• Poetry Snark
  • Tuesday, May 31, 2005

    The Jig Goes On

    Good morning my dear, dear friends & please accept the apology I make on behalf of my indolence. As it were, friends, I endured a rather saturnine weekend during which time I edited a volume of Leigh Hunt's criticisms while sipping from a seemingly endless draught of a bordeaux reticent with currant & plum undertones. Delightful, yet brooding has its consequences, friends. This morning, as is part of my routine, as you know, along with repast & dark Asian teas, I visited that lovely blog Poetry Snark, linked above this text for your pleasure. In defining the virtues of anonymity in criticism, it would seem that your dear host was accused of employing my monicker as a pseudonym behind which to preserve & protect the core of my true identity. It gives rise to a plethora of questions, yes, friends, just as the spring dew seems to birth a myriad of dazzling new insects, the likes of which could thrill an entymologist to the point of caution, I might think. For instance, do I need anonymity in order to provide the impetus for more vicious attacks? Does it matter? In this format, one in which we shall sadly never cross physical paths, friends, does it matter what appelation I put forth? Would it be a comfort to you to know me by another name? Speak to it, friends, & I shall furnish you with a truer identity. Until then, I am resigned to this life I lead.

    Wednesday, May 25, 2005

    At the Bequest

    It would seem dear friends that this morning, as the cerulean pale blue slowly finds itself suffused by that golden flaming disc, that your host in these letters has reached a point somewhere beyond impasse. I am a deliberate fellow, to be sure, whose many years have taught innumerous lessons, indeed. Here, in the twilight of my years, I find my amicable & gentle disposition challenged by my observations & by my recent discourse with that obdurate gentleman, Snark. & so it has come to pass, dear friends, that I envision our dame Poetry laid out upon a sterile table, & no, it is not the Eliotic of which I speak, but that tale of gothic woe & foreboding, Frankenstein. We must reanimate the corpse, friends, & if we must do so with the currents of rancor & vitriol, then so it shall be. If we must do so by coming to blows in the street, so it shall be. If we must do so by ripping asunder pages from certain works of literature & subsequently employing them in the fashion generally reserved for toilet paper, so it shall be. Let me say this, yes, dear friends, my lens has found a focus, & where the ethereal song of the stellar jay once chirped giddily outside my window, where once I sat calmly in repose with my darjeeling & my volumes of yore, now I feel within me the gravity of the present age, the urgency of long overdue criticisms. I will speak, & in speaking, dismiss all that is wayward, artless, specious & wrong. I meant for this to be a forum for the discussion of those lost years of the Hong Kong expatriot scene of which I was so central an instrument, but here, I must instead summon that bygone spirit in hopes of making the corpse dance again! In time I shall unfurl in great detail the basis of my aversions, but for the moment, a few maxims: language poetry is nincompoopery, slam poetry is dribble, surrealism is dead a century, Stein is the most horrid influence on poetry imaginable, no one else is Ashbery, antipathies for poetic music are merely expressions of one's own insufferable lack of talent, the poetics of culture identity are the artifice of otherwise unpublishable tripe-mongers, italics within a poem are indicative of that most unusual & saddening mixture of bravado & total lack of comprehension, politics have no place in poetry, the shocking metaphor is only shocking because of the incompetent & obstinate insistence of the fact that it functions in any generative capacity, a compound does not a Hopkins make, an ego does not a writer make, & a culture of posturing will never, friends, but never guarantee its own efficacy. There you are, friends, a few starting points for you.

    A Passage

    "Where neither tenderness nor torture would effect any nomenal change, Herbert removed himself completely of the appaling scenario, leaned against the white kitchen cupboard & poured himself three fingers of scotch. This way, he thought, at least he wouldn't have to care."

    The above passage, my dearest friends, is from the short story entitled "Xanadon't" by Eliot Spectacle, & while I will permit, of course, all criticisms of the authorial tone, which to me has all the sonorous quality of an elephant's flatulence, the point, friends, seems pressingly relevant to our discourse, does it not? Spectacle was a little known author whose acquaintence I was fortunate enough to make on a balmy evening when the Hong Kong sky resembled most closely the flaming red asshole of a stray kitten on the verge of dehiscing while swimming laps in poorly tended-to backyard pool. It was twilight, yes, yes, & there glowed about the city an aura as the illuminations of Blake, friends, as mystical, as dubiously profound, as ripe with hope as it was pregnant with stale morals. We sat sipping absinthe & discussing the work of Dictionary & Lowell & Plath at the time, as, of course you must know, Confessionalism seemed all the rage, my friends. Through the tenure of that initial introduction it became abundantly clear to me, friends, that Eliot was a jaded man, one whose eyes had fallen upon some rather horrendous scenes. His cosmology was consequently quite skewed, & yet, in spite of the panic of near sociopathy that his life had produced, there grew, as under the shade of a dying branch, the kernel of acute & cutting wisdom. Spectacle saw before him ennui that would pervade & suffuse certain circles, the kind of self-revelatory comraderie of academia that seemed in years to follow to spread as ajuga over a fresh turf, as wildly, as purple in its prose, to be sure. He saw art detached from the artistic temperment, friends, passion split clean of product. He saw, in short, the very climate in which we now find ourselves, wherein we must resort to hideous shock in order to animate those in our congress. Ours is a placid bay, an untrammeled field, a sloping broad glacier of activity in which the pyrotechnics of caring have long since left the sky a yawning black. I remember that night of our encounter, seeing the reflection of a firework over the water reflected in Eliot's lenses & thinking to myself, oh, R.C., what a thrill to behold is life! Then came Derrida, Barthes, oh dear me, Foucault with his armada of specious soapboxes, friends, Lacan & later Perloff & Vendler & by now, what have we left of poetry but the smoke that we can imagine while peering into the cannon's arm at Antietum? What have we but the hallucination of life belowdecks of the Edmund Fitzgerald? Poetry, friends, true poetry, feeling, thinking, passionate poetry of the artful manner that craves, insatiably, meaning, is it would seem a mere memory, a chimera for the chasing. My life, in service of Her, of dear Psyche & her articulation in lines of delicate craft & substance, seems now the delusion of a madman laboring with tools made of smoke. Spectacle also wrote:

    "The wind came rushing out in exhalation like the vaguely colored juice of a split grape, & there, in his silence, with death poised above him like a cirrus cloud over the left wing of an aircraft in that split second before tailspin, he wondered where his days had led him. Then, he died."

    Gracious me, friends, how taxing the struggle can be, & yet, I implore you, struggle we must. Struggle we must.

    Monday, May 23, 2005

    Where Now the Lilacs of Yore?

    Friends, I have busied myself, tossing & turning, as it were, for some time, trying to find poise atop the upturned V of the white fence, where, to my left, stretches the broad expanse of mannered criticism, & to my right, the fiery pit of indignation & vitriol mentioned below. I waver, yes, yes, friends, as a flag in a hurricane, how I waver, the gentleness of my very nature giving way to the old revolutionary flare I felt decades ago, when my very blood seemed aboil with rancor & defensiveness. It is not my own felicity I seek to preserve friends, but that of my beloved, of my mistress, of our own Poetry. Where now the blue-blooded apostles of the golden age? Have they Lethe-wards fled, or worse, friends, do their stony toes dangle over the wharfs of the river Styx? Have we forgotten so much that Ego sits where once fair-haired Apollo conversed with Dionysus? Is our poetry our own? Oh, friends, I am tired, tired from oscillating. I am an old man & I have sought for many years the appropriate answers, & now, like a turnip in an Indian summer, I find all unbedded. Please engage with me here, on these comments, & let us discuss, free of ego, free of the fettering manacles of presupposing identities, let us discuss the path of truth in poetry. Let us find a way to save Her!

    Friday, May 13, 2005

    Such Vitriol

    Friends, & believe you me, you are just that to your dear host, I feel an odd imbalance lately of a most peculiar nature that seems to be infecting the very marrow of my bones. Yes, yes, the more I wax discursive on the subject of that most beloved figure in the attic Pantheon, yes, friends, I speak of Poetry, the more I feel roused to formidably establish her defense from would-be defilers. I have odd & heretofore foreign compulsions to verbally bludgeon, if you will, those that would make a Jezebel of her. All of this snarking business in which I have lately played such a fervent role seems to be tinting the nature of my critical eye, yes, so much so that where I once saw compassion & the slow & gradual obligation to aid the uninvested towards poetic salvation, I now feel compelled to whip them, to throw the lash of vitriol across their obstinate backs until they break, squawking out not shrieks of pain or indignation, but the angelic lines of our monumental forebearers. Yes, friends, I see the megalomaniacal falter under the cracking whip of a well-parlayed tongue & I hear them echoing "Do I wake or sleep?" & "Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment" & "To leave it out would be another, truer way." Oh, friends, the voices of tradition ring out in these fantasies in place of the ego-proclamations so heavily fancied! I would that I could foster in one change, one minute alteration in the fundamental poetic processes of one insipid youth, yes, friends, & then could I find my peace! Oh, dear, my oolong has caught up with me, pardon me!

    That Cozy Space 'Twixt Snark & Lambast

    Dear friends, my sincere apologies for my absence this morning, but you see, I was otherwise engaged with the most scrumptious of cranberry blintzes, coupled nicely with a Prince of Wales black tea with the slightest hint of cinammon for ornament's sake. I want briefly to clarify my intentions with my last post, namely in terms of appropriate terminologies. I don't believe, dear friends of Poetry Snark, that I held myself to a strictly "snark" taxonomy of criticism, if at all for that matter. My intention was to desperately, needfully & I admit artfully entice the reader away from grave danger, as a master yielding a snippet of turkey giblet might entice a pup from a vast precipice which might otherwise define in a rather perfunctory manner said canine's demise. Yes, the solemnity of my warning cannot be understated, friends, for the very pusle & thrum of poetry falters like a blackening filament in a tired lightbulb, hung, as it were, in a public urinal of notoriously advanced decrepitude. Yes, yes, I kid you not, dear friends, for the covers of Fence, like the covers of so many modern tomes, seem the very shrouds of meaningfulness, of meaning-making, if you will (& if you won't, a swift slap in your face with a chilled halibut). The poem of today stands above poetry like the decal of a flaming skeleton's head. Things, friends, are dire. I, as you know, am well advanced in years & consequently feeble, tired, unable to press upon my tasks with equal vigor as once I displayed. My will, oh that ghost of Schopenhauer's, is become unto me a thing exhausted, depleted, barely capable some mornings of even brewing tea. But I shall fight unto the very cusp of death this malignance, this pestulance that spreads with the stink of a rat's posterior about the modern page! I will champion simple Beauty! I will not prove docile while around me the very buttresses of my life's passion are one by one defiled like the many virgins of yore! No! I will wear Truth's dear chastity belt for my costume & yield my pen, & maybe a cape for good measure, & I will tirelessly crusade against those that would take poetry upon their laps like Jezebel & leave her savagely denuded of honor! Oh, dear me dear my! Dear friends, unite! This will be our St. Crispin's Day! Now pardon me, for my bowels seem a veritable orchestra of distress!

    Wednesday, May 11, 2005

    Know Thy Tradition, Friends

    A fine morning to you my dear friends & yes, your dear host sincerely wishes the world for you. fresh, bounteous, newly formed as it is upon each gradual ascent of the sun over the distant sea. Friends, I have been in conversation as you may know with the good gentlemen of Poetry Snark, where, more recently, I made a comment pertaining to the publication Fence. I'd like to elaborate upon my observations here, rounding about like a flesh-covered wheel growing fatter as it glides, rumbling, down a lipid hillock. Such publications, & mainly I really want to focus on Fence, eschew everything genuine & meaningful in poetry. As you know, I am staunchly betrothed to the core virtues, dear friends, & Beauty, above all, I prize. Indeed, at her aureate altar I bend at the knees & make my offering daily. Truth, that obscure bedmate of Beauty, famously coupled by dear Keats, I extoll almost as highly. Beyond that, the reflections grow as fragments, as if noble Truth & indefatigable Beauty stood intertwined between two great mirrors, & their reflections, true derivatives of dignity, honor, culture, pride & the like, regressed in import until we faded into the great ether, the unknowable beyond. Frightening, yes, friends, but fecund at worst. What I mean to say, by way of thesis, friends, is that Fence values neither truth nor beauty, neither sincerity nor authenticity, neither integrity nor artfulness, neither aesthetic prowess nor fundamental talent, neither precision of image nor generative regression. Fence, it would seem, prizes above all the core values of onanism, back-slapping, regurgitation, vacuous surrealism, hollow cleverness, esoteric winking & a breed of reinterpreted criticism pandering to the lowest common denominator to such an extent that poetry may well have been ruined, yes, ruined I say dear friends, by this journal's success. In short, it is the gravedigger, the preacher & the pulley that yields the coffin in which our tradition rolls its eyes. Please, I entreat you, people, beware its icy hold, beware its death-grip, for its very fingers clutch about the stems of our forebearers like the bony fingers of death about a bouquet of dying lilacs, & just so, poetry is poised to crumble, to turn into dust, to fly away in the violent gusts. I beg of you, dear friends, do not trust those pages, sullied & soiled as they are with such a specious breed of fesces & watercolored urine. Let the pages dry & crumble & instead invest yourself in the preservation of something meaningful.

    Tuesday, May 10, 2005

    Lilacs & Red-stemmed Filarees

    Oh friends the blooms burgeon from their ripe verdant stems & veritably dehisce with scent & palette & an array of visual pyrotechnics! & I, humble servant of virtue, yes, yes, I stroll the garden, the azaleas & hyacinths in their bursting orange & blue exclamations, friends, & in my mind & soul I slide the slope of time & find myself again in the fireworks factory in 1971. Such potential! Such possibility in the unlit wicks! & later, the blue dusk spreading over the bay like the smoke of the Vatican chimney, the thrum & thrill of the Hong Kong sidewalks, yes, dear friends, & the pregant anticpation when the first thwump of the cannon pushed the first dazzling dragon into the oily sky, & those brief moments, that blink of time's eye, yes friends, between initial report & the glow of the first firework of an evening, oh, friends, such life, such trembling & awe! I fear for my nerves with such recollection! I must sit a pace & let the pleasant odor of the penstemmons waft about my nostrils like a bee about a pollen.

    Monday, May 09, 2005

    Agent Trochee's Generosity

    Yes, my dear friends, it would appear that the smoke has lifted above the green fields & the distant report of battle waged has subsided into the harmony that consensual intellects produce & promote so well. After some tiresome & persistent verbal warfare I have made peaceful reconciliation with Agent Trochee & I presume his peers at poetrysnark.blogspot.com, a fine forum on the veritable quandaries of modern poetics, yes, friends. Most recently, Trochee discusses the problematic critical divide which seems to have emerged to reave asunder the cerebral & the visceral, yes, friends, I speak of the unthinkable in verse, in transitive terms now: that which thinks unfeelingly, or, worse, that which feels unthinkingly. Where nary the twain shall meet, in my humble & admittedly outmoded opinion, is where we find poetry's dank black hole, where all semblence of good & work & that most heralded dove, Beauty, collapses into the ashes of the critical pyre. Yes, friends, let it be known that I am studied, travelled, that my pen has involved itself quite extensively in the authorship of an era of poetics, yes, & that my eyes have seen glory & grandeur both, & ignominy & ruin too. I have seen those blazing bombs drop & the fires spread over the vast verdant blooms. I have seen mankind at his worst, friends, & I have seen him step back from blame & touch the grace of his forebearers. But nary have I seen, nor been want to, such a violation of human drama as occurs presently in our poetics. Let them be record of living, of being, & not bibliography of critical dialogue. Let our poems be not reference & allusion, but the very marrow of experience, the imminent & buzzing filament of our ontologies, friends! It is not too late to save poetry from another remove, not too late to rescue it from the grappling groping arms of the critics. I implore you, dear friends, relegate the critics to the realm of hindsight & refrain from letting their busy prestidigitation touch your own fleece-white work. Ah, friends, the fogs are rolling out over the sea & the cityscape calls anew! My pen shall follow my feet on this morning sojourn, yes, friends, for I am out of tea & think a crumpet would do me well. Please, friends, consider the heft of your craft.

    Thursday, May 05, 2005


    & now, dear friends, a bit of B.W. Dictionary's genius, from the poem-novel "Crispus Maddux & the Gift Horse" of 1971:

    "Irene, Irene, I read here that you've been investigated again & your closets have been found lacking, yes, but lacking in such a magnificent way."

    "Crispus, where were you when the tide turned? Glorietta? Gettysburg? Where the soft tread of your combat boots, the supple plunge of your bayonette?"

    She ate her orange as delicately as anything, like molting a chihuaha by hand, hair by hair, the bulging pith of it reticent with primordial, life-giving juice, a grail, a grail, a conquest of nature behind cytoplast walls & cellulose fortifications, oh, ponderable fruit, where once you were innocent, now...

    "The tide, dear Irene, the tide that popped the ante- to the -bellum oh dear God you don't want me to tell you, for the amber fields hissed & splayed & in their rupture, in that magnanimous opening there came to boil a sea of blood where the lighting struck seven times & charred its borders, & in its center the piling tumult of the body, & all around the deep dark trenches a series of moving things, yes, alive they were & slithering like snakes around each batle, oh, call it what you will, call it Gettysburg, call it Glorietta, it was blood Irene & human lives & I had intestinal problems besides & psatoriosis pretty bad on my arms & calves so I ducked inadvertantly when the bullet whizzed by, the one that was meant for me, but, the one that..."

    "Crispus, would you like a slice of tangerine?"

    "...the bullet..."

    "Such nectar! Such ambrosia!"

    The gallantry & the parade collided & let collapse the structure of hope. There was silence save the salacious slapping of Irene's lips over the slices of orange. The peels fell to the oaken floor with soft thuds & sat motionless until, later, after midnight, the mice would come & cart them off piece by piece for God knows what infernal design, for all design is infernal & all architecture the buttressing of pitiful human hoping, inexorable, intransigent, splayed open in all of its perverse longing for all of human history to review in its enduring & empty quest for pathos, in its interminable dream of human glory.

    Calm Repose

    Yes, friends, I have calmed myself a considerable bit since yesterda's tizzy fit. Dear me! How dramatically the malignant spirit moved me! Yes, friends, I doff my tophat to the power of Psyche, that noble, wearisome pest. Dear me was I affected, almost to the point of mimicry of the youthful voice. What transpired between the snark people & myself has happily evolved into an ongoing dialogue in which I have every intention of showcasing the Hong Kong school's core virtues as existing in sharp contrast to those dominating the overly textual analyses superceding poems as the poetry of the vogue, as it were. Yes, friends, our poems are in danger, as the critics have been let lose to hunt the poems until they have succeeded in eradicating all but the sound of their own voices, dare I say, & thence cacophony will ring through the spheres until, bless me, the Apolline arrow will strike them down! I speak colorfully, friends, but with purpose. An old man, I can't afford to dilly-dally where it comes to quotidian onslaughts & tirades against beauty & simple dignity. Oh, but I get ahead of myself. Let me enjoy a draught of ginger-peach tea while you enjoy this bit of poetry:

    The visage & the van-port
    where you parked your van
    portly you your orange
    in your hand
    in your pocket where I
    could not see it.

    A sip of coffee?

    I find refined the refried
    beans you left for dinner
    I left you, sinner

    in that dark corner
    where the coroner whispered
    of ghosts & geometry.

    It was morning more
    than mourning you wore a pumpkin
    on your head & danced

    Wednesday, May 04, 2005

    In a Huff, Friends, an Absolute Huff

    Yes, as difficult & perhaps as insensitive as it may seem to follow up W.C.'s delicate verse entry with a small emotional tirade, perhaps it is the will of providence, friends, for your scribe is in a huff this afternoon. I think back on my morning orange pekoe & think that there existed a slight imbalance tween honey & cream which may in the long run have contributed to my sour & somewhat vaguely negative disposition. Indeed, my very countenence appears taut & saddened in the looking glass, which seems to return to me all of my unsettled displeasure, all of my shortcomings, all of my vehement protests & violent flailings against the rushing ripping tide of the world & its iniquities. What am I to do, one man, but buttress my vision with artful & deliberate verse, however prosaic the modern eye might find it? Yes friends, I have entered into a dialogue which is bound to exhaust your dear host, for I, who have so oft lionized the simple beauty of the past, even in its revolutionary cycles, now find myself nose to nose as it were with modernity, or, rather, post-post-modernity. Yes, friends & readers, I champion a firm mind & a soft heart, I champion justice & truth in my work & try at every angle to execute the will of beauty. I am not old-fashioned, no, no, friends, but honest to the muse. Mine is not a poetry of geometries, as I have said, but of the struggling, nascent & inchoate form of beauty as she is birthed from the quill as aphrodite was of her dear father's thigh. Oh, I can certainly envision the reaction of today's youth, who will call me a fuddy-duddy like they used to Frost or Sandburg or even, yes, dear friends it's true, Stevens. Such elephants of verse! Such titans of the page that once seemed to wallow in the pejorative missives of youth! Ah, friends, I seek no enemies. I am an old man now, it's true, & though my revolutions sit safely in my past as bubbles in an endless, ongoing wake, my aim remains irrefragably true. & to the youths, to the avant-garde, to the gentlemen of https://poetrysnark.blogspot.com, I tell you this: truth is inexorable, beauty intransigent & dignity incapable of defacement. These truths, friends, poetry holds to be self-evident. But enough ramblings of an old man. I will retire to my study for the afternoon with my astragalus tea & my cranberry scone.

    Tuesday, May 03, 2005

    Excerpt from Rogers' "Fireworks, Lang Ping"

    "& there it was,
    so much blinking light
    whereby pyrotechnics rendered celebration
    aglow, aghast, & your pale fingers
    curving 'round the spheres of light above
    as smoke about a poppy flower
    your black eyes aglare in eventide
    prayer, firmament bound, heavy missiles
    of bathing pathos aswim, a suds
    bucket washed out over a gravel walkway
    or a galxy in turmoil or distress--
    yes, like so many vibrant pteradactyls
    the sparks eschewed the dark
    recesses of cloud in ghostly articulation of
    , what? but nothing? can it be? are we
    so removed from the vault or can we
    barely see (just so)? it was Lang Ping
    carved by light, dragons of flame
    chasing down the heavenly chimney
    while our opiate smoke drifted Lethewards
    with our petty aspirations"

    -- W.C. Rogers, 1972

    A brilliant excerpt from a brilliant poem, friends. Note the intricacies of image & tone, yes, yes, the complex bravado of the act of naming, of experience's taxonomy of the surreal, for, indeed, friends, activity possesses the will of definition, don't you think? I find the integration of myth, modernity & the paleolithic age quite stunning indeed. Rogers, a close associate of mine, will report upon his travels here in this blog soon, friends, fear not, for while the darling buds of may bloom & blossom, the pungent scent of determination seems to pervade our studies. Why, just this morning, over tangerine slices, walnut fritters and a steaming cup of African rooibus, I set aside my Swiftburn in favor of crafting my own pice, which, in time, I will reveal unto you, faithful dominions all. Until then, friends, be well, and fear not the flaming dragon.