Let Us Consider the Random Occurrence of Good and Bad Poems   Saturday, June 08, 2019








let us consider the random occurrence of good and bad poems 

some poets
are determined to write wonderful poems

but since they don’t feel capable
of writing the wonderful poems they imagine
they write no poems at all;

some poets
are determined to write wonderful poems

and since the poems they write do not seem to them
as wonderful as they would like
they throw them away;

some poets
are determined to write wonderful poems

and since the first poem they write
is less than wonderful, they rewrite it
over and over and over again,
never writing another poem, concentrating
all their poetry strength and creativity
on making that unwonderful poem
wonderful;

and some poets
(like me),
born with no poetic shame,
just say what the hell and write
poems and poems and poems,
confident in the random distribution in the universe
of good and bad and certain as the bad poems accumulate,
there will be a good one coming any time,
maybe even
a wonderful one…

==========================================

and what about this poem, one might ask,,,

though I doubt it is wonderful, might it be good
or is it bad?

don’t answer that,
My Critic,
because whether it’s good or bad
I’m going to write another one
tomorrow
anyway…










A couple of months ago my imagination fell into a coma. Though I could still write but couldn't come up with anything to write about that I hadn't already done a hundred times before. So I looked for somebody else's imagination to jump start me. I went to an art book, Villa America, American Moderns 1900-1950 (published by the Orange County Museum of Art in 2005) and selected paintings that stimulated my own imagination and stories). All but the first poem in the post come from that piggybacking on someone else's creativity.

It turned out to be more difficult than I imagined. I could not find on the web some of the paintings from the book that I wanted to write about so there were poems I wanted to post but did not because of lack of the the paintings. There were two poems I posted even though I couldn't find the paintings. I posted them anyway because I thought the poems were strong enough to stand on their own. And, in two instances there were paintings I found on the web that had been cropped. I used those poems anyway with a note as to what is missing.

All in all, a process that was harder and took longer than I anticipated when I started. That is also the reason it is only me on this post.



All Me


let us consider the random occurrence of good and bad poems

beachcomber
painting series

nude
painting series

no good story here
painting series

the future as foretold
painting series

two young girls
painting series

blues brothers
painting series

fella with big ears and a brown hat
painting series

queen of the sophomoric
painting series

street stories
painting series

the long nights of a second-rate fighter
painting series

the rapture (or be careful what you pray for)
painting series

Sunday services
painting series

the night the creatures came out to play their night creature games
painting series

star
painting series

Sunday at the beach
painting series

the grim-faced man
painting series













beachcomber 
(painting series)

red beacch
at sunset, golden sand
and a flat, black sea,
 red sails in the sunset
and a sharp-chinned
old man in a floppy hat,
combing the beach, a little can,
maybe an old paint can,
in hand, for the small shells
he finds and other small mysteries
drifted in on the tide from
places unknown, imagined, but
never seen...

he walks the bach
at sunrise and at dusk,
usually alone now, early
and late, so all he finds is
his to keep...

he used to have a dog,
a big, black and white Australian Shepherd
that walked with him, Aussie, he named her
when he found her, as he found so much else,
on the beach, a cold, wet pup with salt-caked eyes,
his companion for so many years until her time
ended as his will soon, she would jump into
the surf if she saw a pieceof driftwood
the old man might like, then come out with her prize
in her mouth, with great shakes, splashing salt water
on the beach and the old man...

they would walk the beach and then home
together until that night under the falling sun
when she could walk no more, and he buried her
in the sand by where they walked,
the spot where he stops every night now
for a moment, alone with memoires of when he was not
alone, then goes home,
a solitary man
in a floppy hat and an empty paint can,
empty because there seems nothing left to find,
walking home
alone

Stuart Davis
Ebb Tide, Provincetown (Man on the Beach) 1913
Oil on canvas













The painting featured above is not the one that led to the poem. The artist did a number of paintings the same model in the same posts, from sketchs to abstract. The painting I used, which I cannot find on the web, was a more realistic rendering which better served the poem I wrote about it and it's surprise ending.




nude 
(painting series)

so beautiful
the officer who found her wept...

nude,
reclined on a divan, legs crossed,
arms splayed to either side, head back,
long, dark hair streaming over her pillow,
so white, pale, bloodless, so cold, as if a perfect
diamond frozen in the whitest snow,
and I too though when I saw her, my god,
the most beautiful corpse I've ever see...

then she opened her eyes...

Arthur B. Carles
Nude reclining (1921)
Oil on canvas













no good story here 
(painting series)

four young men,
more like boys than men, actually,
two of them, naked, sanding against a
yellow wall, one faces out,
both with heads down,
as if in shame, or, maybe fear, both
cover their genitals with their hands,
and two more boys, both in what looks like
blue pajamas, or maybe like the jumpsuits
prisoner wear when going before a judge,
except blue instead of orange, one, kneeling
before an open door, as if in prayer, the other
just entering the door, and a fifth boy, kneeling,
just inside, only partially seen, visible only
his bare back...

this is not a good place, I sense...

there is not a good story here, only black
imagining

Jared French
Evasion  (1947)
Egg tempera on gessoed panel














the future as foretold
(painting series)

the future as foretold

both a miner's daughter
and a miner's wife, bent crooked
,at the hip from the weight of her son
,miner's son and a miner himself soon enough
his blond hair soot-black like his father's 
,his pale lungs soot-black like his father's 
his future foretold
,in the toy he holds in his hand, a toy train's coal car
like the real one, pulling death from the dark hole
on the track that borders his past
and his future

Paul Evergood
  (1932) Madonna of the Mines
Oil on canvas














The only image I could find of this painting (after looking through at least a hundred of Du Bois paintings), was a print with the left third of the painting cut off. That's the part of the painting that includes "the desk clerk," a very important character in the story I wrote from the painting.






two young girls
(painting series)

the two young girls
in their loose flapper dresses
and little berets
sit on a settee in the hotel lobby,
close together, arms
entwined, giggling and giggling...

the desk clerk, a middle-aged man
in a sleek suit and a gray streak in his hair,
holds his pen over the registration book,
suspicious, but uncertain, should he let them in
or call the house dick...

my God, he thinks, what if one of them
is a Vanderbilt, or, worse yet,
that Roosevelt girl...

Guy Pene Du Bois
The Sisters (1919)
Oil on panel













blues brothers
(painting series)

the three
try to carry on
in the spirit of their great predecessors,
Leadbelly, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Sonny Terry,
Brownie McGee, Lightnin' Hopkins, good old
Lightin', first to take the music out of the
roadhouses, out of the black corners of country ghettos,
made records big time, sold records to people
who never been to Mississippi, never  tasted Mississippi mud,
never spent an afternoon drinking white lightning on a canal bank
under a cypress tree watching cottonmouths slither through green water

Lightin' and the others and B.B., big time-big time, put the blues
in rock and roll, put some rock and roll in the blues,
him and Lucille on the biggest stages...

the three,
they try to carry on, not young anymore, haven't made it yet
out of the small-time blues ghetto, ramshackle houses,
creaking floors, the smell of oiled sawdust on the floors,
a closet where the whiskey is for the buying while you listen
and the give their all in the blues niche, like most musicians, they
find their niche, whatever the music it is, not good enough
to get beyond these five-an-dime gigs, $50 a night split three ways,
too good to give up...

the three
try to carry on

what's left for them is the joy of making the music, expecting
no more than that...

if you don't have the music in you, you just
wouldn't understand

Roman Bearden
Folk Musicians (1941-42)
Gouche and casein on brown paper









This is a poem I'm using because I like it, despite not being able to find the painting (despite at least an hour looking) that inspired the story I wrote about it. Though I don't like it, I think the poem works without it.

The painter is Alexander Brook and his title of the piece is Portrait of Raphael Soyer, painted in 1929. Soyer was apparently a much bigger deal than Brook because every time I did a search on the painting I got page after page of Soyer's work, next to nothing relating to Brook.



fella with big ears and a brown hat
(painting series)

fella with big ears
and a brown hat stands
in a corner, smoking a cigarette...

it's a cold winter up north somewhere,
and he's dressed for it
in a heavy six-button coat,
probably a big city because there's  a wariness
in his eyes that comes to big city eyes
after a while of living there...

just another guy, a young-looking guy,
maybe dressed in his father's coat and white shirt
and necktie, maybe out for job interviews
cause times are tough, and college is put off
and he needs a job, maybe a minor clerk
in a big office, might be a teller trainee at First
National Specific Bank where he handles
more money every day than he'll see
in his own hands in a lifetime, it's a dirty job
when you come right down to it,
filthy money, he'll wash his hands seven time a day,
or he could be an anarchist or a communist, pleased
with the way all the bankers and business big shots
splashed their lives on the sidewalk after the crash,
they couldn't stand the idea of being as poor
as the people they'd been stealing from, maybe
there's a bomb inside that big heavy bag, or maybe
he's a newsman, carrying his newspaper in his pocket,
looking for a story that will get him better assignments
an a big desk, or could be he's a P.I. or an actual cop, his
hand in his pocket where his 38 is handy, mean streets
he's walking and he knows what's going on beneath
the surface under his eyes, larceny and corruption
and pickpockets stealing purses from little old ladies
and big, slope-shouldered bruisers terrorizing timid shop keepers
behind in their vigorish, the Vig has to be paid, and he watches
everything, his eyes never rest...

or maybe he's just a painter, or a poet, cataloguing
the stories he will make into art when the sun
goes down

maybe he'll be telling stories we all need
to hear, whether the stories we want
or stories that frighten us, stories we want
to keep away, to put behind us,
maybe stories of us, maybe
you, maybe
me

Oil on Canvas














queen of the sophomoric
(painting series)

hunched forward,
Ayn-Rand-looking woman,
queen of the sophomoric,
short black hair,
sharp nose,
sharp chin,
eyes closed to compassion,
mercy, the world she lives in,
prefers her made-up world
of supermen, just a few,
but all better than you and me,
cheeks flushed with anger
as she imagines new diatribes
against the collectivist state
and the parasites who suck at
its socialist teats...

lots of time to think,
standing in line at the post office
to collect her social security check

Alfred Maurer
Head of a Woman(1938)
Oil on Masonite













Street Stories
(painting series)

1947,
two girls in high-waisted
shorts that flare loose on the legs,
like Betty Gable wore in the movie
with Bogart, walking their long-bodied wiener dog
on the boardwalk, three young men ogling
as they pass, 18 years old, the three just out of
high school, will sign-up before the summer's over,
not to fight because for the first time in years
there is no war to fight, but to see the world...

one of the boys is headed for the Navy,
the other two promised by their Army recruiter
they could enlist together and stay together
throughout their service, but the recruited lied,
as they often do when enlistments were down,
and the fellas were separated after basic training,
one to the paratroopers and the other destined
to pound ground in Germany for the whole
of his three-year hitch...

their Navy friend would be at Pearl for a year or so,
with R&R to Japan, then for another year and a half
in Japan with R&R at Pearl; of the three, he is
the only one to make it a military career, retiring
on his 55th birthday and moving to Reno, as far from
the sea as he could get...

on the street, a policeman stops traffic as the girls and their little dog
pass, he;s not the only one to stop traffic to watch, the boys, of course
thinking if they thought they had a chance with either girl, wouldn't go
anywhere, and several older women, watching with distaste at the display
of leg, one woman saying to a friend later, shorts so tight you could
see the crack in her butt..

and one old woman in black, angry, not at the girls, but at the guys
and their plans to join the military, for the old woman knows
of the military, losing two sons in the last war, and certain that
before these boys grew much older another one
was coming...

Paul Cadmus
Aspects of Suburban Life: Main Street (1937)
Oil and tempera on board














the long nights of a second rate fighter
(painting series)

he's second rate,a palooka,
a loser, fighting the first rate,
the top of the bracket needing
a tune-up before their next big fight,
a fight that counts, and he fights the young,
the raw, looking for a palooka, a non-threat
to fight to improve their record, to set themselves
up for a shot at the first-raters...

why
does the second-rater do it, the essential underbelly
of the fight game, not for money, bleeding
face-down on the canvas doesn't pay so much

for pride?

really? for pride

yes, and hope - faith that one day
he will get a fight that counts and that he will fight
as he has never fought before, and with god's help,

win!

and then he will  be second-rate no more, then
he will get the big fights and big money
and fame and recognition...

and his days as bouncer at low-rent
titty-bars will be over
and that he will begin to get paid
for the dues he's paid, all the blood
he's lost for the cause..

his cause, even if nobody else's

Marsden Hartley
Madawaska - Arcadian Light-Heavy (1940)
Oil on canvas














the rapture (or, be careful what you pray for)
painting series

the hills
rise up like marshmallow bubbles
under the light of the all-seeing eye,
the puffy hills bare of trees, of brush,
of wildflower pastures, of people, all
gone, they are all gone...

the prophets had it wrong,
not the good drawn up to heaven,
for the eye does not discriminate, evil
infects all in the mind's eye, so no one
flies up to heaven, all, instead, fall
into their kind's well-earned pits
of fire and screams of the fire-haired
unfortunates who cry piteously,
"it was not me, no, please,
it was not me"
but no one can lie to the all-seeing eye
which has seen it all
and all is seen
and all are
damned

Arthur Dove
Moon and Sea II (1923)
Oil on canvas













This another instance when the image on the web is clipped. In the earlier instance a full third of the painting was clipped. In this case it's just the very; important edge on the left side where you can see a portion of a figure. In the painting the partial figure is complete and holding a video camera, filming something else while the world goes on around him, which is the point the artist was making. Further the artist in this piece titled "Self-Portrait" is the figure being mostly cut from the painting. 



Sunday Services
(painting series)

a man and a woman 
in front of a church, an older couple
in Sunday best, both with middle-age hats,
walking toward the church door, coming the other way,
two elderly women in widows' black, each with a delicate handkerchief
in hand, eyes downcast...

who died? who left them behind
to mourn alone, and what about the other couple?
who have they come to see, what sermon of assurance
do they seek that the elder widows did not hear? - maybe
they are old enough to know such sermons are just honey-sooth lies
of false prophets old enough to see the end in the box, their end
in the box, without illusion, leaving the church and all illusion behind...

they see the other couple in their Sunday-best, going to door
and think, such vanity, such vanity...

also, on the side walk, a man in a brown coat and black pants and white shoes
is pointing a camera in the direction opposite church and the people
around him...

no doubt,
another poet who is missing the story, telling of lesser things instead

perhaps because the real story
is too hard to say in the only words he knows...

Ben Shahn
Self-Portrait (1933)
Tempera on Masonite














the night when the night creatures come out to play their night creature games
(painting series)

all the little creatures
are out tonight

the queen
with her golden crown
and the

boy
in the Jughead hat,
finger up his nose

thinks
his hat
is a crown

and that the queen
will be his
before the moon falls

does not notice
how tightly she holds
the hand of the red-headed boy

in the jester shirt,
and watching over all
the wolf in sheep's clothing

(see his wolf's feet
and be not
fooled)

this small-fry
game of thrones
for the queen's golden crown...

the sheep-wolf knows treachery
when he sees it
coming...

trick or treat!

Philip Guston
Halloween Party (1946)
Oil on canvas














star
(painting series)

blond
in the time and
style of Mae West,
in an ornate burlesque house,
nude but for a G-string
barely covering her blond curls,
posing on stage for the men
staring up at her from below
and the others in the monied section
above, leaning over the edge
from their box seats,
the ones who might visit her dressing room
after the show
with champagne and roses,
the ones she might let in to watch her dress,
the one or two she might go home with,
and the one she waits for who will someday
come to take her away from the
life...

hungry men with hungry eyes,
she plays with them
as a cat with a ball of twine

nothing personal,
she is there for them
and they are there for her,
all with their own fantasies,
hers, a fairytale fantasy of balls
and fancy dresses
and glass slippers, and a prince
who will never
come

Reginald Marsh
Star Burlesque (1933)
Tempera on Masonite














Sunday at the beach
(painting series)

Sunday
at the beach,
our rented cabana
full of family, mom and pop,
grandma and grandpa,
aunts, uncles, cousins gathered round
by the table loaded with hot dogs and potato salad
and baked bean, and sodas and beer...

Cousin Philander, ignores the hot dogs,
strumming his guitar, trying to play beach blanket boogie
to impress Clarissa, his date who he got special permission to bring along,
and bother Boswell making with Lucinda in the corner,
grandma and grandpa looking on, grandma shocked,
grandpa lost in nostalgia and Uncle Phillus, goddamn it,
there he goes again, streaking buck-naked down the beach,
sunburned butt red as a big city stop light an his wee willie
flippity-flopping, bobbing up and down as he runs, and,
in the cabana next door,
Marisuella who I was going to ask out for a long walk
behind the dunes, watching Phillus, her head bobbing
up and down as he runs and runs, the life guard
chasing after him and I want to laugh, but it's me
Marisuella is watching now...

George Tooker
Coney Island (1948)
Egg tempera on panel








Last for this post, this is the second of two poems I decided to use even though, after literally hours if searching the web, I was unable to find the painting which inspired it.

The painting the poem was based on was Portrait of a Man, painted in 1914 by Stuart Davis. Although he later became more better known as a pop artist, in the early 1900s he concentrated on city night scenes like this one. This one is different from those by being extremely dark and foreboding. If his early night scenes reflected to gaiety of the city at night, this poem pictures the city's dark underbelly of things barely seen and mysterious, and probably dangerous.

It was easy to build on that mood in the poem.




the grim-faced man
painting series

I was walking, early times,
about 4 a.m.,
and was right there were 21st crosses Industrial,
right there were the bright neon ends
and dim-lit security
fences
begin
and behind the dim-lit fences
a deep and angry growl
of large black dogs echoing
between metal buildings
and I had been drinking, just closed the last after-hours bar
about a half hour before,
just walking,
not going nowhere,
feeling dark-minded and unsteady on my feet
when I saw him on the corner, by the recyclers
with the large automobile crushers,
the place where they take full-sized cars
and crush them into suitcase-size metal blocks,
and there he was behind the largest crusher,
it was the grim-faced man the street-people
talk about, his face a gray blur beneath a wide-brimmed hat,
look out for him the street-people say, they don't know
exactly what he does, but he gives an aura
of deep evil and everyone knows -
just keep away from him, if he's coming toward you,
just turn around and walk the other way
and there he was, right there on the corner
in front of me, looking at me, until his yellow eyes shift,
I could see the yellow as his eyes shift,
looking now at a dark woman in a long, flowing dress across
the street, a hint of wings on her back, I'm thinking,
but then I'm not nearly sober yet,
so who could tell, and I don't know what to do
as I continue to walk without purpose, as if
in a trance, toward the grim-faced man
and he has taken his dark face from the woman
and turned his bight eyes back on me
as I keep walking toward him, thinking I just want to
pass, just let me pass, then I think of that hint of wings
I thought I saw, hoping there's an angel
come to save me, come to wipe the grim
off the face of the
grim-faced
man...

Oil on canvas









my comment button no longer works, so if you would like to comment on this post, email me at allen.itz@GMail.com. I appreciate hearing from readers.


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