Archive for November, 2007

Packing Up My Library

Condemned by books I haven’t read
To read forever. Life is fear
Of never having enough time
To grasp it, hold it, keep it near.

The books I’ve read I’ve stashed away
In storage boxes in my mind;
I’ll save them for a rainy day
When I am old, infirm and blind.

The continents I’ve mapped today
You will not find on any map;
I am their king and sovereign lord,
The starving infant in their lap.

The box lies open on the floor,
My nostrils swollen from the dust
Of a lifetime bound and glued, compact
Yet boundless as my wanderlust.

Marc Alan Di Martino

Hemingway’s Blank Verse

Hemingway by David Levine[Blank Verse]

”                         ”
       !             :                  ,                 .
              ,            ,            ,                 .
      ,              ;                              !

This is Hemingway at his poetic best. Half a step behind ee cummings and more convincingly modernist than anything Ezra Pound published in his Cantos, there is an unexpected pathos brimming from this verse.  He turned seventeen the year he wrote it, proving that juvenilia has its moments. Years later, John Updike would ape it in a sonnet composed of elegantly spaced commas, question marks and other typewriter-based punctuation. The effect is lighthearted, clever, ironic. Each comma is placed for maximum effect, the language is simple yet direct. Far from adhering to poetic creeds of the time (Imagism, Futurism, Autism, etc…), the verse is defiantly original both in its idiom and its form. One wonders if the world couldn’t use a few more poems of such transparency, bogged down as we are with the angst-ridden verse so much in vogue since Blake. As Oscar Wilde once put it, “All bad poetry is sincere.” Harold Bloom remarked in The Western Canon that this phrase should be engraved above the gates of every university in America.

Who Was Samuel Greenberg?

Complete Poems of Hart Crane

Samuel Greenberg wrote visionary lyric poems highly inspired by Emerson. His poetry has largely been forgotten, but the only reason it is remembered at all is because Hart Crane plagiarized his work. Greenberg died in a hospital on Ward’s Island at the age of twenty-three. Years later his poems were published with a lavish introduction by Allen Tate, who possesses the most prominent forehead in modern literature. Crane, the better poet of the two (and the more famous), threw himself into the sea at the age of thirty-one. His body was never found. His collected work was recently published in a definitive edition by the Library of America. Below is a brief comparison.

First the Greenberg original (I’ve regularized some of the spelling):


By a peninsula, the painter sat and
Sketched the uneven valley groves.
The apostle gave alms to the
Meek, the volcano burst
In fusive sulphur and hurled
Rocks and ore into the air.
Heaven’s sudden change at
The drawing tempestuous
Darkening shade of Dense clouded Hues
The wanderer soon chose
His spot of rest, they bore the
Chosen hero upon their shoulders
Whom they strangly admired – as,
The Beach tide Summer of people desired.

Compare with the more famous poem by Hart Crane:

Emblems of Conduct

By a peninsula the wanderer sat and sketched
The uneven valley graves. While the apostle gave
Alms to the meek the volcano burst
With sulphur and aureate rocks…
For joy rides in stupendous coverings
Luring the living into spiritual gates.

Orators follow the universe
And radio the complete laws to the people.
The apostle conveys thought through discipline.
Bowls and cups fill historians with adorations–
Dull lips commemorating spiritual gates.

The wanderer later chose this spot of rest
Where marble clouds support the sea
And where was finally born a hero.
By that time summer and smoke were past.
Dolphins still played, arching the horizons,
But only to build memories of spiritual gates.

Against Questioning

It’s not unprecedented to despair,
or even interesting. Who hasn’t mewled
his melancholy, yammered like a fool
pathetic in the street as children stared

and minutes passed and pensioners were kind,
or mumbled in some high place while the low
mean ground hissed invitations? But now grow
out of it and leave such selfish angst behind

to teenagers and the authentic crazed;
such comic desolation is too stark,
and there are optimistic married ways

of being happy that you could be trying.
So let it wait, the large outlandish dark.
It will be just as dark when you are dying.

Mike Stocks

Out To Lunch

Back soon!

Contrasting Views

"Literalism is a feature of boorish translators." Cicero "The clumsiest literal translation is a thousand times more useful than the prettiest paraphrase." Nabokov

The Faerie Queene

"John Ashbery said reading the Faerie Queene was like reading an endless beautiful comic strip." Kenneth Koch

Sigmund Freud

"Everywhere I go, I find a poet has been there before me."


November 2007
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