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The Best American Poetry
The Capital of trhe World
Welcome to The Best American Poetry blog. We launched this blog in January, 2008, to create a place where we and friends can exchange, discuss, and argue about poems and poetry. We soon discovered that it would be even more fun to post about anything that fuels our passions, be it movies or sex or baseball or ballet or cocktails or finance or music, because these are, after all, the same subjects that generate poems. Then we flung the doors open and invited others to join in. And we decided that contributors to the blog need not be poets as long as they share a love of good writing and poetry. The only things we ask our regular and guest bloggers to avoid are personal attacks and loudmouth politcal opinions. You'll find enough of that stuff elsewhere. We celebrate freedom of expression. The views of our contributors are their own and not necessarily those of the blog's editorial team or of other contributors. We welcome comments as long as they keep within the bounds of civil discourse. Our roster of correspondents is always changing. We are large! We contain multitudes! Please visit often.
Interests: music, food, finance, cocktails, movies, baseball, sex, poetry, mad men, mad women, life, la vie en rose, c'est la vie, and Marcel Duchamp.
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Male Stargazing After the prostate is removed, The male gaze, straight from the savannah, Turns inward, toward the clinical. The perusal of breasts is no longer The perusal of breasts, but the aesthetics Of proportion: how the breasts Relate to the shoulders, the neck, the waist, The chest—the male gaze without desire Is curatorial at best. After the prostate is removed, The male gaze turns inward, toward the past. “Ass” becomes memories of individuals, The “legs for days” measure the dregs Of the heart, not the organ warming up For the show, with its cathedral tunes. The penis still removes toxins, But gone is the illusion of the great lover: Those days whizzed by too fast. After the prostate is removed, The male gaze turns inward; For some women that’s a win-win, Though the new order panics the men. The mind still “gets” the appeal, But the body finds it harder to feel; And no fantasy life can spin The predicament one finds oneself in: The male gaze confronting the real. for D.L. Continue reading
Posted yesterday at The Best American Poetry
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On July 1, 2008, at 11:16AM, Tom Disch revealed God's "other" Big Idea of the day. He called it "Letters to Dead Editors." <<< Another were-there-but-world-enough theme anthology. It was to have been a whole collection by yours truly, and the first letter would have been sent to Mrs. Gaskell, who inmho should be included with the great Victorian novelists, along with the woman she wrote the biography of, Charlotte Bronte. Recently the BBC has given Mrs. G. some of the attention she merits. So much so that she doesn't really need me beating the drum for her, tho my letter would have been written in response to her great novel about the urban underclass, Mary Barton. What she brought to bear was a humorless (but perceptive) Moral Earnestness and a patient trompe l'oeil realism about the daily life of the miserable-most poor. By comparison Dickens comes across as lazy and/or sneeringly cruel. I've tried writing such letters to real-life good writers but they are too busy trying to grab the brass ring or otherwise advance up the ladder, or else simply think me pushy or wicked or dumb and don't write back or just say thank you, goodbye. Maybe it would be different now in the era of blogs and email, but back then my epistolary charms had no effect on the likes of Louise Erdrich et al. As indeed, they shouldn't have. There are too many possible venal reasons why we don't write to our favorite celebreties. But to those safely dead and in their vaults--why not? The idea would be to address them as though they were real people, not statues swathed in marble togas and bronze crinolines, and as though they'd been keeping up with the things they had usually been interested in. If anyone wants to give it a try, you could post a specimen letter here, but this should not be the usual Anything Goes comment. Mere japery on the order of "Shit happens" as one's whole letter to Dale Carnegie would rate a quick dele from God's red pencil. But I do think, and so does God, that it might be a nice book. Indeed, He often writes such letters Himself and sends them poste restante to the big post office on high. -- Tom Disch >>> from the archive; first posted November 1, 2008 Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at The Best American Poetry
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In night when colors all to black are cast, Distinction lost, or gone down with the light; The eye a watch to inward senses placed, Not seeing, yet still having powers of sight, Gives vain alarums to the inward sense, Where fear stirred up with witty tyranny, Confounds all powers, and thorough self-offense, Doth forge and raise impossibility: Such as in thick depriving darknesses, Proper reflections of the error be, And images of self-confusednesses, Which hurt imaginations only see; And from this nothing seen, tells news of devils, Which but expressions be of inward evils. Now read it a second time. The key word appears to be "inward." What governs the "inward sense"? Let's take it one step at a time. It is possible to have the power to see and be blind; that paradox we can figure out. But who has "placed" the eye there as "a watch?" Is there an appeal to a belief system the reader is presumed to understand and identify on the basis of the language and probable date of composition? The second stanza raises the possibility that "the inward sense" singular may be different from the "inward senses." And both are corrupt and susceptible to panic and fear. The eye can at least give a "proper reflection of the error." What's there is nothing, "the nothing that is," as Wallace Stevens would have it. And the news confirms the neuroses. The devil is a manmade expression of "inward evils" based on illusory images. And yet, saying all this, one feels one has left out something crucial to the poem: the darkness, the night, and the power of sight to see error or to see erroneously. The late Edward Tayler, professor at Columbia, did his best to promote the English Renaissance poet Fulke Greville, Tayler believed that Greville's importance was on a par with that of Sir Thomas Wyatt, Ben Jonson, John Donne, George Herbert, and Andrew Marvell. For a final paper Tayler had us analyze this sonnet. A piece of cake it ain't. Aldous Huxley chose the following lines by Fulke Greville as the epigraph for the 1928 novel Point Counter Point: Oh, wearisome condition of humanity! Borne under one Law, to another bound, Vainely begot and yet forbidden vanity: Created sick, commanded to be sound. What meaneth Nature by these diverse laws – Passion and reason, self-division’s cause? -- DL Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at The Best American Poetry
When I began writing poetry many moons ago, for some reason I deemed allusions infra dig, unbecoming. I suppose like all young poets I wanted my stuff to be anti-academic, to be a breath of fresh air – and I was mindful of Kenneth Koch’s poem on the subject, ‘Fresh Air’, in which he imagines a strangler dealing mercilessly with any poet he surprises alluding to Orpheus, Cuchulain, Gawain or Odysseus. Accordingly, my first collection, Landlocked, is largely allusion-free, though there’s a stray reference in one poem to Charlotte Brontë, and another borrows its title from a song by Olivia Newton-John. No casual dipping of my young and fevered hand into what Philip Larkin once derisively called ‘the myth-kitty’. Then I began to brood – particularly on the oeuvres of 20th century poetry’s giants, on the careers of Eliot and Pound and Lowell and Olson and co., and on the vast quantities of criticism their work had inspired. Much of this criticism focused on their deft use of precisely the resource I had forsworn; throwing in a bit of Dante, quoting a line of Pope, furnished just the sort of grist the critical mill craved, and without appreciative criticism, what hope of immortality? None I decided, therefore, that to be taken seriously I needed allusions, and plenty of ‘em; what’s more I decided to remedy matters in one fell swoop by writing a poem that would consist almost entirely of allusions. But I also wanted this poem to do more than just make up my allusion-deficit. It had often occurred to me that no one had ever written a poem addressing a faux pas we all occasionally make, particularly when attempting to appear more knowledgeable than we really are. I’m talking about mixing up famous people who happen to have the same surnames, like Rod and Jon Stewart, or Marianne and Michael Moore… Surely such mix-ups, often harmless, occasionally amusing, deserved a poem of their own. Enough, you might think, and yet I wanted more, still more from this poem. For again brooding on what went into the kind of verse that achieved celebrity and critical acclaim for its author, it struck me that mention of foreign locations always went down well. References to Locarno or Kyoto or Aix-en-Provence make one look cosmopolitan, Byronic, au fait with the treasures and history of civilization. Though I’d done my fair share of travelling, indeed grew up many different countries, I’d so far made pitiful use of the places I’d visited. And even if I hadn’t visited them, who would know?... And what about, come to that, all those films I’d seen, often ones in foreign languages?... Anyway, here is the result of these weighty cogitations, and only the most sober and industrious of critics, one who is early to bed and early to rise, is likely to do justice to it: Early to Bed, Early to Rise It was in Berlin you mixed up John and J.J. Cale, And we found ourselves... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at The Best American Poetry
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All jobs seem real to the people who have them, but poets like to make distinctions. They refer typically to “real” jobs when talking about employment outside of academia (illogical though that may be). I’m a poet, and I’ve been told that I have a real job. I work as a senior financial editor at a Brazilian investment bank. Despite an urge early on to enter the teaching profession, for which I had some talent, I went down another road. I had to support my family in Manhattan. By the year 2000, my black beret and cape were gone, but the calling was still with me, so there was nothing for it but to change my way of thinking about the literary life. Over the years, through friendships with many poets and writers, I’d come to see that the only thing that mattered in a so-called literary life was generating literature, and in this case, writing poems. No surprise, then, that I’ve been fiercely interested in major poets who lived “unliterary” lives. We all know the usual suspects. Wallace Stevens (pictured left) was trained as a lawyer and spent most of his working life as an executive for the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company. The guy won a Pulitzer Prize in 1955, and he was offered a position at Harvard, but he turned it down. He chose to stay at his job. He liked being a vice president. He was often seen walking along the leafy suburban streets of Hartford in a suit, mumbling to himself. We know what he was doing. In 1917, when he was 29, T. S. Eliot (pictured above) signed on with Lloyd's Bank in London as a clerk in the Colonial and Foreign department. He would stay for eight years. The writer Lisa Levy, in her article called “A Peaceful, but Very Interesting Pursuit” (The Rumpus, January 31, 2012), notes that Eliot thought himself very fortunate to have found this job, and she quotes from a letter he wrote to his mother in 1917: “I am now earning £2 10s a week for sitting in an office from 9:15 to 5 with an hour for lunch, and tea served in the office… Perhaps it will surprise you to hear that I enjoy the work. It is not nearly so fatiguing as schoolteaching, and is more interesting. I have a desk and a filing cabinet in a small room with another man. The filing cabinet is my province, for it contains balance sheets of all the foreign banks with which Lloyd’s does business. These balances I file and tabulate in such a way as to show the progress or decline of every bank from year to year.” It’s both riveting and appalling to hear Eliot speak with such affection about his filing cabinet. Yet in the midst of such a life he conceived The Waste Land, which was published in 1922. Eliot didn’t leave the bank until 1925, when he went to join the publishing house... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at The Best American Poetry
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A thief drives to the museum in his black van. The night watchman says Sorry, closed, you have to come back tomorrow. The thief sticks the point of his knife in the guard's ear. I haven't got all evening, he says, I need some art. Art is for pleasure, the guard says, not possession, you can't something, and then the duct tape is going across his mouth. Don't worry, the thief says, we're both on the same side. He finds the Dutch Masters and goes right for a Vermeer: "Girl Writing a Letter." The thief knows what he's doing. He has a Ph.D. He slices the canvas on one edge from the shelf holding the salad bowls right down to the square of sunlight on the black and white checked floor. The girl doesn't hear this, she's too absorbed in writing her letter, she doesn't notice him until too late. He's in the picture. He's already seated at the harpsichord. He's playing the G Minor Sonata by Domenico Scarlatti, which once made her heart beat till it passed the harpsichord and raced ahead and waited for the music to catch up. She's worked on this letter for three hundred and twenty years. Now a man's here, and though he's dressed in some weird clothes, he's playing the harpsichord for her, for her alone, there's no one else alive in the museum. The man she was writing to is dead - time to stop thinking about him - the artist who painted her is dead. She should be dead herself, only she has an ear for music and a heart that's running up the staircase of the Gardner Museum with a man she's only known for a few minutes, but it's true, it feels like her whole life. So when the thief hands her the knife and says you slice the paintings out of their frames, you roll them up, she does it; when he says you put another strip of duct tape over the guard's mouth so he'll stop talking about aesthetics, she tapes him, and when the thief puts her behind the wheel and says, drive, baby, the night is ours, it is the Girl Writing a Letter who steers the black van on to the westbound ramp for Storrow Drive and then to the Mass Pike, it's the Girl Writing a Letter who drives eighty miles an hour headed west into a country that's not even discovered yet, with a known criminal, a van full of old masters and nowhere to go but down, but for the Girl Writing a Letter these things don't matter, she's got a beer in her free hand, she's on the road, she's real and she's in love. -- from The Best American Poetry 1995 edited by Richard Howard Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at The Best American Poetry
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"If the universities demolish the humanities by undermining their relevance or their validity, the immediate effect is to promote ignorance and laziness among students; the long term effect is to put into question the very idea of the centrality of college, which people attend for many reasons (alcoholic, athletic, sexual, psychopharmacological, fraternal) but not to learn about Western Civilization." -- W. Kirschberg, from his Salutatorian Address (1972), Churchill College, Cambridge University, the first Cambridge college to admit women as undergraduates. Thomas Mann: " A great truth is a truth whose opposite is also a truth." Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at The Best American Poetry
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When Eliot wrote his thesis at Harvard, He said philosophers doing philosophy was “ridiculous”— That two thousand years of this insanity had gone on Because they tried to explain existence From the point-of-view of a platform outside it, Which didn’t, and couldn’t, exist. One has only One's sightlines; and wherever you find yourself, You're in the middle; and your sightlines Are better or worse depending on the intelligence You bring to whatever it is you’re looking at. Avuncular language-riddles infuriated him, And he made his disgust quite clear in his thesis. Harvard offered him a chair on the basis of these ruminations; And after he said no, Bertrand Russell screwed his wife. From Recalcitrant Actors by James Cummins (2021). Published by Dos Madres (www.dosmadres.com). T. S. Eliot is pictured above. Continue reading
Posted Jun 25, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
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No telling what time it was As he woke in darkness with The sleeping cat’s warmth, A gift from God, on the back Of his neck and, weeping, He willed himself to perfect Stillness lest the cat leave. But wait. Here was a thought, Here was another possibility: He was dead and, willfulness Be damned, could no more Stir himself than trisect an angle! Yes, that might be it -- And this was paradise! from the archive; first posted June 23, 2014 Continue reading
Posted Jun 23, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
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Twice a day I crossed you. . . Among the Columbia College graduates who attended Clare College were John Berryman (left), Norman Podhoretz, Morris Dickstein, and David Shapiro. Much of Berryman's Love & Fame addresses his time at Columbia and Clare. The late Clive James tells some of the facts in this wrongheaded 1972 review. Perhaps the most curious thing about James's comment is that it regards ambition as morally offensive. << The first half of the book, before the suicide-laden poems and the exhausted addresses to the Lord, is a portrait of the artist as a young man at school, Columbia and Cambridge. It bears a startling resemblance to Norman Podhoretz’s Making It, not just in its itinerary (Phi Beta Kappa, Clare New Court) but in its psychological outline. The relish for the literary horse-race is exactly the same, except that Berryman raises it from relish to positive mania. Throughout his work since the early Dream Songs, Berryman’s ambitions for major status have been nakedly confessed and played off against his equally intense ambitions to be the poet maudit, like Ginsberg or (more relevantly) like Tristan Corbière, to whose memory Love & Fame is dedicated. Corbière has been called une chienlit permanente, and Berryman for a long time sought the same title. But even in the Dream Songs, where the interplay of these two ambitions is at its most successfully complex, the determination to spill the beans about the dark side of his nature was compromised by unjustified readiness to forgive himself in the name of art. In this way his ambitions served each other to produce a self-serving poetry: he would complicate the account of his drive towards artistic greatness by revealing himself as a slob, and take the edge off that revelation by justifying his behaviour as the experience necessary to artistic greatness. Berryman was a highly introspective poet, alive to many things going in his own mind, but he was never aware of just how consistently he worked this trick. It is the reason why the Dream Songs, which at their best offer a convincing poetic recreation of the mind’s plurality, lapse finally from dialogue into monologue — the pride at the mind’s centre heaps humiliation on itself but remains obstinately intact. >> On the other hand, this is how Stuart Davis summarized the poet's reputation in the Harvard Crimson in 1966: <<< Rarely anthologized, sympathetic to many literary camps, but with a foot in none of them, John Berryman is as close to being sui generis as anyone but Blake, Trotsky and Christopher Smart. New York has adopted him only since the mid-fifties, for although his poems appeared in the Nation and the New Republic since the thirties, much of his earlier work and most of its critical acknowledgment were published in Chicago's Poetry. Today he is regarded by many as one who threatens the language and endangers the conventions it clings to. That very reputation has made him a poet's poet, "that forlorn phrase,"... Continue reading
Posted Jun 22, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
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5.37. Awakened by squalling of youngest, aged three, who’s convinced it’s morning. Six hours sleep is plenty, isn’t it? 8.51-9.26. Battling through London traffic on my sturdy hybrid, without incident other than the usual jarring from pot-holes. Last week I was menaced by a geezer who looked like an aging associate of the Kray Twins. ‘Did you spear me?’ he demanded, advancing threateningly from his silver hatchback. ‘You speared me!’ ‘I don’t even know what “spearing” is,’ I expostulated. After a long hard stare he allowed me by, but hurled at my fleeing back a pleasingly Pinteresque epithet: ‘You watch it, you two-bob c***!’ 9.30-11.00 Marking and administration – chiefly beginning to set up a conference on the work of Stephen Spender for the end of February (it’s the centenary of his birth next year). Open package of books on Milton to be reviewed – another centenary – it’s 400 years since his birth . One is a lovely edition of Paradise Lost with reproductions of 12 engravings from the first illustrated edition of 1688. ‘While I abroad / Through all the coasts of dark destruction seek / Deliverance for us all.’ 11.00-12.00 Lecture on Tennyson: Mariana’s sheds still broken, still sad and strange. Her life still dreary, she still wishes she were dead. Lecturers get older, but the poems lecturers lecture on don’t. Nor does the audience – I briefly refer to Margaret Thatcher, for reasons I can no longer recall, forgetting that most of my audience had only just been born when she fell. 1.00-3.00 Tutorials – Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Antony and Cleopatra. ‘Thou yet beholdst me, Eros?’ I borrowed this line, without the ‘Eros’, in a poem called ‘Hooked’, collected in Soft Sift. When I did so, for some reason it seemed like a breakthrough. It doesn’t now. 4.00-6.00 Staff meeting: impassioned discussion of this and that. 8.22. Children in bed. ‘Dusk has fallen / like a stone / quipped the prince / of the quotidian.’ (Mark Ford) Continue reading
Posted Jun 21, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
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Because you stand still long enough to gather the finest moss. Because you stand. ​Because you roll. Because you rolled 197 topping​ all competitors at Neptune Lanes. Because you're Stan the Man. Because we had lunch at Lupa on Thompson just off Houston. Because you know Irwin Shaw and forgot to tell him. Because you are a bronze satyr. Because of Wystan. Because of César Vallejo Because one Stanley deserves another Because if you're Stanley I'm a living stone Because of Kunitz and Moss Because the angel was wrong but angelic Because it's better to be angelic than right Because when you were 82 it was fifteen years ago. Just think of it. Because of European painting. Because of Rome and Barcelona. Because there are ninety-seven bottles of beer on the wall. Because I'm just getting started. Because God breaketh not all men's hearts alike. Because I believe in God. Because 81% of Americans believe in god. Because of what happens if you put "only" before "81%": in that sentence. Because I capitalize the God I believe in. Because of the history of color. Because of the intelligence of clouds. Because you speaketh the truth. Because of your stance, Stan. Because of Yale and the Navy. Because very few poets were born during the summer solstice. Because your ideal age is 32. Because I could devote 65 more lines to celebrate your birthday. Continue reading
Posted Jun 21, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
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Peter Paul Rubens's Judgment of Paris hangs in 1) The Louvre in Paris 2) The National Gallery in London 3) Nuremburg 4) Le Bateau ivre The painting refers to 1) The origin of the Trojan War 2) A competition among Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite 3) Hector's brother 4) The golden apples of the sun, the silver apples of the moon Peter Paul Rubens's paintings are taught not only in art histoiry classes but in 1) Classes on body shape 2) The Waning of the Middle AGes (Huizinga) 3) Modern dance 4) Greek mythology Continue reading
Posted Jun 20, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
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John Milton felt that early in the morning was the friendliest time for the Muses. He would have a stock of verses ready to dictate by the time his amanuensis arrived, and if his amanuensis was late, Milton would complain that he “wanted to be milked.” Charles Darwin was also a morning writer and might announce with satisfaction around noon: “I’ve done a good day’s work.” Anthony Trollope’s practice was “to be at my table every morning at 5:30 a.m.” and “complete my literary work before I dressed for breakfast.” Others write while the Miltons, Darwins, and Trollopes sleep. Gustave Flaubert might start at 4 p.m. and work deep into the night. Kafka had a day job (which he probably thought was something-esque) and also wrote surrounded by darkness. On the night he wrote “The Judgment,” he last looked at the clock at 2 a.m.; when the maid arrived—with the bed “undisturbed”—he stretched and declared, “I’ve been writing until now.” Some writers claim—contrary to visible and auditory evidence—to be working all the time, like Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining, who points out to his wife (rather crudely) that he is working whether or not she hears the typewriter. Others constantly bemoan their lack of productivity yet somehow turn out the work; the writing grows almost imperceptibly, like hairs on the head. One day they’ve finished a story and need a haircut. The married writers Shirley Hazzard and Francis Steegmuller had contrasting work styles. Hazzard on Steegmuller: “He goes straight to his desk in the morning and stays there. I wander around. I need a lot of silence in my head to find out what I think.” Steegmuller on Hazzard: “I peer in the room and I think she’s free; but it’s reverie . . . I’ve had to learn that Shirley’s writing when she doesn’t look it. She can be tidying up around the house, but she’s working.” (As far as I know, Hazzard never told her husband, “I’m working whether or not you hear the vacuum cleaner.”) With some writers, you might not only hear that they are working, you might hear what they are working on. Allen Ginsberg composed “Wichita Vortex Sutra” into a tape recorder on a car trip, and Richard Powers has written out loud, using voice-recognition software. Sustained writing sessions are to be coveted but, just as catnaps can be more efficient than nighttime sleep, so can flurries of writing be refreshingly productive. I often take catwrites during the day: a few minutes here and there with no warm-up. When inspiration invites, you may need to steal time from something else. Ginsberg delayed going to a party for 20 minutes to write “Sunflower Sutra.” He noted: “me at desk scribbling, Kerouac at cottage door waiting for me to finish so we could go off somewhere party.” While I was in graduate school, one of my strangest and most felicitous writing sessions came out of sheer shyness. My roommate at the time was visited by... Continue reading
Posted Jun 17, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
The greatest title sequence by the master, Saul Bass. Continue reading
Posted Jun 17, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
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I recently reread F. R. Leavis's New Bearings in English Poetry (1932), one of the most influential books of literary criticism in the twentieth century. What impressed me on this reading -- my first since my student days at Cambridge, where Leavis, though retired, was still active.-- was the exalted treatment of Hopkins. The passionate reading of Hopkins's poems, the appreciation of his work, should stand as sufficient evidence of Leavis's critical strength. I had remembered more clearly other judgments in the book: that "The Waste Land" was the ne plus ultra of modern poetry, that Pound was at his best in "Hugh Selwyn Mauberly," that Pound's "modern interests, one feels, are for him mainly opportunities, taken or made, for verse practice." Leavis was astringent, exclusive, not to say dogmatic; he felt that great poetry was an activity of the moral imagination. Few modern poets were acceptable. "No one could be seriously interested in the great bulk of the verse that is culled and offered to us as the fine flower of modern poetry. For the most part it is not so much bad as dead -- it was never alive." There is the authentic Leavis note. Not generous; but genuine, fierce, dedicated to the critical ideal as Matthew Arnold had articulated it. He was also irate when he was not bitter, a man who radiated contempt for his foes or for disciples who veered from the orthodoxy as pronounced by the great man, his wife (herself an esteemed Cambridge don), and their literary journal Scrutiny. Stephen Fry recently called him a "sanctimonious prick," as you'll see if you read this Spectator review of the new book, Memoirs of a Leavisite by David Ellis. It was, by the way, the Spectator that published Leavis's notorious Richmond Lecture of 1962 -- and a spate of letters protesting it a week later. "Does Anyone Care About F. R. Leavis?" There are readers who will feel that this phrase at the head of an aricle is a rhetorical question that answers itself. Leavis, a lost cause, was never all that attractive to begin with. But I bring him up not only because his ghost hovered at the bookshelves of Heffer's and G. David Bookseller on a recent visit to Cambridge -- but because the Leavis-Snow controversy of the early 1960s seems to me in retrospect even more significant than people thought at the time. In The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution (1959), C.P. Snow asserted that the sciences and the humanities were drifting ever farther apart and strongly implied that the future belonged to the sciences. At his Cambridge college (Downing) on February 28,1962, Leavis devoted the Richmond Lecture to a vitriolic attack on Snow's position (which itself originated as a Cambridge lecture -- the Rede Lecture of 1959). It was, alas, less a defense of the humanities than a contemptuous dismissal of Snow. I think that debate, if one can call it that, has foreshadowed the major intellectual story of our... Continue reading
Posted Jun 16, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
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"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
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NOIR CITY Magazine No. 34 <<<<< Our cover story for NOIR CITY Magazine's latest issue offers a unique portrait of actor William Holden, an actor not synonymous with film noir. Yet, writer Rachel Walther shows how the actor "brought a brooding restlessness to his characters that distanced them from the mainstream—and sometimes thrust them into the realm of darkness we hold so dear." Highlights in this issue include profiles of two actors – one classic, one contemporary: Stanley Baker/Loving a Thieving Boy by Ray Banks and J.T. Walsh/Solid Cold by Steve Kronenberg. And, for anyone who has followed the FNF's interest in Argentine restorations, particularly The Beast Must Die (1952) and El vampiro negro (1953), Imogen Sara Smith's in-depth article Down in the Depths/Román Viñoly Barreto and Argentinian Noir is a must-read! And there's plenty more, including Brian Light's Book vs. Film essay on the 1948 film Moonrise. >>> https://www.filmnoirfoundation.org/noircitymagazine.html Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
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–I think that God in creating Man somewhat overestimated his ability. -- When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers. -- A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies. I have not got one who is a fool. They are all men of some intellectual power, and consequently they all appreciate me. -- The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. -- There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. -- I can resist anything except temptation. -- A good friend will always stab you in the front. -- In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing. -- Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much. -- Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
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"On the canvas was not a picture, but an event." Harold Rosenberg, “The American Action Painters,” Art News (December 1952) Continue reading
Posted Jun 13, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
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The Enemy My youth was so full of rage that only the most brilliant of suns could puncture it. Thunder and rain ravaged me until my garden filled with venom. But now my mind has come to the autumn of its ideas and one must rearrange this earth with a shovel and rake. Flowers are holes as big as graves. What are these new futures I dream of? Futures that burst from a soil of grief. What mystical alignment gives them such vigor? Oh, sweet things! Time is a strange enemy that gnaws at my heart. It is blood and blood alone that fortifies it. Sandra Simonds is the author of eight books books of poetry, most recently : Triptychs (forthcoming Wave Books, November 2022), Atopia (Wesleyan University Press, 2019), Orlando, (Wave Books, 2018), and Further Problems with Pleasure, winner of the 2015 Akron Poetry Prize, 2009). Her poems and criticism have appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Best American Poetry, Poetry, and elsewhere. She is an Associate professor of English and Humanities at Thomas University in Thomasville, Georgia. Find out more about Sandra here. Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867) was a French poet, essayist, art critic, and translator of Edgar Allan Poe. Continue reading
Posted Jun 13, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
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I now think Love is rather deaf than blind, For else it could not be That she, Whom I adore so much, should so slight me And cast my love behind. I’m sure my language to her was as sweet, And every close did meet In sentence of as subtle feet, As hath the youngest He That sits in shadow of Apollo’s tree. O, but my conscious fears, That fly my thoughts between, Tell me that she hath seen My hundred of gray hairs, Told seven and forty years Read so much waste, as she cannot embrace My mountain belly and my rocky face; And all these through her eyes have stopp’d her ears. Born on June 11 (as was I), Ben Jonson (1572-1637) wrote, to bend one of his own formulations, not for a time but for the ages. England’s first poet laureate, the acknowledged leader of the “tribe of Ben,” the most melodious of the musically rich poets of the seventeenth century, Jonson enjoyed an academic reputation that was, I had thought, beyond dispute. William Pritchard praised Ian Donaldson’s biography (Oxford UP) in the Hudson Review (“superb”) but not without raising a worrisome question. Is it because Jonson’s verse is accessible that critics and scholars have neglected him in favor of the major metaphysicals, John Donne, Andrew Marvell and George Herbert? It came as news to me that Jonson’s stock has slumped, but I trust Pritchard’s judgment on this score. Pritchard valiantly defends the poet, quoting liberally from his plays and closing with a beautiful stanza from the Cary and Morison ode. But nothing in the piece is quite equal to its opening, a quotation from T. S. Eliot’s essay on the poet: “To be universally accepted; to be damned by the praise that quenches all desire to read the book; to be afflicted by the imputation of the virtues which excite the least pleasure; and to be read only by historians and antiquaries — this is the most perfect conspiracy of approval.” I want to advocate Jonson’s cause not merely because I share his birthday (June 11) but more pertinently because he balances plain speech with metaphorical invention as beautifully as Donne if less flamboyantly. I aim for precisely the same balance in many of the poems I write. Donne was a poet of paradox and passion, Jonson, a poet of wisdom and restraint. But the distinctions between them, though useful, fade against their common accomplishment — the ability to develop a conceit to the far ends of ingenuity and to do so in living language. In Jonson’s poetry the language lives, the language sings. “My Picture Left in Scotland” makes its case with irresistible music and no small amount of wit. The conceit of the poem is an inversion of the customary notion that love is blind. The poem’s music, managed with exquisite triple rhymes, should indeed be evident to all but the deaf. No, it is not the poet’s sentences, as subtle as they are... Continue reading
Posted Jun 11, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
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(ed note: Today is David Lehman's birthday and this poem, which came in "over the transom," seems just right! Thank you Ken Lauter. sdl) The Trouble with David Lehman Is that he’s like a huge hurricane spun up in the Atlantic Ocean of Erudition or he’s just a fucking non-stop reader who blows in on our Coast of Lethargy with a new introduction to a new BAP that shreds our sheds of poetic assumptions and prejudices and leaves us gasping for poems, poems, and more poems which Mr. Lehman, thank god, promptly delivers. -- Ken Lauter Continue reading
Posted Jun 11, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
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Our Birthday (June 11) Dear Beth, Leo, Allan, and Pauline, Lawanda, Sabrina, Deborah, Joshua, Lise, and Christine, Born today, like us, were Jonson, Ben, and Googe, Barnabe, two men of poetic greatness; and how about some confetti for Vanzetti (of Sacco and Vanzetti) and Loeb (of Leopold and Loeb)? Ready or not, here comes coach Vince Lombardi, who said winning is the only thing, and Joe Montana, who won more than one ring; also, Gene Wilder, a funny man of note, and Erving Goffman, who wrote The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life; Irving Howe, whose name’s a terse question of the universe, and William Styron, beset by inner strife. So let me praise this day on which, in 1966, Tiffany Cohen was born, who made us smile when she won the 400 and 800 meter freestyle in Los Angeles in the 1984 Olympics. Continue reading
Posted Jun 11, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
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Born to sing America’s all-time favorite movie song, Harold Arlen’s “Over the Rainbow,” Judy Garland was as natural a Gemini as you will find – totally binary, loyal to a fault yet fickle, cheerful and proud yet sometimes suicidally desperate. She habitually came late to the set fortified with bottles of “Blue Nun,” “Liebfraumilch,” and similar white stuff, which tasted terrible but did the job. On June 10, 1922, Judy Garland was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, at 6 AM. With her moon in Sagittarius, and her Mercury and Venus in Cancer (her rising sign), the great singer had the heart of a poet, the sensitivity of an eternal diva, and a really good voice. If only there had been more Virgo in her chart, and four inches more height, the girl who embodied Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” might have had greater career endurance. Great as her later work was, in the movies, in concert, or on TV with friends Sinatra and Martin, she peaked as a child actress. She is why the "Andy Hardy" movies are still worth watching. The absence of earth signs doomed her to a nervous disposition and the likelihood of an early death. The 2019 movie Judy did Judy no favors. Born Frances Ethel Gumm, Judy craved the approval of father figures, was easily bruised by criticism, sometimes affected nonchalance but really cared very deeply about other people and wanted to be included in group activities. Her Saturn in Libra helps to explain her outstanding musical talent, and her will to succeed in motion pictures may be inferred from her midheaven in Pisces conjunct Uranus. The death of Judy's father at age thirteen stunned the young actress, who eventually broke off relations with her mother. The amphetamines helped in the short run. She had five husbands and a torrid affair with lyricist Johnny Mercer when she was eighteen and he, thirty. He wrote the words of “That Old Black Magic” and “I Remember You” with her in mind. An old astrological adage: The stars favor the stars. From the moment the teenage Garland sang to Clark Gable's photograph ("You Made Me Love You"), her astonishing rise to the heights of Hollywood glory was in the cards (Queen of Hearts high) as was, alas, the inevitability of internal conflicts and demons postponed but not resolved by the habitual use of narcotics. She was still in her teens when she and Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, and Bert Lahr sang as they danced along the yellow brick road leading to the wonderful wizard of Oz. That was in Technicolor. Already in the black-and-white of Kansas cornfields, she sang the anthem of eternal aspiration, “Over the Rainbow,” which was named the greatest song of the twentieth century in a survey conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Recording Industry Association of America in 2001. As kids Judy and Mickey Rooney teamed up in movies, and their duet versions of “Our Love Affair” and “How... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2022 at The Best American Poetry