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Keep the spot sore!

By Joel Brouwer

Ahoy hoy! Sibilance! Sibilance!

The editors of Harriet have kindly invited me to join their merry band, and I’m honored to be here. Scared, too, though, that I won’t have much of interest to say. I guess we’ll find out. I may be posting snapshots of my tomato plants before my hitch is up.

Earlier this week was Sovereignty Day, and today is Independence Day. To celebrate, please turn off your computer and go eat some ice cream in a park. Come back and read the rest of this tomorrow.

I don’t yet have a favorite Sovereignty Day poem-seems a bit premature-but I do have a favorite Independence Day poem: “Shine, Republic” (1934), by Robinson Jeffers. (This poem is sometimes confused with an earlier, more famous poem by Jeffers called “Shine, Perishing Republic” (1925), which is one of his grimmest, which is saying something.)

After four straightforward stanzas celebrating America’s founding principle of freedom and tracing that principle back to the dawn of Western civilization, Jeffers delivers two far more ambiguous stanzas. They can easily be read as pure cynicism: Rather than let the torch of freedom burn brightly, we’ve hidden it beneath a hood and perched it on the wrist of a government which pretends to be a democracy but is in fact just another Ceasar-headed empire. We can go through the motions of voting and all that, pretend we’re different and special, but we’re as doomed as any other empire, and future states will look back on us and scorn us for failing to remain constant to our ideals and for falling into the torpor of luxury.

But there’s another edge to the imperatives of the poem’s title and its last stanza, too, I think. We may indeed not live up to our ideals, and we may indeed pass away into history as a result, but isn’t there a suggestion here as well that if we nevertheless “keep the tradition, conserve the forms,” we can at least hope that “states of the next age” will learn something from us, namely to “edge their love of freedom with contempt of luxury”?

A grim and grimly relevant poem in 1934 just as well as now, but perhaps it has some hope in it, too. Enjoy your 4th, and keep the spot sore!

Comments (103)

  • On July 4, 2009 at 1:50 pm Terreson wrote:

    Interesting July 4th choice, Joel Bouwer. Do you ever wonder if just once Jeffers lied to himself or to Una? I look forward to your posts.

    Terreson

  • On July 4, 2009 at 3:32 pm Terreson wrote:

    Apologies for misspelling your name. Just caught it.

    Terreson

  • On July 4, 2009 at 3:32 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Please keep in mind that ‘Shine, Republic’ was written during the Great Depression. The only relevant comparison to today might be the continuing gulf between rich and poor. It would probably be helpful to compare this poem to the songs of Woody Guthrie.

  • On July 4, 2009 at 4:30 pm disenchanting wrote:

    Is it significant that ID falls at such a shiny time of the year… I was only in USA one 4th July (1981) an I can still taste the freshly home-made hambugers (best ever) eaten out of doors on a long, long, white bright day… curiously enough we all ended up playing soccer… kids from 2-70.

    Were it the 4th of Feb would it be so dear to hearts???

  • On July 5, 2009 at 12:06 pm Margo Berdeshevsky wrote:

    How hard it is — to shine with others’ blood. “The blood it requires for its fuel.” Is Jeffers advocating for a revolutionary fervor as the conserved form? A continuous wound? Tradition of America—as the warrior (?)

    After numerous readings, I remain shrouded rather than illuminated. Why would such a nationalism keep the spot sore in an admirable way?

    A bold choice, Joel. And other Jeffers poems may be admired. But what tradition and forms in this, give one hope? I’m honestly having a grim difficulty in discovering it.

    margo

  • On July 5, 2009 at 2:48 pm Terreson wrote:

    I hope it is okay if I riff on the themes presented here, both Joel Brouwer’s and Margo Berdeshevsky’s. Likely others have come to as much too, so I hope this is not going to be boring.

    I am pretty sure it is true to say Jeffers had no hope for humanity, not as it is presently constituted. Nor was he a nationalist. He either lacked or he transcended, depending upon your point of view, the tribal instinct at the root of all nationalist tendencies. His was an explicit renouncement, and early on, of all traditions of Humanism, Classical, Renaissance, and Modern. Maybe more than Nietzsche himself Jeffers was scornful of the herd instinct.

    What hope he had, if hope it was, he placed in his own philosophy of what he called Inhumanism which he described as “a shifting of emphasis from man to not-man; the rejection of human solipsism and recognition of the transhuman magnificence.” And maybe he better explained himself in his Roan Stallion poem:

    Humanity is
    the start of the race; I say
    Humanity is the mold to break away from, the crust to
    break through, the coal to break into fire,
    The atom to be split.

    Then there is something he said in an early letter to his not-yet wife, Una, and even before their move to Carmel: “poetry should be a blending of fire and earth – should be made of solid and immediate things…which are set on fire by human passion.”

    Personally, I think Jeffers had a point. Especially when he says humanity is “the atom to be split.” If he was a religious man, and he was intensely religious, he was like an Old Testament prophet periodically coming into town to tell the folk their towny ways were doing them in. And when he took FDR to task for his Imperialist ambitions he was like Samuel telling Saul he was f**king up. This last circumstance has the spirit of how I take Joel Brouwer’s posting of the poem on a July 4th. It is also, by the way, what cost Jeffers favor in the eyes of the press and public. He could have cared less.

    There is one story that maybe belies Jeffers rejection of humanity as such. When he built Hawk Tower for Una (who was as fiercely wild as he was) he placed in the mortar artifacts collected from around the world, both humanly made and natural things: black lava from Mt Kilauea, fossils from Iowa, an arrowhead from Michigan, tile from the Babylonian temple of Erich inscribed with a cuneiform prayer to Ishtar, the stone head of a dancing girl from an Angkor temple, a stone from Lord Byron’s Newstead Abbey. Stuff like that. It all makes for an interesting contradiction, I think. Why would this man who did not believe in humanity as it is presently constituted go to such pains? The only thing I can figure is that, in fact, Jeffers deep down believed in its capacity to transform itself into something better, more essential, less towny. I think this is the case. I am not sure how I feel about that. I am not sure I have the same deep seated faith.

    Terreson

  • On July 5, 2009 at 5:20 pm Margo Berdeshevsky wrote:

    A man who built a time capsule tower for no human achievements, but with memento mori of where life forms have strode, or at least watched…lava, fossil,temple… Something is clarifying, to me. (If) future states edged their love of freedom with contempt for luxury (then) it might be worth celebrating a fourth of July, or some other day of realer achievement. But as Jeffers says in his “credo,” –“The heartbreaking beauty will remain when there is no heart to break for it.”

    He knew how endless a walk it is, (as those in Tehran know, these weeks, how long theirs is. Perhaps.) Jeffers knew that “the deer in that beautiful place lay down their bones. I must wear mine.”

    My difficulty, initially, was not in Jeffers’ dark eye. I can accept it, and sometimes, wear it, too. My difficulty or error was maybe mistakenly, in seeing what I thought, maybe also cynically, Joel, here, was calling hope, in the tradition & the forms. While those, do shine with blood; and why be proud or hopeful, shedding blood?

    I hope I’m seeing it with an open eye.

    margo

  • On July 6, 2009 at 10:25 am Cathy Halley wrote:

    Welcome Joel!

  • On July 6, 2009 at 3:21 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Randall Jarrell thought Jeffers was a load of crap.

  • On July 6, 2009 at 3:41 pm Don Share wrote:

    Hey, wasn’t Jarrell one of those New Critics you don’t care for? Rexroth didn’t like Jeffers’ work, either. Brother Antoninus and Robert Hass, on the other hand, did. Where this leaves us I don’t know, but surely we can be grateful for some, even if not all… or much… of Jeffers’ work?

    Here’s an excerpt (click here), just for fun, of what Milosz wrote of Jeffers.

  • On July 6, 2009 at 4:11 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    Thomas likes Jarrell. And as ever, he seeks an excuse to dismiss out of hand, as “a load of crap,” what isn’t Poe… or Burns…

    I am tired of the idee fixe, the monoagenda, the trivial trembling torch.

    Jeffers was a “truly great poet, whatever his flaws,” writes Milosz. I agree.

  • On July 6, 2009 at 5:13 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Hooray, John Oliver Simon.

  • On July 6, 2009 at 7:50 pm Terreson wrote:

    Thomas Brady says: “Randall Jarrell thought Jeffers was a load of crap.”

    I’ll probably hate myself for this in the morning, but I am getting tired of Mr. Brady’s pontifications. Where to start?

    Jarrell early on was an associate of John Crowe Ransom and Robert Lowell. This would have been at Kenyon College where they all met. Mr. Brady is inclined to put down poets because of their associations. On more than one occasion Mr. Brady has put down Ransom and Lowell as belonging to a certain men’s club. Why now the resurrection of Randall who, by implication, belonged to the same men’s club?

    Jarrell spent his adult career employed by the university system. (My take is that he was, at best, a second-rate, uninspiring teacher who liked the girls in Greensboro and killed himself on a highway leading out of UNC’s Chapel Hill campus.) Mr. Brady is on record as putting down the Academy’s production of poets.

    Jarrell is known for his biting, scathing crit of poetry. He is not known, and in my view justifiably so, for his poetry. His most anthologized poem, “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner,” in my view amounts to a lie. Jarrell liked to make much of his WW2 service. But he never left State-side. During the war he spent his time in a control tower, which amounts to a pretty cush position.

    Why should I defer to the opinions of a second-rate poet who builds poetry on things he does not know personally? Now it would be nice to get back to Jeffers who built poems on things he knew personally.

    Terreson

  • On July 6, 2009 at 9:08 pm Joel Brouwer wrote:

    I think you are definitely onto something here, D. Your comment reminds me of the theory that the Greeks developed such a sophisticated (pun intended) culture on account of the mild weather was so conducive to Socratic walk and talks.

  • On July 6, 2009 at 9:11 pm Joel Brouwer wrote:

    “After numerous readings, I remain shrouded rather than illuminated.” Me too, Margo. I post the poem not so much to advance a reading of it as to advertise and lament my inability to get a bead on it. It may well be a one-dimensional complaint — from the little I know about Jeffers, that wouldn’t be a bad bet — but I also find (or project, as the case may be) a grim sense of mission in the poem. Thanks for your comment.

  • On July 6, 2009 at 9:16 pm Joel Brouwer wrote:

    Many thanks to all for your comments. I don’t have the thick read of Jeffers toto that some of you seem to, so I’m grateful for the conversation, and the warm welcome to Harriet.

  • On July 6, 2009 at 9:28 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Tere,

    I think you may be hitting a little below the belt there, but you are certainly welcome to your opinions.

    Yea, Ransom was the Godfather of American poetry at mid-century. If he liked you, you were OK. Pretty good for a guy born in Pulaski, TN.

    ‘Mr. Ransom will see you now. Kindly remove your hat.’

    ‘You wanna Poolitza prize? Den you be nice to Mr. Ransom.’

    ‘Yea, you go to Kenyon College, and I’ll fix you up. Tell ‘em Ezra sent you.’

    Randall got a little cocky, see? The kid was only 28, it was the middle of the war, right in the middle of World War Two, and it must have felt like the whole world was fallin’ apart; he’s writing for ‘The Nation,’ he probably felt like anything was possible. On the other hand he had seen Modernism up close, saw how it was losing readers, and he was sick to death of it, aww, don’t ya see? Modernism had run its course! It had to crumble! Randy didn’t see what was going to happen, though: the war ends, the universities fill up with boys home from the war on the GI Bill, everyone’s going to school, and waiting for them is Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren. New Criticism was going to keep it clean, and Jarrell’s in that book, Understanding Poetry, but not until the 3rd edition, in 1961, and so’s ‘The Red Wheel Barrow’ and Pound–Pound comes back from the dead and wins a Bollingen! And meanwhile Tate’s started this writing program in Princeton, and soon there would be writing writing programs everywhere, no, Jarrell didn’t realize that this thing called ‘rock n roll’ started by Tom & Ezra wasn’t dead yet. But Jeffers was vulnerable, the 1930s was over, and Jarrell, who was half-in with Ransom’s gang and half-out struck; drew a little blood just to show he could…

    “how could anyone fail to realize that the excesses of modernist poetry are the necessary concomitants of the excesses of late-capitalist society? [beat up modernist poetry, but blame it on ‘late-capitalism’ –good one!] An example too pure and too absurd even for allegory is Robinson Jeffers, who must prefer a hawk to a man, a stone to a hawk, because of an individualism so exaggerated that it contemptuously rejects affection, obligations, relations of any kind whatsoever [relations with John Crowe Ransom & Robert Lowell] and sets up as a nostalgically awaited goal the war of all against all. Old Rocky Face, perched on his sea crag, is the last of laissez faire [yea! hit ‘em with some french!] Free Economic Man at the end of his rope.”

    “When, at the beginning of the thirties…what became of these individualists? They turned toward anything collective: toward Catholicism, communism, distributism, social credit, agrarianism; they wrote neoclassical criticism or verse…”

    Jarrell forgets to mention anti-semitism, fascism, or anglicanism. But ‘agrarianism’ surely annoyed the New Critics–they wanted to forget that silly reactionary phase of their careers–so Randy probably felt a little coolness from that quarter from then on. Mr. J. also made the mistake of ridiculing Winters, who somehow managed to turn out a whole gaggle of poets influential in the next generation: Hall, Pinsky, Haas, etc etc

    “It is the end of the line. Poets can go back and repeat the ride; they can settle in attractive, atavistic colonies along the railroad; they can repudiate the whole system, a la Yvor Winters, for some neoclassical donkey caravan of their own.”

    Good for him. Who can take Yvor Winters seriously?

    Jarrell could be a harsh critic–unless reviewing friends like Lowell, and making ‘appreciations’ of William Carlos Williams. Jarrell’s star didn’t really take off, following his famous 1942 essay (I think he offended too many) and his role was reduced to puffing Modernist dinosaurs like Williams and friends like Lowell. He went downhill fast. Eileen Simpson, in her memoir, reports Jarrell was a shell of his former self when she became re-acquainted with him in 1952, when he was only 38.

    Jarrell was definitely too urbane for ‘Old Rocky Face.’

    Thomas

  • On July 6, 2009 at 10:03 pm thomas brady wrote:

    “whatever his flaws…”

    Yea, like the fact that he’s a 100% certifiable nut? That ‘flaw?’

    Even Yvor Winters had the good sense to dislike him…

    His poems are embarrassing. His misanthropy is creepy. He should have stuck to making towers out of rocks…

    You can have Robinson Jeffers. Take him! He’s all yours…

  • On July 6, 2009 at 10:46 pm Christopher Woodman wrote:

    FOOTNOTE FOR POSTERITY: BRADY v. JEFFERS

    Victory by K.O. Ist round. First punch.

    But don’t fret, dear friends, you’re down but not out. Indeed, the wonderful thing about Thomas Brady’s hammer is, of course, that it’s so fertile. There’s no demolition, just beautiful fresh pasture. As long as a cow thinks clearly it can start grazing again, wherever–even in Robinson Jeffers high altitude patch.

    Have you thought how a true cow thinks, grazing that rich pasture? Selectively, with discretion. A true cow waits for over six months before it grazes any patch of grass grown up out of last summer’s cow pat. But then how delicious, how succulaent!

    One is so lucky to grow up in one Faith, and be fulfilled within a single tradition. Nothing could bring greater happiness than that. Yet the unexamined life is not worth living, and nothing brings greater unhappiness than smashing the tribe and the idols.

    Christopher

  • On July 6, 2009 at 10:51 pm Christopher Woodman wrote:

    Isn’t that what it means to keep the spot sore?

  • On July 6, 2009 at 10:53 pm Don Share wrote:

    All these various characterizations notwithstanding… as Stefan Collini so nicely put it a while ago, “good criticism makes us wary of underestimating writing with which we thought ourselves familiar.” So I figure this a good thread if it gets a few folks to think twice about Jeffers. Hokay?

  • On July 6, 2009 at 11:08 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    CLOUDS OF EVENING

    Enormous cloud-mountains that form over Point Lobos and into the sunset,
    Figures of fire on the walls of tonight’s storm,
    Foam of gold in gorges of fire, and the great file of warrior angels:
    Dreams gathering in the curded brain of the earth,
    The sky the brain-vault, on the threshold of sleep: poor earth, you like your children
    By inordinate desires tortured make dreams?
    Storms more enormous, wars nobler, more toppling mountains, more jewelled waters, more free
    Fires on impossible headlands… as a poor girl
    Wishing her lover taller and more desirous, and herself maned with gold,
    Dreams the world right, in the cold bed, about dawn.
    Dreams are beautiful; the slaves of form are beautiful also; I have grown to believe
    A stone is a better pillow than many visions.

  • On July 6, 2009 at 11:38 pm Christopher Woodman wrote:

    A beautiful example of a six month’s old cow pat, and now we can eat it!

    Extraordinary moment, John Oliver Simon, the lightning strike timing’s so huge, the cracking so intimate.

    The succulent, nourishing nut.

  • On July 7, 2009 at 12:27 am nick wrote:

    Internet fora that become dominated by 3-4 “regulars” almost invariably devolve into tedious snarkfests, where debate is constrained by the oversized personae of the regulars, which become targets: everything becomes personalized, everybody knows everybody else’s schtick; and those who don’t find the parade of hobbyhorses all that stimulating sit on the sidelines, silent.

    I respectfully submit that the aforementioned description fits this forum to a T.

    Productive suggestions, you ask?

    How about a daily limit on comments, one per head?

  • On July 7, 2009 at 1:06 am Christopher Woodman wrote:

    I think you may have slipped up and posted this comment where it wasn’t intended, Nick. What “Forum” did you think you were on?

    This isn’t a “forum” for a start but a blog. Secondly, there have been 10 different individuals posting a total of 24 comments on this thread, which would suggest a pretty balanced sort of dialogue. Thirdly, the only “snark” the thread has attracted so far is your own—and isn’t Harriet lucky to be one of the very few literary sites around that isn’t a “snarkfest!” Indeed, I suspect it’s the snarkfest you really want, so why don’t you look in elsewhere and you’ll find lots of space for your wit? Finally, it’s your own views that are “personalized” and certainly, by my way of thinking, “tedious.”

    On a more flippant note, Robinson Jeffers was truly a phenomenon, as was the Marquis de Sade and William Burroughs. A little tussle over the value of any of those great shits is surely in order.

    And did you read John Oliver Simon’s last post?

    Let’s hear your views–the lines are fully open.

    Christopher

  • On July 7, 2009 at 6:12 am thomas brady wrote:

    John,

    Thanks for providing an example of Jeffers’ poetry–I’m going to make a wild guess and assume that’s his.

    I do like it when people put their poetry when their mouth is, so thanks.

    Now, you accuse me of ‘idee fixe.’ Every poem by Robinson Jeffers has the same ‘bad writing-bulwer-lytton’ bombast.

    You like rocks and mountains and big clouds. OK, we get it.

    I wouldn’t mind the misanthropy–in small degrees, fine, in ironic doses, OK, but Jeffers beats you over the head with it in the same way, over and over again.

    If you want sublime poetry, go to the English romantics. Jeffers’ poetry makes me ashamed to be an American.

    Thomas

  • On July 7, 2009 at 8:58 am thomas brady wrote:

    John,

    When you write this:

    ‘Thomas likes Jarrell. And as ever, he seeks an excuse to dismiss out of hand, as “a load of crap,” what isn’t Poe… or Burns…’

    Yea, OK, I guess I’m guilty as charged. But I think we need to keep in mind this is a pedagogical issue.

    All poets are not the same. The quicker new students coming to poetry understand this, the better.

    It seems like most in po-biz, if they even have an aesthetic philosophy, can be summed up thusly:

    ‘Businessmen bad, poets good.’

    This attitude is pedagogically stifling.

    For instance, students should understand the following:

    Burns can sing. Burns would win American Idol. Jeffers would be one of those oddballs who can’t sing, who get ridiculed, and are told to go home.

    All poets are not the same.

    Now I’m sure there are those who equate Jeffers’ overt extremist, philosophy with honesty–and they admire him for that. But Aesthetics really has no place for the sort of overtness which Jeffers displays. His ‘honesty’ is only madness.

    Thomas

  • On July 7, 2009 at 9:00 am Krista wrote:

    Worse than “Thomas Brady”‘s inane bloviation on every subject is your sycophantic championing of Tom’s lame causes, Christopher. The combination causes a foul miasma to hover over every thread. Why not take a summer vacation and let in some fresh air?

  • On July 7, 2009 at 10:11 am Margo Berdeshevsky wrote:

    “Madness is to think of too many things in succession too fast, or of one thing too exclusively”
    –Voltaire

    As pertains to monoagendas.

    “Prejudices are what fools use for reason.”
    –Voltaire

    Enough said, one hopes. Sigh.

    Jeffers: “That is God’s will: to make great things and destroy them, and make great things and destroy them again.”

    margo

  • On July 7, 2009 at 10:18 am michael robbins wrote:

    Hear, hear.

  • On July 7, 2009 at 10:19 am michael robbins wrote:

    Woah. I definitely intend that “hear, hear” in response to Nick’s sane assessment, not Christopher’s topsy-turvy take on it.

  • On July 7, 2009 at 10:38 am John Oliver Simon wrote:

    Pedagogical issue, huh?

    You don’t have the weight or depth to be a pedagogue here, Tom. You have nothing to teach. You only know one thing: Poe vs. Brooks and Warren. And on that subject, as the physicists would say, you’re not even wrong.

    It’s as if I had a neighbor who every time I go out in the yard harangues me about how 9/11 was a plot by the Bush Administration. He has charts of how the towers imploded, smeared xeroxes downloaded from secret web sites, the whole nine yards. He has nothing else to talk about, and I don’t like Dick Cheney any more than he does, but after awhile I wish he would just shut up.

    As to Jeffers, all you do is repeat his character flaws, which are obvious to anyone. Jeffers was a disagreeable guy, a crab, a crank. “Even Yvor Winters” — who hated everyone except his own disciples — “disliked him.” But he wrote with a pen of flame.

    Most great poets had streaks of behavior which would make them unreliable as, say, governors of North Carolina or Alaska. Robert Frost’s son committed suicide. Your guy Poe had some demons. But you can’t, or won’t, come to grips with Jeffers’s poetry. “Clouds of Evening” is an undeniable fact.

    “Fires on impossible headlands… as a poor girl
    Wishing her lover taller and more desirous, and herself maned with gold,
    Dreams the world right, in the cold bed, about dawn.
    Dreams are beautiful; the slaves of form are beautiful also; I have grown to believe
    A stone is a better pillow than many visions.”

    And I don’t even like Jeffers that much. I think the best American poet of that generation was Hart Crane.

    It’s the same with other poets you dislike, Tom. You dismiss Yeats with the insinuation that he was an English counter-agent, courting Maud Gonne. I can’t prove that he wasn’t, but what does that have to do with “Leda and the Swan?”

    As the Dead sing: “please don’t dominate the rap, Jack, if you’ve got nothing new to say.”

  • On July 7, 2009 at 10:54 am thomas brady wrote:

    One comment per day.

    Like a vitamin?

    Harriet wakes up. Takes one nick, one Thomas Brady, one Christopher Woodman, one Michael Robbins, one Annie Finch, one Margo, one Terreson, one Gary Fitzgerald, one Colin Ward, one Bill Knott…

    I dunno, I think vitamins are overrated…

    Harriet needs meat, love, exercise…

  • On July 7, 2009 at 10:57 am Travis Nichols wrote:

    Those would be some long vitamins.

  • On July 7, 2009 at 11:18 am michael robbins wrote:

    Screw that, there’s no way I’m posting here every single day. Letting entire days lapse without a single post! Limiting posts to a few well-chosen sentences! Imagine! It’s easy if you try.

  • On July 7, 2009 at 11:33 am thomas brady wrote:

    John,

    It’s an undeniable fact that “I have grown to believe
    A stone is a better pillow than many visions” is wretched writing. ‘Pillows are soft, but since I love stone…get it?’

    When I say it’s a ‘pedagogical issue,’ I meant simply that; I wasn’t saying, ‘I’m teaching you…listen up!’

    I’m sayin’ stuff, you’re sayin’ stuff; you needn’t be so defensive.

    I use a wide variety texts: Poe’s “Rationale of Verse,” Brooks and Warren’s “Understanding Poetry,” the essays of Ransom and Eliot and Pound and Jarrell, reviews of Millay, Millay’s poetry; my list of documents is quite extensive.

    You mention Hart Crane. Did you know Logan’s attack on Crane, which generated so much controversy? Well, the seeds of that attack can be seen in “Understanding Poetry” (3rd edition) when the editors quote Harriet Monroe, as editor of ‘Poetry,’ having problems with Crane’s obscurity.

    I couldn’t make this stuff up.

    Aesthetic discourse is not like ‘proving a conspiracy;’ I’m not sure why you have to see it in those terms.

    Yea, I do believe some writers are better than others, and ‘literary wars’ do interest me. Some people don’t like to see things that way. That’s fine.

    Thomas

  • On July 7, 2009 at 12:14 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Imagine there’s no comments
    From Brady, or Woodman, too.
    Just a bon mot from Robbins–
    It isn’t hard to do…
    Imagine all the poets
    Reading poems in peace…
    You may say I’m a dreamer,
    But I’m not the only one,
    I hope one day you’ll join us,
    And Harriet can live as one!

  • On July 7, 2009 at 12:16 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Super-vitamins, if you will…Vitamins P…O…E…

  • On July 7, 2009 at 12:29 pm Matt wrote:

    I like this. Things would slow down, but that might be good. People would have to think about what they really want to say. Slow Blogging. SloBlo.

  • On July 7, 2009 at 6:32 pm nick wrote:

    I placed the comment where I did simply so it wd be read; I don’t care to respond re. Jeffers or demonstrate my awarenesse of all internet traditions. There are certain sorts of people–I will not indulge in sociological generalities about them, except to say that they are virtually always men–whose thirst for online bloodshed cannot be quenched. Such people ruined the Buffalo poetics list; ruined Silliman’s blog; etc……Michael, I imagine, knows the story. Good places for online discussion are few, and fragile. I’m out, as they say when leaving other forums…

  • On July 7, 2009 at 7:07 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    You’ll be missed.

  • On July 7, 2009 at 7:16 pm Terreson wrote:

    Man. This is classic.

    A couple of nights ago, in phone conversation with a friend who on occasion follows Harriet proceedings, I expressed my delight at Joel Brouwer’s post. I said something like now maybe there will be discussion about something different in poetry. Something, in particular, not attending on the Poe conspiracy and those dastardly members of the “mens club.” I was particularly tickled by Margo Berdeshevsky’s posts. I thought, wow, here is someone who is going to actually make me think, make me dig down, cause me to scramble, force me to certain reassessments of a poet I feel I know as well as I know the veins standing out on the back of my hand.

    Two days later and I see that once again, and not on this blog alone, the topic has been turned aside by a certain attention junky. Worse, I sense the moment has been lost. Now I’ll not get to ask Margo Berdeshevsky what she means, what she sees, what she thinks. I’ll not get to ask Joel Brouwer why and where in his spine Jeffers spikes him. Yet once again Mr. Brady, with help from his sidekick, has turned the conversation into a good old fashion pissing match. Like, wow, I mean I am so done with such nonsense. (I must have been a valley girl in a past life.)

    One more thing. Somewhere upthread Mr. Brady says something like if you want Jeffers you can have him. I say okay. I take him. The blood in his verse speaks to mine. The scraped knuckles in his verse speaks to mine. The wrenched back in his verse speaks to mine. The stare into a universe indifferent to the human experience speaks to my sense of the exact same indifference. But maybe you have to be something less than towny to get the starkness of Jeffers’ beauty.

    Terreson

  • On July 7, 2009 at 7:42 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    .
    The Pedant

    So many verses read, references compiled,
    so many titles quoted and remembered;
    a wealth of prosodic structure understood.
    You have studied every poet from Petrarch
    to Poe to Plath and none of it
    has done you any good.

    You have never quite experienced exactly
    what the poet’s count and meter said you should,
    done that of which all these poems speak.
    Vicariously you lived, your chips untendered,
    your connection weak and for all intents
    and purposes almost dead and past your peak.

    For you have traded all your living, the edge and energy,
    the color of the life that set you on this path
    for the lives of all the others you have studied,
    dissected and dismembered, and never found
    that truth of which you seek, the epiphany
    you always thought you would that now,
    you finally realize, you never really could.

    .
    Copyright 2009 – Ponds and Lawns, Gary B. Fitzgerald

    .

  • On July 7, 2009 at 9:23 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Tere,

    “Mr. Brady says something like if you want Jeffers you can have him. I say okay. I take him. The blood in his verse speaks to mine. The scraped knuckles in his verse speaks to mine. The wrenched back in his verse speaks to mine. The stare into a universe indifferent to the human experience speaks to my sense of the exact same indifference. But maybe you have to be something less than towny to get the starkness of Jeffers’ beauty.”

    Nicely put. I don’t share your sentiments, but I recognize sincerity and passion when I see it. I know why Jeffers appeals. He just doesn’t appeal to me.

    As to your complaint that I’m taking the thread away from others and from Jeffers, I should point out that I made a very simple and very brief remark re: Jarrell on Jeffers on the afternoon of the second day of the thread. Gary had mentioned Woody Guthrie and no one chose to pick up on that thought. Disenchanted made an interesting comment, not about Jeffers, but about the 4th of July holiday itself, and the evening of the second day, Joel responded to D. with a remark about Socrates, not about Jeffers, and he also responded to Margo, agreeing with her that he, too, was having trouble getting a handle on Jeffers, and didn’t know much about him.

    In the meantime, within hours of my post, three people responded to me, thusly:

    “Hey, wasn’t Jarrell one of those New Critics you don’t care for?” Don

    “Thomas likes Jarrell. And as ever, he seeks an excuse to dismiss out of hand, as “a load of crap,” what isn’t Poe… or Burns…” John

    “Jarrell early on was an associate of John Crowe Ransom and Robert Lowell. This would have been at Kenyon College where they all met.” Terreson

    Until the evening of the second day, I had contributed one sentence to the thread, my afternoon comment that Jarrell thought Jeffers was crap–which is true.

    It was OTHERS who deliberately brought up New Critics, Poe, and John Crowe Ransom, on this thread, knowing they were addressing me, Thomas Brady.

    Either we have some genuine interest in my ‘idee fixe’ in other quarters, or, we have some folks who are gluttons for punishment.

    Which do you think it is?

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining at all that you, Don, and John conversed with me. I’m not ungrateful in the least.

    I guess I’m just wondering how you think I am somehow responsible for taking the thread away from Jeffers, and those who wish to comment on Jeffers. I don’t think it’s fair to say that.

    Thomas

  • On July 7, 2009 at 9:52 pm Christopher Woodman wrote:

    In reply to you, Margo–and hopefully helpful in general:

    1.)“Madness is to think of too many things in succession too fast, or of one thing too exclusively”
    -–Voltaire

    Yes indeed, but also a characteristic of genius, and certainly of Robinson Jeffers. The idiot savant is so close to a Richard Feynman in manic multiplicity and silly obsession, to a Bobby Fisher, Roger Federer or Britney Spears. “Monoagenda” also means a Francis Crick, because the double helix was only solved because it became such a ridiculous obsession for him, like his interest in pornography, bug-eyed. And purity of heart, KIerkegaard tells us, is simply to will just that one little thing. Like Kafka. Like Christopher Smart.

    2.) “Prejudices are what fools use for reason.”
    –-Voltaire

    The Tribunal of the Supreme Inquisition found Galileo guilty on precisely that charge, and of course he was too, as guilty as sin. The great man knew that as well, of course he did–indeed, his supreme act of genius was to realize that the Church was just as right as he was. Neither his faith nor his science ever waivered.

    We’d call that foolish today, but it’s not, at least it’s not for poets like Robinson Jeffers!

    3.) “That is God’s will: to make great things and destroy them, and make great things and destroy them again.”
    –Jeffers

    This one is addressed to Thomas Brady, Margo.

    The fact that you aren’t interested in that statement, Tom, is your major strength—but it’s also your major weakness. I think you’d be the first to admit how deeply is flawed your genius, either by nature or intention. Agent provocateur of Letters—as I’ve known for a long time, you couldn’t care less if you’re right or wrong either, but you know the discourse matters.

    Do you think Socrates really cared?

    Christopher

  • On July 7, 2009 at 10:35 pm Christopher Woodman wrote:

    That’s a good one, Gary, that’s right spot on.

    That really keeps the spot sore!

    I like in particular the first stanza. I like the diction a lot, I like the way you transform non-poetic phrases like “references compiled,” “titles quoted,” and “poetic references” into mature, resonate poetry. Ironically, my only reservation is that the stanza might move even better if you deleted the phrase “to Poe,” both for the rhythm and the sense. Indeed, a point is always better taken if the nail you’re hammering remains firmly out of sight.

    I’m also surprised you assume later in the poem that Thomas Brady is old. I thought that too in the beginning—indeed after something he said I had the picture of him as an old man in a wheelchair!

    I have no idea who Thomas Brady is or what he does, but I now think he’s very young for a critic with such an armory and, yes, such a big mouth. So I don’t think you’re right at all to suggest he lives “vicariously” or that he’s “passed [his] peak,” what’s more that he “never found that truth of which you speak, the epiphany.” I read him as a young man in disguise, probably not even in an academic position, who is just starting out and is willing to wait. I think that this is a man who knows that in the end he will emerge whole and radiant from his anonymous cocoon not as a critic but as a poet. What I see as remarkable about Thomas Brady is that he’s so patient!

    I mean, look what he says on this thread, and then compare his tone with that of his detractors. Thank God it’s more Thomas Brady who defines the tenor of this discussion than the wasps, otherwise Harriet would sound just like the others!

    So it’s a very good poem indeed, Gary, witty, profound, and very positive. Indeed, the biggest compliment I can give it is to say it doesn’t need to rub shoulders with Thomas Brady either. It’s a success all on it’s own!

    Christopher

  • On July 7, 2009 at 10:48 pm Christopher Woodman wrote:

    Michael.
    You’re too bright and well-informed to go just for snark. Indeed, why don’t you take the time to explain not only why you regard Nick’s post as a “sane assessment,” but show in coherent prose why my remarks are a “topsy-turvy take on it?” Why don’t you give us some sense of confidence in yourself right here as a critic whose judgements we trust? Why don’t you establish your credentials by saying it?

  • On July 7, 2009 at 10:58 pm Christopher Woodman wrote:

    Michael,
    So I challenge you now. In the post you dismissed just above as a “topsy-turvy take” I wrote:

    “On a more flippant note, Robinson Jeffers was truly a phenomenon, as was the Marquis de Sade and William Burroughs. A little tussle over the value of any of those great shits is surely in order.”

    Was I somehow misdirecting the thread with this observation, or is it just that you think I was twisting things to suggest that this remark is “on a more flippant note?”

    I’m standing right here in front of you, as I am in all my posts. Snark isn’t my measure–try another approach.

    And feel free to take your time and the space that you need–I’d much rather read you than not!

    Christopher

  • On July 7, 2009 at 11:49 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    Tom and his suck-up Woodman — most probably an alias of “Tom,” which is an alias to begin with — have sucked the oxygen out of the room. Too bad. This could have been a nice little world.

  • On July 8, 2009 at 1:01 am Margo Berdeshevsky wrote:

    Terreson, I truly don’t know Jeffers work as well as you have studied; but I am haunted by it, sometimes. Have kept notes of lines of his that are important to me, over time. ”The heartbreaking beauty will remain when there is no heart to break for it” remains an ongoing meditation. “That is God’s will: to make great things and destroy them, /and make great things/ And destroy them again,” leads me to those angry, patriarchal deities some worship–who are invoked to defend wars. In that, I do appreciate Jeffers grim pacificism. (funny, Joel, your word “grim” keeps reiterating. I find none better for these inquiries.

    And Terreson, what I do know, and have been reading since this thread began, I find moving; sometimes, again, haunting.(I’m equally uninterested in the ballyhoo &/or defenses of Brady & co. Let it go. It’s wasteful.)

    When Joel made an elliptical tie & reference to a distant Sovereignty day, and a present Independence day, in his original post – I tried to pursue that thought, and came to my questions about the impossibility to shine with others’ blood. I was thinking about what America has shed blood for, its own and others’, and what is currently such a painful exercise in sovereignty, elsewhere.

    Your coining of “towny” vs. other readers of the stark images may or may not be “it,” but one way to see what moves us each. The herd can easily be swayed. Always. Much to wonder. Some of Jeffers is overwritten and shrouded, as I wondered earlier. But the wild sea is also shrouded in certain weathers.

    ainsi-soit-il.

    margo

  • On July 8, 2009 at 1:03 am Christopher Woodman wrote:

    Robinson Jeffers operates at high altitude, John—perhaps you are mistaking the lack of oxygen for a lack of ventilation.

    And this is a very high altitude discussion, and I’m very disappointed that you of all people can’t see that. With Michael Robbins, Gary B. Fitzgerald and Terreson there’s territory at stake, but I thought you were way beyond that, particularly after that wonderful little riff in which Pablo Neruda came out dressed in pink pyjamas (was it that?).

    Also your world just isn’t a “little room,” John Oliver Simon. I love the poems you post, magnificent translations of poetry from a world of passion and magic inaccessible to me. Indeed, I always feel very annoyed when Thomas Brady does a send up of one of them, but then whatever you think I’m not my brother’s keeper (honestly, I haven’t a clue who he is!).

    And your children—how they sing, John. How they raise the spirit!

    So why can’t you see what I’m saying in my previous post? Why is that a suck-up what’s more a suck-out? Explain that to me, John, because if it’s either I’m really in the dark.

    Also my “cow pat” metaphor. I worry now that you may not have got it, because it was so positive—and you seem so angry.

    Finally, what I said at the very end of the “cow pat” post. Is it possible you didn’t get that either?

    One is so lucky to grow up in one Faith, and be fulfilled within a single tradition. Nothing could bring greater happiness than that. Yet the unexamined life is not worth living, and nothing brings greater unhappiness than smashing the tribe and its idols.

    Christopher

  • On July 8, 2009 at 1:50 am Desmond Swords wrote:

    Yes, the exact same possibility that i am currently pondering as a possible Truth in Reality, Sir John.

    We all have an Imagination to play in, and my own sport for the last two years was cutting the critical teeth on the Guardian Books blog, and pretty much like Woodie and Tom, a one bone woof – my own chip-gripe-grievance, being the British class system, and slowly, slowly over the two years there, by a constant pratise of blather, picking up the tricks an online bore needs if we’re to create a critical shield when sporting with our colleagues on the love-bus and survive and succeed (on a purely personal level) in the free-for-all fray that is contemporary po-biz — i ended up here.

    I won’t put you to sleep with the full woe-is-moi routine, but whilst at the Guardian books blog, after a while, i began wondering if that venue was the pinnacle of my career. Ranting in a gaffe i got barred from 150 times for trying to out a poetic which instinct alone had led one to go on and on and on about.

    Now, i know you’re not my biggest fan Sir John (indeed, no fan at all) but the truth is, i do not care what any other living bore believes or states my capacity or talent to be, because the only player which would draw consensus in the po-biz at present (in the English language), holding both commercial and critical belts; is what Tipperary poet Noel Sweeney (who is one of the most compelling live reciters this side of the puddle) – calls, in a poem of his PN06: a simple gentle countryman. And He who needs not naming, a Derry sage, the Mossbawn magus and an Anahorish warbler whose textual intelligence is such, that the man is the centre of poetic gravity at any gathering his person deigns to grace with a presence, claims that we exist as poets first and foremost – “in (y)our own esteem” – which means Belief in oneself as Real first, and from this, all else follows.

    ~

    And believing in our own self first and foremost is crucial if we are in any way gonna exist with all the slings and arrows from combatitive colleagues on the love-bus and in the standing armies who are fighting to lay down their version of poetic reality – often at the direct expense of the other, as you are here, Sir John.

    We are all after presenting ourselves as being in possession of some magical aspect of po-biz that He who needs not naming controls as flawlessly as the grammatical torque in Pliny Junior’s missives – and for this to manifest, one needs a base-line premise, rules of engagement in the WaR of Write and Recite that po-biz is.

    And it never ceases to amaze me how others who go ga ga over dead poets who were up to all sorts of horrid things all those centuries ago as real people – people like Milton, like Raleigh, killer poets who praised the activity or engaged in the taking of other’s lives – can get so upset about a few harmless bores wafting their versions of Give Peace A Chance into the cyber-waves.

    The first act of someone who feels uncomfortable with the creativity of another, is to start moaning about their gift or desire to create, by claiming all sorts of silly things. About a community in peril from the unlicensed operators speaking their truth, missing the whole point, that if you wanna get some great esoteric chat on the go with some like-minded groovers – the only way to acieve this ideal state is to make it happen yourself, not by trying to stop others happily doing what you would like to be doing, but by writing summat others wanna be a part of – like Woodie and Tom.

    ~

    I am just in the middle of boning up on Woodie and Toms activities on the boards they were practising on before here, and am on page three of an 18 page epic at poets.org, a thread called On Aspiring Writers Becoming Successful Writers, which I was alerted to by poets.net on a thread called Poets.org v. Poets.net which states:

    There controversy raging over at Poets.org, about Prosody! Indeed, the ivy on the walls of the Academy of American Poets is quivering, and some say bits of plaster are beginning to flake from the ceilings and the doors won’t stay shut.

    Oh dear.

    The question is, are the Rules of Metrical Analysis as laid out by the Schoolmasters and Prefects at The Academy’s own Poets.org Forum going to be mandated as the sine qua non for Aspiring Writers to find Success in poetry today in America? Is that the Certificate every poet is going to need?

    Well, there are two camps engaged in the dispute, the AAP ‘Academicians’ on the one hand, strict, self-righteous and undistracted by humor, and a small group of unwashed ‘Irridescent Harlequins’ led by the critic, (Tom Brady) Tom West.

    The argument is about the role of Prosody today in the definition and evaluation of poetry. The AAP Academicians, whose livelihoods, needless to say, depend on teaching the stuff, want everybody to promise to agree that unless you know the AAP On-line Rules of Prosody, and apply them correctly, of course, any poem you write or critical pronouncement you make will be invalid–no “anacrusis” no line, no line no poetry, no poetry no poet, no poet no prize, no prize no job–as simple as that.

    So that’s who the AAP Magister Ludis are, who are the Iridescent Harlequins? They’re essentially critical carpet baggers, which is certainly how they appear on the site, and they feel like most tent-show magicians that every trick in the critical bag is valid as long as it works. More than that, and much more threatening to the Magister Ludis, needless to say, the Harlequins feel that obsessively clinging to just one tool at a time is boring, that it’s aesthetically extremely limited and wrong, and that it leads to cruelty, dictatorship, and bad poetry.

    Needless to say, the Iridescent Harlequins are a scarcely tolerated intervention on a Forum based specifically on tool-control, and in the past weeks two close friends have been quietly banned from the discussion on the grounds they were someone called Christopher Woodman, based on his style, not his IP.

    Got it, then? You’re the AAP, so you make the tools essential to poetry, for reading it as well as for writing it, and you make it clear you actually own those tools. You’ve got them and you’ve patented them, and the Laws of Po-Land decree that without them no one can get certified as an SP (Successful Poet). Like lawyers, a whole gaggle of AAP Para-Critics control access to the Laws of Poetry by making them so complicated and abstruse, and expressed in foreign languages too, of course, that you have to get down on your knees before those same Para-Critics if you want them to pay attention to you, or to assure your security inside and outside the site, or to intimidate other uninitiated poets as you gradually work your way over their heads and all the way on up to the top of the field.

    ~

    The bottom line is if Woodie and Tom are one and the same, far from seeing this as some rule-breaker, i would view it as a work of genius, someone who loves poetry so much they can string out the voices flawlessly. But do you know summat Sir John, i don’t wanna know, it would spoil the magic, because the bottom line is, Brady is beating the profs hands down, in imho.

  • On July 8, 2009 at 2:34 am Christopher Woodman wrote:

    You know, dear Desmond, there are times when you know you’re good after all, and that’s good for the heart. Thanks for resurrecting that–to tell you the truth I’d forgotten.

    The difference between me and you is that you’re full of hope, and your language is growing like a school boy on steroids. I’m on the way out, and my riches are better served by pruning, and lack of water.

    Here’s a parable from home. Everything is covered with orchids where I live, but they’re very plain, and it’s obviously a struggle for them to hold on. So I try to help them out. I bind them closer to the tunk with banana leaves, and I water them along with my best thoughts. But they still don’t flower, which is all they’re about. So I ask my Jesuit friend, why don’t my orchids respond? Why are they so unwilling to give me their treasure. And he says, “Let them suffer. They only flower when they’re just about dead.” So I stop my little chats and the water altogether, and boy do they suffer. But they flower!”

    Christopher

  • On July 8, 2009 at 3:50 am Desmond Swords wrote:

    Thanks very much Woodie.

    Finding your nuggets from last year, has co-incided with the beginning the reading of a book netted in last weeks trawl from the magic bookstall in Temple Bar: the letters of Younger Pliny – the 1963 translation by Betty Radice.

    He is the second Roman i have read who is here in the moment as a human being, real as the desk from which i type; like Horace, a 2000 year old living model of how to write. And though the cynics and haters hoping to clique into po-biz heaven by a wholly ficticious old bores network of bend and bow, i have to say, thank you for being such a wonderful example yourself. I don’t think i have seen one mistake in any text of yours i have read. The bottom line for any writer, and a lesson i am yet to master, too keen and eager to bluk up and show off, whislt you the Zen who aint messin, no bullshit, a one off.

    You are a seventy year old man, educated in the top institutions, probably the most senior poster here, and in the thick of the action. 40 years, over twice as long in the saddle of learning than some of the know-nothing buckaroos and jack ass slackers who’d try to ignore and take issue with the wisdom of a man whose genius they would fail to recognise, not because it isn’t here on glorious show, but because it so clearly is.

    “Fame should be the result, not the purpose of our conduct, and if for some reason it fails to follow, there is no less merit in cases where it is deserved”

    “Honesty offends those its thwarts for a time, but after a time, these are the people from whiom it wins respect.”

    “It is surely perverse and ungenrous to refuse recognistion to one so deserving because we have the good fortune to enjoy his company and conversation, and can demonstrate our affection for the man as well as his work”

    “Since we are denied a long life, let us at least leave something to bear witness we have lived. I know you need no incentive, but my affection prompts me to spur on a willing horse, as you do for me in return. “Rivalry is good” when freinds stimulate each other by m,utual encouragement and desire for eternal fame.”

    In the Amergin, Cauldron of Poesy text Woodie, which is a 7C laying out of general principles on the question: What is Poetry? using a metaphor of three revolving cauldrons to explain how we human beings come to bespeak of vatic utterance – the sage states that not everyone is capable of reaching the highest ollamh (poetry professor) grade, where “great streams” of wisdom flow forth, because in order for this to happen an appropriate cauldron of experience… must be turned by sorrow or joy.

    It is saying that people who live an uneventful 9-5, whose doings in life occur within a narrow band in the experiential spectrum, in which the emotional/intellectual distances travelled between the highs and lows are not that great — their mind having not been formed by the life of those who have gone from (say), being a bum to a billionaire and back – then the corporate AAP SP’s, will be incapable of reaching that plane of knowing from which the highest streams of wisdom gush and which my own critical radar blips when you are about.

    The language has got better, as a direct result of your influence, just reading you (and Brady) has allowed me to look, learn and implement a more goo goo, flippy dippy innit soh yah moi kinda carry on, mate.

    True learning, the point of poetry, to have a gas laugh and great gag with people we respect as we seek ourselves in letters. Speak of Segais Well, the home within we all have as our goal to reach and which no amount of cash, clique or manufactured kudos by the claques clapping a la Jorie Graham, will turn that key to open doors behind which Eloquence throbs waiting for a winner. The only winner and reality in po-bioz is the individual we, our Imagination me arl master.

    On the Guardian books blog there is a poster called anytimefrances, (atf) who is hated by those without the eloquence s/he has, and who rises like an athlete to the big occassion when the pressures on in the flame-fests, mostly long over now as s/he proved who had what with skill abd grace and still s/he is the only one whose gender is neutral and unknown and irrelevant to all because, s/he just is, and from atf i learnt by theft, some fundamental lessons, the lower case i for maximising Emphasis on words one wants to make a point with. essentially freed me from the fetters of Class by subverting it to suit one dear boy..and i remember thinking, one atf is worth a million duffers who would put us off so they can gas about the latest Idol who’ll be long forgotten once the switch turns off.

    keep it coming champ.

    cheers

    I am only on page six at the moment, and

  • On July 8, 2009 at 4:02 am Christopher Woodman wrote:

    From various comments way down on this thread I suspect some of you may have read that as an insult, when on the contrary it’s a cry of exaltation and accomplishment.

    When cows poop in the meadow it covers an area about 1 foot in diameter, and at first the heat of the dung kills the grass. But then as the manure decomposes it gradually fertilizes the ground beneath it so the grass begins to grow again, strongly. But the cows won’t touch that green green spot which now measures more like two feet for about 6 months–a primitive instinct that safwguards their health.

    So the pasture has these mounds of lush grass for about six months—and then the cows do eat it, and the grass is level again.

    That’s the metaphor.

    It’s formidable stuff, Robinson Jeffers, and may for a long time be indigestible. But the time does come eventually when you can deal with it, and then it’s not only even more nourishing but more delicious.

    Christopher

  • On July 8, 2009 at 4:11 am Christopher Woodman wrote:

    Did you read what I just wrote, Krista? Did you give yourself a chance to grasp the ironies in it? This is hardly the response of a sycophant.

    I’m always tough on Thomas Brady, and I’m very tough on him here.

    I’m also tough on the life that’s worth living, which I suspect you aren’t.

    This thread is about Robinson Jeffers. Do you want me to be nice about that? Do you want no grief?

  • On July 8, 2009 at 4:56 am michael j wrote:

    There’s this wonderful poem up at jubliat by Shane Brooks (http://www.jubilat.org/n16/book.html) which questions the very thing I question right now…

    All this “particular way of speaking”, all this “one way this, one way that” nonsense…

    Do you get your point across better? Does it change much? If I say the same, in a different way, one which somehow leads others to believe I am unintelligent, or rather, less ‘well spoken’ or eloquent, does this change what I am in fact saying?

    The definition? I guess it comes down to if someone is really listening to not only the words, but the combined definitions.

    To be honest, my eyes glaze over constantly while reading most comments on these blogs. Not for a lack of understanding, as I understand complexities quite well, but mostly for their delivery. Or perhaps, assumed pomposity. I say assumed because maybe there is no pompousness, and I am projecting. But also, I write assumed because it is likely this is not naturally how one, it became assumed (by osmosis maybe?) and then used because it is believed this is how one should approach a particular ‘thing’.

    Shane Brooks’ Flagelliform 65 is onto something. The words, the meaning being conveyed is ocean deep, into the fissures at the sea-floor deep, even if the syntax and grammar isn’t proper. Genius (and I am not attaching that claim to anyone) usually begins by rejecting notions, and then slowly either accepting them, tolerating them with an air of slight annoyance.

    But whatever. Who am I?

  • On July 8, 2009 at 6:39 am thomas brady wrote:

    Last night the nightingales were singing.
    It was not a dream!
    The mermaids were singing each to each;
    I think that they will sing to me…

  • On July 8, 2009 at 8:41 am Krista wrote:

    Will you please be quiet, please?

  • On July 8, 2009 at 9:00 am Travis Nichols wrote:

    Hey Nick,

    I definitely hear you, but I don’t think there’s a formal solution to the problem you’re presenting. We have a couple different formatting changes in the works that I think will help people skip past commentary they have a stated distaste for, but beyond that the only way the discussion becomes valuable for people is if they participate in it.

    It’s a big responsibility in a lot of ways, and I completely understand using your time for other things, but I, for one, would greatly appreciate you hanging around and offering up your two cents from time to time. It can get a bit cult-like in here (let’s go ahead and talk about it like a room; it feels that way sometimes, like when you’re in a room just trying to read or write down a thought or enjoy a meal and some guy at the next table is going on and on and ON (sheesh!) about his medical experiences or his politics or how he totally almost scored on his last date, and it’s all you can do to not start yelling or making some kind of gag out of napkins and notepads and endpapers or just thinking the world is a terrible no good very bad place full of asshats and douchebags (as they say) . . . but, you know, really it’s not like that. All the time. Is it? Maybe it is. But it doesn’t have to be.), and simple one or two sentence sober thoughts can cut through the funk very nicely. As you have done upthread, I think.

    So a plea for you–and for others reading and thinking of chiming in but holding back for fear of the cow patty hammer or whatever: don’t leave. Your presence will help make things better. Promise. Maybe we can come up with a rewards system. Free candy for pithy on-point commentary!

    -Travis

    PS: Clearly, no candy for me this round.

  • On July 8, 2009 at 10:24 am John Oliver Simon wrote:

    Shut up, he explained.

  • On July 8, 2009 at 11:20 am Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Christopher, I’m sorry. The poem was not written for Tom Brady. I wrote it about two years ago. As Thomas earlier noted, though, my “M.O.” is to communicate with my poems and this one certainly felt topical here.

  • On July 8, 2009 at 11:38 am thomas brady wrote:

    In the most devastating passage ever written against the merely emotional reaction to poetry, T.S. Eliot, in ‘The Perfect Critc,’ wrote:

    “There are, for instance, many scattered lines and tercets in the Divine Comedy which are capable of transporting even a quite uninitiated reader, just sufficiently acquainted with the roots of the language to decipher the meaning, to an impression of overpowering beauty. This impression may be so deep that no subsequent study and understanding will intensify it. But at this point the impression is emotional; the reader in the ignorance which we postulate is unable to distinguish the poetry from an emotional state aroused in himself by the poetry, a state which may be merely an indulgence of his own emotions. The poetry may be an accidental stimulus. The end of the enjoyment of poetry is a pure contemplation from which all the accidents of personal emotion are removed; thus we aim to see the object as it really is and find a meaning for the words of Arnold. And without a labour which is largely a labour of the intelligence, we are unable to attain that stage of vision amor intellectualis Dei.”

    I’m honestly not sure whether Eliot’s formula scolds Terreson’s emotional embrace of Jeffers, or, is instead, a rebuke to my emotional rejection of Jeffers, or is a rejection of both of our views.

    My opinion is that Eliot, the Darth Vadar of New Criticism, rebukes Terreson, since I am able to discern that Jeffers is not a good poet, feel that Jeffers merely appeals to Terreson’s pre-existing love of crags and all which they symbolize. I feel that Tere is like Eliot’s example of the reader who is not reacting in a disinterested way to the divine harmony of the poetry, but only to his own feelings–accidentally stimulated by crude ideas lying about in the crude surfaces of Jeffers’ poetry.

    What if I am mistaken, however? What if Terreson is reacting to a Misanthropic Sublime–for doesn’t THE SUBLIME contain inherent misanthropy, the kind we see in ‘Nature-dwarfing-pitiful-Man?’ in a completely disinterested manner, and, in the shadow of the rocky landscape, free of that EMOTION which Eliot feels hinders the true appreciation of true poetry?

    My reaction, however, is also tempered by the fact that I have little faith in T.S. Eliot, the Darth Vadar of New Criticism; I feel there’s something amiss in Eliot, who rejected poets like Shelley and Bryon and Poe (even as Tom stole aspects of nascent new criticism from Edgar, seen in the ‘Poetic Principle’ and elsewhere).

    I can’t get past Jeffers’ misanthropy. The flat style, combined with the agenda of miserably misanthropic bombast, is abhorrent to all that I love (excuse my bombast).

    “The heartbreaking beauty will remain when there is no heart to break for it” = M.I.S.A.N.T.H.R.O.P.Y.

    In fact, I’m not sure that Jeffers is not, in fact, highly reactionary, like Eliot, and the two share a misanthropy which I highly mistrust. Eliot’s hatred of emotion, his hatred of Shelley and the Romantics, Jeffers’ love of stones and rocks…is it somehow related? Who represents the people? Shelley! Who represents the tyrant? Eliot! Who represents Empire? Eliot! Who represents revolt against the Empire? Shelley! Who represents Love? Shelley! Who represents Priesthood? Eliot!

    Now, I use the Force. (I google) I type, with a strange foreboding, ‘TS Eliot and Robinson Jeffers.’

    And then the horrible truth flashes upon my soul!!

    “Jeffers’s breakthrough collection was TAMAR AND OTHER POEMS, which appeared in 1924. It was praised by T.S. Eliot and established his reputation.”

  • On July 8, 2009 at 11:43 am John Oliver Simon wrote:

    Gary, I believe “Christopher” does not exist. He is an alias of “Thomas Brady” — who also does not exist.

  • On July 8, 2009 at 11:55 am thomas brady wrote:

    How sweet to have no existence!

    Poor John Oliver Simon, crying from the letters of his name…

  • On July 8, 2009 at 11:58 am Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Actually, I think the reason Christopher was kicked off of the AAP site Poets.org was due to excessive use of aliases. Go figure.

  • On July 8, 2009 at 12:02 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    “I am only on page six at the moment, and”

    Posted By: Desmond Swords on July 8, 2009 at 3:50 am

    You mean page six of your post here, right?

  • On July 8, 2009 at 6:59 pm Christopher Woodman wrote:

    Perhaps I thought you’d written it for Thomas Brady because of the sense that the phrase “to Poe” was superfluous—which I still think it is.

    Good poem, though.

  • On July 8, 2009 at 7:13 pm Terreson wrote:

    Margo says: “And Terreson, what I do know, and have been reading since this thread began, I find moving; sometimes, again, haunting.(I’m equally uninterested in the ballyhoo &/or defenses of Brady & co. Let it go. It’s wasteful.)”

    You are the second person in less than 24 hours to advise the same: let it go. It is done.

    So what is your take? What is everyone else’s take? I’ve been living with Jeffers’ poetry in my home for a couple of decades. Maybe I don’t see him as clearly as I should. Calling him misanthropic, as someone upthread has, strikes me as silly as calling prophets, seeresses, shamans, and priestesses misanthropic when they point out certain dangers towny folk entertain. The Cassandra case comes to mind.

    Speaking prosodically, Jeffers choices were deliberate and calculated. This is a poet who was versed in Greek and Hebrew when a teenager. He chose both free verse and blank verse as his mediums. And I can’t help but think he got the impact of the Old Testament, viewed as literary medium. He understood the value of free verse and, for that matter, prose poetry, both of which I figure he got from the Bible’s Old Testament.

    What do you think? What does everyone else here think?

    Terreson

  • On July 8, 2009 at 7:23 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    As a Californian, I feel Jeffers in the bone. He saw deeply into the flaws of the civilization and said it in verses that ring. He probably wasn’t very ingratiating. Some aspects of his politics weren’t all that correct. We don’t hold that against Neruda. “You and I, Cassandra.”

  • On July 8, 2009 at 7:55 pm Christopher Woodman wrote:

    Thomas Brady just wrote:
    “What if I am mistaken, however? What if Terreson is reacting to a Misanthropic Sublime–for doesn’t THE SUBLIME contain inherent misanthropy, the kind we see in ‘Nature-dwarfing-pitiful-Man?’ in a completely disinterested manner, and, in the shadow of the rocky landscape, free of that EMOTION which Eliot feels hinders the true appreciation of true poetry?”

    Isn’t the sublime always misanthropic, doesn’t that dimension always hurt? We human beings are strung up on the cross, after all, with our hands nailed to the horizontal, the way we look out toward the horizon, dominate our boundaries by extension, and do our work on the flat of the ground. The vertical has no extension in our domain, just shoots down through the fontanelle in one sharp stroke from the heavens and with a single nail pins our feet to the sublime. What an irony to hang like that on the interesection of the cross!

    I love Eliot, I love that passage Thomas just quoted above relegating the emotions to the ignorant and the earth bound. But one of the reasons I love him is that in everything he writes you can feel that terrible hedonophobia that stalks everyone who has a passion for the sublime. I understand T.E.Lawrence so well too, for example, how he felt after Dara, why there was not a single pleasure at Cloud’s Hill but the talk, no beds even, and why he did have himself beaten so severely and locked himself out in the cold.

    Christopher

  • On July 8, 2009 at 8:03 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    “Perhaps I thought you’d written it for Thomas Brady because of the sense that the phrase “to Poe” was superfluous—which I still think it is.
    Good poem, though.”
    POSTED BY: CHRISTOPHER WOODMAN ON JULY 8, 2009 AT 6:59 PM

    Christopher:

    If you could just find it in your heart to refrain from commenting on my poems here, pro or con, we could be friends. As you pointed out to Nick earlier, this is not a critique forum. I choose my poems for the moment in the spirit of the exchange. They are all published and I don’t intend to revise them at this time anyway. Just like them or hate them for what they are and spare me your opinions. Besides, it’s the responsibility of the initial poster to determine if a post is appropriate or not. Thanks. Peace.

    Gary

    P.S. The “Poe” is not superfluous in either meaning or meter. Please, you write your poems and I’ll write mine. I’m not exactly what you’d call a ‘famous’ poet, but most people do enjoy my little constructions. Please stop raining on my parade.

  • On July 8, 2009 at 8:15 pm Christopher Woodman wrote:

    I was just acknowledging what you just told me, that your poem was written two years ago.

    I won’t critique you again, Gary, I promise. I just liked that poem so much I wanted to tell you.

  • On July 8, 2009 at 8:42 pm Christopher Woodman wrote:

    The irony of you all rolling out your guns to defend a small room is that America is a wilderness still, and your praise for Robinson Jeffers would suggest you still have a taste for discomfort, and are willing to wear your hairshirts too.

    I said it this way: “One is so lucky to grow up in one Faith, and be fulfilled within a single tradition. Nothing could bring greater happiness than that. Yet the unexamined life is not worth living, and nothing brings greater unhappiness than smashing the tribe and its idols.”

    Which he did.

    One Faith is a small room too, and providing you let no air in you can breathe in your own comfort zone. But the cold icy blast from the uninhabited mountains will blow your comfort away. People will say things you don’t want to hear, for example, perhaps even at a length you find unacceptable. God forbid, cow pats and hammers may suddenly become relevant, and the discourse of the cross resumed.

    You can’t have it both ways, my friends. It’s Billy Collins or Robinson Jeffers.

    Christopher

  • On July 9, 2009 at 12:50 am Margo Berdeshevsky wrote:

    My take? If it works, use it. When the emotional thrust is as string as Jeffers’, and it is forwarded by sharp and resonating language, I heed his Cassandra. I lsten to the seas and the winds, and remember that human is puny. That’s no misanthropy to me. That is a part of the poetry.

    Since the ancient Greeks, strong emotion has worked artistically. Brief story, as told by my old actors’ teacher, Lee Strasberg: An actor in an ancient Greek tragedy, a recent widower, bore his own wife’s ashes onstage in an urn, to render his performance true, and so to help in the play’s catharsis, for his audience. Another story: The actress Eleonora Duse is known to have wept into a dish ion her dressing room, before going onstage–so that she would not bathe the stage in tears, and rob the audience of its experience. Both of the above small tales have been, and are, touchstones of art, all art, for me.

    Jeffers may be nearer a grotesque Lear than a wise Solomon. Or maybe just his own cragged heart is sufficient in the foul winds. (As I said, Terreson, I make no pretense to being his scholar; yet lines I’ve already quoted in this thread, and many of the poems–now remain. Cassandra? Many refused to listen. I’m one who would; and though I found the poem that Joel initially quoted, flawed, obtuse, much more in the oeuvre haunts me. I’ve used that word already, also, but am not shy to repeat it. To me, haunting is rather a positive. Biblical? There’s so much in the old testament that I dispute, yet the language urges me. The images. Comfort? I personally don’t ask that from poetry. “Le Misanthrope,” I’ll leave to Molière. For the sublime, I have the whole vast landscape, on earth or not, and prophets and Cassandras, Lears, and shelves and shelves of poets, even the foul rag and bone shop, and yes, even a dose of Jeffers.

    margo

  • On July 9, 2009 at 12:51 am Margo Berdeshevsky wrote:

    self correction: When the emotional thrust is as “strong” as Jeffers’,

    m

  • On July 9, 2009 at 12:59 am Christopher Woodman wrote:

    Have you ever tried to live with one? Does that matter?

    I worked a bit with Stella Adler and Michael Howard, so I know what you’re talking about. Artaud, Grotowski. Ouspensky, Gurdjieff, Alexander Crowley. Lacan in full song, or voiceless. Or John Cage.

    But never say it’s easy, and never say it isn’t a terrible mess or terribly destructive.

    A crucifixion.

    Christopher

  • On July 9, 2009 at 1:45 am Margo Berdeshevsky wrote:

    yes, messy. No, that does not matter.

  • On July 9, 2009 at 1:56 am Christopher Woodman wrote:

    So why does it matter here?

  • On July 9, 2009 at 3:09 am Margo Berdeshevsky wrote:

    Messy does not matter. Poetry? There’s matter in’t.

  • On July 9, 2009 at 3:44 am Christopher Woodman wrote:

    I’m sorry, Margo. I’m a bit out of my depth. What’s happened? What are we talking about? I worked quite hard on my previous post, the one in which I tried to say why I loved the Eliot passage from ‘The Perfect Critic,’ and why it made me think of T.E.Lawrence–who is a hero of mine. Yes, I used some uncomfortable images, but we’re talking about Robinson Jeffers here, we’re talking about keeping the spot sore!

    I’ve reviewed the whole thread and see no point at which I was impolite, used improper language, was misleading or off target. My metaphors have been strong, indeed they have, but surely we can deal with that. And if we can’t, why bother?

    My hunch is that there’s a hidden rift, a crevasse in the Robinson Jeffers glacier we’re riding. On the one hand there’s Terreson who has a huge romantic fantasy about untrammeled nature, and for whom Robinson Jeffers is the torch bearer in a display of almost Nuremberg purity and fervor. Fair enough–there’s no doubt it’s there. At the other extreme there’s Thomas Brady who sees red at the slightest hint of extremism, of jackboots, or stainless steel behavior–a Nazi hunter if there ever was one, and we know who he’s got in his sights! And between them there’s you, Margo, who just likes Jeffers and is old enough to know better but also old enough to know that most everything hurts.

    So my question now is, is the spot just too sore for us? Is that it? Should we abandon the thread altogether?

    Christopher

  • On July 9, 2009 at 4:50 am Margo Berdeshevsky wrote:

    My earlier today response (the one with more than one line) was mostly to Terreson’s question, “what’s your take.” I hope I said what I wished to. I rather support the one post of substance daily, or less.

    (You have other issues, Christopher, but they are not what I was/am primarily following here, nor your rights or wrongs.Really.)

    As to the sore spot, no, I don’t believe I need to know better.We each have a hand in the fire.

    margo

  • On July 9, 2009 at 5:08 am Christopher Woodman wrote:

    I’m so sorry if I offended you there at the end, Margo. I have no idea how old you are, but having read quite a lot of you recently I hear the voice of experience. Sometimes we mean by that that we know enough not to get into difficult situations, i.e. to know better. What I meant is that there comes a stage beyond even that when know even more, and that is that whatever we do it just doesn’t matter.

  • On July 9, 2009 at 10:42 am thomas brady wrote:

    Don’t Say Anything About This Poem

    Don’t say anything about this poem.
    Look! this poem is published elsewhere
    In a finely bound book, happily selling
    And being purchased even as I copy
    This poem as a favor to you.

    Even now, as you open your mouth
    To say something about this poem,
    Someone more beautiful than you,
    Wearing a silk jacket featuring a landscape
    Middle eastern, is admiring my book

    And caressing its pages, the book ($9.99 plus tax)
    Which has my poem and many others, equally good.
    It is pointless to say anything about this poem
    For it lives somewhere else,
    Even as the words march into your eyes.

  • On July 9, 2009 at 10:53 am Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    No soup for YOU!

  • On July 9, 2009 at 8:11 pm Terreson wrote:

    John Oliver Simon says: “As a Californian, I feel Jeffers in the bone. He saw deeply into the flaws of the civilization and said it in verses that ring. He probably wasn’t very ingratiating. Some aspects of his politics weren’t all that correct. We don’t hold that against Neruda. ‘You and I, Cassandra.'”

    While not a Californian, I’ll presume enough to say I get what you mean. In Jeffers and Una’s day Big Sur was still a wilderness. After the social scandal their love affair caused further south in L.A. it was the wilderness of Big Sur that attracted them the most. (Maybe I should call it wilder.ness) I was in the Pacific Northwest, moving incrementally further into deep forest wilderness when I started taking serious account of Jeffers poetry, philosophy, and perceptions. What I finally realized is that, in such an environment, you tend to put human things into a different perspective. Gradually, but all of a sudden immediately and on one day, you fully get that, in the nature of things, the human experience is not at the center of the universe, barely on the outskirts of the Milky Way, maybe just an evolutionary footnote. Because I figure poetry readers are as environmentally biased in their perceptions as every other type of human being I don’t expect all poetry readers to get at what was at the core of Jeffers’ aesthetic: that an old growth forest, a night sky undiminished by local light pollution, the currents of the North Pacific, it all speaks to a God or a Goddess or a Way that cannot be humanly controlled, that, in fact, vectors humans.

    Margo Berdeshevsky says: “Since the ancient Greeks, strong emotion has worked artistically. Brief story, as told by my old actors’ teacher, Lee Strasberg: An actor in an ancient Greek tragedy, a recent widower, bore his own wife’s ashes onstage in an urn, to render his performance true, and so to help in the play’s catharsis, for his audience. Another story: The actress Eleonora Duse is known to have wept into a dish ion her dressing room, before going onstage–so that she would not bathe the stage in tears, and rob the audience of its experience. Both of the above small tales have been, and are, touchstones of art, all art, for me.”

    Man, this so resonates for me. And I guess I’ve never understood any other approach to poetry, at least not in my bones and blood and flesh. But, then, a Classicist or neo-Classicist by any other name, in my view, needs to denature poetry. Without duende, I’m convinced, there is no poetry, no reason for it.

    One last note. Late in his career Jeffers was crtiticized for his continued interest in incest. His response? Incest is the perfect metaphor for human psychology. I figure he was right. How many adult type people actually relate to a friend, a lover, a wife, a husband, a child, without relating to the echo of mother, father, or sibling? Anyway, Jeffers took from his master, Sophocles, who wrote the best incest story and maybe the best tragedy ever written.

    Terreson

  • On July 9, 2009 at 10:09 pm Christopher Woodman wrote:

    feel to them, and I think Robinson Jeffers had that feeling too. When you reach truly thin air you want to make love only with those who can breathe up there with you, and who you feel have descended from the same sun.

    As Jung pointed out over and over again, the myths are always as dangerous as they are fertile, and human beings have to be really careful when they embrace them. He himself was always in danger of being drowned by them, as he recounts so poignatly in Memories, Dream and Reflections. Indeed, he only just managed to stay on this side of madness–read it and see.

    And ditto all the great acting teachers, Margo and Terreson. Ditto Lee Strasberg, ditto Antonin Artaud, ditto Grotowski. The dark stories are as legion as the bright ones, and a lot of damage has been done by lesser teachers who try to imitate them. I was an acting student in New York City and have witnessed first hand events equally as bizarre as Lee Strasberg’s wife’s ashes performed by profoundly disturbed young people who wanted to do good in class. And boy did they ever, naked with real blood on the floor, and real live chickens.

    The well-known Eleonora Duse story is almost certainly a legend, but most of what you hear about Sarah Bernhardt was probably true–she was called quite openly at the time a monstre sacré, and loved it. Ditto James Dean. Ditto Marlon Brando.

    Last Tango in Paris is a good start if you want to see it in person.

    Well written comment, Terreson, and very much to the point. Thanks. I just feel that there really are things that shouldn’t be talked about at all, and that when you break that taboo deep things just become silly. I said the same thing to Annie Finch a while ago, perhaps you remember, and I was deeply moved that she agreed.

    The problem with the blog model, and indeed with the American mouth, is that nothing remains sacred. I would have said the same thing to Robinson Jeffers if I’d had the chance: don’t talk so much, you just sowing the seeds of red herrings!

    Christopher

  • On July 9, 2009 at 10:18 pm Christopher Woodman wrote:

    Sorry. I lost the 1st two paragraphs of that. Here they are:

    The incest note is an interesting one because of course it’s there in all mythology, and some historical ruling classes have pratised it as a god-given obligation. It’s not incest by any means, but during the 1st World War almost all the royal combatants were descended from an extremely tight gene pool, perhaps one of the reasons the conflict was so bloody in every sense of the word.

    In some South East Asian countries royalty still assumes multiple wives, and you’d think this might help to clean up the chromosomes. Unfortunately for Thailand, for example, all the heirs were chosen from the few wives who themselves had royal blood, and as a consequence there are very few sons who live to maturity. I would even go so far as to posit that in a sense almost all truly risqué sexual tastes have a certain royal blush to them, and I think Robinson Jeffers had that feeling too. When you reach truly thin air you want to make love only with those who can breathe up there with you, and who you feel have descended from the same sun.

  • On July 9, 2009 at 11:29 pm Christopher Woodman wrote:

    In all the Method studios there’s an advanced exercise called a “private moment” which I’m sure Margo will know far more about than I do. The student asks the teacher some days beforehand for a slot to do one, and it’s usually performed right after the warm-up and sometimes even before. The idea is to set up the space as if one were entirely alone, so you may have already started ‘working’ before the class even arrives. And then it just continues on, and it may take a long time to clip all your toe nails or to come.

    I would say such moments too should be kept private. And that’s a serious observation, Margo and Tere, not just a sensational eye-opener. The Greeks catharted all sorts of personal stuff in their tragedies, but the actors didn’t hurt their eyes in the process, and indeed distanced themselves from it with masks. And of course every single person attended.

    To understand why that last statement is important is to be aware that not everyone by any means was admitted to the Eleusinian Mysteries, and indeed we don’t know to this day what happened within them. The practise was that well hidden.

    I admire Robinson Jeffers guts, I admire how far he could go, and I do like some of his poetry when I’m up to it. On the other hand, I feel certain he damaged himself as well as his reputation by doing far too many private moments!

    So did Timothy Leary and Alan Watts, also in California. Alan Ginsberg, bless his heart, didn’t, at least in my estimation. And the reason Alan didn’t, even naked on the mat with his cymbals, is that he always had such a wonderful sense of humor, and was so humble.

  • On July 10, 2009 at 2:35 am Desmond Swords wrote:

    I remember as a 25 year old on a year long drama course in the Midlands of England, attending the National Student Drama Festival in Scarborough, the opening workshop-masterclass-ceremony, conducted by English theatre director Glen Walford.

    It was called the Onion Workshop or something similar (definitley *onion* in the there), peeling and shedding layers of inhibition to get to one’s core-self kinda carry on. It was conducted in the ballroom of the Spa complex in Scarborough, which is a set of beautiful Victorian buildings, all connected, with theatre and whatnot, perched on a cliff, the panaroma of which from the ballroom, overlooking the North sea, is incredibly evocative. Indeed, it is only now as one writes, one has come to understand in a moment of profound realisation which comes with much contemplation on the uniqueness and unity of being – that it was Nature herself, that majestic view of reality beyond the curving sweep of glass, which caused what happened to unravel as it did.

    ~

    Walford was dressed in black leather trews and white flowy shirt that had some modest, yet individual design to it which marked her out as a person apart from the norm, someone arty. A tall women, like a show-biz Maude Gonne, all that was lacking was a horse-whip swishing to and fro about her thighs.

    After the welcome speech by one of the organisers, she was brought forward from where she had been standing in silence, like a travelling preacher of great eminence, whose spiritual fame had travelled far and wide within the religious community from whom we take our cue as artists.

    She instatly took command of the said Onion workshop, where the entire cohort of students and tutors pliantly entered into that special magic circle of pretend, imaginary space which we hear so much about, where there is an invisible fourth wall seperating one from the audience and which can be a rewarding, immensley emotional and even incredibly dangerous place pyschologically if our mental stability is in any way titlted beyond the boundary of the magic circle and into that ga ga zone where we strip naked and start defecating whilst singing Hallelujah or play Russian roulette with chainsaws and gimps kidnapped from the Desert Inn.

    ~

    What followed was a mass extemporised acting session, where Walford’s instructions and our reaction became the business of Show itself.

    We began by having to pretend we were an animal and in our mind had to be very very clear what it was. I was a panther, i think, or at least, a cat of some description, walking round the space, and all trying as hard as we could, to BELIEVE we were whatever it was we imagined ourselves to be.

    As we were circling and moving and working int he space, we were told to change form into a bird, and i will never forget, feeling awkward at first, but then seguing into a sparrow and flapping my wings – or rather, by this point, internalising the form of a bird and thereby truly believing as a sincere actoar following the instructions to the best of my ability and not cheating, that i was indeed a winged entity.

    Though on the face of it, I was not as obviously flying as the majority of my fellow few-hundred, all in various states of flap. Some clearly birds more than others, emoting loud approximations of avian noise and flailing their arms in wild swing.

    Walford then told us to stop dead still, randomly fix our attention on another drama queen and on her cue of *go*, walk immediately over to whoever we had in our sights and ask a question, which had to be sincere, no pretending, but from the secret and sincere part of our very innermost being.

    I was nervous because it was all so unique and supremely theatrical: for, were we not in a masterclass with a mistress of fantasy whose alchemic powers had created some of the most riveting moments in the history of contemprary stage-craft?

    And here was liddle ole moi, a younger but older actoary chap of 25, with self-esteem and class issues, feeling far, far advanced in years than my student colleagues from all over the island of Britain and beyond, who had gathered into this very space in order to dare to dream for that faery dust to sprinkle abroad our most hidden unspoken hope – for our genius to be spotted by talent checkers on the sniff for the next new batch of luvvies to fly tha flag for Idol US.

    I knew when Walford gave the verbal cue to take it to the next level, the ghosts of Thespis of hambone would reveal then to us if gods above had favoured us with *it* or not.

    Panicking but holding fast, on her command of *go*, i moved across the vast ad-hoc stage and approaching the pefermance artist one’s head had singled out, asked what time it was, and began feeling as some mist of possession in mid-dissolve, a druidic fog evaporating instantly as a calm peace came o’er mine ear like the sweet sound of music that breathes upon a tank of violents, stealing and pissing odour on the spirit of a now dead Aristophanes, now live Aristotle, then Aeschylus and Dionysia – before Euripides, Phrynichus and Sophocles seemed to enter into my concenteration on the field of play from which the dramaturg commanded her three hundred fawns, all afloat now in a higher realm of detachment from total reality, i thought, as i withdrew from the scene a success who had followed her instructions to the letter, mentally pure and free from any sin of non-compliance with the amazonian presence in leather, the dying rays of a spring sun part too of that show in which a whole room went beyond into group hypnosis.

    ~

    I had seen behind her mask, a technician pulling strings, the cod behind what heirophantic hoo ha, performance mumbo jumbo had got them crazees throwing caution to the wind and truly letting go. Our middle aged drama tutor accompanying us on the trip, a staid and academic presence in class, had fully released and was getting a secene on the go with another tutor who she didn’t know, the heady mix and exotic location of E Yorkshire, effecting them to become their wildest selves, Jill abandoning herself to the moment with gusto and singing opera *I do lurve, oh yes i do love you too* she was roaring to the balding short drama chap herding his own class, and Walford zooming in and out at will, focusing the attention of the performance telescope onto whatever piece of action caught her eye and basically, like flashing underwear, going mahd ye whoar flwoar mwaw yoo hooooo arghhh stuff.

    ~

    But i had set apart, acting but at some point becoming the only spectator of the bunch, of the whole three hundred, and knowing that this is how Hollywood sex-parties start, one charismatic nutter and the whole world’s your oyster.

    Walford and i, we knew and conspired without a look exhanged, to behave as though the act was a truly visionary gig, and it was then i think i knew, that space craft is an art few ascend to master on the Whitehouse lawn with just an empty box, an chara.

  • On July 10, 2009 at 3:30 am Christopher Woodman wrote:

    Watch this for a red flag that draws the hat right out of the rabbit.

    Dear Desmond,
    I loved that, and it added all sorts of dimensions to what I was trying to say about the ‘Method.’ I was working into that topic because Margo brought up Lee Strasberg’s famous story about some actor’s wife’s ashes to stand for the intensity and risk she feels in Robinson Jeffers, and Terreson comfirmed the legend’s importance by building his last post around it. My own feeling is that it’s a dangerous precedent, and far from making me believe in Jeffers it makes me doubt his tact if not intentions. My argument is that if the experiences were real he would surely have known they were ‘esoteric’ as well, and have kept them naturally private. When they’re left to hang out as he does they become ridiculous, and lose all their power.

    In a nutshell.

    What you did is perform my whole score in an opera of some magnificence, and I loved every note of it. But the problem is that it’s outside the discourse of any thread on Harriet, and can too easily be dismissed as irrelevant. Well, it is irrelevant, wonderful but irrelevant, and if only you could, using a nautical metaphor, a.) reef it and b.) hold it on course you’d win the America’s Cup

    hands down!

    Christopher

  • On July 10, 2009 at 3:36 am Christopher Woodman wrote:

    “Hat right out of the rabbit” is, of course, Cockney rhyming slang for “bat-shit right out of the Harriet.”

  • On July 10, 2009 at 4:06 am Margo Berdeshevsky wrote:

    All artistic trainings & techniques can be good or absurd. Used or abused.And seekers may be either wise or fools. Would-be thespians become/became many things. I think one of the adages pertains, but I need not finish the sentence: those who can–do. Those who can’t–.

    A few corrections: The Eleonora Duse story I mentioned is not legend but an event as described in “The Life of Eleonora Duse” bt E.A. Rheinhardt, (London, Martin Secker/(c)1924&1930.)It was one example of her more humble approach to her art. Bernhardt was an out-sized ego, and sacrred mnster may have been a kind appellation though her performances were great occasions.

    Grotowski and Artaud do not really belong in the same frames.One explored trainings based group dynamics and physical capacities for a new kind of performance in contemporary theatre. One survived the cruelties of his lifelong “treatments’ to write and explore cruelty, a decadent civilization, and so much else.A shaman manquee, one might say.

    Also, Christopher; my mention was that Lee Strasberg told of An actor in an ancient Greek tragedy, a recent widower,who bore his own wife’s ashes onstage in an urn, to render his performance true, and so to help in the play’s catharsis, for his audience. I made no mention of “Lee Strasberg’s wife’s ashes performed by profoundly disturbed young people who wanted to do good in class.” That’s yours, if you wish to have it.

    Back to Jeffers. Yes, Terreson, the terrain he mined, be it the wilderness under the skies or the wilderness under a human’s skin led to some riveting poetry. In lesser hands, it could be made absurd. In his, we have many of the more successful poems to say that it was not.

    margo

  • On July 10, 2009 at 4:20 am Christopher Woodman wrote:

    Good, Margo, that’s a very fair and sensitive way to say it at the end. One has to turn the eyes away at some point, dip the hands in clean water, and go home—as Thai people do the moment the fire is lit under the open funeral pyre.

    That the chest bursts in the heat is not a human concern.

  • On July 10, 2009 at 7:09 pm Terreson wrote:

    This is going to sound crazy. And probably blog members will be disinclined to believe me. Nor can I prove the point. With my most recent post dated yesterday, July 9, I did not sign off in the spatial play on my name as it appears now. That is not me. That is not my syntactical style. Anyone who knows me from other sites, boards, and blogs knows I don’t play around in this fashion. Hell, I don’t even know how to manipulate space and lines in the way my name shows.

    Harriet friends, you got a hacker somehow able to enter member posts and alter them. Please get your IT people to see to a fix. If it happens again I will no longer post here.

    Terreson

  • On July 10, 2009 at 7:24 pm Terreson wrote:

    Now this is really scarey. Within five minutes of making the immedietaly preceding post I see the sign off for yesterday’s post has been changed back to the original, with just my signature. (talk about shades of the old movie, “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte.”)

    I’ve enjoyed the conversations, mostly. I’ve enjoyed the bloggers and their ideas. I’ll read topics from time to time.

    Terreson

  • On July 10, 2009 at 11:52 pm Christopher Woodman wrote:

    I think I have one last post left in me, and that one’s for Desmond Swords. A thorn in our side, for sure, the madness in our hatter, but what writing! How should we be so lucky?

    Go back and read his last post on this thread which he undoubtedly dashed off like all the others. So who writes like that among us? Who’s got that gift?

    “Indeed, it is only now as one writes, one has come to understand in a moment of profound realisation which comes with much contemplation on the uniqueness and unity of being – that it was Nature herself, that majestic view of reality beyond the curving sweep of glass, which caused what happened to unravel as it did.”

    And does it ever!

    So put aside your thesis and your rivalries and go read it. And then if you still think you want to clamp him out, do. But just be sure you know what you’re losing.

    Christopher

  • On July 11, 2009 at 8:13 am thomas brady wrote:

    A poet can’t compete with nature. A poet can only compete with other poets.

    Jeffers wrote in such a way that he was competing with Jesus Christ and towering mountains and earth and rock and blood. YOU LOSE. Nature wins every time, poet. Jeffers can’t give me anything close to my own experience of the outdoors, of rocks strewn randomly. It’s there, waiting for me, right now, outside my door, even if it’s only the sun, shining on an ordinary street.

    Poetry is not ‘mountains.’ Poetry is simply all the poems that have been written. Those poems are ‘about’ all sorts of things, but what those poems are ‘about’ are not the poems. Poems fail or succeed on their own term, as poems.

    The successful poem out-does other poems.

    Readers who need to find all sorts of things which aleady exist outside poems IN poems, are not really interested in poems, but interested more in experiencing reality in a weakened or fake manner. Jeffers is a pair of sunglasses for people who think they are seeing the sun. But they aren’t seeing the sun; there’s no sun in Jeffers, or in any poem; but the ‘Jeffers-sunglasses’ give them a feeling they are experiencing ‘a-sun-so-awesome-it-requires-sunglasses.’ If only the Jeffers fans knew how silly they looked with their sunglasses on.

    This still begs the question: what do we find in poems, then? We find poems in poems. Poems that try to be more than poems will fail. Poems that try and give us what we can find more easily elsewhere, fail.

  • On July 12, 2009 at 12:09 am Christopher Woodman wrote:

    Still here on my second coming. Midnight’s a way off at the antipodes, and I’m still not at rest.

    Vis à vis John Oliver Simon’s stake through the heart over there on the Verse Drama thread, an appropriate scenario (!), look how sore the spot really was right here. And I put this to you–the majority of the posters on this thread either didn’t want to hear what I was saying or it put them in such a funk that they fled. Indeed, there were a total of 17 posters in the 7 days the thread was up, and only 8 of them contributed positively. Leaving Desmond Swords out of it as he was writing brilliantly from another planet, that leaves 8 who were entirely, gratuitously ad hominem and negative. Out of those 8 only 1 person posted more than 2 posts, Gary B. Fitzgerald with 9 posts, all personal and all negative. The remaining 7 individuals posted 11 posts between them, making an average of 1.57 posts with an average of 3 lines a shot.

    Out of a total of 98 posts that is—which is quite a statistic. On the other hand, it wasn’t Billy Collins we were trying to talk about. It was Robinson Jeffers!

    Here’s a sampling of the comments, all sic, and none of them sounding much like the Harriet that brought me here in the first place:

    “Hooray!”

    “Why should I defer to the opinions of a second-rate poet who builds poetry on things he does not know personally?'”

    “Worse than “Thomas Brady”’s inane bloviation on every subject is your sycophantic championing of Tom’s lame causes, Christopher. The combination causes a foul miasma to hover over every thread. Why not take a summer vacation and let in some fresh air?”

    “Will you please be quiet, please?”

    “Internet fora that become dominated by 3-4 “regulars” almost invariably devolve into tedious snarkfests, where debate is constrained by the oversized personae of the regulars, which become targets: everything becomes personalized, everybody knows everybody else’s schtick; and those who don’t find the parade of hobbyhorses all that stimulating sit on the sidelines, silent.”

    “Hear, hear.”

    “So a plea for you–and for others reading and thinking of chiming in but holding back for fear of the cow patty hammer or whatever: don’t leave.”

    “Man. This is classic… Two days later and I see that once again, and not on this blog alone, the topic has been turned aside by a certain attention junky.”

    “I believe “Christopher” does not exist. He is an alias of “Thomas Brady” — who also does not exist.”

    “Actually, I think the reason Christopher was kicked off of the AAP site Poets.org was due to excessive use of aliases. Go figure.”

    “Tom and his suck-up Woodman — most probably an alias of “Tom,” which is an alias to begin with — have sucked the oxygen out of the room. Too bad. This could have been a nice little world.”

    “Shut up, he explained.”

    “Please stop raining on my parade.”

    Christopher

  • On July 12, 2009 at 4:27 pm Terreson wrote:

    I have tried every which way to figure out how to contact an administrator by e-mail and I can’t. My post to this thread dated July 9 has been manipulated. The signature has been aligned, changed back to the original, then realigned with the right margin. In step-line fashion, from right to left, appear: erreson, reson, son, n. When I try to cut and paste the post for the proof I find that all but the last line’s n occupy blank spaces.

    I did not do this. This is the work of a hacker. I am hoping someone reads this post before it too gets manipulated. By now surely others following the thread have noticed the stepped signature.

    Terreson

  • On July 12, 2009 at 5:31 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    I can’t see the steps, Terreson. Your signature looks normal to me.

  • On July 12, 2009 at 5:50 pm Terreson wrote:

    Okay, John Oliver. Thanks, man. If you cannot read what I see then maybe the problem originates at my end. Wierd stuff. Now back to the regularly scheduled program.

    Terreson

  • On July 12, 2009 at 7:32 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Mr. Woodman, you are a classic and well-known prevaricator. You have been dishonest and disingenuous everywhere you’ve ever posted and most of us have figured it out by now. Why don’t you repost this crock of shit with attribution so people can reference these quotes in context and find out exactly who’s being negative? Your malicious and repetitive antics have grown tiresome, Woodman. Maybe it’s time to retire, old friend.

    I asked you nicely on another thread to stop picking on me. Apparently, you were disinclined to acquiesce.

    You should never poke sticks at lions, me bucko. We bite back!


Posted in Uncategorized on Saturday, July 4th, 2009 by Joel Brouwer.