A RECEPTACLE*

CONFESSION, FABLE, or SHORT STORY?

The last two threads have occupied me almost compulsively for over six months, and in the process made me realize that I needed to be more forthright. So I want to pause for a moment and re-examine what I am doing here. I have no idea what this is going to sound like or if it will make any sense to you or to me. So let’s see what it becomes and how long it gets left up…

Five weeks later: it’s growing roots and the roots green sprouts — and even if it achieves nothing it’s still greening something in me bit by bit. Because this thread has been rewriting itself everyday for over a month, and in an almost all-night dream just last night I awoke with the word, Receptacle,and wrote it down in the dark.…………


The most recent thread,
 “For Those Like Galileo,” concentrates on Part II of GALILEO’S SECRET in which the “secret” actually appears, though you may not have been able to see it. On the other hand, that thread may still be in progress, and we may yet get to see it better. And I will get back to the real business very soon, I think, so don’t worry.

The earlier thread, “In Praise of the Still Unweighed: Off the Record at Eighty,” was begun at the end of November, 2019, getting ready for my 80th birthday coming up on December 7th. The critical parts explored the struggle to develop a voice of my own starting at the age of 50, while the “off-the-record” parts examined the specific problems I have had getting my work out there from 1992 to the present — in other words, a whole additional lifetime in which to get born in the second half of a single life.

This is me today in my old slouch hat.Chiang Mai, 2020

If you’ve always wondered why there are earlier ‘Scarriet.com’ threads and other revolutionary oddities in the ‘Cowpattyhammer.com’ Archives (2009-2010), or don’t understand what I am talking about when I refer to a ‘Foetry Resistance,’ for example, you should read how this site came into being in About the Author.  But don’t panic, there are no exposés or foul tidings lurking, just fun and more whimsy. Indeed, this blower’s whistle becomes more and more of a panpipe everyday.

And if you are also concerned to know why somebody like myself didn’t start writing poetry until he was 50, you might also want to see what he looked like in his 30s, and what he was thinking in there at the time. You can click here or on the photo below to read more about that other person who became me in preparation for what was to follow.

This is how I looked wearing other stuff.Coleman’s Hatch, Sussex, 1976

First of all, when I started writing poetry in the 1990s, I wasn’t really in a position to understand what was happening to me. Although I managed to publish a fair amount by 2009, and had even been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by then, my work was always sent out by ordinary mail to far-away strangers, and I never met an editor in person and only very rarely another poet. I had no MFA or poetry connections, and still don’t, and was living in the Far East so there was no local writing community to support me. Indeed, to this day I have never stood up to read at a Poetry Reading or attended a Poetry Workshop or Conference.

On the other hand, I managed to make the best out of the tools and faculties I had, and the proof of that is that I’m still writing today and am even more convinced of the value of my still evolving books. But at this point I do feel frustrated, and know it’s important to say brazenly and in public: Heads up! Christopher Woodman has not managed to publish a single poem in the last 10 years, and his 3 books remain unbound and unavailable. It’s as serious as that, you see, which is why I feel I have to be forthright about it.

It may be hard to believe, but for 10 years now I have felt I was no longer a living contemporary poet, and that weighs on me even though I know it’s foolish. I’m different, I tell myself, I’m a bit over-educated as well as over-the-top, and yes, I do sometimes hold the world to unreasonable standards. I also know that every ‘Revolutionary Movement to Save the World,’ even ones as minor as my own, have always had their ambiguities. History tells us that, and biographies that ‘Revolutionaries’ are almost always a bit soft in the head, that otherwise they wouldn’t bother.

And why do I?

It’s a question of responsibility, I think. If my role in what might be called the ‘Foetry Resistance’ 10+ years ago still casts a shadow over my reputation as a poet today, I think that’s unfair as well as highly ironic. I took a stand. I was brave and resourceful, and partly as a result of my work some things did move on — consciousness was raised, procedures were clarified, and the private world of Poetry Publication and Prizes in America did become more transparent and democratic. And the proof of the power of my advocacy is witnessed by the fact that I was banned from all the most influential poetry sites at the time: pw.org, poets.org, and poetryfoundation.org/harriet, one after the other. In addition, some of the threads I was particularly interested in were ‘pruned,’ as one moderator called it, and even now I feel my person fading before my own eyes. It’s as if a quarantine order had been passed and Christopher Woodman were still deemed to be dangerously contagious even after a whole decade in isolation.

But isn’t it time we let all that go now, you and I both, along with our terrible pride and misplaced, self-justifying arguments? Because how many of us can throw the first stone when it comes to the timing of ‘Resistance’ acts like Colin Kaepernick’s knee, for example, or Tommie Smith’s and John Carlos’ much-maligned grand-standing in 1968 at the Mexico Olympics? We’ve all got our fists in the air now, don’t we, and if we’ve got a pair of tight fitting leather gloves at home, don’t we pull them right on too and strut out? And don’t we  hold our heads as high as our fists and shout?

George Floyd’s death and the ‘Black Lives Matter’ demonstrations all over the world have moved me very deeply, and I know every one of us must now come to terms with the inequalities and injustices that have been built into our nation right from its founding. And the hardest part is not to revise our history but to come to terms with our own complicity in what we’ve become, our own blind eye, our own comfortable armchair, our own fine ‘property,’ ‘good school,’ ‘glad hand,’ ‘high art,’ and all that. And my feeling is that this is what lies behind the malaise at the heart of all our American social and economic values. “God and Property,” as the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, put it just a few days ago, and my feeling is that God must be turning in his grave to be so gratuitously coerced and walled-in!

…………..*……….*……….*……….*……….*……….*……….*……….*……….*……….*

In this ‘Reassessment’ I’m not talking specifically about racism, which is obviously America’s single, most egregious social and economic distortion. I’m using racism as a handle to grasp those even deeper, indeed fundamental aberrations that undermine our culture on every level: turf, privilege, and money. (Senator Tom Cotton just re-affirmed the old historical justification of slavery as a “necessary evil,” making it clear that he believes it was worth whatever it took back in the 17th and 18th Centuries to achieve what his people have come to call “Great” in America today. And what a tragic, blind and cruel irony that is!)

And look at these two great American heroes as they emerge from that struggle to address us today:


Tommie Smith, 1944 (1968!) 2020


John Carlos, 1945 (1968!) 2020

Because those were the values that so alienated these timelessly gifted men, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, even at the moment they were being awarded Gold and Bronze Medals at the 1968 Olympics. As the American National Anthem was being played, they did not put their right hands on their hearts to honor the flag but instead raised them in the air as Black Panthers full of arrogant, revolutionary defiance, militants fighting not for the USA but for Self Respect. And look at them in these photos now, and tell me they weren’t right.

That’s what I want to say about my own dilemma too, and why I want to be more “forthright” even if I am just a very minor poet working on a very small, very local level. Because I raised my fist too, and I’m still being punished for it.

Of course I was by no means a major player in the ‘Foetry Resistance’ but more like the third figure, the Australian Silver Medalist who stood on that podium in 1968 as well and who has been all but forgotten today. This is the man who set the 200m World Record in one of his heats, a record which lasted until Tommie Smith broke it a few days later  in the finals. But, just a blink of an eye behind the Gold Medal winner, the man below still remains the Australian 200m Record holder to this day!

Peter Norman, 1942 (1968!) d.2005

But he did even more than that by selflessly standing up for a cause that wasn’t even his own, and who suffered so disproportionately for it. Indeed, he was banned from Australian athletics for the rest of his life, can you imagine.

PETER NORMAN!

The specific details of what I did myself don’t really matter, and I certainly have no intention of going back over the transcripts to see who said or did what or didn’t etc. But a poet is like an athlete as well, there’s that sort of commitment, passion and, yes, vulnerability — because it has always got to be proved and verified again and again. And you can see it’s still there in all of us in the photos too, old men still on the line.

When it comes to the details of my own story I’m speaking in tongues, of course. Indeed, it will be only those who were there who will be able to understand fully what I’m saying about what happened to me personally, and also be in a position to do something about it. To draw out the poison from my person, so to speak.

………*……….*……….*……….*……….*……….*……….*……….*……….*

As a start I’d like editors today to read some of my poetry as did James Laughlin, Theodore Weiss, Marvin Malone, Alice Quinn, Marilyn Hacker, Joseph Parisi, David Young, Lee Sharkey, Dan Veech, and Susan Terris, among the many distinguished editors who published my work and/or reached out to help me 10, 15, 20 years ago.

I sent “Connemara Trousers” to The New Yorker, one of my earliest submissions. Alice Quinn wrote back right away. “Much too long,” she said, ” — try The Kenyon Review.” And Marilyn Hacker said  “Yes.”

And now there are three precious books just waiting to stand up: GALILEO’S SECRET, LA CROIX MA FILLE, and FIG LEAF SUTRAS.

Theodore Weiss selected a very early version of GALILEO’S SECRET as a finalist just before ill-health forced him to retire after editing the QRL for 50 years. Wiki says; “Ted Weiss showcased emerging and major writers including William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, E. E. Cummings, Thomas Merton, Mark Van Doren, Ezra Pound, Henry Miller, and Jean-Paul Sartre, and also introduced some that were not widely known to Americans, including Franz Kafka and Eugenio Montale.”

I still have the little scraps of note-pad paper on which Ted Weiss encouraged me with his stubby pencil. They are among my most precious relics.

I share my even earlier correspondence with James Laughlin with the Houghton Library at Harvard, but I think my hard copy is probably the top one he stripped off his old Remington to mail to me in person. I didn’t even have a book to show him at the time, just individual poems which he liked enough to write a lot to me, and to share with me his own struggles too as I am sharing mine with you.

But that’s enough. Now it’s time for no blame.

Christopher Woodman
August 9th, 2020

*NOTE:
1. A container that holds items or matter;
2. Botany: The expanded tip of a flower stalk or axis that bears the floral parts or the florets of the flower head;
3. Electronics : A fitting connected to a power supply and equipped to receive a plug.

…..

TO EXPLORE THIS SITE.

1.) GLOBAL VIEW: To have an overview of the whole site, thread by thread, you should enter it with http://www.cowpattyhammer.wordpress.com. You can then scroll through all the 54 Main Threads and have a look at the First Post of each, often a whole article with a graphic. If you want to follow a particular discussion you can click on the Comments;

The Main Articles are organized by WordPress in groups of 10. To continue after the 10th you just click on “Older entries” at the bottom of the page, or “Newer entries” if you want to return toward the present.

2.) CATEGORIES: To follow specific names, citations & organizations through the site you can click on the Categories listed under the Title of each Thread. You can also use the List of Categories on the left hand margin. All the Threads with the same Categories will then be available one after the other.

3.) ARCHIVES:To access the whole site year by year you can look through the Archives (2009-2020) which are listed on the left hand side of the Homepage.

………

THIS DISCUSSION CAN CONTINUE IN THE COMMENTS

…….

IN PRAISE OF THE STILL UNWEIGHED: Off the Record at Eighty.

……………………………“I am on the side of angels and of dirt.”
………………………………………………Sir Stanley Spencer (1891-1959)

The Lovers (The Dustman) (1934) *

……

…………….GRAVITY’S RAINBOW:
………………………..Sunday in the park with Sir Stanley

……………………O rejoice in the women,
……………………and the white perfect ducks
……………………with their fashionable heads in the mud,
……………………how they tether themselves down
……………………with pegs in the ground
……………………so they won’t float up in the air,
……………………the feathery dry air that is brighter than gold
……………………but stays unredeemed on the shelf.

……………………For the ducks like the women
……………………turn weight upside down
……………………by the water on Sunday to stay down,
……………………not to be better, or up nearer the sun —
……………………like buskers, fine philharmonic
……………………conductors, preachers, teachers,
……………………invalids in chariots, toddlers and clowns,
……………………all creatures with sweet little flippers that tickle the air,
……………………as pliant as play-dough or beeswax,
……………………useless as paperweight slippers,
……………………ballast for butterflies, barbells for kittens —
……………………perfect as the lead in the magician’s tight furnace
……………………or the sticky brown muck in God’s oven.

……………………“O the big wide basket of my body,”
……………………the duck woman cries,
……………………“O the piles of starched linen, the fillips,
……………………the white cotton aprons and tea-towels
……………………folded so nicely in my trembling arms,
……………………down on my knees by the pool!

……………………“Take this fine little turn-up,
……………………for example,” she says,
……………………“do you see how it’s paddled and done?
……………………“The masterful curl at the end of the tail,
……………………how the bottom turns upward as if at a ball,
……………………the crinoline, the petticoats,
……………………the old-fashioned drawers that kick highest of all —
……………………and O how they flutter with each do-si-do,
……………………and how the heart goes — can’t you feel it?
……………………And aren’t it worth the applause?”

…………………… “Come on in then, come on in!”
……………………the duck-caller cries,
……………………and when she comes in on his arm
……………………to waddle like a lover on the velvety floor
……………………or soon to be mother,
……………………which is very good too,
……………………how he dips by the water for a nod or a snooze
……………………any day in the park, old poet by the pool —
……………………takes his nap on a folding green chair and the paper,
……………………a moist royal nap amongst women,
……………………head-over-heels in God’s pool.

………………………………..from GALILEO’S SECRET: Two Decades of
……………………………………….poems under House Arrest. Part 5, p.58.
…………………………………………….[from an unpublished m.s.]

…………

AD HOC
This poem from the very end of GALILEO’S SECRET has a whole bibliography just waiting to be discovered by some ardent young academic a few years after my death. “And the guy never got published,” he may recount breathlessly to his friends over his latte at Starbucks. “So nobody’s ever done him!”

For a whole lot more on what’s to be done, the discussion continues below — and needless to say, anybody is welcome to join in ruffling through the profligate mess. **

……………………………………..Christopher Woodman
…………

……* NOTE #1:
“dustman” in England is to this day what Americans call a “garbageman.” In Sir Stanley Spencer’s The Lovers (The Dustman) (click on the title to see the whole painting better), the dustman/artist is in the arms of the most important lover who is offering him the last of the fresh milk in a jug. The other lovers are offering him bits of sacred garbage from the “dustbins” he so loved to see set out on the street every Tuesday morning in Cookham: a broken teapot, some cabbage leaves, an empty jam tin.

I have just added an INTERJECTION on Sir Stanley Spencer here. Indeed, you should have a look in this particular ‘dustbin’ ahead of time as this whole “off-the-record” thread has been conceived in similar terms. In other words, you have to look!

……** NOTE #2:
A REPLY can be inserted anywhere you wish in the discussion. A COMMENT will always appear at the very end of the thread.

…………
…………………THE DISCUSSION CONTINUES IN THE COMMENTS

HOW BAD IS THE DEVIL?

Mantegna 466

At the very end of his life, Andrea Mantegna inscribed the answer to the question on the tree in this delicate cameo-painting of Delilah snipping away at Samson’s hair — as if the fountain next to the tree weren’t clarification enough.

If it’s hard to read the words on the tree, you can click on the tree itself to read them more easily — and if that’s still not enough you can click yet again on the bigger picture. Then it’s a piece of cake — that is, the riddle’s a piece of cake, not the beautiful, dignified, introspective young woman trimming the hair of her grizzled, old, pumped-up and psyched-out lover, the act that reduces all men to the divine fools they are destined to be. Because the Divine Fool is the true message of the Samson story, it seems to me, that is if you read the details of the story very carefully — or, alternatively, if you carefully and exhaustively read your own life, or even read me if you know where to look — which is why I am writing what follows, to find out.

I’m going to leave some space on that now, for reflection.

[ADDED A WEEK LATER]

My reflections on Mantegna’s dictum, foemina diabolo tribus assibus est mala peior, are developed day by day in the Comments below, and if you are interested in such things I hope you will be able to read them with as much hope for an answer as I posted them. On the other hand, if you’re impatient you can skip ahead to a specific discussion of HOW BAD IS THE DEVIL IN THE END.  But fasten your seat belts as you scroll down, because jumping ahead is going to make for a very fast ride!

And those of you who start at the beginning, be warned as well: the discussion that follows thrives on hair-pins and other sticky corners, and very often paints itself into untenable places as well — I do hope you’ll be charitable and forgive me for all the dead-ends. I’m an Old Father William, and all I can tell you is that this is how it goes. Indeed, that’s part of the riddle of knowing where you are in the space you inhabit, and it doesn’t much matter whether it’s on earth, in space, buried in your own person or in some other idea or dimension, or perhaps even suited up in a New Age space-vehicle transitting infinity to arrive where you actually are, like in Carl Sagan’s Contact.

Wrapped up in your own cocoon like Eve, in other words, even if you’re a man and not yet ready to be that beautiful, powerful, and fey. Or a snake with your own tail in your mouth like Satan in the Garden of Eden — indeed, you may even be impatient enough to want to go straight to the discussion for men and women who are no longer inhabitants of the Garden of Eden but would like to know what really happened back then.

……….1.) CLICK HERE TO START AT THE BEGINNING OF THE END.

Or if, like most of my friends, you’re more interested in my own demise as a soi-disant angel and poet yet again you can begin at that end:

……….2.) CLICK HERE FOR THE END OF WHAT WAS ACHIEVED IN THIS THREAD.

Or if you’re really impatient and just want to know what happens at the various ends:

……….3.) CLICK HERE FOR THE SECOND TO LAST POSTSCRIPT.

And finally, if you don’t want to begin at any end but just keep on fooling around like Old Father William:

……….4.) CLICK ON THE END OF HIS NOSE TO SEE HOW EVERYTHING GOES.

Christopher Woodman,
Chiang Mai, March 3rd, 2016
….

THIS THREAD IS CONTINUED IN THE COMMENTS THAT FOLLOW.

 

BORDANDO el MANTO TERRESTRE by Remedios Varo

Remedios Varo“Bordando el Manto Terrestre” [ Embroidering the Earth’s Mantle ] (1961) by Remedios Varo.

The Cowpattyhammer management apologizes for having closed “Make It New!” so abruptly.

One of the casualties was that we never got a chance to look at this painting by the Spanish-Mexican painter and anarchist, Remedios Varo. The title means “Embroidering the Earth’s Mantle,” and the imagery is probably the closest we got to the “secret” that was such an important part of the discussion. My own feeling is that with the exception of the sculpture of the tall Aborigine woman and her daughter that introduced the previous thread, this extraordinary painting was probably the most relevant.

You can click here to look at the painting in more detail. Once you have moved in, the definition of the graphic is quite high so you can zoom in as much as you like. Indeed, I’d be very interested to hear what you see.

In addition, if there are any matters arising from the previous thread do feel free to comment below — the management is very grateful to the increasing numbers of people who visited the site in the last weeks of the discussion, and would be very pleased to have more feedback.
………………

NOTICE March 11th, 2014:
Thread Closed for Comments.

This thread is now closed for comments — 1 less than 80 is a lot, and I hope very much that those of you who have not had the opportunity to dip into it further will take the chance to do so.

The thread was designed to deal with some of the issues that were left hanging at the end of the previous thread, “Make It New,” which ended upside down in the grass. Those issues are stalled for the moment, needless to say, but I think the final discussion of Emily Dickinson’s “haunted house” imagery probably took us as far as we could go anyway, under the circumstances.

Christopher Woodman

………THE COMMENTS THAT FOLLOW DEVELOP THE THREAD

GALILEO’S SECRET: Where Do We Look When We Look At The Truth?

John Donne….….
..Look around?.………………..Look in?……………………………..Look out?

A lightly edited version of a real time discussion that took place right at the end of the original ‘watchdog’ website, Foetry.com. ‘Expatriate Poetis Christopher Woodman, the 70 year old poet who lives in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand and is active on Scarriet. Although ‘Monday Love’ posing as Scarriet’s ‘Thomas Brady has given permission to reprint his contribution to this dialogue, he prefers to remain (sort of…) anonymous.

Scarriet takes full reponsibility for the obscenity in this article, and understands that there will be many readers who won’t know where to look. We apologize for any offense given.

~

Dear Monday Love,
A few days ago you wrote, “If I want to convey to you right now some truth, I will do everything I can to put the argument before you as nakedly and clearly as I can possibly present it.”

There’s a poem I’ve been working on for some time—or rather, I should say the poem’s been working on me, so much so that when I read what you just wrote I immediately thought of the poem and wanted it to work on you too! Like this:

……………THE MEANING AND VALUE OF REPRESSION *

……………….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!

…..*Note: this poem was renamed “Celestial Observations” in 2015

Posted by EXPATRIATE POET: Sat Feb 24, 2007 12:23 pm
_________________
(…yet still it moves!)

~

“Huge brown phallus pressed up against the pane”

Best image in poetry ever!

Posted by MONDAY LOVE: Sun Feb 25, 2007 9:16 am
_________________
Whisper and eye contact don’t work here.

~

But that’s not even the best image in the poem, so how could it be the best image in poetry ever?

I know I’m a fool, and I always rise to your bait, but now I’m thinking about what you said yesterday about Aimée Nezhukumatathil’s new book, Miracle Fruit.

Aimee N. definitely has it going on. Hot chick w/ erotic poems. Naughty, yet sensitive; sexy, yet learned; chatty, yet profound; worldly, yet academic; with her third-world traditionalist family hitting on her American singleness, freedom and sass. . . You go, girl!

But I predict she’ll get bored with the kind of chatty lyric she’s writing now. She’ll beat a hasty retreat towards more serious forms. The little dog will give way to twelve or thirteen kids, metaphorically speaking.

Dear Monday Love–you do such good work on this site, and we’re all so fortunate to have the chance to read so much of you–which goodness knows is certainly never dull! But much too often it’s your private Big Boy that gets dropped on our threads, and the ashes keep piling and piling up. Well, I’m an old man and I have no reputation at all, and partly for that reason you should listen to me. You can’t step on my toes because I don’t have any, it’s as simple as that, nor can you open my closet living as I do in a place that has none. But I’m serious about poetry all the same, and I can talk to you if you’ll listen.

And I say you not only have an issue with poetry but with girls!

That’s why I posted the poem for you, and not surprisingly you ignored the WOMAN in it altogether and chose rather to celebrate the PHALLUS–just like you poked fun at the girl!

I felt the woman in the poem was so overwhelmingly attractive and uncomplicated that she would have to illuminate you and quicken your being, that she would speak to who you were and where you were going. Now I begin to think you never let poets speak to you at all–even the dwindling handful you regard as o.k.

Because what I’ve never seen you do is listen to what a poem actually says that might be of value to you personally. You read with such disdain and critical detachment, almost as if you were judging a small town dog show that neglected to shovel up its poop. But even a common poem can talk to you, you know–it mustn’t be asked just to stand up on its hind legs and rhumba, or jump through a hoop to please you.

That’s what the little poem might have been trying to tell you, in fact–that like the average scientist you restrict yourself to the empirical evidence before you, as if the universe could tango without the human value that gives meaning to it.

Christopher

Posted by EXPATRIATE POET: Mon Feb 26, 2007 10:41 am
_________________
(…yet still it moves!)

~

Christopher,
I have no toes to step on either.

Do I have an “issue” with “girls?” Perhaps, I do. “Girls” is a big topic.

I loved Aimée’s poem. I summed up her schtick in a few words, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t dig it.

Also empirical evidence is all we have. The rest is speculation.

But I must say, I’m not good at riddles. What specific ‘evidence’ am I missing?

Monday
Posted by MONDAY LOVE: Mon Feb 26, 2007 8:48 pm
_________________
Whisper and eye contact don’t work here.

CLICK HERE to continue reading this article.

A Letter To Tom about “Rhyme”


Tony Woodman and me at the Gran Prix of Czechoslovakia, Brno, 1963

Dear Tom……………………………………………………[November 22nd, 2009]
My hunch is that your emphasis on “rhyme” in your previous article is going to be misunderstood. I think it will give those who don’t want to hear you at all the excuse not to read you, and may weaken your argument even for those that are willing to give what you say a try.

Let me say this first: I’m a curious critic because I’m so sophisticated yet so naive and trusting — I know so much (or at least ought to, considering the length of my education) and yet am so obviously an innocent. I deliberately didn’t say ‘ill-informed’ there, because what I do know I know quite well, and my eyes are always wide-open. It’s just that I’ve only been engaged with the history of ‘Modern Poetry’ since I started writing it in 1990, and I was already 50 by then. I’ve never sat in a Modern Poetry lecture, for example, never participated in a Writing Workshop, and only rarely attended a Poetry Reading. I’ve got Gawain and the Green Knight, all of Chaucer, The Faerie Queene, George Herbert, Christopher Smart, John Clare and Emily Dickinson on my shelves here in Chiang Mai, but very few literary-critical texts written after Wimsatt & Brooks.

The fact is I only came up against ‘Modernism’ when I realized that the 10 precious packets I had sent to a much-respected University Poetry Series between 1994 and 2006 were probably never opened, and that my 8 packets to yet another up-and-coming Press hadn’t deterred its editor from sending me a form letter purporting to be a personal critique of my work. The letter, almost identical copies of which have subsequently emerged, suggested that for a certain sum the editor would help me to improve my book and that I could then resubmit it to his/her competition. I remember that moment very well — I was at my desk with my cheque book in hand when I was first alerted to the existence of Foetry.com which had already started to investigate the letters. When I then complained about my own letter on Poets & Writers (Nov 2006), I was scolded by a well-known critic for my limited understanding of publishing poetry in America today, while the very same judges who had abused me were praised for their hard work and integrity.

That was hard for me — and still is.

But the critic who attacked me on P & W was partly right, of course — even at 66 I was uppity and ignorant, and was nowhere near ready to concede that the situation I found myself in was ‘normal’ what is more ethically acceptable or conducive to the development of good poetry in me or anyone else in America. And the next thing I knew I found myself banned on-line for discussing my disquiet, first by the P&W blog, then by the AoAP blog, and finally by the Poetry Foundation’s new and wonderful Blog Harriet — not a very promising start to my new career, and particularly not at 69.

So what can you call me, then, and how can my input be more useful?

Hardly a “noble savage,” as my style is too perfect even if my content is analphabet. Yet I am a peasant in poetry when you compare me with somebody like David Lehman, for example, what is more Stephen Burt — and indeed, one of the reasons I got put “on moderation” at Blog:Harriet so early was that I annoyed a lot of people who knew a whole lot more than I did about the poetry business, and wanted me to be more practical, respectful, and compliant. Because after all, who was I to strew the nice Harriet ground with metaphors that exploded with such devastating effect, even taking out the management? And my cow pat hammer, that was the last straw [open the ‘Comments,’ then ‘Show More Comments,” then scroll down to July 6th, 2009, “Footnote for Posterity”]. And I was fired a few days later.

What I do have (and this is all about that word “rhyme,” of course, Tom) is my Rip Van Winkle status, a contemporary poet back from the dead. Because my anomaly is that I was so highly educated in the History of Literature (Columbia, Yale, King’s College, Cambridge, summa cum laude, phi beta kappa, Dino Bigongiari Prize for Italian Studies, Woodrow Wilson at Yale, Kellett Fellow at King’s [after Lionel Trilling and Norman Podhoretz but before David Lehman], C.S.Lewis & G.G.Hough as my Supervisors for my work on Edmund Spenser, Tutor for George Steiner at Churchill, Research Fellow at Christ’s) — yet I never got formally educated in Modern Poetry, not once. So I go straight from the ’30s in which I was born and jump straight to the ’90s in which I got published by Marilyn Hacker in The Kenyon Review — sans mentor, sans prize, sans compromise! Indeed, I will be forever grateful to Marilyn Hacker — and to the likes of James Laughlin (only just legible on his old Remington), Theodore & Renee Weiss (I was one of the last QR Finalists, and I still have his notes in pencil), Joseph Parisi ( who read my long poem, Works & Days,  3 times!), and Alice Quinn (who suggested The Kenyon Review for my Connemara Trousers). They made not just my day but my life!

Yes, a “noble non-starter,” I might be called, playing on that P & W critic’s “loser.” Or a “noble non-accredited accomplisher” perhaps.   Because the irony is that in the end my publishing credits have turned out to be not bad at all, considering my age and when I started.

So back to  “rhyme,” then, Tom. I’m sure you know exactly what you mean by the word, and you do know the literary-historical details like the back of your hand. But what you don’t know first hand is the snobbery that lies behind the creation of Modernism, the revulsion with which those early 20th century poets around Pound and Hilda Dolittle rejected the late 19th century mush so loved by those who had just emerged from the crude working class.  Because Edgar Guest/Hallmark-type “rhyme” was not the side of the verse they specifically despised, but rather the feel-good sentimentality which went along with the satisfaction you got when you at last sat down to ‘dinner’ together around a ‘table’ or ‘read’ together  in the ‘parlor’ — which factory workers were still not going to do in Britain or America for some time to come. On the other hand, after 1916 “A Heap O’Livin” sold over a million copies — which opens up a huge social and educational grey area in the History of American Poetry, one which is not yet quite out of the bag like what actually happened when my ancestors put in to Plymouth.

That’s what I know about more than most of you who are reading this and interested in our struggle. Because I was brought up in the 19th century, and I was a snob and “mush” made me feel unclean too, so I know the feeling only too well. I spent my early years in Gladstone, New Jersey, after all, the so-called “Gold Coast,” and in my American childhood I never sat down with a worker, or a so-called ‘person of color,’ or a Catholic who wasn’t a descendant of Diamond Jim Brady (my mother’s family in Boston in the 20s didn’t socialize with the Kennedys, who were Irish like the servants, and my mother was terribly distressed when I named my second daughter “Delia Hilary Orlando Woodman,” (Irish plus a name which could be mistaken for someone of Italian descent???).

And to our great credit, but goodness knows why, we ran, my two brothers and I — my younger brother, Loring, westward to the Gros Ventre in Wyoming, myself eastward across the Atlantic to Cambridge and then on up to remote Eskdalemuir, and Tony just really really fast (he was the first American to have a big success in Gran Prix motorcycle racing in Europe until he broke his back in the Northwest 200 in Ireland in 1965). And how I ran, and kept bees, and fiddled around with Trungpa Rimpoche, and sailed, but mostly just fell in love with my wonderfully wrong women — and little by little I sloughed off that good taste and sense of superiority which went along with the family silver (I still have a trunkful somewhere, and enough 18th century willow pattern china to serve you all at once, though goodness knows where that is as well) — and here I am now writing to you like the fool…

No, it’s not the rhyme, Tom — it’s the snobbery of a new intellectual class that is still not too secure and needs to put a lot of distance between itself and the upper working-class poetry that makes sense when you finally arrive on the first rung of the new upwardly mobile America.

And should the ‘petit bourgeois poetry’ of the 19th and early 20th centuries be re-evaluated, then, should that forgotten corpus be restored to grace? Hardly, but the alternative “Make it New” movement at the opposite extreme must be re-assessed as ‘petit-bourgeois poetry’s’ shadow, in the Jungian sense, so that those aspects of our western poetry tradition that got debased and/or hidden by ‘Modernism’ can be brought out into the open and liberated — like feeling, like music, like value and meaning and even, when its applicable, like rhyme. Indeed, all the underpinnings of Modernism must be fearlessly re-examined, and it’s tendency to sew new clothes for the emperor ruthlessly exposed, as we’re doing — and how the courtiers do kick and howl!

That’s our theme, of course, and it’s a big one, and one for which I think I’m well-equipped even with just a small cow pat as a hammer in my hand.

Christopher
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THE CURIOUS CASE OF MONDAY LOVE

m-love

Thomas Graves, a.k.a., Monday Love, a.k.a. Thomas Brady–poet & oxygen-sucking blogger.

Alan Cordle was the mind of Foetry.com. Christopher Woodman was its heart.  Monday Love was its soul.    Monday Love’s anonymous poems on Foetry.com have received over 74,000 hits–and counting.   The impulse of the true poet–who cares who wrote them?

The following poem, in which ‘telling all’ destroys the poet, is more than just a confessional poem; in the new post-foetry climate, the paradoxical reigns: self-pity turns into a boast; anonymity is the way to be more revealing.

~

…..Poetry Is Where You Tell All

…………Poetry is where you tell all.
…………It takes no talent or skill.
..……….Make yourself small
…………By telling all.

…………Poetry does not take learning.
…………It is but a fury, a burning,
…………A passion which makes you small
…………By telling all.

…………You enter rooms watching your back,
…………Your life in place, your pride intact.
…………But you must burn, crash and fall
…………By telling all.

http://foetry.com/forum/index.php?topic=47.120

MONTY MEETS A FOET AT THE DOOR

Dear Friends,
We know we’re very near the edge of copyright infringement here, but hope Jim Meddick will allow us to make a point that’s so hard to get over without getting someone like him involved. For Jim Meddick’s satire is truly rare, and his angles on our contemporary prejudices and ugly little blind spots so invaluable. We have so few allies who have the wit and courage to explore the inexplorable today, which after all used to be the province of our poets too until they took the vow to make it new!

As a frontline artist, we feel sure Jim Meddick will forgive us in the hour of our need!

MONTY HEADLINEMONTY 11.16
………………………………..copyright  Jim Meddick/dist. by NEA, Inc.

So this is who we are at Scarriet and what we stand for:

Frequently in human discourse, the tenets of faith provide a sacred style and language which survives long after the contents have ceased to make sense or to convey any comprehensible message — if indeed there ever was one. At that point all societies, even developed ones, create the myth of a golden age when the truth was recorded, and the style and language of those “scriptures” are situated beyond enquiry what is more reproach.

When Thomas Brady opens the door, this is what he hears. The Poetry Establishment, which looks and sounds just like Jim Meddick’s little Ezra Pound at the door, also speaks of “the way of truth… and self-esteem… and personal fulfillment… and Uh… um…”

But the punch line today is a little different, because we now believe in anything “new.” When Thomas Brady asks, as he does in his previous article on William Carlos Williams, for example, “You’re making all this stuff up, aren’t you?” the poetry establishment gets very angry and dismissive. “How dare you!” they shout. “Why,  this is modern scripture! This is what Ezra Pound laid down for us to make us modern! This is what we are and why we’re truly New!

Then they beat him with -32 Dislikes, and when even that doesn’t discourage him, just pull the plug.

What’s so tragic is that human beings can always talk about things, exchange ideas and brainstorm, but even at a noble not-for-profit arts organization like The Poetry Foundation, if the material has become the stuff of faith, forget it. Then the dissenting voice is drowned out by the furious congregation and censored by the priests, and only when the dust has settled can something fresh, old or new yet equally crying in the wilderness, be heard.

THE STATE OF THE ONION: A Report on Poets.org.

POETS.ORG GRAB
***********************************************************************POETS CROPPEDONION SCAN 3___________________________________________________________

Just a year ago, Poets.net, a small, independent poetry forum, did a study of the mother of all Poetry Boards,  The Academy of American Poets’ own Poets.org.

On a thread entitled  The State of the Onion, a Report on Poets.org, Poets.net hosted a discussion of recent events at Poets.org that involved some controversial departures similar to those on The Poetry Foundation’s own Blog:Harriet.

Thomas Brady had just completed a two month long debate with Poets.org’s leading critic and administrator, Kaltica, resulting in the most popular thread Poets.org had ever hosted. Called  On Aspiring Writers Becoming Successful Writers, it involved 259 replies and 72829 views, Indeed, Poets.org experienced a flowering during the time of Thomas Brady’s participation that it has never been able to recapture, anymore than Blog:Harriet has — the heart simply went out of both sites when they were unable to sustain a more passionate and independent sort of dialogue. All that remains without such engagement is desultory, I-score-you-score chit-chat  [click here or  click hereand on this latter, has anything changed a whole year later?].

It’s important to emphasize that Thomas Brady decided to leave Poets.net voluntarily. He never felt comfortable there, and couldn’t express what was on his mind without sneers and threats from the management and its clique of supporters who obviously felt threatened by him. I myself, on the other hand, was summarily axed, and as mysteriously as on Blog:Harriet. Indeed, I seem to lack friends in high poetry places. And the sad part is that that’s only partly a joke — because my story proves that there are, in fact, special interests in very high poetry places!

The State of the Onion: A Report on Poets.org — a fascinating piece of on-line skull-duggery, and some of the revelations are startling.

It’s important to notice that Thomas Brady’s last post is dated June 14th, 2008, and that this Report was compiled on September 17th, 2008. When you look at the statistics of “Visits” and “Replies” on the 1st page, you can calculate how little had transpired in those three intervening months.

Finally, Thomas Brady goes by the name of TomWest on Poets.org, and I’m A Commoner. On Poets.net, Thomas Brady is Monday Love, Kaltica is Pirvaya, and I’m still A Commoner.

Christopher Woodman

THOMAS BRADY, Oh Monday Love, Oh Sawmygirl, Oh Tom TomWest!

 

TOM Sepia

Thomas Brady is the inspiration for this site, and his essays on it  are not only a testament to his integrity and passion but express his unique position with regard to American poetry. The following is a letter to him which tries to examine his position in a wider, freakier but also friendlier perspective than men of letters usually get– for Scarriet is dedicated to making poetry not only comprehensible once again but actually worth reading as opposed to just winning a prize, getting reviewed, or even getting a promotion!

A Reply to Poe to Bloom: Boo!

Dear Tom,……………………………………Chiang Mai, Thailand, 10/12/2009

So many conflicting thoughts, so many paradoxes.

I hear you so clearly, championing a different voice, one that harnesses the natural music of the human heart as it manifests in the cultural forms of people who still know who they are and what they say. Yes, ‘natural’ poetry like John Clare, the lyrics of the Scottish isles or even of Appalachia, Bengali poetry, the incantations of the Kalahari, Langston Hughes or early Dunbar, The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa, the Psalms, and even sometimes when you’re in just the right mood and something truly wonder-ful has happened, a Hallmark card, perfumed, in the mail!

What you are so railing against is “make it new,” I know that, Tom, the obligation imposed on poets by fundamentally displaced persons like T.S.Eliot, Ezra Pound, Ford Maddox Ford [Hueffner!] or a Starretz Sufi Supra-Rabbi Roshipatagon like Harold Bloom. Yes, that’s what I said, displaced persons! (Or sshhhhh, how about just Fugitives? Won’t that do?)

Whereas the poets you are attempting to resurrect, like S. Anna Lewis, Edgar Allan Poe, Sydney Lanier (and hey, why not?) and Edna St.Vincent Millay can still speak in their own gifted voices and are not the least bit afraid to say exactly what they mean. And of course they’re God’s own children, which helps!

So that’s the divide, isn’t it? Between poetry as a natural voice like a waterfall, a thunderstorm, or the literal last breath of somebody you can’t live without, as opposed to poetry as an esoteric diddle that nobody, not even the poet himself or herself (usually the former!) would dare profane by saying what it (say it!) means. Because if a poem says what it means then it becomes a cultural artifact and belongs to the whole community, to be praised on the front porch and memorized and handed around to the neighbors like a barbecue, whereas the poetry you dismiss, Honest Tom, is the poetry of pretension and deliberate obfuscation written by people who haven’t the foggiest idea who they are — but of course feel far, far superior to the Hallmark hoy-poloy who, shudder, know what they like and where to find it!

As if life weren’t deep enough without a critic to fend for it!

Because, of course, the “make-it-new” poetry is as aristocratic and conservative as the ivy-covered cloister which coddles it, and needs both the Priest and Hierophant before you get baptized in it what’s more have a chance at Fame, or Heaven!

Christopher Woodman

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