Who Will Be the Poet Then?   Wednesday, September 18, 2019







who will be the poet then?

say that a poem
is not the word
spoken
or the word printed or written
in some orderly form
designated as poetic
by fashion of the time,
go instead to the image
the words, however presented,
are meant to evoke
and find the vision,
images in the air
of real space and time
transmitted though your senses
to the part of your mind
that dwells among
the visual cues and clues
of the world,
the de-randomized
pieces that combine to form
a picture imbued with emotion,
visions that fire chemical actions
that push electronic jabs
to our frontal cortex to create context
within which emotions form -
think then of poetry as a transcending work,
internal visions of the poet
going directly to an external vision
to be seen and shared...

(the most  beautiful poem
I've ever experienced,
a French short film of horses,
a herd of horses, running
through fields of high grass,
the beauty of their flesh
and their muscled bodies,
and the sweat blown
from their nostrils and the steam, too,
from their mouths and nostrils,
the internal heat of their great bodies
under great exertion blown
into cold air, and the color
of their coats
and the grace of their running
leaps over high grasses and shallow waterways,
the most beautiful poem I've ever experienced,
and not a word was seen, not a word was spoken
for no words, written or spoken could match
the image direct)

think of poetry as visions transmitted
through some visual media
like the screen of your local cinema,
or think of a future poetry
transmitted directly into your dreams...

think of a day when dreams are the ultimate poetry
and poets the ultimate dream makers...

so who will be the poet
then?









Regular stuff.


Me
who will be the poet then

Me
a 76-year-old fat man

R. S. Thomas
Alpine

Me
about the reality of reality

Me
continuing my life as a non-ectoplasmatic

Robert Bly
A Dream on the Night of First Snow

Me
they are ours, take them back

Me
the great good fortune of Fernando

Wendy Barker
Way of Whiteness

Me
kicking the can

Me
left hanging

Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Memento

Me
why women are winning the world

Me
walking naked in a snowstorm
hopeless
guess they really liked the drummer
bone button moon
living the bi-life
flag
hush
tra-la

W. S. Merwin
Youth of Grass

Me
the stoic











a 76 year-old fat man

so
I'm a 76 year-old fat man

but wait,
poetry is about truth and beauty,
and while there is no beauty in a 76 year-old fat man,
truth is still important and the truth is, though
I'm already a fat man, I'm not as fat a man
as I used to be and I will not be 76 for
a couple more months...

so
abiding by the poetic requirement for truth
it should be more correctly said that I am
an almost 76 year-old, not-as-fat-as-he-used-to-be
man, and the further truth is, like so many in my age-contingent,
I hate change and mostly hate change
(affirming that being the primary purpose of this rant)
because change means I'm going to have to learn new stuff
and I believe, fervently, even, that at the age of
almost 76, fat, skinny, or perfectly formed,
such a man should already know what he needs to know
to live an almost 76 year-old life...

I mean, like many in my regiment, I always like
to read new stuff about stars and galaxies
and dinosaurs and ancient tribes of ancient peoples
and various other oddities and monstrosities of life
unknown before my time, but I only like to learn such stuff
as long as I don't have to learn too much about it,
in fact,
I prefer to know just a little bit, just enough to know
to set my imagination churning
because, it is
also a fact,
my imagination churning produces much more interesting stuff
to know than anything I would know by actually knowing
the real stuff...

and that works out great for me , since I read such
science news and other such stuff just looking for
stuff to fill me up like an over-ripe melon with pseudo-science
and interesting fantasy that I might expound upon here
and at other venues where actually knowing stuff
in not strictly
required...

but other than that kind of stuff,
the stuff I don't want to learn is the stuff
most sixteen year-olds already know and I figure
if a sixteen year-old already knows it why in the world should
an almost 76 year-old, not-as-fat-as-before man bother with knowing it
too because it just seems to me that such a man
ought to already know
just about everything he actually needs to know to make it
through his day..

as to the rest,
well,
take my computer, so old it's almost steam-powered,
but old at is, it is my faithful friend
and like any of the other friends
I've buried or expect to bury within a few years,
I dread the time when its time is up
and I have to go looking for a new computer friend,
it is just like I hate the idea of going out and finding new regular
friends when the old ones
bite the dust...

it's oh so much more complicated...

learning a whole new set of demands and expectations and idiosyncrasies
and all the other stuff that goes with maintaining a healthy ad productive
relationship...

like my phone and my wife's new car - I've been talking on a phone and driving
for more than 60 years and none of what I learned then seems relevant now
to marking a phone call or driving over to the corner store
for a Baby Ruth, except that the complications now on both the phone
and the car almost make me hesitant to go out in the world
without a tag-along second grader to keep me legln and in the technical
loop...

and, ah, Baby Ruth, now there's a constant in my life but I'm finding them
harder to find in the candy aisle

is that the next indignity, Baby Ruths becoming another historical oddity
confined to glass display cases in museums of the latest antiquities,
leaving me to learn all the particular rules
and wherefores and wherepons
of a Snickers or Mars Bar?

wouldn't surprise me...

but then as a not-as-fat-as-he-used-to-be with almost 76 years
upon this twirleybird planet,
not much
does













This poem is by R. S. Thomas, a Welsh poet and Anglican priest known for his nationalism and spirituality, born in 1913 and died in 2000. Not a favorite of mine from what I've read of him in the past, but I do like this poem.

The poem is taken from the anthology, Room for Me and a Mountain Lion, a Bantam Book published in 1974.




Alpine

About mountains it is useless to argue,
You have either been up, or you haven't;

The view from halfway is nobody's view.
The best flowers are mostly at the top

Under a ledge, nourished by the wind.
A sense of smell is less important

Than a sense of balance, walking on clouds
Through holes in which you can see the earth

Like a rich man through the eye of a needle.
The mind has its own level to find.









Too hot to go outside, too tired to read, time to just sit in a dark corner and think unpleasant thoughts.



about the reality of reality

quantum physicists
argue about the reality
of reality...

is there really a reality, the question
they consider...

the one side says, yes,
and we can measure
and test it

or,
the other side says
reality is a creation of our
measurement and
testing...

does a tree fall
in the forest if no one sees it?

of course,
say the one group;
no
say the other, if no one saw
the falling tree
no tree
fell

reality
is the concrete world all around us
say the one side

but
say the other
even concrete is an illusion,
atoms and all their whizzing about,
parts that, though unseen,
we through some magic of imagination
organize in our minds as "concrete"

~~~~~

this is serious business,
I think

the world, the whole universe,
the all of "reality"
dependent on us for its existance
 according to some who
claim to know,

it is a dirty job, some might say,
but we're the ones who have to do it,
keeping a sharp eye out,
you and me and everyone else,
lest all we know crumble
and never be or have been...

this earth, spinning,
continuing it's spin only
as long as we keep
it turning









I don't know if anyone else has ever mentioned this, but getting old sucks (but not as much as getting dead).




continuing my life as a non-ectoplasmatic

my quarterly brush
with mortality today
as I see my doctor for the regular
review of my quarterly labs

the schedule
is pretty well set so I rarely
have to wait long
before she comes in with
her quarterly
declaration
"IT LIVES"
and turns the rest of the session
over to her assistant, Igor,
who finds some reason or other
to give me a shot in the butt
and an appointment for the next
quarterly visit

the fact is, I have pills for everything
so I remain relatively healthily,
for a person in my
condition,
and the primary purpose
of the regular visit being to confirm
that the meds aren't killing me
by destroying my liver and good humor
and whatnot

the fact is (again, another
unfortunate fact) I have a lot of dead friends
and a lot of friends presumed dead
through long absence, so a quarterly stopover
at the doc's office and a quarterly blood draw
is a welcome confirmation
of my continuing non-ectoplasmatic place in the world
of the not-so-quick but living

I feel better just thinking about it













The next poem is by Robert Bly from his book, Selected Poems, published by Harper Collins in 1986.

I think Bly's pastoral poems a often beautiful. I dislike the anti-Vietnam poems he wrote as an academic, imbued with an aura of moral superiority unfitting for someone who talks but never does, pandering to his students as an unsuccessful art form.

This is one of his pastorals. That same sense of moral superiority appears at the end of this poem, too, near to ruining it or me.




A Dream on the Night of First Snow

I woke from a three-day snow dream.
I met a girl in the attic,
     who talked of operas, intensely.
Snow has bent the poplars over nearly to the ground;
New snow fall widens the  plowing.
Outside,maple leaves float on rainwater,
     yellow, matted, luminous.
I saw a salamander....I took him up....
He was cold. When I put him down again,
     he strode over a log
With such confidence, like a chess master.
     the front leg first, then the hind
     leg, he rose up like a tractor climbing
     over a hump in the field
And disappeared toward winter, a caravan going deeper
     into the mountain,
Dogs pulling travois,
Feathers fluttering on the lances of the arrogant men.










Maybe this our only way to fight back against the pig and his minions.




they are ours, take them back

perhaps
it is time
for those of us true
to the value of our country's
heart and soul
to take back its symbols
from those who abuse them,
those who seek to attach to them
to their own  mean and hateful natures

it is the only resistance
available to us
in these new times...

sing loud the national anthem,
stand tall with hand over heart
as the flag passes, recite
the pledge even as all the phony patriots
try to hide their perfidies
behind words they drain of meaning

for it is our flag, our anthem,
our pledge, and we should claim them
in these dark days when the undeserving
seek to usurp them as they try
to use them to betray
us









Here's a short one.




the great good fortune of Fernando

the pretty young girl
at the Stop-n-Shop smiles
tenderly
and for a moment
I enjoy the idea she might be
smiling at me
even though I know
I am just another forgettable face
cluttering her busy morning
and that her smile is for the memory
of her night with
Fernando













Unlike the first two poets I featured from my library, Wendy Barker is a poet about whom I have no reservations.

Recipient of National Endowment for the Arts and Rockefeller Foundation fellowships as well as many other honors and awards, she was a Fulbright senior lecturer to Bulgaria in 2000 and is a professor of English at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

This poem is from her book, Way of Whiteness, published by Wings Press in 2000.




Way of Whiteness

     ...until the whole field is
     white desire, empty, a single stem,
      a cluster, flower by flower,
      a pious wish to whiteness gone over..

                            W. C. Williams

All month the moths hovered,
bits and slaps of whit pricking
the green mist: yarrow
at Fountain Abby, dotted blossoms
rumps of lazing goats on the hills,
two white horses, muscles
grazing moorland above the Haworth parsonage.

This summer I have been tracking whiteness.
Clusters like doilies, caps, crowns,
but away from our own country
we aren't sure of the names.

You said elderberry, it could have been Queen Anne's Lace.
And on the train the row after row of windows,
one after the other, rhythm of lines
of trees bordering fields, furrows.
The colors friends wore change daily,
jackets of jade and pink, yellow, green, brilliant
as the creme de menthe at one time
I had thought a fancy drink

Until this trip I had never had time to walk
behind Chartres, to stop and face the row
of white blooming trees, hawthorns, I finally decided,
masses of white clustering sweet flowers.
Tree after tree, each one almost
as tall as the cathedral.

In Strasbourg on the river blackening one night
someone spotted a swan and suddenly
there were dozens gathered in a cove
of the river, a progression of white neck after
white sliding into the dark.

Miracle of sweet milk in coffee.
Dissolving.
Until, finally at Canterbury, there was only this: white
clouds sweeping  behind a spire, the spire
easing into the white
sky filling vision.

And this was even before the music
filled the interior spaces
of the choir at Evensong.









kicking the can

the loud woman
is here,
wheeling and dealing
"know what I mean"
ending
every sentence

~~~~~

though 
I'd write a short poem
about the brightness of the sun
but lost it in the glare

brilliance
non-transferable

~~~~~

cars
on Broadway
speed
past

I wave poems at them
but no one notices

too busy
for stray street corner
poets
to proud to hoist
a cardboard
sign

~~~~~

the light is red...

everyone stops

the light is green...

everyone goes

the sign-slinger
dances
in the intersection

as there is no time for poets
no time either for terpsichorean
enticements

~~~~~

close enough
being 
sufficient for these latter days
endeavors
and 
being exceedingly
proud
of myself for coming close enough
in the spelling
of terpsichorean
for spellcheck to correct it...

I rest on my laurels
for the day

~~~~~

like kicking a can
down the road, not important
where you kick it,
just the kicking of it
perfectly good
enough









I don't count for much anymore. It wasn't always so. I admit to missing the days when I did.




left hanging

it's
5:30 p.m.
and I am safely and comfortably
drinking coffee and reading the Times
in my favorite friendly diner
while outside
the daily commuter ant hill
is alive, all the ants scurrying
in all the colors of Detroit and
ports foreign...

and the strangest thing
is there are days when I
miss the ant hill and the fierce joust
for fender to bumper
supremacy, King of the Hill
in the morning
to set the tone for the day
and King of the Hill in the evening
to celebrate the day's wins
to sublimate the day's losses,
the aggressive drive of winners
and losers the same at the
beginning and end of days...

remembering days of living
in ways that counted, something
more than finishing the day with
black coffee and a newspaper, not like
today, such an anti-climax is the sun's falling
when nothing I did made any kind of mark
to announce my passing, leaving no track
in the grit of time...

it wasn't always so, but it was long ago,
long enough you'd think I would have
come to accommodate the new
realities of age and obsolescence, but
to remember the sand between my toes
when I crossed the beach, making
things happen, nostalgia now, remembering
important things that happened when I was there
to push through the bubble of inconseqentlialty
that cocoons those who drift though life
without the propulsive power of purpose
and direction...

instead,
the cocoon hangs dry and abandoned
these days, waiting
for the transfiguration that will
never come
again














This poem by the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, in the 1960s and in the poet crowd, the closest to the Beatles a Russian poet ever came.

The poem is from his book The Face Behind the Face published by Marion Boyers Publishers in 1979, with translation from Russian by Arthur Boyars and Simon Franklin.




Memento

Like a reminder of this life
Of trams, sun, sparrows,
And the flighty uncontrolledness
Of streams leaping like thermometers,
And because ducks are quacking somewhere
Above the crackling of the last, paper-thin ice,
And because children are crying bitterly
(Remember children's lies are so sweet!)
And because in the drunken, shimmering starlight
The new moon whoops it up,
And a stocking crackles a bit at the knee,
Gold in itself and tinged by the sun,
Like a reminder of life,
And because there is resin on tree trunks,
And because I madly mistaken
In thinking that my life was over,
Like a reminder of life, -
You entered into me on stocking feet,
You entered - neither too late nor too early -
At exactly the right time, as my very own,
And, with a smile, uprooted me
From memories, as from a grave.
And I, once again whirling among
The painted horses,gladly exchange,
For one reminder of life,
All its memories.










The way it's been since the beginning.



why women are winning the world

two sparrows,
dark-coated males,
on the window ledge,
having apparently divided the cookie crumbs
into two parts, enjoy their morning cookie
peacefully,
until,
one of the birds
trespasses
onto the territory of the other
and a fight ensues,
pecking
and scratching
and scrambling
until they fly off in a twisting bundle
of feathered male
territorial
ego

at which point
two female sparrows
in their soft gray coats
come to the ledge
and enjoy
the abandoned fruits
of patience...

it is why,
even if not yet,
women will eventually
rule the world
and
if we're good,
men will some days
get our own little piece
of cookie-crumb
nookie...

but
that's
all we ever
really wanted
anyway










walking naked in a snowstorm

computer compromised

first byte to last, must assume
all is at risk

like waking naked in a snowstorm

I don't know what to cover
first...


hopeless

the radio tells
of  babies
desperately fleeing
Armageddon
drowned
in frigid waters
frozen
bundles on frozen beaches

what's to say?

their hopelessness
leaving me
hopeless
in a world for which
I have no
words


guess they really liked the drummer

read last night
at the coffeehouse

not poems,
but from my recent book
of flash fiction

an experiment with drum
accompaniment

worked well
sold
four books

I guess they really liked
the drummer


bone button moon


bone button moon
bright
as the birthday boy's
new dime

~~~

bone button moon
fastens
tight
the black cloak
of night

~~~~

bone button moon
behind
a lazy moving cloud
diffused lightly
soft creeping shadows


living the bi-life

more than 40 years now
in a bi-cultural
bi-lingual
family
and I often forget
how it was back when I knew for sure
what was going on


flag

a peach tree stand
near bared by overnight winds

atop
the tallest branch

a single blossom
pink flag of spring's arriving
around

me


the hush

dusk
creeps soft-footed
down the avenue, pushing ahead
elongating shadows of night

a screech,
the siren song of an owl
hunting

the heavy thud of wings pushing air

then silence

the hush of death hanging, wide wings spread 
over the quiet night


tra-la

dim
foggy day
big storm coming
they say
they say
they say

tra-la-la-boom-de-ay

that's what I 
say

tra-la
tra-la
tra-la














This is the last poem from my library for his post. It is by W. S. Merwin, from his book The Shadow of Sirius published in 2008 by Copper Canyon Press.




Youth of Grass

Yesterday in the hushed white sunlight
down along the meadows by the river
through all the bright hours they cut the first hay
of this year to leave it tossed in long rows
leading into the twilight and long evening
while thunderheads grumbled from the horizon
and now the whole valley and the slopes around it
that look down to the sky in the river
are fragrant with hay as this night comes in
and the owl cries across the new spaces
to the mice suddenly missing the sky
and so the youth of this spring all at once is over
it has come up on us again taking us
once more by surprise just as we began
to believe that those fields would always be green.









Last for this post, getting on my dog's bad side




the stoic

she's my dog,
and she knows that
as my dog she is entitled
to go with me wherever I go
except that I'm going to the diner
for breakfast and they don't allow dogs
so she's stuck in the car and I say goodbye
be a good dog I say but she doesn't look at me
sits in the front seat and stares straight ahead neither
left nor right and definitely not at me in grim determination
jaw set alone alone forever alone the horror the
horror O the horror but like Colonel Kurtz
she endures she will not look
at the lonely horror she
will not look at me
as Jesus on the
cross she
suffers
jaw set
eyes
straight
ahead
stoic
as the
Zeno of
Citium
(a stoical guy
was he)
she
suffers in quiet
resolve










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