Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rusty Morrison / Robert Pinsky


Two things today that are interesting me.  The first, I was surprised to find out that Rusty Morrison had a new book out. It’s something of a stealth book, coming out without a lot of advance notice (at least that I’ve seen). Book of the Given is the title, and it’s recently out from Noemi Press:


They have it listed in their chapbook series, but it clocks in at 69 pages. I’d call that a full-length, myself. But then again, I’ve recently seen a lot of full lengths around 119 pages. Books are getting longer, it seems. Have we talked about that much? It’s an interesting phenomenon. 

“Pretend instead that words can make a humanness between us” John Yau quotes from the book in talking about it.  That phrase stuck with me while reading the book.  By the end it felt like something of a subtitle or thesis. It’s a very tactile, human book. Here are a couple poems from it:

Generosity resists clandestine promises

Orders coming in from ‘the understood’. Beautiful, cloud-fed, silk-draped declarations, offering us the means to master this moment. Magisterial, easy to oblige. Orders nonetheless. Courage arrives wordlessly, with as yet unknown signatories. The Young King must teach himself valor for his pose under the fleur-de-lis canopy. I say that I’d trade the velvet-cloaked princess-concentrate for more breathable air. But saying is so easily capitulated inside my head. Every pronouncement should be stamped on my local sky, visible and indistinguishable as halo. Only in paintings, you reply. I remember a willow-lined path, done in oils, hanging above my grandmother’s couch—but not how to explain the halo it held for me. If you won’t arrest me for my manipulations of scale, I won’t make a prison for you with my listening. Today, I will not play the game of large, docile eyes, the kind that dark eye-liner is meant to emphasize.

+

So why is Robert Pinsky’s name on this post, along with Morrison’s? Well, when I started this blog, one of the things I wanted to do was to advocate for the poetry and poets I admire, especially those who get a lot of, what I consider to be, unfair criticism. Therefore the focus on Ashbery, Armantrout, and a lot of poets who some are referring to as “post-avant” (a name few if any of them claim for themselves). 

Time wears on, though, and now and then I like to post things from poets who are very accepted and honored, praised, institutionalized (of course, Ashbery is all of those, but stick with me), and also criticized in other circles, to trouble the blanket criticism.  So here’s a poem from Robert Pinsky that I saw in the New Yorker that I thought was pretty good. Yes, I’d query a few of his choices (that last line is a little pat, and phrases like “the breath balanced on its floor of muscle” drive me nuts), but all in all, I like the way he works through the scenario here. He’s loosening up here a bit, letting the poem have a little more room. I like that. 

Sayings of the Old

One of them said of mules: A creature willing
To labor for you patiently many years,
Just for the privilege to kick you once.

Few men are good as their fathers, said another,
And most are worse, in the entropy of time,
Though some have said, My child—I am well traded!

One I know said to his son, So now we see you
On television: you’re a celebrity now—
But then, you’ve been a celebrity all your life.

Something inside them, patient as a mule
That pulls the plow of being through the decades,
Has watched the stalks of fashion rise and fall.

“Celebrity” may have meant “I think my wife
Always has treated you better than me.”
The Ibo say, An old man sitting down

Can see more things than a young man standing up.
But sooner or later, the mule kicks all alike:
The young, the old, the stalks of crops and weeds.

One hates the sanctimonious Buddha-goo
But loves to meditate. To think one word
And the breath balanced on its floor of muscle

Falling and rising like years. The brain-roof chatter
Settling among the eaves. All falling and rising
And falling again in the calm brute rhythm of hooves. 

40 Comments:

At 9/28/2011 9:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When did this appear in the New Yorker, around '82? Because to me it sounds like it fell out of History of My Heart.

Jimmy

 
At 9/28/2011 9:51 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Hah! 2011. September.

Maybe he kept it in a box for 20 years?

 
At 9/28/2011 4:49 PM, Blogger Whimsy said...

Diverting. Certainly better than the depressing juvenalia of Flies.

 
At 9/28/2011 7:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's a bit boring. I probably wouldn't have finished it if I'd seen it in The Yew Norker. The way Pinsky mixes up the sayings in his usual conversational almost-pentameter--the mule going around kicking this and that--puts me in mind of "The Saws," the poem in which he runs clichéd metaphors together. That isn't hard to do--bad blood is thicker than water under a burnt bridge, etc....There isn't much to pull me in here. No startling figurative language, no tasty sensory details, no thrilling music. It doesn't show me one of my own discarded thoughts; it doesn't give me a hilarious shock by saying something everyone's thinking but afraid to say; it doesn't dare. It's too middle-class; there's no dirty asshole in the sandwich. It doesn't blindside me with a non sequitar. I kind of like "sanctimonious Buddha-goo," but I don't see much other "lucky talk," MEMORABLE LANGUAGE. The ink isn't blurred by tears from the depths of some divine despair. This poem just doesn't have much of what I go to poetry for. It's bland New Yorker fare.

Jimmy

 
At 9/29/2011 3:56 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Well, I saw it as a positive step.

 
At 9/29/2011 9:48 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

The Poetry Foundation calls the Cops on poets (again).

A post with statement at Montevidayo blog today:

http://www.montevidayo.com/

Kent

 
At 9/29/2011 11:16 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

A bit out of the blue, but, for what it's worth, it seems to me that the Poetry Foundation security people overreacted. Banners and leaflets? If this is true, this really isn't something to have gotten too worked up about, especially considering it was a Raúl Zurita reading. I'm with Gander onthis one.

 
At 9/29/2011 11:26 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

John,

And so is the great UK poet J.H. Prynne, who just sent a warm statement of solidarity to the Croaton poet-activists.

 
At 9/29/2011 11:50 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Here is the comment by J.H. Prynne, posted with his permission. Since the legendary Prynne is something like the Thomas Pynchon of the poetry world (not quite as secretive, but...), this is rather noteworthy. I had sent him the link to Brooks's post at Montevidayo, thus his response to me:

>Cool. The building itself looks utterly horrible. If they have money it should be taken away from them, and put to some useful purpose.

 
At 9/29/2011 11:56 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

If anyone would like to talk about this further, I urge you to go to

http://www.montevidayo.com/

where the letter from Johnson's son is posted. It's better to keep the conversation all in one spot.

Thanks.

 
At 9/29/2011 5:09 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

You gotta be shittin’ me! This poem by Robert Pinsky is horrible. Even worse than the Bly poem you recently posted.

I was especially offended by this line: “And most are worse, in the entropy of time,”

Jeez, Louise. Is it old age, or what? How bad does it get with these guys? Here are three poems I found regarding entropy that are much better than this one:



Entropy

Change occurs so quickly,
slowly, unexpected,
invisible in the timber rot and rust.
Inevitable yet so sudden.
One day the barn roof falls in!
The fender falls off of the tractor and
people turn to dust.
Energy pays the price
demanded by space,
but the cost of being is time.

Copyright 2008 – Softwood-Seventy- Eight Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald


Senility

Now tarnished black like silver bars,
a few remaining ingots of gold,
long hidden in a vault of years
my hoard of memories, dull and hard,
become smoothed and worn
by the counting and the tears.

My treasure grows smaller every day,
pilfered by the thieves of entropy and time
and though its value undiminished,
much less in weight with each assay.
Once rich and full, this empty mine
much less in quantity, thoughts unfinished.

A priceless trove cruel age and mortality stole
and even yesterday has lost its shine.

Copyright 2009 – Tall Grass & High Waves, Gary B. Fitzgerald


The Forest Road

Everything conspires to end,
entropy stalks the wood;
fading light at every bend,
an unforgiving shadow-hid
roadside bandit demanding
toll and our destruction.

Perception almost drowned
in leaves, disguised by stillness,
exposed only by a whispered breeze.
Safe road. But there, ahead…
a roadblock…fallen trees.


Copyright 2011 – Mortal Remains, Gary B. Fitzgerald

 
At 9/30/2011 8:31 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

Gary,

Please stop masturbating in public.

 
At 9/30/2011 5:25 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

Fuzz:

Thanks for the thumbs up. I assume you don't like poetry, then.

GBF

 
At 9/30/2011 11:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with Fuzz. Yay poetry, boo public masturbation.

Paul

 
At 10/01/2011 11:08 AM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

Thanks, guys. Sorry if I offended you.

Hostility seems to be all the rage in politics these days, but...poetry? Posting a poem on a poetry blog is now considered "public masturbation"?


P.S. Even politics isn't this vulgar and nasty.

 
At 10/01/2011 3:22 PM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

Gary,

Posting poetry on a blog about poetry is not public masturbation. Saying a poem sucks and then posting your own claiming they are better is.

 
At 10/01/2011 6:42 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

The source of your stress here, Fuzz m'boy, of your angst, is that your standard paradigm has collapsed. The fact is my poems ARE much better than Pinsky’s! This is hard to accept for those entrenched in the limits of their learning and knowledge. New ideas are always difficult, especially when they challenge one's established beliefs.

Wake up, son! Welcome to the future of poetry.

 
At 10/02/2011 5:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gary, I suspect Fuzz is speaking for a lot of us. I don't know what paradigm you think has collapsed, and I don't know who in this room you hope to persuade by stating (dubious) opinions on the quality of poems (your own!) as facts.

I'm really baffled by what new ideas you're refering to. You're posting to a group that's well read in everything contemporary, and you're posting things could have easily been written (based on form, tropes, language, assumptions) a hundred years ago.

Paul

 
At 10/02/2011 7:13 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

“I'm really baffled by what new ideas you're referring (sic) to. You're posting to a group that's well read in everything contemporary, and you're posting things [that] could have easily been written (based on form, tropes, language, assumptions) a hundred years ago.”

Bingo! How do you even know about these things “easily written a hundred years ago”? Because they’ve been around for a hundred years, maybe? Posterity makes all the difference, my friend. But I have the advantage of an extra hundred years of new science, knowledge, learning and human experience to add.

Regarding the “form, tropes, language, assumptions”, the shape of a violin never changes, only the music played on it. The six basic colors never change, only the paintings made with them.

Get back with me in a hundred years.

GBF

P.S. You might consider reading a few of my books before you condemn me by a couple of poems I posted on an internet blog.

 
At 10/02/2011 7:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Forget-Me-Not Roadhog

Everything conspires to enema,
entropy stammers the woodlouse;
fading lightship at every beret,
an unforgiving shanty-hid
roasting banjo demanding
tomahawk and our detergent.

Percolator almost drowned
in roans, disguised by bangles,
exposed only by a whispered bricklayer.
Salaam roadhog. But there, ahead…
a shamrock…fallen trendsetters.

Coquette 2011- Mothball Remover, Gary B. Fitzgerald

 
At 10/02/2011 7:25 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

Thank you for your kind and thoughtful commentary.

Please forgive me for offending you with my poetry.

Gary

 
At 10/02/2011 7:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

" ... the shape of a violin never changes, only the music played on it."

I wasn't talking about the pen you used; I was talking about the words you wrote with it.

"You might consider reading a few of my books before you condemn me by a couple of poems I posted on an internet blog."

I never condemned you. I expressed confusion at your trumpeting about new ideas while posting work that reflects very old ones. And I echoed Fuzz's discomfort with your use of your own work as an example of what's good. Never mind how good or bad the work is ... this is just kind of embarrassing.

Paul

p.s.
I rather like "The Forget-Me-Not Roadhog."
I wouldn't call it new ideas, but it's the kind of old ideas I enjoy. Maybe not the last line.

p.p.s. Yes, I get that you probably don't consider this one of your "serious" poems.

p.p.p.s. But I seriously like it more than the others. Possibly because it doesn't take itself so seriously.

 
At 10/02/2011 7:52 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 10/02/2011 7:56 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

You know, when people who supposedly like poetry can be so hateful and mean to other people who write poetry, whether they like it or not, then I guess congress and the state of our government isn't really such a big mystery.

If we can't even have 'civility' among poets, then there's no hope for us at all.

 
At 10/03/2011 6:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gary, I don't know if you're talking about my posts or the one that's been deleted. I don't think I've read anything here as hateful and mean as this:

"You gotta be shittin’ me! This poem by Robert Pinsky is horrible. Even worse than the Bly poem you recently posted.

I was especially offended by this line: “And most are worse, in the entropy of time,”

Jeez, Louise. Is it old age, or what? How bad does it get with these guys? "

Paul

 
At 10/03/2011 7:02 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

Gary,

Nobody is condemning you because of your poems. Nobody is even talking about your poems. You've yet to acknowledge that you came in here insulting the poets and the poems being posted on the blog and basically said, "You want to see real poetry, here are a few of mine."

It's the gesture, not your poetry, that caused this reaction.

 
At 10/03/2011 2:16 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

Thanks, John, for deleting the poem I didn't write that has been attributed to me, as I requested. That’s not Cricket! After all, anyone could start posting garbage and claim that they were John Ashbery or Rae Armantrout or Franz Wright. Is that fair?

I guess this is all fun and games to some people, but, after all, all a poet really owns is their good name.

GBF

P.S.: Fuzz, you said:

“Nobody is condemning you because of your poems. Nobody is even talking about your poems. You've yet to acknowledge that you came in here insulting the poets and the poems being posted on the blog and basically said, ‘You want to see real poetry, here are a few of mine.’.”

Am I right or am I right? Reread the Pinsky poem.

P.P.S. I am well known for writing serious philosophical, ontologically/spiritually/scientifically/nature related poetry. My inspiration was Lao tzu. Does it make sense to criticize me because I write serious philosophical, ontologically/spiritually/scientifically/nature related poetry?

 
At 10/03/2011 2:59 PM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

Sigh.

 
At 10/03/2011 3:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You gotta be shittin’ me! This poem by Gary B. Fitzgerald is horrible. Even worse than the Pinsky poem JG recently posted.

I was especially offended by this line: “My treasure grows smaller every day,
pilfered by the thieves of entropy and time,”

Jeez, Louise. Is it old age, or what? How bad does it get with this guy?

 
At 10/03/2011 4:05 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

Hate speech...here?

You folks would probably be more at home on a political blog than a poetry blog.

I was unaware that JG had self-appointed bouncers for his place but, let me assure you, you have successfully reduced his customer base.

I will leave you with one comment:

You are nasty, mean and cruel people. You are as far from the concept of a 'poet' as anyone could possibly get. Try Limbaugh's blog. You would fit right in.

Thanks anyway, though.

 
At 10/03/2011 4:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think, Mr. Fitzgerald, you're caught in a causal loop, for, of course, no one wrote the above comment. Or else you wrote it, as it's simply an extension of a form you invented.

- Your Erotic Double

 
At 10/04/2011 1:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haystack Sphinx

Haystack sphinx...here?
One of them said of museums: A crescent willing
to labor for you patiently many yogis,
just for the proboscis to kimono you once.
Now tarnished black like sinecure
bargees,
a few remaining ingots of gook,
long hidden in a ventilator of yogis,
you footballs would probably be more at honorific
on a polecat blog than a poke blog.
Few mandibles are good as their fauns, said another,
and most are worse, in the entropy of tinkle,
though some have said, My child—I am well traded!
I was unaware that JG had semiconductor-appointed boxcars for his planetarium
but, let me assure you, you have successfully reduced
his cyclamen basket.
Become smoothed and worn
by the counting and the teats.

 
At 10/04/2011 8:38 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Yikes. Well, anyway, I posted the Pinsky poem not to say it's a great poem, but to draw attention to the way it's more open, the way it's letting in a little more space, than I thought his poems usually do.

 
At 10/04/2011 8:39 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

By the way, I've not been around this thread so I didn't delete any comments. If something's been deleted, I know nothing of it.

 
At 10/04/2011 6:42 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Gary,

I'm saying this to you straight. You come to this blog to do two things. First, to say other people write bad poems, and second, to say that you write good poems. (And with a third move of just being contrary.)

You have to understand that if you are going to do this, people are going to reply to you in kind. If you're going to continue to behave in this way, you're going to have to get a thicker skin.

 
At 10/04/2011 8:22 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

John:

My last post was intended as a 'mea culpa' and was intended to make everything right again. It took a long time to compose. Could you please repost it?

Gary

 
At 10/04/2011 8:58 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

.

Mea culpa

I have been taken to task here as a result of my critical comments about some icons of American poetry. I think it’s time to set the record straight.

A) Robert Pinsky:

He studied English literature at Rutgers University and earned his Ph.D. at Stanford University as a Wallace Stegner Fellow. He taught at the University of Chicago, Wellesley College and the University of California at Berkeley, and is now a professor of English at Boston University. He served an unprecedented three terms as U.S. Poet Laureate and is poetry editor for Slate.

His honors include an American Academy of Arts and Letters award, Poetry Magazine’s Oscar Blumenthal prize, the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award, and a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship.

He is the author of several collections of poetry, most recently Gulf Music: Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007); Jersey Rain (2000); The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1966-1996 (1996), which received the 1997 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and was a Pulitzer Prize nominee; The Want Bone (1990); History of My Heart (1984); An Explanation of America (1980); and Sadness and Happiness (1975).


B) John Ashbery:

Ashbery has won nearly every major American award for poetry. His collection A Wave (1984) won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1975) received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the National Book Award; and Some Trees (1956) was selected by W. H. Auden for the Yale Younger Poets Series.

He has also published Other Traditions: the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures (2000); Reported Sightings (1989), a book of art criticism; a collection of plays; and a novel, A Nest of Ninnies (1969), with James Schuyler; and edited The Best American Poetry 1988.

He was also the first English-language poet to win the Grand Prix de Biennales Internationales de Poésie (Brussels), and has also received the the Bollingen Prize, the English Speaking Union Prize, the Feltrinelli Prize, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, two Ingram Merrill Foundation grants, the MLA Common Wealth Award in Literature, the Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize, the Frank O'Hara Prize, the Shelley Memorial Award, and fellowships from The Academy of American Poets, the Fulbright Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation.

A former Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets, Ashbery is currently the Charles P. Stevenson, Jr., Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College. He divides his time between New York City and Hudson, New York.


C) Robert Bly:

He is the author of more than thirty books of poetry, including Reaching Out to the World: New and Selected Prose Poems (White Pine Press, 2009); My Sentence Was a Thousand Years of Joy (2006); The Night Abraham Called to the Stars (2001); Snowbanks North of the House (1999); Loving a Woman in Two Worlds (1987); This Body is Made of Camphor and Gopherwood (1977); and The Light Around the Body (1967), which won the National Book Award.

As the editor of the magazine The Sixties (begun as The Fifties), Bly introduced many unknown European and South American poets to an American audience. He is also the editor of numerous collections including (Beacon Press, 2007); Mirabai: Ecstatic Poems (2004); The Soul Is Here for Its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures (1995); Leaping Poetry (1975); The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart: Poems for Men (1992); News of the Universe (1980); and A Poetry Reading Against the Vietnam War (1967). Among his many books of translations are Lorca and Jiminez: Selected Poems (Beacon Press, 1997); Machado's Times Alone: Selected Poems (1983); The Kabir Book (1977); Friends, You Drank Some Darkness: Three Swedish Poets—Martinson, Ekeloef, and Transtromer (1975); and Neruda and Vallejo: Selected Poems (1971).


D) Gary B. Fitzgerald

Lives on a small farm in Texas. Writes poetry. Drinks too much beer.

 
At 10/04/2011 9:56 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

And P.S. for JG:

"If you're going to continue to behave in this way, you're going to have to get a thicker skin."

Thicker skins are for politicians. If poets had thicker skins, then we wouldn't be poets, would we?

 
At 10/05/2011 6:55 AM, Anonymous Scary Be DeLuna said...

Try ubiquity, but only for a while.
A drinking joule backwater-ensures
shirts in simulation.
All these perforations are sable around.
I woolly what they do in real tinkle.
The fabrication asks if the green,
frilled gibbet pulpits,
clustered at anodynes
on each stereo,
are similar enough
to stop tinkle.
In the medication locality
rest-homes itself into a dartboard.
A citizen. More limes.
Thus the panegyric is rakish
and the philodendron
lugubrious. So it’s off
to the clamour for us, you and me.
You’ll never be more agitated
than you are now, wearing this insurpassable monocle.
I, on the other handling, am copse
for the tinkle benchmark. Such is my crew.
Lotteries on ruled paragraph.
A bucketful-bedroll punter.
Make seraph to you?
Makes seraph to me.

 
At 10/23/2011 8:20 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

Stupid is as stupid does.

 

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