan

Islamophobia Watch: Woman nicknamed ‘lyrical terrorist’ escapes jail sentence posted by Martin Sullivan in UK

Jangliss: “From Homer to 50 Cent, lonely and frustrated . . .” posted by John Angliss

Jdude–The Unstoppable Madman: Free speech

Late Arrival: The study of inference–Or how I learned to love the Romans posted by Daniel Snell

Lead Acetate: Potential versus kinetic ideas posted by E.M.

The Legal Satyricon: The “Lyrical Terrorist” posted by Prof. Marc J. Randazza

Liberal Review: The ‘Lyrical Terrorist’ Is Not a Terrorist posted by Rob Knight

Londonist: Bad Poetry Not a (Punishable) Offence posted by Julie PH

Look High and Low: No-one is safe posted by Mark

Clattery MacHinery on Poetry: Today is World Samina Malik Day: Terrorize your lyrics

Mac Uaid: Lyrical Terrorist and the right to be offensive posted by Liam Mac Uaid

The Mail: Free speech is for nasty people, not nice ones posted by Peter Hitchens

MakeHeadline.com: [wvns] British Muslim Found “Guilty” of Poetry posted by amirza

La Mancha: I wonder how many Italians own Nazi paraphernalia posted by Carlos

Manifesto Club campaign: Free the ‘lyrical terrorist’ post by Josie Appleton

Masopher’s Mind: There is no reason we can’t be civil, is there? post by Masochist

The memoirs of Lord Snooty: Lyrical Terrorists posted by Cheese Messiah

Dave Miller Art Blog: Lyrical Terrorist

Dave Miller Art Blog: samina malik day december 6th

Monkeyboy: Lyrical Terrorism posted by Jack

MPACUK: ‘Lyrical Terrorist’ found guilty posted by Dr Diavolo

Muslamics: Muslim Poetess Arrested for Extremist Poetry posted by Yesi King

Nation of Shopkeepers: What exactly is a terrorist document? posted by Harry Haddock

Natural yogurt: Free Samina Malik The days tick by . . . posted by Stephen Clynes

Natural yogurt: Fantasy or reality? posted by Stephen Clynes

Neil’s Site: Islamic Demonstrations

Newswatch: ‘Lyrical Terrorist’ spared jail posted by Newsjunky

November 30: When poems are against the law posted by Kathleen

Obsolete: From lyrical to physical. posted by septicisle

The Pamphleteer: On Lyrical Terrorism posted by Finnieston Crane

paxil online: Today is World Samina Malik Day: Terrorize your lyrics « Clattery MacHinery on Poetry posted by usu

PenShells: Witnessing posted by Bren101

thepeoplesvoice.org: ‘Lyrical terrorist’ convicted over hate records

www.PetitionOnline.com: Free Samina Malik

Poetry & Poets in Rags: News at Eleven (Back Page): I think I might be in trouble. posted by Rus Bowden

Poetry & Poets in Rags: News at Eleven: [Samina Malik] told the court posted by Rus Bowden

Poetry & Poets in Rags: November 20th forum announcement posted by Rus Bowden

Poetry & Poets in Rags: November 27th forum announcement posted by Rus Bowden

The Political News You Need to Know: Today is World Samina Malik Day: Terrorize your lyrics

Praxis: Thoughtcrime in the U.K.

prisonlawinsideout: ‘Lyrical terrorist’ sentenced over extremist poetry posted by John Hirst Hull

Probablyblonde: The mad woman in the bedroom

Probablyblonde: Thoughtcrime and lyrical terrorism

Rachel from north London: The Lyrical Terrorist

Ramblings of the Bearded One: Guilty of writing dodgy poetry posted by Kim Ayres

Random Comments from South London: Lyrical terrorist gets suspended sentence posted by secretlondon

readership: Lyrical Terrorist posted by Бронза

Reasonable Mahmoud: The Stench Of Hypocrisy . . . posted by Avenger

Penny Red: Thoughts on Lyrical Terrorism.

Red Pepper: Thoughtcrime and Samina Malik posted by Neruda

resak11’s weblog: Lyrical terrorist sentenced for poetry Guardian Unlimited

Rule 9: World Samina Malik Day December 6th ~9 posted by Rus Bowden

Sawtul Islam: Where are you oh Hakam?!

The Sharp Side: Lyrical terrorism posted by Ellis

The Soul of Man Under Capitalism: Thought Crimes posted by V

The Spectator: Free speech and the ‘lyrical terrorist’ posted by Ron Liddle

SportsBikes.net: Prosecutor will not charge teacher for Columbine blog posting posted by 750rider

The state we’re in: Thought crime

Strange Stuff: Lyrical Terrorism posted by Chris

Strange Stuff: Lyrical? Terrorist? posted by Chris

Subjects Are Silly: “Lyrical Terrorism” and the theory of Free Rights posted by Chelsea

sweetbands: England from the Blogosphere: World Samina Malik Day December 6th posted by Kurt Torres

Telegraph: The curious case of the lyrical terrorist posted by Ceri Radford

Ten Percent: War Crimes Vs. Thoughtcrime posted by RickB

This Guy is Teaching Abroad: Be Careful What You Read and Say posted by Guy Courchesne

Through The Scary Door: The lyrical terrorist goes down posted by Roobin

Times Online: Don’t ban the lyricist posted by Shirley Dent

Times Online: Faith Central: Lyrical terrorist defended posted by Libby Purves

Times Online: Muslims ‘criminalised for silly thoughts’ posted by Sean O’Neill: Crime and Security Editor

Jonathan Turley: British Convict “Lyrical Terrorist”–Muslim Who Merely Wrote About Beheadings

UncommonSense: British woman convicted of writing terrorist poetry

The Waters: World Samina Malik Day December 6th

Westolowski: OK. Poetry still sucks. But rap sucks worse.

ChristopherWhite.info: Crimes against literature?

Who Knows Where Thoughts Come From?: The Blair Ditch Project posted by Ian

Why Dont You Blog?: Crime, Confusion and the Littlejohn Idiocy posted by TW

Wild Poetry Forum: World Samina Malik Day December 6th

World Have Your Say (BBC): 16 Nov 07 posted by Peter

World Politics Review: World Samina Malik Day December 6th

Tim Worstall: What a Wonderful Country

Wrath of Mjolnir: Free Speech?

A Writer’s Life: Wait posted by John Siddique

WSP 400: Samina Malik posted by Jessica Posner

Your Society: The Terrible Lyricist – is She also a Lyrical Terrorist? posted by Gregers Friisberg

zidouta.com: Ready Made Terrorism posted by Herman van Iperen

   

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

   

_____

September 24, 2007

Alley War Poetry

   

_____

   

Marvelous Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas “The Hit Man” Hearns

Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, April 15, 1985

Announcers: Al Bernstein and Al Michaels

   

Alley War Poetry

   

The pugilists are in the desert, somewhere far from most of humanity and society. They are at a resort, however, a magnificent getaway, elevated in the middle of a roped-off ring, with cameras surrounding. They have taken the center of the world from us, and placed it into that squared area they occupy. They are poets, informing us of brutality and violence from this very different point of view.

We must relinquish our individual world centers to theirs, but in doing so, these centers merge in passing. In the merger, the metaphor is no longer a metaphor. It does not stand for affecting our lives; it affects our lives. Thus created is poetry, a poetry written before a word is spoken, before the words for it are thought of, and in vivo. Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns are scripting the wordless narrative out of earshot, the good and the bad of it, a new violence for us upon first viewing, something to reflect upon afterward, something brutal with important aspects, both a metaphor and a reality to re-use for different purposes, even now again, 22 years later.

There is poetry to be found in violence. Poetry is not anti-war as such. Witnessing a four-dimensional Rubik’s cube with one color wrong, the alley war poet intuits how much unravelling must be done for a short period of resolution, until new aspects bear themselves into the world, and the cube must be re-solved–this whether one or a billion dark sides surface the wrong way, whether in times of peace or war. Violence will always be an unsolved part of the whole of us and each one of us. Indeed, when he was 13, Hagler’s home was destroyed, and people around him killed, in the race riots in Newark. But as an athlete poet, when his ideas and rhythms prevail, he is prevailing, and his message comes through.

Civilly speaking, the fight could, and arguably should be stopped (if it should have taken place at all), upon Hagler’s profuse bloodshed. In earlier ages and other places, such an event would be a fight to the death, though. This violence and brutality of boxing matches are not in our civilized centers of commerce and community centers, but under the preserve of state sanction and institutional procedure. Even still, boxers like soldiers, our young adults die and become disabled through their fighting. We understand that such brutality exists, and make it against the law. Our society, through our humanity, has drawn legal and moral lines.

Yet, we are able, through such an event, to allow our shadows, what is inhumane of our humanness, to be spoken to. This is an aspect of life that has never gone away. Like the sex drive, it may either be brought out orgiastically; or in recession, monastically; but it remains part of us. The taller we are in the light, the longer the shadow, from each given vantage point. Hagler, for instance, his entire adult life, no matter where he has lived, has given himself to causes for children, as they mature in the world, and as they die in hospitals.

Sometimes the line before violence and brutality disappears. This can happen within the individual, within families, within social groups or gangs, and, during wartime. Poetry may unveil this.
   

by Wilfred Owen
   

Dulce Et Decorum Est
   

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!–An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

   

Wilfred Owen gives us brutal word poetry here, the violence everpresent in being human is heavy, the darkness brought to light. From where he stood, the darkness is out in the open. The events in this poem, however, were neither staged nor so scripted by the people doing the violence. The main character, the hero, is dying, then dead. It is gruesome. The poem existed where muses exist, and was written into words by one who would otherwise be a background player, one of the other soldiers.

But where is the poetry? Is it in his words? Not essentially. Essentially, it is in the unfolding story. It is pre-verbal: Chopin, Marceau, and Hagler. In this sense what we usually think of as poetry, is a sub genre. It is word poetry.

Let’s attempt to shift the metaphor of the poet from the pugilists to the announcers, Bernstein and Michaels. This makes Hagler and Hearns the main characters in an unfolding drama. The announcers are witnessing an event. Before their eyes, two warriors with great heart, hope and humanity are duking it out. A golden story seems to be unfolding, inspiring them. Bernstein and Michaels are streaming their words, as they relate this to us, their imagined audience, spontaneously, with repetition, simile, metaphor, alliteration, and meter that together borders on the music of song. Sometimes they really are singing.

This, then, could be thought of as a (p)entacostal event. The shaman (here, the pugilist) takes the journey into the breadths and depths of human nature, and comes back with something that the village priest is capable of interpreting into the lives of us lay people. Nowadays, the poet is expected to do both, take the inspirational journey of the hero, and then write it down for the rest of us to read and re-center from, or at least keep in our pockets for later reference. But there is a catch.

When Owen wrote Dulce Et Decorum Est, it was reflective. His journey was internal and after-the-fact. A poet may tell us fiction, but Owen relates something that had happened, something he witnessed in real life. Both the essential poetry and the verbal poetry came from him–what we have come to expect from our poets. Note too that, although it is often recited, the poem’s birth event is in written, not spoken, form–not to say he was not whispering or even singing the lines as he composed, maybe he was. Nor was he dancing or beating a drum. Both Hagler and Hearns, however, were in their ways dancing. Our shamans speak to us in many ways.

Bernstein and Michaels have a poetic event unfolding before them. Their poetics are of the spoken language kind (and here I don’t mean to compare or even debate poetic ability, simply to grant that they speak in verse). Note instead, that their rhythms are different from the rhythms of the fighters. That’s the catch I mentioned. It is a split we witness, between the movement and focus of the pugilists, and the versification of the announcers. The event a poet relates, is decidedly different from the event of its relating. The verbal poem has a different sense, sound, and rhythm than the essential poetry inspiring it.

In case there is any tension, let’s bridge this gap between the spontaneous relating of an inspirational event, and the practiced writing of poetic reflection. Here is Jack Kerouac’s spontaneous bop prose, as he called it, in “On the Road”:

“He’s mad,” I said, “and yes, he’s my brother.” I saw Dean coming back with the farmer in his tractor. They hooked chains on and the farmer hauled us out of the ditch. The car was muddy brown, a whole fender was crushed. The farmer charged us five dollars. His daughters watched in the rain. The prettiest, shyest one hid far back in the field to watch and she had good reason because she was absolutely and finally the most beautiful girl Dean and I ever saw in all our lives. She was about sixteen, and had Plains complexion like wild roses, and the bluest eyes, the most lovely hair, and the modesty and quickness of a wild antelope. At every look from us she flinched. She stood there with the immense winds that blew clear down from Saskatchewan knocking her hair about her lovely head like shrouds, living curls of them. She blushed and blushed.

The rhythms in Kerouac’s bop prose, are not the rhythms of a car being yanked out of a ditch. The sounds are not close either. What a racket it must have been, and a sight and emotional sense for all to witness. But the pacing at first is as if Kerouac was somewhat out of breath, or maybe becomes a bit breathless as he recalls the event. In describing the beautiful daughter, we do not get her rhythms either, nor the rhythms of the wind blowing. We get the pacing of the witness (Jack Kerouac’s Sal Paradise), his vantage, his rhythms. We understand at once, how we could be him with his eyes, how this certain part of him seems to be a certain part of us, but in our own reflection, how we are different from him. Through his wording, we surmise as best we can, what was really taking place, both within the scene described, and within the describer.

Imagine that Bernstein and Michaels could not make it to Las Vegas. Instead, the promoters asked if they could put a microphone up to Hagler in order that he give us, in his own words, the unfolding details of the fight. Could we expect poetry from his words? I cannot help thinking of Muhammad Ali, who may have been poetic with his words before and after a fight, and maybe during as he taunted his opponents, but the poetry of his athletics was something else again. Bob Dylan is a poet in this wider sense, a song poet, which is different from being a word poet. Chopin is a poet of the piano specifically, and Marceau a poet of mime. The poetry of the artist or athlete is found in what is practiced.

Owen and Kerouac, were each able, at some juncture, to experience the poetry of the moments they relate–then as poets of the word, communicate such essence to us after the fact. In both cases, there is nothing goody-goody about what the people are doing. Owen’s war is evident. His hero is dying, a victim. Kerouac’s scene, on the other hand, involves the reckless destruction of a car, leading to the potential womanizing of a 16-year-old girl by a couple older guys passing through town. His heroes are culprits.

Whereas Owen has us look squarely at the dark side of human nature from the attitude of the light, Kerouac has us looking at the light from the vantage of the darkness. Hagler is doing the same as Kerouac, only instead of bringing fiction to an actual event, he actualizes a hoped-for event, walking through the necessary dark alley to get to the light–taking us with him like a good poet would. Here is such a poetic relationship with violence, through Iraq veteran and poet Brian Turner:
   

   

Turner begins his poem “Here, Bullet,” with what could have been the words of Marvelous Marvin Hagler if he could have scripted words into his fight with Thomas Hearns:

If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta’s opened valves, the leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.
Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,
that inexorable flight, that insane puncture
into heat and blood. And I dare you to finish
what you’ve started.

The world yearns for the good fight, a real live hero fighting for good to prevail, and knows the violence of it exists out there, even if in a far-off desert where poets or shamans sojourn, even if ducking from bullets in a tenement in New Jersey somewhere.
   


   

After the fight, Hagler spoke of his concern, that he hoped the fans got their money’s worth, the scheduled 15-rounder ending before the bell of the third round. He was assured that this was the case. This is not a necessary attribute of a poet, wanting others and posterity to benefit from individual inspiration. It’s good to see, though. But, whether they care or not, the poets’ service is invaluable, if only in that we come together as witnesses to each other and, therefore, ourselves. What’s even better, is if we can then continue with a conversation, informed by the poet. Here is the ending to Turner’s poem:

                        Because here, Bullet,
here is where I complete the word you bring
hissing through the air, here is where I moan
the barrel’s cold esophagus, triggering
my tongue’s explosives for the rifling I have
inside of me, each twist of the round
spun deeper, because here, Bullet,
here is where the world ends, every time.

As the modern poet, he accepts that he is shaman, who must complete the communicative process, and write it down for us, how “the world ends, every time.” He continues the conversation, from the vantage point of a soldier who has witnessed too often what Owen witnessed. It is from here, he seems to be responding to Carl Jung’s thoughts on death:
   

_____

October 3, 2006

Mark Doty Physically: "Heaven for Paul"

_____

   

a Margaretta Mitchell photograph

   

by Mark Doty
   

        Heaven for Paul
   

The flight attendant said:
We have a mechanical problem with the plane,
and we have contacted the FAA for advice,

and then: We will be making an emergency landing in Detroit,

and then: We will be landing at an air force base in Dayton,
because there is a long runway there, and because
there will be a lot of help on the ground.

Her voice broke slightly on the word help,
and she switched off the microphone, hung it back on its hook,
turned to face those of us seated near her,
and began to weep.

Could the message have been more clear?
Around us people began to cry themselves,
or to pray quietly, or to speak to those with whom
they were travelling, saying the things that people
would choose to say to one another before
an impending accident of uncertain proportions.

It was impossible to hear, really, the details
of their conversations–it would have been wrong to try–
but one understood the import of the tones of voice
everywhere around us, and we turned to each other,

as if there should have been some profound things to be imparted,
but what was to be said seemed so obvious and clear:
that we’d had a fine few years, that we were terrified
for the fate of our own bodies and each other’s,
and didn’t want to suffer, and could not imagine

the half-hour ahead of us. We were crying a little
and holding each other’s hands, on the armrest;
I was vaguely aware of a woman behind us, on the aisle,
who was startled at the sight of two men holding hands,

and I wondered how it could matter to her, now,
on the verge of this life–and then I wondered how it could matter to me,
that she was startled, when I flared on that same margin.

The flight attendant instructed us in how to brace
for a crash landing–to remove our glasses and shoes
and put our heads down, as we did long ago, in school,
in the old days of civil defence. We sat together, quietly.
And this is what amazed me: Paul,

who of the two of us is the more nervous,
the less steadily grounded in his own body,
became completely calm. Later he told me

how he visualised his own spirit
stepping from the flames, and visited,
in his picturing, each person he loved,
and made his contact and peace with each one,

and then imagined himself turning toward
what came next, an unseeable ahead.
                                                                                      For me,
it wasn’t like that at all. I had no internal composure,

and any ideas I’d ever entertained about dying
seemed merely that, speculations flown now
while my mind spiraled in a hopeless sorrowful motion,

sure I’d merely be that undulant fuel haze
in the air over the runway, hot chemical exhaust,
atomised, no idea what had happened to me,

what to do next, and how much of the next life
would I spend (as I have how much of this one?)
hanging around an airport. I thought of my dog,

and who’d care for him. No heaven for me,
only the unimaginable shape of not-myself–
and in the chaos of that expectation,

without compassion, unwilling,
I couldn’t think beyond my own dissolution.
What was the world without me to see it?

And while Paul grew increasingly radiant,

the flight attendant told us it was time to crouch
into the positions we had rehearsed,
the plane began to descend, wobbling,

and the tires screeched against the runway,
burning down all but a few feet of five miles of asphalt
before it rolled its way to a halt.

We looked around us, we let go
the long held breath, the sighs and exhalations,
Paul exhausted from the effort of transcendence,

myself too pleased to be breathing to be vexed
with my own failure, and we were still sitting and beginning to laugh
when the doors of the plane burst open,

and large uniformed firemen came rushing down the aisles,
shouting: Everybody off the plane, now, bring nothing with you,
leave the plane immediately

–because, as we’d learn in the basement
of the hangar where they’d brought us,
a line of tornadoes was scouring western Ohio,
approaching the runway we’d fled.

At this point it seemed plain: if God intervenes
in history, it’s either to torment us
or to make us laugh, or both, which is how

we faced the imminence of our deaths the second time.
I didn’t think once about my soul, as we waited in line,
filing into the hangar, down into the shelter

–where, after a long while, the National Guard would bring us
boxes and boxes of pizza, and much later, transport us, in buses,
to complimentary hotel rooms in Cincinnati.
   

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“Heaven for Paul” comes to you here, following a conversation with Mark Doty at this year’s Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. It is from his 2005 book School of the Arts, published by and available through HarperCollins Publishers.

Here is a link to his web site: Mark Doty
   

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I will keep exegesis to a minimum below. Instead, I want the poet to present the poem through his own speaking, through a spoken reading of “Heaven for Paul” that took place in 2004, before the book came out. First, though, we’ll look at an excerpt from an interview with Mark Doty found through the Audio page on his web site.

The idea in this presentation, then, is to first present “Heaven for Paul” as a poem to be read and valued off the page as above, however you had come to it; then to garner some ideas from listening to the poet, which I will take a brief tangent from; and then to listen to him read. Thus, we will have tarried with the poem and poet for a little extra time.

Here is the link to the the web page, where you can click onto a RealAudio broadcast of the interview:

Mark Doty on WBUR’s The Connection, in an interview with Dick Gordon, discussing SOURCE, Walt Whitman, and the complexities of writing about contemporary American life, recorded in March, 2003

At 6 minutes and 32 seconds into the interview, this conversation takes place:

Dick Gordon: Mark, when you compose your poetry, do you do it out loud?

Mark Doty: I begin scribbling in notebooks–makings of random notes on the computer screen–and very quickly I find myself mouthing those words, wanting to feel the language in the muscles of my jaw and in my tongue. And pretty soon, I am muttering to myself at my desk, and frequently taken for a person who’s a little too far gone into his inner life in public spaces.

DG: But, they’re written to be read out loud.

MD: They’re written to be heard. And even when we read a poem alone, I hope that what’s happening is that there’s a subtle kind of sounding going on, that we’re physically participating in those words, in the sonic texture of the verse. Poetry lives to be physical, to be in our bodies.

In an edited version of an address to the National Library of Australia’s literature conference, “Love and Desire”, published last week in The Age as The write of way with a reader, Dave Malouf writes the following:

When we speak of being unable to put a book down, it isn’t that we can’t wait to find out what happens next. It’s that we don’t want to give up the close and quite tender intimacy that has been established; we do not want to break the spell.

When Doty says “that we’re physically participating in those words, in the sonic texture of the verse” and that poetry “lives to be physical, to be in our bodies,” he is saying to me that there is to be a physical intimacy between the poet and the listener (or reader as it were) of the poem. In listening to the sound of Doty’s voice, even in conversation with Dick Gordon, what stands out is how he articulates his words beyond the syllable level into each letter, each “t”, each “n” that precedes a “d”, the whistling “‘s”–in physical enunciation.

This physicality shows thematically in Doty’s poetry as well. In “Heaven for Paul”, via the communication of crying, for instance–the stewardess wept, and the poem goes on, “people began to cry themselves.” There is the scene with “two men holding hands,” (each holding each, therefore), but also what ensued, that this “startled” a woman, how the speaker wondered “how it could matter to her” and then, on her reaction, “how it could matter to me” (each mattering to each, therefore)–a repeated and operant word of physicality being matter.

Doty becomes playful with taking us in and out of what we might think at first wouldn’t be, but then must be physical: disappearance from this world:

sure I’d merely be that undulant fuel haze
in the air over the runway, hot chemical exhaust,
atomised, no idea what had happened to me,

And doesn’t he bring Paul’s heaven and trancendence physically to Paul, and to us readers in such a way that we physically understand?

Here, from the Poem Present series is the Mark Doty poetry reading, in which “Heaven for Paul” begins just over 24 minutes in:

Podcast #38. Poetry reading by Mark Doty: A poetry reading by Mark Doty as part of the Poem Present series at The University of Chicago. © 2004 The University of Chicago (mp3)

It is a preview reading from his latest book School of the Arts.
   

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School of the Arts, at HarperCollins

   

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