Jilted Dickinson is a devastating Dickinson

BeyonceDickinson.png

First post of National Poetry Month 2018 is a lamentation/kiss-off by the great Emily Dickinson. "That you, who were Existence / Yourself forgot to live" is a devastating line that should be in a Beyoncé song if it isn't already.

Because that you are going
And never coming back
And I, however absolute,
May overlook your Track -

Because that Death is final,
However first it be
This instant be suspended
Above Mortality -

Significance that each has lived
The other to detect
Discovery not God himself
Could now annihilate

Eternity, Presumption
The instant I perceive
That you, who were Existence
Yourself forgot to live -

The "Life that is" will then have been
A thing I never knew -
As Paradise fictitious
Until the Realm of you -

The "Life that is to be," to me,
A Residence too plain
Unless in my Redeemer's Face
I recognize your own -

Of Immortality who doubts
He may exchange with me
Curtailed by your obscuring Face
Of everything but He -

Of Heaven and Hell I also yield
The Right to reprehend
To whoso would commute this Face
For his less priceless Friend.

If "God is Love" as he admits
We think that he must be
Because he is a "jealous God"
He tells us certainly

If "All is possible with" him
As he besides concedes
He will refund us finally
Our confiscated Gods-

"An Ordinary Evening in New Haven" by Wallace Stevens

First post in many months, but suitably about poetry and imagination for National Poetry Month (April). A section from a long form work by Wallace Stevens. I've got a rough draft finished to a 18 or 19 chapter novel project long simmering (sometimes left on the stove for months) and am currently going through hundreds of pages of notes and adding that clay to the 18 or 19 linear piles of clay to start from the start and shape the first chapter then produce a draft ready to shop around.

Excerpt from "An Ordinary Evening in New Haven"
by Wallace Stevens

XII

The poem is the cry of its occasion,
Part of the res itself and not about it.
The poet speaks the poem as it is,

Not as it was: part of the reverberation
Of a windy night as it is, when the marble statues
Are like newspapers blown by the wind. He speaks

By sight and insight as they are. There is no
Tomorrow for him. The wind will have passed by,
The statues will have gone back to be things about.

The mobile and immobile flickering
In the area between is and was are leaves,
Leaves burnished in autumnal burnished trees

And leaves in whirlings in the gutters, whirlings
Around and away, resembling the presence of thought
Resembling the presences of thoughts, as if,

In the end, in the whole psychology, the self,
the town, the weather, in a casual litter,
Together, said words of the world are the life of the world.

W.H. Auden's Dirty "The Platonic Blow" Job

W.H. Auden wrote this poem about fellatio, foreplay, rimming in 1948, but denied authorship when it first came into public light in 1965, then admitted authorship to a magazine in 1968. It is dirty and often funny, describing a sex exchange between two men.

Let us imagine Auden composing this - journal book scribbled on as it rests and wobbles on a young man's head. Or maybe the journal book is set open on the bed, as Auden performs this, that, or the other thing and pauses from time to time to jot a note.

Does anyone else detect boasting in the poem? Would any rapper care to take on this braggadocio and turn this into a 10 or 11 minute rap epic?

The Platonic Blow
W. H. Auden

It was a spring day, a day for a lay, when the air
Smelled like a locker-room, a day to blow or get blown;
Returning from lunch I turned my corner and there
On a near-by stoop I saw him standing alone.

I glanced as I advanced. The clean white T-shirt outlined
A forceful torso, the light-blue denims divulged
Much. I observed the snug curves where they hugged the behind,
I watched the crotch where the cloth intriguingly bulged.

Our eyes met. I felt sick. My knees turned weak.
I couldn't move. I didn't know what to say.
In a blur I heard words, myself like a stranger speak
"Will you come to my room?" Then a husky voice, "O.K."

I produced some beer and we talked. Like a little boy
He told me his story. Present address: next door.
Half Polish, half Irish. The youngest. From Illinois.
Profession: mechanic. Name: Bud. Age: twenty-four.

He put down his glass and stretched his bare arms along
The back of my sofa. The afternoon sunlight struck
The blond hairs on the wrist near my head. His chin was strong.
His mouth sucky. I could hardly believe my luck.

And here he was sitting beside me, legs apart.
I could bear it no longer. I touched the inside of his thigh.
His reply was to move closer. I trembled, my heart
Thumped and jumped as my fingers went to his fly.

I opened a gap in the flap. I went in there.
I sought for a slit in the gripper shorts that had charge
Of the basket I asked for. I came to warm flesh then to hair.
I went on. I found what I hoped. I groped. It was large.

He responded to my fondling in a charming, disarming way:
Without a word he unbuckled his belt while I felt.
And lolled back, stretching his legs. His pants fell away.
Carefully drawing it out, I beheld what I held.

The circumcised head was a work of mastercraft
With perfectly beveled rim of unusual weight
And the friendliest red. Even relaxed, the shaft
Was of noble dimensions with the wrinkles that indicate

Singular powers of extension. For a second or two,
It lay there inert, then suddenly stirred in my hand,
Then paused as if frightened or doubtful of what to do.
And then with a violent jerk began to expand.

By soundless bounds it extended and distended, by quick
Great leaps it rose, it flushed, it rushed to its full size.
Nearly nine inches long and three inches thick,
A royal column, ineffably solemn and wise.

I tested its length and strength with a manual squeeze.
I bunched my fingers and twirled them about the knob.
I stroked it from top to bottom. I got on my knees.
I lowered my head. I opened my mouth for the job.

But he pushed me gently away. He bent down. He unlaced
His shoes. He removed his socks. Stood up. Shed
His pants altogether. Muscles in arms and waist
Rippled as he whipped his T-shirt over his head.

I scanned his tan, enjoyed the contrast of brown
Trunk against white shorts taut around small
Hips. With a dig and a wriggle he peeled them down.
I tore off my clothes. He faced me, smiling. I saw all.

The gorgeous organ stood stiffly and straightly out
With a slight flare upwards. At each beat of his heart it threw
An odd little nod my way. From the slot of the spout
Exuded a drop of transparent viscous goo.

The lair of hair was fair, the grove of a young man,
A tangle of curls and whorls, luxuriant but couth.
Except for a spur of golden hairs that fan
To the neat navel, the rest of the belly was smooth.

Well hung, slung from the fork of the muscular legs,
The firm vase of his sperm, like a bulging pear,
Cradling its handsome glands, two herculean eggs,
Swung as he came towards me, shameless, bare.

We aligned mouths. We entwined. All act was clutch,
All fact contact, the attack and the interlock
Of tongues, the charms of arms. I shook at the touch
Of his fresh flesh, I rocked at the shock of his cock.

Straddling my legs a little I inserted his divine
Person between and closed on it tight as I could.
The upright warmth of his belly lay all along mine.
Nude, glued together for a minute, we stood.

I stroked the lobes of his ears, the back of his head
And the broad shoulders. I took bold hold of the compact
Globes of his bottom. We tottered. He fell on the bed.
Lips parted, eyes closed, he lay there, ripe for the act.

Mad to be had, to be felt and smelled. My lips
Explored the adorable masculine tits. My eyes
Assessed the chest. I caressed the athletic hips
And the slim limbs. I approved the grooves of the thighs.

I hugged, I snuggled into an armpit. I sniffed
The subtle whiff of its tuft. I lapped up the taste
Of its hot hollow. My fingers began to drift
On a trek of inspection, a leisurely tour of the waist.

Downward in narrowing circles they playfully strayed.
Encroached on his privates like poachers, approached the prick,
But teasingly swerved, retreated from meeting. It betrayed
Its pleading need by a pretty imploring kick.

"Shall I rim you?" I whispered. He shifted his limbs in assent.
Turned on his side and opened his legs, let me pass
To the dark parts behind. I kissed as I went
The great thick cord that ran back from his balls to his arse.

Prying the buttocks aside, I nosed my way in
Down the shaggy slopes. I came to the puckered goal.
It was quick to my licking. He pressed his crotch to my chin.
His thighs squirmed as my tongue wormed in his hole.

His sensations yearned for consummation. He untucked
His legs and lay panting, hot as a teen-age boy.
Naked, enlarged, charged, aching to get sucked,
Clawing the sheet, all his pores open to joy.

I inspected his erection. I surveyed his parts with a stare
From scrotum level. Sighting along the underside
Of his cock, I looked through the forest of pubic hair
To the range of the chest beyond rising lofty and wide.

I admired the texture, the delicate wrinkles and the neat
Sutures of the capacious bag. I adored the grace
Of the male genitalia. I raised the delicious meat
Up to my mouth, brought the face of its hard-on to my face.

Slipping my lips round the Byzantine dome of the head,
With the tip of my tongue I caressed the sensitive groove.
He thrilled to the trill. "That's lovely!" he hoarsely said.
"Go on! Go on!" Very slowly I started to move.

Gently, intently, I slid to the massive base
Of his tower of power, paused there a moment down
In the warm moist thicket, then began to retrace
Inch by inch the smooth way to the throbbing crown.

Indwelling excitements swelled at delights to come
As I descended and ascended those thick distended walls.
I grasped his root between left forefinger and thumb
And with my right hand tickled his heavy voluminous balls.

I plunged with a rhythmical lunge steady and slow,
And at every stroke made a corkscrew roll with my tongue.
His soul reeled in the feeling. He whimpered "Oh!"
As I tongued and squeezed and rolled and tickled and swung.

Then I pressed on the spot where the groin is joined to the cock,
Slipped a finger into his arse and massaged him from inside.
The secret sluices of his juices began to unlock.
He melted into what he felt. "O Jesus!" he cried.

Waves of immeasurable pleasures mounted his member in quick
Spasms. I lay still in the notch of his crotch inhaling his sweat.
His ring convulsed round my finger. Into me, rich and thick,
His hot spunk spouted in gouts, spurted in jet after jet.

Most everyone does "Jabberwocky" wrong

Like many annoying people, I memorized "Jabberwocky" at a young age and am precious about it. Such as, well, now. Imagine me typing this with a shrewish self-righteous face that looks eminently punchable. Few things send me into a rage so quickly as when someone pronounces "borogoves" as "boro-groves", inserting a second "r". Not news about genocides, insults to those I love, nor essays on how the Star Wars prequels are okay movies.

Rationally, I know the story takes place in a forest and so it's liable to trick minds into thinking of a "grove". However, if a person recites a poem, and gets a word wrong, then stands there like he/she actually got the whole thing right, it's an aesthetic crime. You don't have it memorized. Get the fuck off the stage. Though I have never a read anything he wrote, I have read & listened to many Neil Gaiman interviews and find him charming. But even Gaiman fucks it up:

He messes up on another word, too, but I'll forgive him that. The full poem:

Jabberwocky
Lewis Carroll
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There)

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
  The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
  Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
  And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
  The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
  And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
  The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
  He went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
  Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
  He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

Kate Burton starred in Alice in Wonderland in a fun production on PBS' Great Performances in the early 1980s that I watched many times as a kid. It features famous (and soon-to-be-famous) actors in sets and costumes drawn from John Tenniel's illustrations. She even has a scene with her father, Richard Burton, who plays the White Knight.

Kate Burton, to her eternal credit, gets "Jabberwocky" right. If you ever catch someone fucking it up, bring this up on your smartphone and play it to the person with your most pointed pointy finger:

Edna St. Vincent Millay “If I should learn, in some quite casual way”

How do you hear poems in your head? In a voice, or as silent words? A variety of women's readings of this poem, from serious to torch song to taunting, lent a lot of fun in a few short minutes.

Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote the following sonnet as part of a larger set, "Renascence" which was written when she was 20 (if I understand her biography) and published when she was 25.

Sonnet V

If I should learn, in some quite casual way,
That you were gone, not to return again—
Read from the back-page of a paper, say,
Held by a neighbor in a subway train,
How at the corner of this avenue
And such a street (so are the papers filled)
A hurrying man—who happened to be you—
At noon to-day had happened to be killed,    
I should not cry aloud—I could not cry
Aloud, or wring my hands in such a place—
I should but watch the station lights rush by
With a more careful interest on my face,
Or raise my eyes and read with greater care
Where to store furs and how to treat the hair.

The reading below is a little thin and more world-weary than how I imagine the poem. A good start for contrast.

I'll link to the torch song version here, but want to make sure you watch the following informal recital below, which I thought was charming. It gets to the playfulness and blitheness the poem brings to my mind. Maybe 1/3 the first reading and 2/3 this reading:

Joan Didion mourning a middle-aged child

My kids are old enough, I mentioned in a conversation with a friend, that increasingly I see my job as just getting out of their way. Each generation rides roughshod over the bones of the dead. Let's hope this won't happen for several more decades, but eventually I'll be among the peat caught in a younger generation's tank treads.

And with the deaths of acquaintances, family, friends, and celebrities — reaching the midpoint of life will mean that more people I know of will have died than are still living. Cheery? No. But practical, and helps keep the ego in check that maybe a late order in a restaurant isn't the hugest matter in the world.

 Joan Didion, from an interview on NPR's Fresh Air. Click on the photo to listen.

Joan Didion, from an interview on NPR's Fresh Air. Click on the photo to listen.

Flipping that, what's it like to outlive your child? Joan Didion in The Year of Magical Thinking writes about the death of her spouse. Just a few weeks before the publication of that book, Didion's daughter died at the age of 39. She wrote about the experience in Blue Nights. A poem excerpt from the book:

Vanish.

Pass into nothingness: the Keats line that frightened her.

Fade as the blue nights fade, go as the brightness goes.

Go back into the blue.

I myself placed her ashes in the wall.

I myself saw the cathedral doors locked at six.

I know what it is I am now experiencing.

I know what the frailty is, I know what the fear is.

The fear is not for what is lost.

What is lost is already in the wall.

What is lost is already behind the locked doors.

The fear is for what is still to be lost.

You may see nothing still to be lost.

Yet there is no day in her life on which I do not see her.

Immortality via PowerPoint slides

The election year has me thinking of rampant egos, hubris, and whether the comedy of today will become tragedy tomorrow then become comedy again where it will stay as we fade into history. Do you think historians will scrutinize our PowerPoint slides and other tedious artifacts to judge what was important to us, as they do a desiccated bill of sale found on papyrus? Imagine the future graduate teaching assistants click-click-clicking through our memos proving their mettle in order to progress in academic esteem.

Please, everyone. Out of courtesy to the people of the future, let us aspire to make all our memos vibrant and worthy of posterity. Whether a book report, or an explanation to others about how to do that thing that we find so easy, make it profound and beautiful. Or at least add something funny.

Ozymandias
By Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

PowerPoint slide that I have made, just for you (and future cyber-archaeologists).

On Bootyliciousness, jelly, jealousy

This came on the iPod, and I wondered whether the chorus goes: "I don't think you're ready for this jelly" (I have jelly you may not be prepared for) or "I don't think you're ready for this. Jeally?" (You lack preparation for "this", and are jealous of it).

A typical contemplation for me during a long drive. Don't look up the answer on any CD booklet lyrics you have, or, heaven forfend, any of those sloppy song lyrics websites. Ponder this as a koan.

"Wanda Why Aren't You Dead" by Wanda Coleman

Anyone who clings to the tow rope of self as we climb - as circumstances and others flit and swirl around to make you change, which of course is everyone - can relate to "Wanda Why Aren't You Dead".

This poem is already great, patters, vernacular, evocative of a variety of voices. With race riots in the news, again, with rage and hope fueling masses of people with demands for long overdue justice - many lines resonated with me. This poem is much grander than race, but "wanda what is it like being black" brought to the fore a dynamic that has jabbed many times.

Oregon is not a diverse state, and has a deeply racist past toward blacks in particular. And when talk of race arises, if there is anyone present at all who is non-white, that person is not only "other" in a room of whites, but often feels obliged to speak not on her/his behalf, but on behalf of the experiences of millions of people that run a range of experiences and a spectrum of barely-related shades spread across continents (but of course are people born and raised for generations in the U.S. like most everyone else in the room). And these obligations to speak on behalf of entire races/skin tones often leaves hanging in the air: "But what does she/he think as an individual?"

But that is only a part of Wanda Coleman's poem which wittily comments on womanhood and the human condition and the way we try to control one another, and how we have to resist being defined by others.

The photo montage in the video below, with many photos of Wanda Coleman in various stages of her life as Coleman recites her poem, is a brief & worthwhile. Coleman died in 2013. Her biography at Poetry Foundation.

Wanda Why Aren't You Dead
By Wanda Coleman

wanda when are you gonna wear your hair down
wanda. that's a whore's name
wanda why ain't you rich
wanda you know no man in his right mind want a
          ready-made family
why don't you lose weight
wanda why are you so angry
how come your feet are so goddamn big
can't you afford to move out of this hell hole
if i were you were you were you
wanda what is it like being black
i hear you don't like black men
tell me you're ac/dc. tell me you're a nympho. tell me you're
          into chains
wanda i don't think you really mean that
you're joking. girl, you crazy
wanda what makes you so angry
wanda i think you need this
wanda you have no humor in you you too serious
wanda i didn't know i was hurting you
that was an accident
wanda i know what you're thinking
wanda i don't think they'll take that off of you

wanda why are you so angry

i'm sorry i didn't remember that that that
that that that was so important to you

wanda you're ALWAYS on the attack

wanda wanda wanda i wonder

why ain't you dead