Trying to link esoteric with libido, I thought —

…………….All around the cobbler’s bench
…………….The monkey chased the weasel
…………….The monkey thought ‘twas all in fun
…………….“Pop, goes the weasel!”

Whether it’s peek-a-boo or Pandora’s box or the apple in Eden, the hidden and the forbidden are part of the danger and delight of life. The surprise, even (and especially) recurrent, is a nearly endless source of joy to children. Pandora’s box postulates a time, like Eden, when there was no evil in the world. It imagines that the parts of experience we don’t want to face can be hidden away safely and yield a world of constant pleasure.

But curiosity….

This Jack-in-the-Box had the lovely yin-yang and the French tickler Punch to help the linkages. The tornado like a father hunched over the bed. The sublimation of desire; the substitution of wisdom for a hot date or wet dream. The sterile oneness of the good libido; the wetted beast of the other. We sense danger in the dark, behind the trees, around the corner. We chase our bliss and corner it thinking it’s all in fun and then……“Pop, goes the weasel!”

By the way, as I was told the story, Hope remained in the bottom of the box as a consolation, but later they told me Hope was the last and greatest evil of all.



  1. thomasbrady said,

    February 21, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    I love those pix..it’s a Freudian nightmare…the tornado… Balthus’ cane! I love ‘The Chambre’…Is that really Ms. Lasky in the photo? And is she upset because I thought her poem was about sexual abuse/domestic violence/scary love affair? I blew it! Blow me down! As a critic I’m nothing but wind!

  2. Christopher Woodman said,

    February 21, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    As a critic you are truly nothing but wind, dear Tom — you hurricane, you zephyr, you sirocco, you late afternoon offshore breeze!


    No. Tom, Dorothea Lasky was freaked out not by you but by God!

    Her tornado is pure Blake.

    She may not have realized it was God, but that’s what she’s down in the root cellar hiding from, like whatever’s coming down those cellar stairs in Guernica. Look at her double in that tornado photo again and you’ll see. Look at the squat tornado sitting on her head in the other.

    Look at the old men spying on the radiant girl in the Passage du Commerce Saint-André. Look at the cat spying on her in La Chambre.

    Don’t like the word God, because I don’t believe in God. I just believe in the experience of something so totally beyond comprehension that no meteorologist or theologian or sexologist, cosmologist or mythographer could ever call it anything else!

    Greater than the Large Hadron Collider. Greater than whatever it is that is actually down there under little Calvin’s bed!


  3. February 21, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    “Her tornado is pure Blake.”

    You people are all mad!

    It’s good, though, I guess, that Institutions now provide their inmates with access to the internet.

  4. wfkammann said,

    February 21, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    They say dogs are color blind. This colorful world is esoteric to them. Imagine a concert where concertgoers bring their dogs and the orchestra plays dog whistles. The sounds are beyond human range but the dogs begin to yowl. Very esoteric. Imagine a world inhabited in small part by monkeys that can’t hear or smell as well as a dog or see as well as a hawk; not to mention a butterfly. These primates are clever enough to realize that it is mostly a mystery beyond their comprehension and are clever enough to give it a name. They externalize emotions as tornadoes and despair as a pool in a stream. They use words to allude to this and we call it poetry. If it’s Milton or Pound we need a better than average education to even begin to understand the poem. This too is esoteric in today’s world where internet access substitutes for education and discernment; not to mention Wisdom.

  5. February 22, 2010 at 1:03 am

    Thank you, Mr. Kammann(ER).

    And please advise Mr. Peter (Desmond Swords) Greene that his cover has been blown as well.

  6. thomasbrady said,

    February 22, 2010 at 1:27 am

    Gary Fitzgerald is esoteric…sort of…

  7. Christopher Woodman said,

    February 22, 2010 at 1:41 am

    pure Blake.

  8. thomasbrady said,

    February 22, 2010 at 1:50 am


    Comment #5

    Great attempt to raise esoteric to a profound level; you gave me pause there, but esoteric has nothing to do with the ability or inability to sense things…you wouldn’t say a reeling drunk is having an esoteric experience; the esoteric merely refers to specialized knowledge, such as coin or stamp collecting.


  9. Christopher Woodman said,

    February 22, 2010 at 2:06 am

    coin or stamp collecting

  10. February 22, 2010 at 2:44 am


    Mad Song

    The wild winds weep
    And the night is a-cold;
    Come hither, Sleep,
    And my griefs infold:
    But lo! the morning peeps
    Over the eastern steeps,
    And the rustling birds of dawn
    The earth do scorn.

    Lo! to the vault
    Of paved heaven,
    With sorrow fraught
    My notes are driven:
    They strike the ear of night,
    Make weep the eyes of day;
    They make mad the roaring winds,
    And with tempests play.

    Like a fiend in a cloud,
    With howling woe,
    After night I do crowd,
    And with night will go;
    I turn my back to the east,
    From whence comforts have increas’d;
    For light doth seize my brain
    With frantic pain.

    – William Blake

    • Christopher Woodman said,

      February 22, 2010 at 3:30 am

      There is nothing “hidden,” “occult,” “over the top” or “under the bed” in “Mad Song” — except, of course, for the jarring title.

      As beautiful as it is, this poem is not “esoteric” in the same way as “The Sick Rose” is, for example — that supreme masterpiece of the inexpressible.

      A fiver to anyone who can tell me just what “The Sick Rose” is about. In cash.

      Tom? Gary?

      Easy money?

  11. February 22, 2010 at 2:48 am

    Tornado, indeed!

    How dare you compare these people to Blake?

  12. Christopher Woodman said,

    February 22, 2010 at 3:04 am

    Who said people?

    Go back and look at the tornado, not “Tornado” — though the force is in the poem as well, for sure.

    It’s the title that specifically constellates the Whirlwind in Dorothea Lasky’s poem, and in so doing ratchets the whole experience up to a superhuman level.

    And I’ve always hated the word “esoteric,” by the way — and I tried to make it clear from the very beginning that I was attempting to re-establish the word as a critical concept. I was trying to get it back for poetry from the neo-Eleusinians, the Theosphists and Scientologists, only to be met by the Literalists on Scarriet.

    Out of the frying pan and into the fire!


  13. Wfkammann said,

    February 22, 2010 at 3:07 am

    A reeling drunk is not having an esoteric experience. The esoteric is that part which remains hidden; in the box. The mystery; the unknown or only known to the initiated: those ripe to hear the whispered teaching. In art there is often a secret organization which forms the skeleton for the work of art.

    Gary, Submit that Blake poem to the New Yorker and see if they publish it. I doubt it.

  14. thomasbrady said,

    February 22, 2010 at 3:36 am

    Esoterica is certainly a factor to be reckoned with, but it refers more to human cover-up, a willed obscurity for social reasons; esoterica, unlike global warming, is, without a doubt, man-made, and for the most part not to be trusted, a knot which often the blackguard makes but which the genius unravels, an ancient vintage worth more in the cut-throat marketplace than on the convivial tongue…

  15. Christopher Woodman said,

    February 22, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    A “human cover-up?” A “willed obscurity?”

    Eating the apple really was a sacred fault, Tom, it really was a blessed sin, as simple as that.

    When Psyche took that forbidden peek at her lover she discovered that the invisible worm that flies in the night, in the howling storm, had found out her bed of crimson joy and with dark secret love does her life destroy.

    How could such things be said any more clearly? Yet who understands them in less than a life time?


  16. thomasbrady said,

    February 22, 2010 at 6:48 pm


    I guess I see what you are saying: taboos are as much a natural phenomenon as a man-made law…is that what you are saying…?


  17. Christopher Woodman said,

    February 23, 2010 at 1:39 am

    Who is saying “taboo?”

    There is no interdiction on these words — they’re available to everybody, recited in numerous churches, schools and poetry readings open to the general public, and are discussed in 1000s of words exchanged, broadcast and published without protest from anybody. Indeed, the only protest comes from hecklers like you that think they’re just superstition, “a knot the blackguard makes,” you call it, “an ancient vintage” that has no value today but “in the cut throat marketplace” — i.e. Madison Avenue uses them to trick people into buying things they don’t really want.

    Why are you so scared? How can you live in such narrow confinement?

    What an irony that in the end poetry should be for you just a bauble, a lovely little distraction from the real business of life.

  18. thomasbrady said,

    February 23, 2010 at 2:14 am


    What is it, then, in your words above, this ‘forbidden peek’ that Psyche took, if not a ‘taboo?’

    How can a thing be ‘forbidden’ on one hand and be equated with ‘poetry that is the real business of life’ on the other?

    What is the reason for the esoteric?

    What is the reason for the hidden, the forbidden?

    If there’s a good reason, then respect for the forbidden must follow, and we dare not look. Or, some of us may look and some of us may not.

    Or, it’s not really forbidden, and we can look, or, some of us can look.

    In any case, it’s a human division, a line that says ‘keep out’ to some, or all of us.

    Is poetry ariadne’s thread? Is it how we venture in, then?

    I didn’t say poetry was a bauble; where did I say that?

    Untangling the knot is a difficult thing, a job for heroes, even.

    It seems like you want to have your cake and eat it; you want there to be the esoteric and the hidden, but you want it to be rather glamorous and romantic and easily found. Or am I misreading? Because I confess I’m pretty confused.


  19. thomasbrady said,

    February 23, 2010 at 2:23 am


    You said ‘the initiated.’ Yes, it’s a club. It’s artificial knowledge, it’s knowledge which separates human beings by artificial means, it’s not real, scientific knowledge, per se; it’s Bluebeard saying don’t go in that closet, but what’s hidden in that closet? Ultimate truth? Or the just Bluebeard’s truth?

    And yes, ‘secret organizations’ again reinforces the idea of a war, a chess match, not involving real knowledge so much as divided, fallen will. Now, sometimes ‘the good’ are forced to go into hiding, to use code, to battle clandestinely, I’m not denying that, but I’m just trying to get a handle on the nature of what we’re talking about.

    I agree with your comment to Gary; no one would look twice at that Blake if it were published today; it’s full of pathetic fallacy, etc


  20. Christopher Woodman said,

    February 23, 2010 at 11:30 am

    As I keep saying, I hate the word “esoteric” because it implies there are secret brotherhoods who guard the knowledge that lesser folks can’t understand. Pierre’s Masonic adventures in War and Peace are a wonderful exposé of 19th Century ocultism, and how it becomes a rigamarole. And of course there’s Yeats in The Golden Dawn, and the trick his young wife played on him in bed on their honeymoon. And Shelley raising the devil in his rooms at Oxford, Hitler’s dark secrets in the bunker, and Trungpa Rimpoche teaching the hidden texts of Padma Sambava and Dorje Trollo to us hippies in Scotland long before Naropa, and leaving most of us in the dark — perhaps a blessing but at the same time a curse. All of that.

    I was trying to say merely that there are things that are hidden in poetry that are incomprehensible by nature, like the “invisible worm” in “The Sick Rose,” or why Cupid came to Psyche in the dark and why she was punished so severally for breaking his injunction and having a look. Which has to be part of any effective analysis of “Ode to Psyche,” and usually isn’t.

    A part of the trope is often that there is something hidden, and often strictly forbidden— but the tale would not unfold unless the condition was broken, Bluebeard’s closet was unlocked, Psyche lit the candle. That’s not the same at all as a teaching that is hidden because it is too deep or difficult for the uninitiated (i.e unprepared by experience, set-backs or arrogance) — indeed, just the opposite.

    Even the eating of the apple in the garden had to happen. The Catholic Mass calls it “the sacred fault, the blessed sin of Adam,” acknowledging that Adam in fact had a hand in God’s creation through his disobedience. The creation of suffering and the last twist of the knife all at once, that’s what man brought that God couldn’t.


  21. thomasbrady said,

    February 23, 2010 at 3:25 pm


    The priest tells us ‘it had to happen,’ Of course ‘what happened’ happened. Fateful explanation has never impressed me. I confess to being a complete skeptic when it comes to all matters religious. Nor do I think when Blake writes ‘invisible worm’ he is referring to anything nature cannot comprehend.


    • Christopher Woodman said,

      February 28, 2010 at 1:43 am

      The paradox, of course, is that the priest can’t come out and say it had to happen, indeed it would be blasphemy to do so. It would suggest that either God planned man’s disobedience, or God was naive, or fallible. It would also undermine the priest’s primary function, which is to identify sin and then absolve it.

      If God planned for Adam to eat the apple and be expelled from the garden etc., then the whole of creation would have been disingenuous.

      Catholic theologians argue that the “fault” is “sacred” because it made way for the Redemption, not that it was good in itself. But the words are still there everyday in the Mass, like a poem: “O sacred fault, O blessed sin of Adam.”

      “O Rose though art sick” is just as complicated as that.


      The “creation” of free will, consciousness, and the self by the God of Love, there’s a trick. In the myth, Psyche turns on the light that she may know her lover, and the God of Love punishes her for it!

      That’s a big problem for orthodox theologians, but a field day for mythographers and poets.

  22. Christopher Woodman said,

    February 23, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    What’s a worm? What’s a worm that flies? What’s an invisible worm? What’s an invisible worm that flies in the night?

    Was Blake just being pretty? Was this just about roses?

    Why is everybody so taken by this poem but nobody, even Gary B. Fitzgerald, seems to care if it makes any sense?

    Hey, come on guys — you’ve got a fiver for unlocking the secret!

    Or is Blake just a fantasist, just a freak, just a Hallmark card hack, just a famous, off-the-wall, acid artist?


  23. Christopher Woodman said,

    February 23, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Of course I’m being very unfair, of course I’m asking the impossible.

    There are things that we know that we just can’t express, or wouldn’t even dare to — unless we’re poets and can say things that a.) can’t be explained in any other way, b.) are more important than anything else, and c.) we know could never be expressed in three dimensional language.

    And as we become jaded, more and more anxious and less and less perceptive, we call them L=A=N=U=A=G=E, or Flarf, or even, if we’re at Harvard and are expected to know better, “The New Thing” — anything as long as we don’t have to admit to our ignorance.

  24. wfkammann said,

    February 23, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    The esoteric; the secret; is not the unknown. The Masons have the esoteric knowledge to build large buildings and the guild guards that knowledge to keep itself and its’ members in business. Schoenberg may have a rule that each one of the twelve tones must be used in sequence before the first is used again. We may not hear that in the music but it is a “rule” or “secret” of twelve tone composition. Someone may analyze the score and discover this secret or may be told the secret when he/she is ready to compose dodecatonic music. Even among those things that are generally considered unknown or unknowable there may be some who have penetrated this area; who have translated the rosetta stone and who could teach others to do the same. To consciously develop a hidden skeleton for a poem is a way of organizing which may not be apparent to the reader e.g. you could use the four seasons to organize a four stanza poem and never make direct reference to the seasons. Perhaps winter is cold; spring is new life; summer is hot and fall is dying. This organization underlies the poem but may be unseen. The organization may also be much more complex. We know the body has a skeleton and muscles and lots more in there. But a glimpse of Eros by the light of day might spoil the whole thing for us.

    Chaos is the development of great diversity out of similar parts over time. The parts must overlap and are quickly unpredictable.

    The layers of meaning, the sound, the rhythm, the thought; the emotion. The secret layers of meaning, the secret (meaning) of sounds, etc.

    Once Brahms went to a concert and heard a piece of his performed at a much slower tempo than he had imagined. He said, “Yes, it can be played like that too.” Perhaps the full meaning of a poem will never be realized; certainly not by the poet!

  25. thomasbrady said,

    February 23, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    Thanks, Bill; that was helpful. Here’s another example. Two people, with equal musical ability/appreciation hear a piece of music, let’s call the piece of music, A: one listener is aware of another piece, B, which A is copying to some degree, but the other listener is not aware of B’s existence. Now let’s say the person listening to A thinks B was written first, but in fact, he is mistaken; A was composed first, so B is actually the copy. The same piece of music is heard differently—due to knowledge, or lack of knowledge, which is only indirectly related to the hearing of the actual music. The sensual experience of the music is absolutely the same in each case.

  26. Christopher Woodman said,

    February 24, 2010 at 1:31 am

    I too find that very helpful, particularly the musical analogies. But there is something in some poems that hasn’t been placed there by the poet, so to speak, nor has it welled up from the unconscious, spilled over from some half-understood fundamental belief, or sprung out of the intricacies of the language.

    And that’s what I feel in “The Sick Rose,” something that Blake gave his life for but would never have tried to explain outside his art, like the tree full of angels he saw when he was a child.

    And Dorothea Lasky’s little poem in The New Yorker has got it too, so we have quite a lot to work with.

    At least none of us are calling it God, so we’ve come a long way toward re-inventing the new poetry that can take the place of religion.


  27. wfkammann said,

    February 24, 2010 at 2:32 am

    Is the worm a butterfly or moth larva?

    Caterpillars such as orange tortrix, tussock moth, fruittree leafroller, tent caterpillar, and omnivorous looper may feed on rose leaves; some of these caterpillars may also tie leaves with silk. Damage is usually not severe and treatment not usually necessary. Handpick or clip out rolled leaves. Small leaf-feeding caterpillars can be killed with an application of the microbial insecticides Bacillus thuringiensis or spinosad. Some caterpillars, like the tobacco budworm, may occasionally bore into flower buds. Look for the caterpillar or its frass inside. Prune out and destroy damaged buds.

    These turn into humming bird moths.

    Blake saw a tree full of angels; Ida saw fairies in Pennsylvania. Some kids have an active imagination. Don’t we wish more poets did? If it were the Irish we’d at least know they were drunk. But you, Christopher!

    And Tom, no they are not having the same sensual experience unless you mean their ear drums are vibrating to the same frequencies, provided they are not covered with wax. The idea of the naive (objective) observer is as hopeless in art as in science.

  28. Christopher Woodman said,

    February 24, 2010 at 11:07 am

    In the 18th century the word “worm” also had the dire meaning it had in Anglo Saxon and other Germanic languages. Even good old Wiki is unequivocal about this.

    Given the qualifiers Blake chose to associate with it in “The Sick Rose” (“invisible,” “flies in the night, in the howling storm,”), as well as its enormous power and ability to wreck havoc (“dark,” “secret,” “thy life destroy”), it is primarily a “dragon,” for want of a better word.

    Needless to say, Blake is good at better words, always. And needless to say, even when he’s most simple he is never simplistic

    So the delicacy of the poem combines that primal, extra-terrestrial power with the image you would expect in a poem called “The Sick Rose,” i.e. the pernicious caterpillar that feeds on the buds in the garden. In this case, the ambiguity of a huge external force which is at the same time a blind, internal infection generates the meaning that makes “The Sick Rose” one of the most powerful lyrics in the English language, and one of the most inscrutable.

    Go back and look at the famous painting of Blake’s “dragon” and you’ll get a glimpse of what is also hidden behind the simplicity of this little poem.

    Move on to Dorothea Lasky’s “Tornado” (as well as her Tornado) and Keats “Ode to Psyche” and you’ll get some idea of where these images are from and where they are headed — and it’s not just in and out of bed! It’s interesting to look at “Lamia” too, though I would say that like “Ode to Psyche,” “Lamia” is also a failure — though the world has been infinitely enriched by young John Keats’ genius, even in his no-brainers!

  29. Wfkammann said,

    February 24, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Yes, of course, Christopher. Although that Devil does look a bit like the hummingbird moth. Blake and spouse naked in their garden playing Adam and Eve. It’s not all roses.

  30. Christopher Woodman said,

    February 24, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    William F. Kammann said on his thread, “Pop Goes the Weasel:”

    It’s not all roses.

  31. February 24, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    The reason ‘O Rose thou art sick’ can not be strictly interpreted is precisely why it is timeless. It is multi-faceted and may be applied to many situations. Unless we can convince Billy Blake to attend a séance, we will never really know. As a result, then, it can be seen as a sort of a ‘Universal Truth’. The rose may be God, Nature, the Church (most likely), the crown, the government, Man’s higher nature, the girl that broke Blake’s heart or his own heart. It is addressing the essential duality of being: life and death, beautiful and ugly, good and bad. Very spiritual and very profound for such a short poem. Almost Taoist.

    I highly recommend that you read a biography of Blake. This will grant some insight into the political and religious tumult in his life which ‘O Rose’ may be addressing.

    Here is an illuminating (no pun intended) passage from ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’:

    “Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion.
    As the caterpillar chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys.”


  32. thomasbrady said,

    February 24, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    “And Tom, no they are not having the same sensual experience unless you mean their ear drums are vibrating to the same frequencies, provided they are not covered with wax. The idea of the naive (objective) observer is as hopeless in art as in science.”

    But how do you explain the child Mozart, then?

    If the naive (objective) observer does not exist, the other kind, on the other end of the spectrum, does not exist, either, for short and long are not two different quantities; the only quantity involved is length. Much error proceeds from assuming two where there is one. Observation is the action, whether it is “naive” or “learned.” The “naive,” as well as the “learned,” may err in the same manner: by seeing not too little, but too much.

    “unless you mean their ear drums are vibrating to the same frequencies” Precisely what I mean.

  33. Christopher Woodman said,

    February 25, 2010 at 3:04 am

    I don’t think you meant it, Gary, but by suggesting Blake could have provided us with a “strict interpretation,” were he still alive, you could be accused of implying he was an allegorist and not a poet.

    My own feeling would be that any element from your list above, from “God” through “Man’s higher nature,” to one’s “own heart,” could qualify, but that none of them could possibly exhaust the poem or satisfy even a simple majority of its readers.

    It’s like the word “priest” in the final aphorism, which itself is a metaphor, referring as it does to any entity that is convinced it owns the truth and is granted by the community the right to impose rules on the individual. In America today, doctors might qualify, or family counsellors.

    Every time I visit those parts of Chiang Mai where foreigners tend to congregate with their children, like the supermarket, I realize how desperately unhappy western children are even as they get happier and happier!

    It’s unspeakable paradoxes like this to which “The Sick Rose” will always apply. For what American would ever dare suggest that family values are a dragon eating the heart out of the American child?

    In societies where the “Church” has its back against the wall, like France, for example, there’s a tendency to dismiss any faith or devotion as being “très catholique” — which tends to throw out the baby with the baptismalwater. Indeed, any social group is going to have it’s knee-jerk interpretations of Blake’s “invisible worm” depending on its own fixations, and we should all resist that because the tendency behind the abuse is what the poem is about, not about having been brought up as a Humanist, a Quaker or a Baptist. The tendency will ALWAYS be there in the individual, however free of external restraints he or she becomes.

    I prefer to call that agency an angel myself, and being shiny white or tattered with smut is immaterial. Check out that Blake painting once again, or Dorothea Lasky’s tornado or “tornado.” Check out my own little “Legs in the Air” and you’ll see what one looks like to me.


  34. Wfkammann said,

    February 25, 2010 at 3:50 am

    Mozart, so they say, sat at the virginal and experimented with thirds. His music is spectacular because he had wide exposure to European music as a child and could write and improvise in any style he heard. His connection between hearing and realizing on paper (writing) was unsurpassed. He could simply write and “hear” the piece as he wrote. Not naive at all. They tell the story of his studying with Haydn and each trying to compose a piece the other couldn’t play. Mozart wrote runs for the right hand up the piano and the left down and then immediately a note in the middle. Haydn couldn’t play it and said it was impossible. Mozart played it and when he got to the spot played the middle note with his nose. Did you ever read his letters?

  35. Wfkammann said,

    February 25, 2010 at 4:04 am

    By the way, take a good look at Blake’s drawing. What is that figure coming out of the rose at the bottom?

  36. Christopher Woodman said,

    February 25, 2010 at 7:07 am

    Of course I did, and so what? The worm is also a worm, and many other things beside. And the rose is a rose is a rose even when it’s not about roses at all.

    In actual fact, I think “The Sick Rose” page is one of the least effective in “The Songs of Innocence and Experience.” The enigma doesn’t translate well into the visual image, in fact — which is also a problem that Keats had with Cupid, who in the visual tradition simply hadn’t got the equipment to be a lover. Even Eros was just a young boy.

  37. Christopher Woodman said,

    February 25, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    But baby Cupid’s arrows are grown up enough, and love hurts. Marianne Faithful, she sings love songs to the dragon, she takes us straight into the bowels of the tornado while the worm devours the rose in her head.

    Leonard Cohen is a great poet of the sick rose too, he knows it all, he suffers for it and manages to come back with his soul and the tale still intact.

    Hardly a new trope, though before Keats Psyche had never been offered an altar!


  38. thomasbrady said,

    February 25, 2010 at 3:12 pm


    I have read some of Mozart’s letters, looking to see if his musical genius would manifest itself in his writing…I imagine there were puns in the German I missed…I know he liked toilet humor…

    Would you care to share a letter or two…?


  39. February 25, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Christopher Woodman…I was a friend of Tony,s here in England back in 1976…Would like to say hi,



    • Christopher Woodman said,

      February 26, 2010 at 4:10 am

      I did get this, Douglas, but as I live at the opposite ends of the earth it takes a long time for your sun to get back to me here.

      Extraordinary that you should have stumbled on this site, probably the only place in the world where a motorcyclist has a place on Parnassus. Tony Woodman has often featured in posts here — perhaps most intimately in this one.

      He died in September 2006 here in Chiang Mai — I can see the huge tree from my desk under which he was burnt in an open coffin surrounded by monks and villagers. His ashes now lie in Stockbridge, Massachusettes in the family plot beside his mother. Perhaps today they are covered in snow.

      Thank you for having been his friend too — impossible guy, unforgettable.


  40. Wfkammann said,

    February 25, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    I’ll be more explicit. It looks like there is a figure coming out of the rose at the bottom of the print. It may not be clear without enlarging. Would Blake have believed that the rose has a Spirit that leaves it when it dies?

    Yes, naughty toilet humor. Some music too like “Bona Nox, Du bist ein echter Ox” I believe there was a recording called Mozart’s Bawdy.

    • Christopher Woodman said,

      February 26, 2010 at 4:20 am

      If anybody’s still interested, click here for the full page illustration of “The Sick Rose” in “Songs of Experience.”

      I’ve said too much already, and won’t say what I see but for one observation. The illustration would seem to me to move clockwise both in the imagery and the composition. I have a feeling that whatever that is that’s coming out of the rose at the bottom is a result of what came before and is also a beginning.

  41. wfkammann said,

    February 25, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    Allerliebstes bäsle häsle!

    Ich habe dero mir so werthes schreiben richtig erhalten falten, und daraus ersehen drehen, daß der H: vetter retter, die fr: baaß haas, und sie wie, recht wohl auf sind hind; wir sind auch gott lob und danck recht gesund hund. ich habe heüt den brief schief, von meinem Papa haha, auch richtig in meine klauen bekommen strommen. Ich hoffe sie werden auch meinen brief trief, welchen ich ihnen aus Mannheim geschrieben, erhalten haben schaben. Desto besser, besser desto! Nun aber etwas gescheüdes.

    mir ist sehr leid, daß de H: Praelat Salat, schon wieder vom schlag getrofen worden ist fist. doch hoffe ich, mit der hülfe Gottes spottes, wird es von keinen folgen seyn schwein. sie schreiben mir stier, daß sie ihr verbrechen, welches sie mir vor meiner abreise von ogspurg voran haben, halten werden, und das bald kalt; Nu, daß wird mich gewiß reüen. sie schreiben noch ferners, ja, sie lassen sich heraus, sie geben sich blos, sie lassen sich verlauten, sie machen mir zu wissen, sie erklären sich, sie deüten mir an, sie benachrichtigen mir, sie machen mir kund, sie geben deütlich am Tage, sie verlangen, sie begehren, sie wünschen, sie wollen, sie mögen, sie befehlen, daß ich ihnen auch mein Portrait schicken soll schroll. Eh bien, ich werde es ihnen gewis schicken schlicken. Oui, par ma la foi, ich scheiß dir auf d’nasen, so, rinds dir auf d’koi. appropós. haben sie den spuni cuni fait auch? was? – – ob sie mich noch immer lieb haben – – das glaub ich! desto besser, besser desto! Ja, so geht es auf dieser welt, der eine hat den beutel der andere hat das geld; mit wem halten sie es? – – mit mir, nicht wahr? – – das glaub ich! iezt ists noch ärger. appropós. möchten sie nicht bald wieder H: gold-schmid gehen? – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – aber was thun dort? – – was? – – nichts! – – um den Spuni Cuni fait fragen halt, sonst weiter nichts! sonst nichts? – – – Nu Nu; schon recht. Es leben alle die, die – die – – die – – – wie heist es weiter? – – iezt wünsch ich eine gute nacht, scheissen sie ins beet daß es kracht; schlafens gesund, reckens den arsch zum mund; ich gehe izt nach schlaraffen, und thue ein wenig schlaffen. Morgen werden wir uns gescheüt sprechen brechen. ich sage ihnen eine sache menge zu haben, sie glauben es nicht gar können; aber hören sie morgen es schon werden. leben sie wohl unterdessen, ach Mein arsch brennt mich wie feüer! was muß das nicht bedeüten! – – vielleicht will Dreck heraus? – – ja ja, dreck, ich kenne dich, sehe dich, und schmecke dich – – und – – was ist das? – – ists möglich! – – ihr götter! – – Mein ohr betrügst du mich nicht? – – Nein, es ist schon so – – welch langer, trauriger ton! – – heüt den schreiben fünfte ich dieses. gestern habe ich mit der gestrengen fr: Churfürstin gesprochen, und Morgen als den 6:ten werde ich in der grossen galla=academie spiellen, und dann werde ich extra in Cabinet, wie mir die fürstin=chur selbst gesagt hat, wieder spiellen. Nun was recht gescheütes!

    1: es wird ein brief, oder es werden briefe an mich in ihre hände kommen, wo ich sie bitte, daß – – wass? – – ja, kein fuchs ist kein haaß, ja das – – Nun, wo bin ich den geblieben? – – ja, recht, beym kommen; – – ja, ja sie werden kommen – – ja, wer? – wer wird kommen – – ja, izt fällts mir ein. briefe, briefe werden kommen – – aber was für briefe? – – je nu, briefe an mich halt, die bitte ich mir gewis zu schicken; ich werde ihnen schon nachricht geben wo ich in Mannheim weiters hin gehe, iezt Numero 2. ich bitte sie, warum nicht? ich bitte sie, allerliebster fex, warum nicht? – – daß wenn sie ohnedem an die Mad: Tavernier nach München schreiben, ein Compliment von mir an die 2 Mlles. freysinger schreiben, warum nicht? – – Curois! warum nicht? – – und die Jüngere, nämlich die frl: Josepha bitte ich halt recht um verzeyhung, warum nicht? – warum sollte ich sie nicht um verzeyhung bitten? – – Curios! – ich wüste nicht warum nicht? – – ich bitte sie halt recht sehr um verzeyhung, daß ich ihr bishero die versprochene Sonata noch nicht geschickt habe, aber ich werde sie, so bald es möglich ist übersenden. warum nicht? – – was – – warum nicht? – – warum soll ich sie nicht schicken? – warum soll ich sie nicht übersenden? – – warum nicht? – – Curios! ich wüste nicht warum nicht? – – Nu, also, diesen gefallen weren sie mir thun; – – warum nicht? – – warum sollen sie mirs nicht thun? – – warum nicht, Curios! ich thue ihnens ja auch, wenn sie wollen, warum nicht? – – warum soll ich es ihnen nicht thun? – – Curios, warum nicht? – – ich wüste nicht warum nicht? – – vergessen sie auch nicht von mir ein Compliment an Papa und Mama von die 2 frl: zu entrichten, denn das ist grob gefehlt, wenn man vatter und Mutter vergessen thut seyn müssen lassen haben. ich werde hernach wenn die Sonata fertig ist, selbe ihnen zuschicken, und einen brief darzu; und sie werden die güte haben, selben nach München zu schicken. Nun muß ich schliessen, und das thut mich verddriessen. herr vetter, gehen wir geschwind zum hl: kreütz, und schauen wir ob noch wer auf ist? – – wir halten uns nicht auf , nichts als anleiten, sonst nichts. iezt muß ich ihnen eine trauerige geschichte erzehlen, die sich just den augenblick erreignet hat. wie ich an besten an dem brief schreibe, so höre ich etwas auf der gasse. ich höre auf zu schreiben – – stehe auf, gehe zum Fenster – – und – höre nichts mehr – – ich seze mich wieder, fange abermahl an zu schreiben – – ich schreibe kaum 10 worte so höre ich wieder etwas – – ich stehe wieder auf – – wie ich aufstehe, so höre ich nur noch etwas ganz schwach – – aber ich schmecke so was angebrandtes – – wo ich hingehe, so stinckt es. wann ich zum fenster hinaus sehe, so verliert sich der geruch, sehe ich wieder herein, so nimmt der geruch wieder zu – – endlich sagt Meine Mama zu mir: was wette ich, du hast einen gehen lassen? – – ich glaube nicht Mama. ja ja, es ist gewis so. ich mache die Probe, thue den ersten finger im arsch, und dann zur Nase, und – – Ecce Provatum est; die Mama hatte recht. Nun leben sie recht wohl, ich küsse sie 1000mahl und bin wie allzeit

    Der alte junge Sauschwanz

    Wolfgang Amadé Rosenkranz.

    von uns zwey Reisenden tausend Complimenten an H: vetter u. fr: baß. an alle meine gute freünd heünt Meinen gruß fus addio fex hex. V 333 bis ins grab, wennichs leben hab.

    Miehnnam ned net 5 rebotco 7771.

    Just like the music, no?

  42. wfkammann said,

    February 25, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    The second section starting with 1 is full of the blitherings of an old aristocrat. The whole thing is tongue in cheek if not everywhere else!

    sie schreiben noch ferners, ja, sie lassen sich heraus, sie geben sich blos, sie lassen sich verlauten, sie machen mir zu wissen, sie erklären sich, sie deüten mir an, sie benachrichtigen mir, sie machen mir kund, sie geben deütlich am Tage, sie verlangen, sie begehren, sie wünschen, sie wollen, sie mögen, sie befehlen, daß ich ihnen auch mein Portrait schicken soll schroll.

    These are all variations on the phrase “you write” and then “you would like” my Portrait. The mind is exploding with silly variations and dirty jokes.

  43. thomasbrady said,

    February 25, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    It’s fairly clear (as clear as a fart) Mozart considered writing letters to be the equivalent of farting. (Check for farts now!) I’m guessing this was a defensive gesture. Being so marvelously adept at music (and maybe only average at farting) and aware that writing was an art, too, and ashamed at his shortcomings in this art, poems? essays? plays? novels? Herr Mozart, have you none? he instinctively derided the whole processssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss. whew, smelly!

  44. wfkammann said,

    February 26, 2010 at 1:01 am


    You likely lack the German sensibility; in fact, I would put this letter up against most modern poetry. It’s at least more odiferous and imaginative. Just stick your finger up your ass, Tom, and see if you’re not the one who farted.

    Mozart answers you best.

    iezt wünsch ich eine gute nacht, scheissen sie ins beet daß es kracht; schlafens gesund, reckens den arsch zum mund

    And now I wish you a good night, shit in the bed ’til it breaks; sleep well, twist your ass to your mouth.

  45. February 26, 2010 at 1:43 am


    Wo fehlt’s, Kammann?

    Fur Mozart und nicht Blake?

  46. wfkammann said,

    February 26, 2010 at 3:07 am

    Sicher fuer Blake auch. Said nothing against Blake.

  47. Christopher Woodman said,

    February 26, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Pop goes the weasel.

    • Wfkammann said,

      February 26, 2010 at 3:49 pm

      Time to put this puppy to bed, eh? Thanks for letting me blog a bit on Scarriet.

  48. Wfkammann said,

    February 26, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Blake’s poem might not be published today, or Mozart’s letter. That does NOT mean they may not be vastly superior to “Tornado” by another measure. Where are we now? What kinds of poetry are published? and why?? “The Raven” may still be a great poem but whirling images of women’s relations to their fathers will get published. Women’s lives; thoughts and emotions are of interest. Men are still working to keep their heads ” while those about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.”

  49. Christopher Woodman said,

    February 26, 2010 at 4:51 pm


  50. thomasbrady said,

    February 26, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Did Mozart know we’d be reading those letters? Do you think he considered them art? I very much doubt it. He knew they were pzzzzzzztttt.

    And Blake. He’s overrated, too.

  51. February 27, 2010 at 12:02 am

    Blake is overrated, eh? Yeah? Yeah?

    Well then, well, yeah, then, well…so is Mozart!

    Yeah? Yeah? Well…then…well, yeah…

    so is Poe!

    Ha ha ha ha ha!

  52. thomasbrady said,

    February 27, 2010 at 12:51 am

    Poe is underrated.

    Mozart is…Mozart. No comment needed.

    Blake? He was a copyist, mostly; influenced by Fuseli, whom I prefer. Blake’s Michelangelo-style is garish, even stiff.

    He took Christian proverbs and flipped them. Not too difficult. You oughta try it, Gary.

    Blake eventually got smothered in antiquarianism.

    He is good, though.

    Just overrated.

  53. February 27, 2010 at 12:57 am

    After over two years of interchange, Tom, I can’t recall a single poet, except for Shelley and Poe, that you really actually like.

    A little pretentious (and arrogant), isn’t it?

  54. thomasbrady said,

    February 27, 2010 at 1:36 am


    I have some German in me.

    Just a minute…


    That’s better.

    Seriously, I am half German on my mother’s side.

    My English father’s far more fond of fart jokes, though.

    We might profit from an examination of Mozart’s humor; was it to relieve stress? Was it pure playfulness? Was he conscious of being ‘naughty?’ Or am I more correct: was it a kind of aggressive literary self-consciousness? Or was there something still more complex based on who his reader was?

    I don’t know if anyone watches ‘The Office,’ but Steve Carrel’s character in that show reminds me of Mozart’s sensibility somewhat; I’m thinking of a scene in which Michael Scott strikes an important deal in a restaurant by drinking and being silly without ever discussing the deal itself.

    Perhaps ‘devil-may-care’ is the key term here. ‘Devil-may-care’ lubricates genius.


  55. Christopher Woodman said,

    February 27, 2010 at 1:52 am

    At the very beginning of his “Pop Goes the Weasel” article, Bill wrote:

    Whether it’s peek-a-boo or Pandora’s box or the apple in Eden, the hidden and the forbidden are part of the danger and delight of life. The surprise, even (and especially) recurrent, is a nearly endless source of joy to children. Pandora’s box postulates a time, like Eden, when there was no evil in the world. It imagines that the parts of experience we don’t want to face can be hidden away safely and yield a world of constant pleasure.

    When you reduce discussion about anything to mere ratings, you insulate yourself against surprises. You are more concerned with maintaining your own point of view than you are with finding significance in what you actually see. The rating tells you something is good or bad, and you lose the capacity to be surprised — and of course, also to move on.

    The Mozart discussion was delightful — but if you rate it as “good” you’ll end up as a fartist.

  56. February 27, 2010 at 2:16 am

    Not to change the subject (subjects? Blake and Mozart? Talk about eclectic),
    but this may be of interest to Foets:


  57. Christopher Woodman said,

    February 27, 2010 at 9:29 am

    I don’t think this article would interest “Foets” at all as “Foets” are the very ones who have distorted American poetry by embracing the notions that the TEACHING of it have engendered. Never in the history of the world has poetry managed to support so many poets, and this is because never in the history of the world have so many people been taught it. Poetry has become a teaching art, and the teacher is a poet — and teaching poetry in America is a sinecure like parsons get in Jane Austen!

    John Gallaher is a fine poet, editor and blogger yet he concludes his essay by identifying the poets he most admires. “John Ashbery and Rae Armantrout,” he says. And yes, they are among the best we produce. But hey, look at the product and the means of production. And look at who buys it!

    Teachers’ poets. Poets taught to students who hope to become teacher poets. Poets who would never be read outside the classroom, and aren’t.

  58. thomasbrady said,

    February 27, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Give Gary a gold medal. He hearts more poets than anybody else.

    There was a philosopher, I forget his name…Smith? Brown? Jones? Yang? Schmidt? Pillsbury? McDonald? Ford? Green? who said if a man likes 3 poets, befriend him, if a man likes two poets, love him, if a man likes one poet, adore him and give him everything, but if a man likes many poets or none, kill him.

    Gary, remove your smoking jacket and give me that cigar. I’m revoking your Scarriet gentleman’s club privileges.

  59. thomasbrady said,

    February 27, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Woodman hits the nail on the head.

    Mr. Gallaher makes a few points but he skates the surface.

    A crucial document in this debate which everyone should peruse at once (or I shall damn you all) is ‘Criticism, Inc’ by John Crowe Ransom, published in the late 30s— on the brink of the Writing Program Era.

    Every word of that essay is to the point, every idea has been ‘got up’ and now exists in reality. This is not speculative philosophy, though it certainly articulates a philosophy; ‘Criticism, Inc’ is the blueprint for what, in fact, did happen, and is happening, and its author, and builder of the building we now live in, understood every salient point and drives them home with such suavity and smoothness the reader may not vibrate with the significance of it, so fine are the various points. I, Thomas Brady, shall take you through this essay, one paragraph at a time, and then you shall all be enlightened.

    Here is just the first paragraph:

    “It is strange, but nobody seems to have told us what exactly is the proper business of criticism. There are many critics who might tell us, but for the most part they are amateurs. So have the critics nearly always been amateurs; including the best ones. They have not been trained to criticism so much as they have simply undertaken a job for which no specific qualifications were required. It is far too likely that what they call criticism when they produce it is not the real thing.”

    Now, I don’t say this is good. It is horrendous. Note the oily presumption, the vagueness, the lack of example. Yet, as one reads this essay, the argument asphyxiates you both pragmatically and metaphysically; you know your throat is being cut by a general motors executive, but there’s nothing you can do. You watch your throat being carved, tenderly and expertly, 50 years too late.

    The Program Era is the air we breathe. In the thick, dark forest of professional poets, John Crowe Ransom grins.

  60. wfkammann said,

    February 27, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Christopher’s deprecation of scatological writing (surprising coming from an old fartist like him) brings to mind Mozart’s canon “Leck mich im Arsch” not to mention Swift’s “The Lady’s Dressing Room.”

    Five Hours, (and who can do it less in?)
    By haughty Celia spent in Dressing;
    The Goddess from her Chamber issues,
    Array’d in Lace, Brocades and Tissues.

    Strephon, who found the Room was void, [5]
    And Betty otherwise employ’d;
    Stole in, and took a strict Survey,
    Of all the Litter as it lay;
    Whereof, to make the Matter clear,
    An Inventory follows here. [10]

    And first a dirty Smock appear’d,
    Beneath the Arm-pits well besmear’d.
    Strephon, the Rogue, display’d it wide,
    And turn’d it round on every Side.
    On such a Point few Words are best, [15]
    And Strephon bids us guess the rest;
    But swears how damnably the Men lie,
    In calling Celia sweet and cleanly.
    Now listen while he next produces,
    The various Combs for various Uses, [20]
    Fill’d up with Dirt so closely fixt,
    No Brush could force a way betwixt.
    A Paste of Composition rare,
    Sweat, Dandriff, Powder, Lead and Hair;
    A Forehead Cloth with Oyl upon’t [25]
    To smooth the Wrinkles on her Front;
    Here Allum Flower to stop the Steams,
    Exhal’d from sour unsavoury Streams,
    There Night-gloves made of Tripsy’s Hide,
    Bequeath’d by Tripsy when she dy’d, [30]
    With Puppy Water, Beauty’s Help
    Distill’d from Tripsy’s darling Whelp;
    Here Gallypots and Vials plac’d,
    Some fill’d with washes, some with Paste,
    Some with Pomatum, Paints and Slops, [35]
    And Ointments good for scabby Chops.
    Hard by a filthy Bason stands,
    Fowl’d with the Scouring of her Hands;
    The Bason takes whatever comes
    The Scrapings of her Teeth and Gums, [40]
    A nasty Compound of all Hues,
    For here she spits, and here she spues.
    But oh! it turn’d poor Strephon’s Bowels,
    When he beheld and smelt the Towels,
    Begumm’d, bematter’d, and beslim’d [45]
    With Dirt, and Sweat, and Ear-Wax grim’d.
    No Object Strephon’s Eye escapes,
    Here Pettycoats in frowzy Heaps;
    Nor be the Handkerchiefs forgot
    All varnish’d o’er with Snuff and Snot. [50]
    The Stockings, why shou’d I expose,
    Stain’d with the Marks of stinking Toes;
    Or greasy Coifs and Pinners reeking,
    Which Celia slept at least a Week in?
    A Pair of Tweezers next he found [55]
    To pluck her Brows in Arches round,
    Or Hairs that sink the Forehead low,
    Or on her Chin like Bristles grow.

    The Virtues we must not let pass,
    Of Celia’s magnifying Glass. [60]
    When frighted Strephon cast his Eye on’t
    It shew’d the Visage of a Gyant.
    A Glass that can to Sight disclose,
    The smallest Worm in Celia’s Nose,
    And faithfully direct her Nail [65]
    To squeeze it out from Head to Tail;
    For catch it nicely by the Head,
    It must come out alive or dead.

    Why Strephon will you tell the rest?
    And must you needs describe the Chest? [70]
    That careless Wench! no Creature warn her
    To move it out from yonder Corner;
    But leave it standing full in Sight
    For you to exercise your Spight.
    In vain, the Workman shew’d his Wit [75]
    With Rings and Hinges counterfeit
    To make it seem in this Disguise,
    A Cabinet to vulgar Eyes;
    For Strephon ventur’d to look in,
    Resolv’d to go thro’ thick and thin; [80]
    He lifts the Lid, there needs no more,
    He smelt it all the Time before.
    As from within Pandora’s Box,
    When Epimetheus op’d the Locks,
    A sudden universal Crew [85]
    Of humane Evils upwards flew;
    He still was comforted to find
    That Hope at last remain’d behind;
    So Strephon lifting up the Lid,
    To view what in the Chest was hid. [90]
    The Vapours flew from out the Vent,
    But Strephon cautious never meant
    The Bottom of the Pan to grope,
    And fowl his Hands in Search of Hope.
    O never may such vile Machine [95]
    Be once in Celia’s Chamber seen!
    O may she better learn to keep
    “Those Secrets of the hoary deep!”

    As Mutton Cutlets, Prime of Meat,
    Which tho’ with Art you salt and beat, [100]
    As Laws of Cookery require,
    And toast them at the clearest Fire;
    If from adown the hopful Chops
    The Fat upon a Cinder drops,
    To stinking Smoak it turns the Flame [105]
    Pois’ning the Flesh from whence it came;
    And up exhales a greasy Stench,
    For which you curse the careless Wench;
    So Things, which must not be exprest,
    When plumpt into the reeking Chest; [110]
    Send up an excremental Smell
    To taint the Parts from whence they fell.
    The Pettycoats and Gown perfume,
    Which waft a Stink round every Room.

    Thus finishing his grand Survey, [115]
    Disgusted Strephon stole away
    Repeating in his amorous Fits,
    Oh! Celia, Celia, Celia shits!

    But Vengeance, Goddess never sleeping
    Soon punish’d Strephon for his Peeping; [120]
    His foul Imagination links
    Each Dame he sees with all her Stinks:
    And, if unsav’ry Odours fly,
    Conceives a Lady standing by:
    All Women his Description fits, [125]
    And both Idea’s jump like Wits:
    By vicious Fancy coupled fast,
    And still appearing in Contrast.
    I pity wretched Strephon blind
    To all the Charms of Female Kind; [130]
    Should I the Queen of Love refuse,
    Because she rose from stinking Ooze?
    To him that looks behind the Scene,
    Satira’s but some pocky Quean.
    When Celia in her Glory shows, [135]
    If Strephon would but stop his Nose;
    (Who now so impiously blasphemes
    Her Ointments, Daubs, and Paints and Creams,
    Her Washes, Slops, and every Clout,
    With which he makes so foul a Rout;) [140]
    He soon would learn to think like me,
    And bless his ravisht Sight to see
    Such Order from Confusion sprung,
    Such gaudy Tulips rais’d from Dung.

    There it is, Christopher, Pandora’s Box and more. Not quite Mozart but well on the way. If we’re looking for new directions in poetry away from the academic, how about something like this?

  61. Christopher Woodman said,

    February 27, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    Pop as Celia: a satisfactory but unobtrusive fart. Until you start talking about it/her — and then, oh my, oh my, oh my!

    Celestial flatulence!

    • Wfkammann said,

      February 27, 2010 at 9:53 pm

      Gaudy tulips raised from dung. Like the Lotus lifted above the muddy pond; yet totally dependent on it. But some are just skunkweed.

  62. thomasbrady said,

    February 27, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Bravo, Swift! That’s delightful, Bill. The modern equivalent might be A. R. Ammons, who writes about garbage and such, but Ammons wanders and Swift does not; Swift hits the moral heart and confuses it, while Ammons is finally killed by his own intricate babbling as he hauls in discursive abstractions. Byron is more Swiftian than Romantic; how different from Wordsworth, contemplative in the weeds, but these distinctions tend to get lost upon the moderns who can only think of themselves as…you know…modern and not Romantic. Poe was Swiftian as well–see his story ‘The Spectacles’ in which a near-sighted fellow falls in love with his great great grandma. But the moderns reject this sense and that wit for a more specific slop. Each line contains a little world until the next line and then there is a great falling off; to read the modern poem is like falling down a set of stairs with no bottom. I am speaking as an amateur, of course.

  63. thomasbrady said,

    February 27, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Ransom’s ‘Criticism, Inc’ continued…

    Mr. Ransom looks about to find the best person to practice criticism.

    Can anyone guess who Ransom chooses?

    “There are three sorts of trained performers who would appear to have some of the competence that the critic needs. The first is the artist himself. He should know good art when he sees it; but his understanding is intuitive rather than dialectical—he cannot very well explain his theory of the thing.”

    “The second is the philosopher, who should know all about the function of the fine arts. But the philosopher is apt to see a lot of wood and no trees, for his theory is very general and his acquaintance with the particular works of art is not persistent and intimate, especially his acquaintance with their technical effects.”

    “The third is the university teacher of literature, who is styled professor, and who should be the very professonal we need to take charge of the critical activity.”

    Did you guess professor?

  64. Christopher Woodman said,

    February 28, 2010 at 2:48 am

    The Professor as arbitrator of taste, the Priest as adjudicator!

    O Rose thou art sick!

    (I posted a reply on this theme just above).

  65. thomasbrady said,

    February 28, 2010 at 3:07 pm


    Ransom would never committ his program to “taste.”

    “Taste” is for hopeless “amateurs.”

    Of course, you are correct: it IS “arbritrator of taste,” but this term is tossed onto the ash heap of history as the Rhodes scholar instead wills his agenda into something akin to “science.”

    Thusly (I quote him in full):

    “[The university professor] is hardly inferior as critic to the philosopher, and perhaps not on the whole to the poet, but he is a greater disappointment because we have the right to expect more of him. Professors of literature are learned but not critical men. The professional morale of this part of the university staff is evidently low. It is as if, with conscious or unconsious cunning, they had appropriated every avenue of escape from their responsibility which was decent and official; so that it is easy for one of them without public reproach to spend a lifetime in compiling the data of literature and yet rarely or never commit himself to a literary judgment.”

    This is the sort of “reasoning” that would make a state propaganda minister proud:

    “the professional morale of this part of the university staff is evidently low…”

    Mr. Ransom reaches sweeping factual conclusions—literature professors are complete failures and they know it—based on the single opinion of Mr. Ransom.

    “Nevertheless [he continues] it is from the professors of literature, in this country the professors of English for the most part, that I should hope eventually for the erection of intelligent critical standards of criticism. It is their business.”

    Out with the professors of literature, those stodgy old compilers of data! In with the professors of critical judgment like Bin Ramke and Jorie Graham!

    Now comes the diversionary tactic: ‘we are scientific!’

    “Criticism must become more scientific, or precise and systematic, and this means that it must be developed by the collective and sustained effort of learned persons—which means that its proper seat is in the universities.”

    Could the agenda here be any clearer?

  66. thomasbrady said,

    February 28, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    So, according to this position paper by the most influential Writing Program intellectual, who can be a critic?

    The poet? No, for the poet’s skill is instinctive, not systematic.

    The philosopher? No, for the philosopher is lost in general truths.

    The journalist? Bah, not even worth mentioning, a mere amateur.

    The literature professor? Getting warmer, but still not worthy; the literature professor is learned, but not critical.

    How about the literature professor “trained” to be “precise and systematic” in critical judgment?

    Ding ding ding ding!!! Jorie Graham and Bin Ramke, come on down!

    Unleash the balloons! Hire the blurb writers! The goldsmiths! We have prizes and medals to make!

    (Gary Fitzgerald? Christopher Woodman? You’re a bunch of amateurs. Drop dead.)

    Mr. Ransom will now (we hope) reveal the content of this ‘training’ which will make all the university men appropriately ‘critical.’

    Let’s see…of what shall this critical training consist?

    Shall we study Keats’ letters? Why that’s not proper, for Keats was a poet, and Ransom already ruled out the poets.

    Aristotle? That won’t do. Aristotle was a philosopher, and they have been ruled out, as well.

    Here’s quite a predicament. Poets, philosophers, and literature professors cannot do criticism, and yet the latter must somehow be ‘trained’ to do criticism without contaminating themselves with those who fail Professor Ransom’s own explicit standard for critics: the poets and the philosophers. (!!?)

    Could it be that the current state of po-biz is based on documented assumptions which make absolutely no sense at all?

    But no, we must not come to hasty conclusions. Ransom is a wise man, and the university-based Creative Writing industry has proven to be a profitable enterprise. Let us follow Ransom’s argument to the end. (more to follow)

  67. wfkammann said,

    March 1, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    I intrude here with an idea of my own, which may serve as a starting point of discussion. Poetry distinguishes itself from prose on the technical side by the devices which are, precisely, its means of escaping from prose. Something is continually being killed by prose which the poet wants to preserve. But this must be put philosophically. Philosophy sounds hard, but it deals with natural and fundamental forms of experience.

    Yes, yes, philosophy sounds hard!! That is why criticism is best left to the dilettante. Only such a lover of poetry with the passion to not only read widely but also have the insight to grasp relationships over time within the framework of the body of literature. Someone with something to say. Someone who sees the naked emperor and blurts it out. Someone who sees that this is like that and this is actually better than that and here’s why! The analysis of form or how the poem escapes being prose is hardly criticism. Poetry is not escaping prose it has consciously transcended it. But how? and why? And what is the territory beyond posaic description which is points to? Yes, the dilettante. That’s the critic for me. And no, just anybody can’t do it. The university can’t develop a critic since a critic is generally educated far beyond the university level. The universities teach “basic sports trivia” (criticism) and then there are those who actually know all sports trivia; and THEN there are those who know how to use that knowledge with creative insight to expose the soul of the literary work.

  68. thomasbrady said,

    March 2, 2010 at 5:15 pm


    The poem, like a piece of music, like any performance, picture, or scene, creates its own context; the germ of the total design is articulated throughout. The poet is the philosopher writ small.

    Is this what you are saying?

    Poetry’s relationship to prose is problematic since to ‘transcend’ prose is to sound artificial in relation to prose, and the moment poetry does this, it suggests music, which is ‘artificial’ speech par excellence. One can only escape prose through music, and if it’s good music, it’s poetry. There’s no other way to describe it.

    A joke’s punchline is a universal pleasure, but how many enjoy good music while laughing? The joke is the fly in the ointment, for it is fast becoming the heart of contemporary poetry, and the joke is pure prose; prose can always tell a better joke than poetry can. The whole problem of poetry for me is The Joke v. Music.

  69. Wfkammann said,

    March 2, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    The remark about escaping from prose is Ransom. The poem may have narrative but uses language to transcend narrative usage. E.g. In Tornedo we use the lurking catastrophe to represent the father who could kill us in our bed. The poem is charged with sexuality and is not a prose joke. Now music: the sound, meter, relationship of words on the page etc. are “musical” and visual tools to evoke additional layers of meaning. Think of the blank page in Tristram Shandy as a prose example. We can say, “I was abused by my father and afraid he would kill me,” or write Tornado. The first is a personal statement from which I may easily distance myself; the second creates a mood which triggers that fear again in others. In that sense you see it transcends prose. What about the dilettante? Would you call Gore Vidal a dilettante? He’s certainly a great critic.

  70. thomasbrady said,

    March 2, 2010 at 8:41 pm


    Your view seems Aristotelian: poetry as metaphor to reflect real life and capture emotions the way a magnifying glass might concentrate light and turn it into heat, perhaps in order to purge those emotions. (Tornado)

    Correct me if I’m wrong.

    I’m more the Platonist: Why divert an experience into metaphor? Why accept art’s illusion? Why stir up emotions for the sake of being emotional? I believe the best poetry is 1) NOT metaphoric and 2) does NOT manipulate us emotionally.

    You said you’d rather not hear directly the unadorned facts of someone’s child abuse; you anticipate being able to distance yourself from it, where an artful or metaphoric treatment ‘fools’ you into feeling a real emotion you would otherwise avoid. I’m wary of this formula; I consider this indulging in the wrong we should try to avoid. I don’t buy the catharsis theory; I don’t think we can purge emotions; conjuring them doesn’t make them go away; it lends strength to blind emotionalism and metaphor as a ‘safe’ way to indulge in emotion is folly. Granted, the unsuccessful poem creates no or little emotion, but the poem that does stir up emotions is not necessarily a good poem, either, because do we really want that to become a criterion? Perhaps we do. I don’t think we do want to go near that criterion, much less make it a virtue.

    As for prose v. poetry, if we wanted to articulate an idea or a philosophy or describe a detailed landscape, or paint with words a beautiful garden, prose would always serve us better, and, if we did a really good job of describing the beautiful garden, our prose description might seem to be poetry, but the “poetry” would really reside in the beauty beautifully described by the prose—the prose, wearing the beauty of what has been described, only seems to be poetry.

    If poetry is what we describe and not how we describe it, then perhaps we are closer to cutting the knot of the great prose v. poetry dilemma. But few contemporaries would admit poetry exists in combinations just beyond the language.

    As for dilettantes, Oxfordians insist Shakespeare could not have been Shakespeare not because he lacked learning, but because he did not dwell with kings and queens. In other words, the amateur who happens to be royalty could be Shakespeare, whereas Shakespeare the professional playwright could not be. This ‘amateur v. professional’ argument of Ransom’s is fraught with the most insidious kind of error.

  71. Wfkammann said,

    March 3, 2010 at 12:44 am

    You miss the point. No catharsis; no magnifying glass; simply a way into a place many women know. A way in that no prose discription provides. Poetry is also what is not said. Spaces like rests in music. Words that take you to a certain place and allow you to fill in the blanks. You don’t see the advantage poetry has. A dilettante may be an amatuer but much, much more.

  72. thomasbrady said,

    March 3, 2010 at 1:47 am

    A dilettante is defined as a dabbler, an amateur. I guess I’m missing the distinction. But I’m all for the amateur tinkering in his home-made laboratory.

    We have to agree on the worth of the poem, though, before we can both agree that Tornado is “a way into a place many women know” and we cannot say for certain that this “place many women know” cannot be better articulated in prose. For some women, a tornado might not work as a metaphor for their experience, for some women, no poem at all can express their fear, for society at large, social issues may be better addressed by specific legislation, not poems like Tornado.

    And when you say “women know,” don’t you mean what “women feel?” Are we talking about knowledge here? ‘Fathers can terrify their daughters.’ Oh, really? Is that some kind of insight? A knowing? Of course not. And if it is a headline announcing a certain social wrong, then it should be in a newspaper; it will reach more people that way than if it’s a poem, and if the message is really urgent, why should it soften into a song?

    So it’s not a matter of ‘knowing’ at all, is it? What you are talking about is that it is a comfort to have someone say, ‘you know, I really understand the horror you feel…it’s like facing a tornado, isn’t it?…’ And the reader of the poem says, ‘Yes, it is like a tornado! Thank you, I’m so glad you understand what I’m going through.’

    That’s an emotional experience. That’s commiseration. That’s not necessarily poetry.

    When I’m watching ‘Othello,’ I don’t think Shakespeare is saying to the audience, ‘It’s a real shame there are rats like Iago in the world but I UNDERSTAND.’ Is that the message? Is that a message a poet qua poet EVER makes? I don’t think it is.

    As far as a poem being what is not said. That’s true of any rhetorical or dramatic experience. Space and rest. Yes. But that’s a little vague. We rest on periods and commas. Poetry, like music, has to earn those pauses. They don’t just magically work. They don’t work because the poet says they do.

  73. wfkammann said,

    March 3, 2010 at 1:58 am

    Well then you explain why the poem was published in the New Yorker. Is there some technical poetic reason? Did she pay someone off? You don’t seem to actually ever experience the poem. All of your analysis does not help understand what makes the poem work or why it was published. Try that on.

  74. thomasbrady said,

    March 3, 2010 at 2:39 am

    I don’t know why it was published in the New Yorker. Paul Muldoon is the editor. If I don’t like the poem, that doesn’t necessarily mean someone has been paid off! I’d be glad to look at the poem again…do a close reading of it…

  75. Christopher Woodman said,

    March 3, 2010 at 3:08 am

    I’m a bit insulted by that response, Tom — I put a lot of work into opening that poem up, and I think what I said was worth noticing, and particularly by you.

    Like Bill, I have the sense that you hardly notice poems at all, just the schools they appear to belong to and the forms they’re written in — if you regard those forms as worth noticing. Otherwise poems mean very little to you.

    They never speak seem to speak you. They never seem to move you.

    Dogs in a dog show — mostly about perms.


  76. thomasbrady said,

    March 3, 2010 at 8:20 pm


    Aren’t you doing the same thing you are accusing me of doing?

    You are saying: Here’s how I read ALL poems.

    Let’s assume your assessment is correct and I read ALL poems in terms of schools and so forth and I am utterly unmoved by any of them.

    Let us say I have misread “Tornado.” Perhaps I have. Let us say I have. Let us grant that.

    But all I have done is question “Tornado.”

    But you are not only questioning my judgment of “Tornado,” but you are questioning my judgment as a whole.

    I deserve the rebuke. I’ll admit I do get carried away by my precepts and forget the poem itself. I’ve already forgotten it. I don’t remember a word of it. The criticism shall never touch the poem. (And you did do a great job of opening up the poem.)

    Of course no one can make someone else like another poem. I don’t have to like the poem, do I? On the other hand, my opinion can change. I won’t deny that. If the poem is the boat and the critic is the sea, the critic is certainly not steady, and perhaps that’s the nature of criticism.

    Behold, me, the critic, I am the mighty sea!

    Help, I’m drowning…

  77. wfkammann said,

    March 4, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    by Derek Mahon
    MARCH 8, 2010

    A blink of lightning, then
    a rumor, a grumble of white rain
    growing in volume, rustling over the ground,
    drenching the gravel in a wash of sound.
    Drops tap like timpani or shine
    like quavers on a line.

    It rings on exposed tin,
    a suite for water, wind and bin,
    plinky Poulenc or strongly groaning Brahms’
    rain-strings, a whole string section that describes
    the very shapes of thought in warm
    self-referential vibes

    and spreading ripples. Soon
    the whispering roar is a recital.
    Jostling rain-crowds, clamorous and vital,
    struggle in runnels through the afternoon.
    The rhythm becomes a regular beat;
    steam rises, body heat—

    and now there’s city noise,
    bits of recorded pop and rock,
    the drums, the strident electronic shock,
    a vast polyphony, the dense refrain
    of wailing siren, truck and train
    and incoherent cries.

    All human life is there
    in the unconfined, continuous crash
    whose slow, diffused implosions gather up
    car radios and alarms, the honk and beep,
    and tiny voices in a crèche
    piercing the muggy air.

    Squalor and decadence,
    the rackety global-franchise rush,
    oil wars and water wars, the diatonic
    crescendo of a cascading world economy
    are audible in the hectic thrash
    of this luxurious cadence.

    The voice of Baal explodes,
    raging and rumbling round the clouds,
    frantic to crush the self-sufficient spaces
    and re-impose his failed hegemony
    in Canaan before moving on
    to other simpler places.

    At length the twining chords
    run thin, a watery sun shines out,
    the deluge slowly ceases, the guttural chant
    subsides; a thrush sings, and discordant thirds
    diminish like an exhausted concert
    on the subdominant.

    The angry downpour swarms
    growling to far-flung fields and farms.
    The drains are still alive with trickling water,
    a few last drops drip from a broken gutter;
    but the storm that created so much fuss
    has lost interest in us.

    Let’s try again if you’re willing. This poem is a pure sensory description with allusion. It is a man’s poem. No messy emotion here. Pure experience. It’s enough that I let you know that I can experience like this. No vulnerability. Simply language. And then the rhyme at the end!!? This too from the New Yorker. Why was it published? Does it work? How?

  78. Christopher Woodman said,

    March 4, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    I’m not questioning your judgement as a whole, Tom, though I admit I’m getting near there. I’m questioning your judgement about Dorothea Lasky’s “Tornado,” a judgement which I would say is not only superficial but ignores entirely the hard work by your close friends who really care for you and admire you — hard work specifically to open up this poem for you and make it more available to someone who doesn’t want to, or can’t, read it. Indeed, you’ve never responded to any of my observations, and just go on dismissing the poem as “Paul Muldoon,” “New Yorker,” and, by inference, “superficial.”

    “But all I have done is question ‘Tornado,'” you say in your preceding post. Well, you’ve questioned it for sure, indeed you’ve used it to question the ability of poetry to say anything at all. It would seem you want poetry just to be tame and beautiful — as, for example, you read “Ode to Psyche” as “beautiful” without considering that despite its extraordinary poetry it might be a failure. You want poetry to be a lap-dog, docile and subservient, you want poetry to accept a very minor role — a professional, well-trained major domo sort of role in a chi chi restaurant of haute-cuisine Art!

    Here’s another poem, “The Thunder Shower” — and I would say another wonderful poem too even though it doesn’t speak to me personally nearly as savagely or forbiddenly as “Tornado.”

    What say you now?


  79. thomasbrady said,

    March 4, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Now “The Thunder Shower” is a poem I want to drown in.


    “self-referential vibes” at the end of stanza 2 doesn’t seem to fit, and the metaphoric trope of storm = symphony is a bit too obvious and overworked, but the last stanza rescues the poem.

    Bravo, Derek Mahon.

  80. Wfkammann said,

    March 4, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    Did anyone ever kick you in the gut and knock the wind out of you? or twist your arm behind your back until the pain forced you to walk a path you didn’t want to tread? Although this poem too is about a storm. This one is all self conscious language with allusion to everything but nothing really to say.

  81. thomasbrady said,

    March 4, 2010 at 7:06 pm


    Have you ever stepped on a land mine?

    “Thunder Shower” describes an event outside the poet and uses the language to do so. How is it “self conscious?”


  82. Wfkammann said,

    March 5, 2010 at 12:22 am

    Such questions are thoughtless to those of us who served our country during the Vietnam war. My point was about the use of language in the two poems. How would differentiate their use of language and the effect it produces. My question was directed to your possiblity of understanding Tornado. Why do you LOVE this poem? It’s really just a bunch of self conscious words.

  83. thomasbrady said,

    March 5, 2010 at 2:25 am


    I admire a man who can look a poem in the eye and say, “Poem! I don’t like you.”

    I don’t love the poem. It does try too hard. I don’t like it as much re-reading it.

    Here’s what it has going for it.

    1. a beginning, a middle and an end

    Tornado has no beginning, no middle and no end.

    2. I know what the poet is talking about at all times

    I really have no idea what Tornado is talking about

    3. It has stanza, meter and rhyme



  84. Christopher Woodman said,

    March 5, 2010 at 3:06 am

    “I know what the poet is talking about at all times.”

    That’s precisely your limitation, Tom, that you really do limit your world to what you know. Poetry is for you just the frilly edge, icing on the cake of what you know.


    The part of William Carlos Williams’ poem that really bugs you is the part that says “so much depends upon” — because for you poetry depends upon what you know and not upon what’s there that you don’t.

    No wonder “Tornado” appalls you.


  85. thomasbrady said,

    March 5, 2010 at 3:13 am

    I knew you’d jump all over me on that one, Woody.

    What can I say? I’ve never seen a ghost.

    And if I did, there’d he be.

    I only know what I know.

    I only see what I see.

  86. Desmond Swords said,

    March 5, 2010 at 5:48 am

    Not having seen a ghost limits the poetic parameters of a 90% of everyone who the dead did not visit.

    Poetry is a ghost wthin us, all of the people who came before and contributed their flame, two parents, four grands eight greats and double, square, square and square again into that spiral of it, dán – poetry, gift-talent-vocation, fate-destiny as a unitary concept, and we’re still not where poetry began in us, only back to the Renaissane, the early middle ages, pre-invasion 24 tribes and seperate kingdoms warring and forming alliances, strategies, political attachment and dossolvings, fluid, real, utterly unknown to us now because the Romans came and made us who we are today. Slaves to the groove of poetry and music chilling all day long in the office and quads of Bostom where the trill of admirers oohing and ahhing as we drift past, plotting another match between the dead ghosts whose collision in our lives make, not only us but whatever poetry that is going to come out of us, once we’ve mined past our own limit of perception and arrived at some higher plane of poetic nous, that can come wholly through chance or hard work or any combination of both, 60/40, 85/15, 2/98 and thousands more combinations off odd and even things that go into making poetry Tom.

    A poem, and by extension a poet, spins us from being all certainty and answer, into a questioning state, and the most human poets we read because their routine is not the static certainty of 100% knowing about everything, but 50% question and fifty answer, some inner poetic reality effecting outside of ourselves, into the wider, shared and material reality of ther people’s lives, worlds, fulfilling a basic lore in the document detailing the rules in place, we posses: all action humanity in poetic balance, the joy and sorrow in fifty fifty mix on a page where poetry lives.

    A cliche woven fictional reality. One that does not exist in any sense except the conceptual one inside our heads: A single dream-template existing once only in the realm of theatre in its purest sense and comedy with sorrow intermixed in an aggregate of fifty fifty, a balances human picture of some joy and some heartbreak, some pain and some pleasure, carrot and stick, hand and heart to head and move it here along, pivotal position, point at which ..i dunno.

    You only see what you see Tom, but not seeing something is not an empirical proof it isn’t there. The matter theoretical physicists currently posit is 90% of all matter, we cannot see it, it’s invisible to all but the theorists positing its existence because of the quantum and cosmic model on which our contemporary world whirrs, is a far more fascinating place than prosody, methinks. And thinking thus: What is it that we can’t see and can only hear as music from the spheres and revoltion propelling us into a tenth millenium and dimesion, undreamt of, or maybe always there, since we crawled out of our caves and, suddenly, began settling down to a wholly different way, as farmers. No more day to day hunt and gather, but swiftly over a period of centuries, the official model of History posits, we settled into our current model of civilization, and the biggest change to come over homosapiens in one millenium, than in the previous 200 we’d been working away day after day on the hunt and gather for, came about very quickly and now …i dunno.

    Poetry, when we apprehend it on this scale, is the full of our story according to a rule sporting counter-to whoevers jangling Tuatha De Danann in hi-res at low watt offices of state and sociology 101 – is it:

    Aren’t we clever. What’s next, but the disposal of the cleverness and always being rightness and oh lordy, look who it isn’t, i’ve always thought Brady, is the way to move through a career of always being a spammer and spewer. When you start, you gotta go somehwere productive and for me, all this tittle tattle on Jorie and John, i don’t like it. I don’t like it one little darned bit mister Tom. Pack it in. Desist immediately, please, from this childish routine of dissing people with a profile of celebrity on a par with our own, that is, unknowns and noted spammers who tore up the heart of American poetry and made anew, the new thing Graves, a ghost, triumvirate of priestly babblers, cup-bearers and officiating organ of whatever poetic state yr laureate of, mate, and on the manscript all that matters is you were gr great. Yeah. Yeah.

    To make a dream come true, we first must live a dream, see a ghost, have a vision of something so not known and unknowable, its appearance to no one but us, is the most important ingrediant we have in poetry, the fictional truth that takes existential effect on some level, be it global or locally in the village called home that makes poetry real or not in a world beyond our own.

    Without the ghost, there’d be no poetry, only a peroration on why the poetry isn’t here, which is very boring for people who come here hoping to find something of a show and not another bluffer claiming ownership of the definition, telling us what isn’t more than what is. You need fifty is to fifty nots and that’s you sialing straight Tom.

  87. thomasbrady said,

    March 5, 2010 at 2:57 pm


    DNA is not a ghost.

    My son looks like me. That’s not ghostly. That’s real.

    Immortality can be touched. Poetry is thought that we can touch.

    As far as Jorie and John, I’m not dissing them. It’s win-win. We get publicity, they get publicity. Odds are in not that many years time all poets alive today will be forgotten. You don’t have to go back that far in history to see that. It’s gentle satire. I’m aghast that you’re objecting to it.

  88. wfkammann said,

    March 5, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    so YOU LOVE IT and you don’t love it. And Tom, the milk man looks like you too.
    And perhaps there is a poem that could take you to that doubt in a way that would shake your faith in DNA and bring you to an experience which is buried beneath that “real” you refer to.

  89. thomasbrady said,

    March 5, 2010 at 7:31 pm


    Changing one’s mind is real, too. I LOVE (well, maybe not) that poem. What’s wrong with that?

    Yea, we all look alike, sort of…

    Perhaps you can provide that poem that would explode faith in DNA?

  90. thomasbrady said,

    March 5, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Perhaps my argument seems too materialist, but the burden of proof is on those who brag of the unseen. A brag is real, even when it brags of nothing. Fools who prattle of nothing are real, unfortunately. But all is never lost…

    A pause in a piece of music exists as sure as the striking of a drum does; my ‘real,’ then, is not confined to what knocks me on the head, but before we start telling ghost stories I think we need to establish what really is real, at least in the beginning of our discourse…

    I look forward to the feast of secrets as much as the next man…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

  91. Wfkammann said,

    March 5, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    I mean maybe you’re a cuckold despite your certainty. That doubt or fear may not be real to you but a poem might help you explore the possibility. I feel like I’m writing Greek

  92. thomasbrady said,

    March 5, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    Why would I need a poem to raise that doubt? Did Iago need a poem to bring down Othello?

    Actually, this is Greek:

    “so YOU LOVE IT and you don’t love it. And Tom, the milk man looks like you too.
    And perhaps there is a poem that could take you to that doubt in a way that would shake your faith in DNA and bring you to an experience which is buried beneath that “real” you refer to.”

    The above is a very tortured way of saying what you were trying to say. “that doubt” could refer to about five different things…

    Is there a poem capable of providing me with the “experience” you attempted to describe? Uh…no.

  93. wfkammann said,

    March 5, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    OK here’s one by Leonard Cohen

    The Cuckold’s Song

    If this looks like a poem
    I might as well warn you at the beginning
    that it’s not meant to be one.
    I don’t want to turn anything into poetry.
    I know all about her part in it
    but I’m not concerned with that right now.
    This is between you and me.
    Personally I don’t give a damn who led who on:
    in fact I wonder if I give a damn at all.
    But a man’s got to say something.
    Anyhow you fed her 5 MacKewan Ales,
    took her to your room, put the right records on,
    and in an hour or two it was done.
    I know all about passion and honour
    but unfortunately this had really nothing to do with either:
    oh there was passion I’m only too sure
    and even a little honour
    but the important thing was to cuckold Leonard Cohen.
    Hell, I might just as well address this to the both of you:
    I haven’t time to write anything else.
    I’ve got to say my prayers.
    I’ve got to wait by the window.
    I repeat: the important thing was to cuckold Leonard Cohen.
    I like that line because it’s got my name in it.
    What really makes me sick
    is that everything goes on as it went before:
    I’m still a sort of friend,
    I’m still a sort of lover.
    But not for long:
    that’s why I’m telling this to the two of you.
    The fact is I’m turning to gold, turning to gold.
    It’s a long process, they say,
    it happens in stages.
    This is to inform you that I’ve already turned to clay.
    …………………………………………Leonard Cohen

    Did the fact that he liked to hear his own name play a role; how about you?

  94. wfkammann said,

    March 5, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    Here’s a blessing prayer to think yourself into


    On the day when
    the weight deadens
    on your shoulders
    and you stumble,
    may the clay dance
    to balance you.
    And when your eyes
    freeze behind
    the grey window
    and the ghost of loss
    gets in to you,
    may a flock of colours,
    indigo, red, green,
    and azure blue
    come to awaken in you
    a meadow of delight.

    When the canvas frays
    in the currach of thought
    and a stain of ocean
    blackens beneath you,
    may there come across the waters
    a path of yellow moonlight
    to bring you safely home.

    May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
    may the clarity of light be yours,
    may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
    may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
    And so may a slow
    wind work these words
    of love around you,
    an invisible cloak
    to mind your life.

    ……………………………………. John O’Donohue

  95. thomasbrady said,

    March 5, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Cuckolding is one of the oldest tropes, definitely.

    It’s a rich source of horror and mystery and drama and it’s one of those things that we never wish to happen to us, but it’s an endlessly curious subject, and despite all its potential fury and heartbreak it can also happen with a shrug and it can be very banal, like George Harrison allowing his wife to run to Eric Clapton. Cohen sort of has this attitude, it sounds like a drunken, music business, cuckolding, Cohen in a haze, probably with other women himself, and so, unlike a stung middle-class citizen, Cohen can kind of groove on it in a poem.

    You see, Bill, so this is the Brady way, I turn around and judge the poem. No poem is going to judge me. Poems don’t judge. Critics do. Some people wish it were the other way, but you can’t get around it, it’s a natural law; critics eat and poems are eaten.

    No poem can unsettle the good judge.

    • Christopher Woodman said,

      March 6, 2010 at 2:34 am

      You mean like no girl can unsettle the good husband?

      That’s why the trope is so old, Tom — as an image it strikes right at the heart of what you call “I know.” Because when we are in the arms of what we “know” we know what we know, and what we know is that everything is in its place because we are whole and contained, and the world is good, and it makes sense, and it’s ours.

      To say that the unexamined life is not worth living is to say that what we know is not enough. Indeed, it’s what we don’t know that we’re born into, and it’s what we don’t know that we become. Willy nilly.


    • Wfkammann said,

      March 6, 2010 at 6:25 am

      Mr. Invictus,
      Hate to tell you; it’s a bore this one way street.

      • wfkammann said,

        March 6, 2010 at 7:31 pm

        To clarify
        This comment is in response to “the Brady way”

      • thomasbrady said,

        March 6, 2010 at 8:59 pm

        No, it’s a two-way street. Your car’s broke.

        Interesting how people who are so anxious to be kind to poems and so anxious to assign poems all this influence, have so little respect for the opinions of…other people.

        Odd, isn’t it?

  96. March 6, 2010 at 1:20 am

    Well…one thing’s for sure…

    that John O’Donohue poem is a damned good one!

    God bless the Irish! Where would poetry be without us?

  97. Christopher Woodman said,

    March 6, 2010 at 1:21 am

    Love Again

    Love again: wanking at ten past three
    (Surely he’s taken her home by now?),
    The bedroom hot as a bakery,
    The drink gone dead, without showing how
    To meet tomorrow, and afterwards,
    And the usual pain, like dysentery.

    Someone else feeling her breasts and cunt,
    Someone else drowned in that lash-wide stare,
    And me supposed to be ignorant,
    Or find it funny, or not to care,
    Even … but why put it into words?
    Isolate rather this element

    That spreads through other lives like a tree
    And sways them on in a sort of sense
    And say why it never worked for me.
    Something to do with violence
    A long way back, and wrong rewards,
    And arrogant eternity.
    ………………………………….Philip Larkin

  98. Christopher Woodman said,

    March 6, 2010 at 1:27 am


    And me supposed to be ignorant,
    Or find it funny, or not to care,
    Even … but why put it into words?

  99. Christopher Woodman said,

    March 6, 2010 at 1:47 am

    And if you’ve fasted long enough, or studied, are brilliant or crazy or, more likely, just plain lucky, pop goes the weasel.


    Who’s this naked giant then
    ……..peering in at your window

    with the huge brown phallus
    ……..pressed up against the pane,

    the half-tumescent glans
    ……..like some rude Cyclops’s tongue

    or thick-set paleolithic fruit
    ……..in puris naturabilis displayed

    and mounted on the slippery
    ……..slide the shocked members

    gape at as their meals
    ……..get laid upon the table?

    He has no shame, this sly
    ……..weighted thing towering

    above the high tree tops—
    ……..the great trunk of his gnarled

    sex and trumpet foreskin
    ……..making all the cultivated

    thoughts that dine in private
    ……..so much fast-food small-talk.

    But oh, how the air out there
    ……..shines attendant with delight,

    hiking up those warm kirtled
    ……..skirts to reveal Galileo’s secret

    so profound only such obscene
    ……..dimensions ever fathom it!

  100. March 6, 2010 at 2:15 am

    Christopher…you’re, like, a sex maniac, right?

    Is that why you’re hiding out in Thailand?

  101. Christopher Woodman said,

    March 6, 2010 at 2:52 am

    “Like” indeed, Gary — and Dorothea Lasky’s poem is about, like, sexual abuse, and Philip Larkin wrote “Love Again” to confess, like, he was abused in childhood and, like, sex doesn’t work for him.

    And like “arrogant eternity” made it impossible for him to be, like, normal.

  102. March 6, 2010 at 2:54 am

    So, “like”….were you abused as a child?

  103. Christopher Woodman said,

    March 6, 2010 at 3:01 am

    I was abused as a child to the same extent that we all are. I was entirely innocent, I knew nothing, reached out, took hold of the elephant — and realized only many years later I’d got hold of God’s dick.

  104. thomasbrady said,

    March 6, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    It is only the philosophical lynxeye that, through the indignity-mist of Man’s life, can still discern the dignity of Man.

  105. Christopher Woodman said,

    March 7, 2010 at 1:37 am

    Poe puts that well, Tom, and how moving it is in the context of his turbulent life. But I think Poe might have been embarrassed to have his words used in the context, suggesting as they do that philosophy can actually get away with such a shabby trick.


    It is indeed an extraordinary accomplishment to be able to discern the dignity of man inspite of the facts. The philosopher is to be complimented for those crystal spheres and celestial proprieties within us just as the scientist is to be complimented for unlocking the genetic code and plastic. Makes life so much easier and things so much more useful and higher. Hold on to that one-eyed view of things and we’ll all be o.k. for sure.

    Enter Crazy Jane, enter the Bishop. And suddenly it’s not so simple because the poetry that rises up between this ill-sorted couple suggests another sort of vision. Two entirely different objects are perceived without any irritable reaching out for certainties, and what had appeared to the lynxeye as “indignity-mist” becomes not “dignity,” because it isn’t, but what is actually there embraced with rapture. And we stand up, and realize how ignorant our high ideals, reason and education have made us.

    Crazy Jane Talks With The Bishop

    I met the Bishop on the road
    And much said he and I.
    ‘Those breasts are flat and fallen now,
    Those veins must soon be dry;
    Live in a heavenly mansion,
    Not in some foul sty.’

    ‘Fair and foul are near of kin,
    And fair needs foul,’ I cried.
    ‘My friends are gone, but that’s a truth
    Nor grave nor bed denied,
    Learned in bodily lowliness
    And in the heart’s pride.

    ‘A woman can be proud and stiff
    When on love intent;
    But Love has pitched his mansion in
    The place of excrement;
    For nothing can be sole or whole
    That has not been rent.’

  106. Wfkammann said,

    March 7, 2010 at 2:06 am

    It’s all one
    It’s all two
    It’s all for you to tell me everything.
    Except for what to do.
    It’s all one
    It’s all two
    It’s up to you.

  107. Christopher Woodman said,

    March 7, 2010 at 2:25 am

    quoted from POP GOES THE WEASEL:

    The tornado like a father hunched over the bed. The sublimation of desire; the substitution of wisdom for a hot date or wet dream. The sterile oneness of the good libido; the wetted beast of the other. We sense danger in the dark, behind the trees, around the corner. We chase our bliss and corner it thinking it’s all in fun and then……“Pop, goes the weasel!”

    By the way, as I was told the story, Hope remained in the bottom of the box as a consolation, but later they told me Hope was the last and greatest evil of all.


  108. thomasbrady said,

    March 7, 2010 at 2:41 am

    Poi ‘e Cleopatras lussuriosa

  109. wfkammann said,

    April 10, 2010 at 1:50 am

    The Tao Te Ching


    Heaven and Earth are everlasting
    The reason Heaven and Earth can last forever
    Is that they do not exist for themselves
    Thus they can last forever

    Therefore the sages:
    Place themselves last but end up in front
    Are outside of themselves and yet survive
    Is it not due to their selflessness?
    That is how they can achieve their own goals

    “He who would be the greatest among you, shall be the servant of all”

  110. wfkammann said,

    April 10, 2010 at 1:56 am

    Tao Te Ching: Chapter 7
    translated by Stephen Mitchell (1988)

    The Tao is infinite, eternal.
    Why is it eternal?
    It was never born;
    thus it can never die.
    Why is it infinite?
    It has no desires for itself;
    thus it is present for all beings.

    The Master stays behind;
    that is why she is ahead. (*)
    She is detached from all things;
    that is why she is one with them.
    Because she has let go of herself,
    she is perfectly fulfilled.

    (*) LORETA POSKAITE says:
    “The ability of shengren [sages] to look in both directions
    [high and low] actually implies the idea of reversibility
    of Tao, later developed into the idea of ‘returning to
    the secular realm after transcending the
    sacral realm.'”

  111. wfkammann said,

    April 10, 2010 at 1:56 am

    Tao Te Ching: Chapter 7
    translated by J. H. McDonald (1996)

    The Tao of Heaven is eternal,
    and the earth is long enduring. (*)
    Why are they long enduring?
    They do not live for themselves;
    thus they are present for all beings.

    The Master puts herself last;
    and finds herself in the place of authority.
    She detaches herself from all things;
    therefore she is united with all things.
    She gives no thought to self.
    She is perfectly fulfilled.

    (*) ELLEN M. CHEN comments:
    “When the particular follows the universal, or
    when humans follow earth and heaven, which in
    turn follow Tao, they are as long lasting as Tao.”

  112. wfkammann said,

    April 10, 2010 at 2:00 am

    Tao Te Ching: Chapter 7
    translated by Frank J. MacHovec (1962)

    The heavens endure; the earth is very old. Why?

    Because they do not exist for themselves, they therefore have long life.

    The truly wise are content to be last; they are therefore first.
    They are indifferent to themselves; they are therefore self-confident.

    Perhaps it is because they do not exist for themselves
    that they find complete fulfillment.

  113. wfkammann said,

    April 10, 2010 at 2:03 am

    Tao Te Ching: Chapter 7
    translated by R. T. Ames & D. L. Hall (2003)

    The heavens are lasting and the earth enduring.
    The reason the world is able to be lasting and enduring
    Is because it does not live for self.
    Thus it is able to be long lived.
    It is on this model that the sages withdraw their persons
    from contention yet find themselves out in front,
    Put their own persons out of mind yet find themselves taken care of. (*)
    Isn’t it simply because they are unselfish
    that they can satisfy their own needs?

    (*) AMES & HALL Commentary:
    “[It] is because the sages take nature as their mentor that their persons
    are preserved and all of their needs are satisfied.”

  114. wfkammann said,

    April 10, 2010 at 2:05 am

    Tao Te Ching: Chapter 7
    translated by Kari Hohne (2009)

    The Yin and Yang are old and last forever.
    It is because they are without distinction
    that they endure.

    The truly wise put the person last;
    and find they are at the forefront.

    What is not guarded will always be preserved.

    One that is detached is one with all.

    Without thought of the self,
    one still accomplishes their private ends.

  115. Christopher Woodman said,

    April 10, 2010 at 5:22 am

    Fascinating, Bill.

    One question: how much of the differences between all these translations is caused by the differences in language when you translate from an ideographic writing system to an alphabet?

    Another observation — the profound effect of repetition and very slight variations. Isn’t that part of the success of “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d?” It’s almost as if each section after the first one is a new ‘translation’ with additional notes. Each section is trying over and over again to say it, say what it is, say the whole thing at last all in one breath. A single song with variations.

    Haunting — and also why it really is Lyric!

    Next I think I’ll try to look at each translation and see what it is that’s most difficult to express in the original, or remains most ambiguous. That will be the deepest part for sure, and the heart of the message.

    As in even the greatest poems, as the New Critics insisted, when you can’t paraphrase anymore you’re in poetry. That moment often seems to come about because whatever is being said just can’t be made to stay still enough to be, so to speak, “translated.” So you simply can’t say it again — it’s only perceptible in one unique combination and moment.

    Of course that’s an ideal, but it’s worth thinking about.

    The “Die Lorelei” is extraordinarily tight, small yet complex — perhaps that’s what makes it so hard to translate with its ‘message’ intact, for want of a better word.

    “When Lilac Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” would be hard to translate too, but for a different reason — it’s mainly about it’s author, his voice, his affectations, his swagger. I love them all, but that’s a fact. Whitman is always about himself, and always a swagger!


  116. Christopher Woodman said,

    April 10, 2010 at 5:58 am

    This is hard to say, Bill — forgive me, but I wish you hadn’t made 6 posts in a row on the same thread. I know they’re all different translations from the same source, and I do understand why that’s relevant, but I still wish you had combined them into one comment.

    I’m just one of the Founders of Scarriet and have no particular powers to dissuade you. Indeed, I got into trouble recently when I tried to persuade one frequent visitor from posting poem after poem on some of the threads without ever joining the discussion, or explaining why he regarded what he posted as relevant.

    My own feeling is that that sort of aimless posting is not only a distraction from our discussions, it makes it hard for new visitors to find their way around the site. The Recent Comments list is sometimes entirely dominated by just one poster all on one thread, so the other discussions don’t appear in our index at all. And this limits those discussions, of course, and detracts from the over-all effectiveness of Scarriet.

    And while scolding you let me also compliment you as the author of this Thread. “POP GOES THE WEASEL” is our all-time most successful post, both in the number of comments and in the total of number of visitors who have read it.



  117. Wfkammann said,

    April 10, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Don’t worry Christopher. Your colleagues understand the process too. This a.m. there was nothing left of the Tao or your comments. Batter up!

  118. Wfkammann said,

    April 10, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    It is in the nature of weasels to pop up. Look at the way the baseball threads are flooded. Conscience, Christopher, is a luxury on this site.

  119. Wfkammann said,

    April 10, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    How is the Tao like Emptiness? Is it part of human nature to imagine something hidden; esoteric, behind, beyond, birthing but unborn, the basis of all; yet part of each thing? Is there a center? a still point? Or is that idea too only so many words? We value “experience” more than thoughts or words; especially non-dual experience. Met a woman recently who described her satori experience on the massage table. Flooded with light; when she got up she saw “the same light” in the trees outside.

  120. Wfkammann said,

    April 10, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Seventh Inning Stretch

    “buy me some peanuts and cracker jack. I don’t care if we ever get back…”

    Why is the Tao like a narcissistic little twit?

    It’s not.

  121. wfkammann said,

    April 10, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    “When we prostrate ourselves before the Buddha’s image, we dwell on the image, seeing beyond it to the physical body of the Buddha, which the image represents. Then we look beyond the physical body of the Buddha to his mind, and look beyond his mind until we penetrate to the high qualities present in his mind. We see those qualities as the pure, radiant, peaceful Dhamma, devoid of grasping and clinging, and perfectly free. Then we can be said to have found the Buddha.”

    —-Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

    even numbers
    original meaning “north side of a hill” (away from the sun)

    odd numbers
    original meaning: “south side of a hill” (facing the sun)

  122. April 11, 2010 at 1:53 am


    What does Verse 7 of Tao Te Ching mean?

    There was sand on the beach and someone came to collect it. The sand was carried to a pot over a fire and melted. A tube of glass was inserted into the melted sand and somebody blew into it. It became a bottle. The bottle was sold to a winemaker and filled with the fruits of his field. The bottle of wine was purchased and carried to a beach and consumed.

    The empty bottle was then carelessly tossed into the sea. The bottle rises and falls, floating in the waves with ten-thousand other carelessly tossed bottles. Up and down they go, all floating in the same place as the wave passes by and moves on to the shore.

    We are the bottles. The wave is Tao. It is like emptiness because it carries nothing with it.

    The bottles that succumb and fill up with seawater will eventually move with the wave to the shore.


  123. Christopher Woodman said,

    April 11, 2010 at 3:47 am

    That’s beautiful, Gary, eloquent but humble clear prose that supports the imagery right to the end — so that the author (you? a Taoist? the poet? the translator? — all of the above?) does not intrude his or her person on the message. Selfless in itself, it conveys the enduring and permanent presence that’s always there when the self isn’t.

    (That’s a ham-fisted sentence by comparison — illustrates how lucky we are to be gifted the above!)

    And you know what I like best about it? The last paragraph, and what it DOESN’T say.

    Or you might say, I like best the last paragraph that isn’t.


  124. Christopher Woodman said,

    April 11, 2010 at 8:46 am

    I so want you to see this I’m going to wave you a flag. Bob Tonucci as usual has started pumping in poems that have pushed this whole thread (our most popular now at 440 visits) right off the Recent Comments list, and you might not realize you had been noticed, what is more praised.

    Tell him to do a little thinking — tell him to have some respect for the coherence of the site.


  125. wfkammann said,

    April 13, 2010 at 2:31 am

    The monkey thought ’twas all in fun

  126. December 30, 2010 at 5:52 am

    […] Bill is another Scarriet survivor, and author of it’s all time most popular threads, Pop Goes the Weasel and Ich Weiss Nicht was soll es bedeuten dass ich so traurig bin. He was formerly a welfare […]