Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Good poetic lines

August 25, 2016

From the 7/26 issue of the New York Review of Books, in “The Troubling Genius of Delmore” by Jonathan Galassi (a review of Once and for All: The Best of Delmore Schwartz, ed. by Craig Morgan Teicher and with an introduction by John Ashbery):

… The critic Michael Clune has written [where? Galassi doesn’t say, but maybe in Clune’s 2013 book Writing Against Time] about Ashbery that the basic unit of his poetic practice is not the book, or even the poem, but the line. I think the same can be said for Delmore; apart from his few best poems, what really stays with the reader are individual lines, some of them employed, with slight variations, as titles:

The heavy bear who goes with me…

In the naked bed, in Plato’s cave…

The beautiful American word, Sure…

Tired and unhappy, you think of houses…

We are Shakespearean, we are strangers.

The mind is a city like London, Smoky and populous…

The actual is like a moist handshake, damp with nervousness or the body’s heat.

It’s impossible to gainsay the brilliance of these phrases, even when great poems fail to rise out of them.


Thurber the illustrator

May 26, 2016

James Thurber drew stuff, all the time. Some of this stuff was published as single-panel cartoons in the New Yorker (indeed, went a long way towards defining the New Yorker style in cartooning). Other stuff served as illustrations to his writing. In at least one case — The Last Flower, which I’ll look at below — the text and illustrations are fused, in the fashion of a graphic novel.

All of this you can appreciate in a single volume, Thurber: Writings & Drawings (1996), from the estimable Library of America (contents selected by Garrison Keillor), which has the complete My Life and Hard Times (1933), The Last Flower (1939), and The 13 Clocks (1950) — for an appreciation of this last book on this blog, see my 7/29/13 posting — and substantial selections from most of the rest of his output, from Is Sex Necessary? (White & Thurber, 1929) to The Years with Ross (1958).


Who is Silvia?

February 23, 2016

The title of a posting from the 21st: “Who is Alice? What is she?”, the answer to the question turning out to be Alice Lee, sister of author Harper Lee. My title was a play on the first line of a song from Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlement of Verona, a play in which Silvia is a central character: “Who is Silvia? What is she”. (The two lines are closer than you might think at first, since in the song Silvia is clearly meant to be an initially accented disyllable, just like Alice.)

Of course, Shakespeare’s play doesn’t come with a tune for the song, so one must be devised (or borrowed from another source) for purposes of performance. A notable setting of the English lyrics is by none other than Franz Schubert.


Pittman, Dickinson, and Goya

January 14, 2016

In the January 18th New Yorker, this notice:


A typically complex, crowded Pittman, composed of disparate elements (see my discussion of Pittman in this 5/10/11 posting).


The Crew with packages and boxes

December 31, 2015

(The bulk of this posting — below the fold — is a long piece jam-packed with descriptions of the male body and gay sexual practices in very frank vernacular English, so it’s definitely not for kids or the sexually modest. No X-rated images, though, and some observations about language. The piece is also about affiliation between gay men, deep friendships and love, so that, amidst all that coarse sexual stuff there’s considerable sweetness.  And humor.)

When I posted this image a couple of days ago, I promised that I would supply a caption for it, and now I will.


The caption is very long; it tells a complex story. Like virtually all my captions, it’s free verse: writing intentionally divided into lines, but unmetered and with no other systematic formal regulation (rhyme, alliteration, assonance, whatever). In fact, it’s free verse with long lines, a style of writing that many commenters find hard to classify: is a piece of long-line free verse a prose poem (a poem, but with prose features)? Or is it lyrical prose (a piece of prose, an essay or fiction, but with poetic elements)?

There’s no good general answer to this question, and I’m inclined to say that while there are prose poems and pieces of lyrical prose, sometimes it’s a mistake to insist that a bit of writing with mixed features must always be classified as one or the other. Long-line free verse, I would say, is usually both.

On to the story, um, poem.


Rhyme or reason

November 30, 2015

Today’s Bizarro, with an idiom and a nursery rhyme:

(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 2 in this strip — see this Page.)

So we have Humpty Dumpty, recently fallen from his wall, but no explanation of how this terrible event could have come to pass.


To the liquor of your laughter / And the lacquer of your limbs

October 29, 2015

Yesterday’s offering from Daily Jocks (with a caption; notes to follow):


At first it was spectral, ghostly,
Visible only in blue light, at an
Acute angle, scarcely a real
Body part.

Gus stroked it into
Life, gave it color, fun color, took it
From infracorporeal to
Ultracorporeal, crackling with
Energy at all frequencies.

Power in a pouch.


Boy in the sand

September 25, 2015

A Daily Jocks ad, paired with gay-erotic poetry (definitely not for the sexually modest), then with a series of notes.


Boy in the Sand

He erupts from the surf, his skin
Tangy with salt, his cock rising, his balls
Heavy with his seed. We kiss, I am a
Sea anemone, roiled by desire for him.

I stroke his wet hair, follow the
Arrow of his widow’s peak down his long torso,
Down to his sweet belly, girded by
Hard muscle, take him in my mouth.

We trade, he takes me, opens me with his
Wet fingers, I need him in me. Fuck me,
Cal, oh fuck me, fuuuck me! He

Mounts me, panting heavily, fills me in
Long slow muscular strokes.
Breeds me. Gets me off ferociously.

I become a sea creature like him,
Dive into the surf,
Return to our ocean.

(Notes after the fold.)


The Monthly Underwear Club

August 11, 2015

(Mostly about men’s bodies. Not much language.)

Today’s offering from Daily Jocks introduces the Monthly Underwear Club:

Fresh underwear,
Every month.


Dick Absalom used to deliver for
The Fresh Veggie Club, but then
He decided to follow
His name.


Found poetry

August 11, 2015

Some publications (many science publications, in particular, and the Economist) are given to language play of all types in their headlines and lead paragraphs. Sometimes, though, they just seem to luck on bits of found poetry. Here, from the New Scientist of August 1st, p. 15:

Than Steel in Water

Icy balls fall faster
than steel in water

(Summary: Ice-coated tungsten carbide balls matching solid steel balls in size and weight fall faster than the steel balls when dropped into water.)



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