Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sine Wave #23: Aubade


We like to make love in the morning
not because of the light
but because my medication levels
are lower before the morning dosage.
Since El Nino our frequency has increased.

I don't claim dawn’s light
renders us sexier, just less repulsive.
At night we use candles
for the same flattering effect.
Candles can be as forgiving
as a good marriage.
I have a belly and you use powder
to keep your thighs from chafing.
When did we go soft?

The sun is cruel to remind us
of our sin against California
where youth is beauty and beauty youth.
That is all you know out here
and all you need to know.

(pubished in Savoy)


Again, though melancholy, this poem shows progress in depression. The speaker is thinking about sex and marriage, even if his take is somewhat depressing, since he can't help judging himself by the standards of youth and advertising. An aubade is a morning song.


Last night I was surfing the net, looking for ms. contests for poetry. One publisher required a purchase from their catalogue as the price for entry. In perusing their titles, I noticed a former winner was my student of two years ago, whose chapbook, which I assume from the reviews formed the basis for her book, I extensively edited. I was given no credit, naturally, nor did she ever write me about her success, about which I am always glad to hear from former students. In my judgment she was not ready for publication of a book, although she was rather determined about it.

Anyway, the publisher listed who the judge of the next contest would be. That's always the most important thing in these contests, which I have rarely entered and never won. I went to look at his verse on the web and found it prolix and sophomorish. As I whined to my wife and editor, Kathleen, she gave me no comfort. "You can't have it both ways," she said. "Either you give the poetry world credit and play the game their way, or you resign from it, as I did years ago." I hated this either/or option, although her logic seems unassailable. If I do not respect the judgment of contemporary poetry, I have no right to complain if I have not been mainstreamed into it. I do not suffer fools gladly; I was blackballed in LA when I publicly derided the quality of poets at all the popular coffeehouse venues.

The world of poetry is small, and never is heard a discouraging word--you can't say anything critical about anyone else or you will be kicked out of the club. There is so much cronyism it is no better than Hollywood. Even the Pulitzer committee doesn't know what good poetry is anymore, why they usually make safe choices of poets who already have a reputation.

I tend to bite the hand that feeds me if the nails aren't clean. But I love poetry and I believe in mine; trouble is, I have very few connections academic or otherwise, and there is no one I can go to and say, "Give this manuscript a fair reading, won't you?" More and more I'm tempted to self-publish, since 85% of titles in the U.S. are self-published anyway. But all the gladhanding at major bookstores, where I would have to promote my work, and the required networking with no-talent powers that be--the whole scene makes me reluctant to set forth. So I sit here paralyzed, with a blog where I post my poetry at present, unable to embrace the larger world of self-congratulatory published wannabes, but unable to give up the dream of poetry. I should swallow my pride and jump through whatever hoops I need to jump through; unfortunately, when I used to be a featured reader in LA, I always had a bad feeling in my gut about the performances--and when I quit the game I felt a great relief.

Here's the link to my column on that experience: Tempted to Television

(My other column, Karaokepoetry, has been de-published.)

As Kathleen said, "You have no right to feel sorry for yourself." But I can't accept that I have only an either/or choice here. There is cynical participation, and there is rebellious participation, as in William Logan's case, but even rebellion requires an authority, and if I don't credit that authority, what is the basis for rebellion?

As to my mood, I'm still stuck in a lingering depression. I'll try to address that tomorrow.

Thanks for reading,



  1. If you don't intend to teach, there's certainly no money in poetry. All we can do is write and get the work out there the best we can. Then move on to the next piece.

    You're sharing your work via your blog. Some would consider that an act of publishing. I've read your poem and enjoyed it greatly.

    Personally, I've never attempted to publish a poem elsewhere - aside from a few community house-organs. I share my efforts on my blog, get feedback, and move forward. I learn there what speaks clearly and what mumbles. Just like I learned from you, years ago on the melic roundtable.

    Perhaps one day I'll self-publish, but right now - it's about writing.

  2. Dear Carl,

    What you say is true, excepting celebs like Collins and Angelou. I've certainly made much more money tutoring poets online than I have for publication, where my record for a single poem is $35. Nevertheless I have published widely, I suppose to prove to myself I had the right stuff. Now that seems irrelevant; I wouldn't mind a little recognition. The question is, in the world of contemporary poetry, whether talent and skill have any chance of achieving recognition. Based on what I've read from "award-winning writers," I'd say not.

    BTW, almost all the poems I share here have been published in magazines first, some of them several times. So it isn't strictly self-publishing, more after market pubishing. ;-)

    Glad I was some help to you back in the days when the Melic board was prospering. Seems so long ago.

    Thanks for your comment, I'm going to look at your blog again.


  3. Anonymous10:26 AM PDT


    The Internet is a great leveller aimed at the heart of narcissism...

    Without professional management (e.g. promotion, product placement, etc.), we are finding that beauty is shockingly commonplace. Held up to the light, a grain of sand can be a thing of amazing beauty. But the likelihood for such a rapt audience, given the trillions of grains that litter the world's beaches, is practically nil. The inert, appreciative audiences of a three-network world are gone. Today, everyone is a performer intent on cajoling his fellow perfomers to catch a minute or two of his act. However most are too intent on the fruits of their own creative efforts. The venerable rock acts of the sixties 'command an audience' only because they ride that strange backward wave of nostalgia. We must stop creating beauty for the eye of the beholder. We must have the courage to deliver beauty to an almost-certain oblivion. The Internet is a rude instructress of our inconsequentiality. Blogs are the oxygen we suffocate in, ostensibly together, but really in our chair, at a screen, all alone.


  4. Dear Norm,

    You are, as usual, eloquent, but the logic of your opening statement is a little unclear:

    "Without (With?) professional management (e.g. promotion, product placement, etc.), we are finding that beauty is shockingly commonplace."

    I think what you mean to say, and this makes sense, is without the professional management--editing or filtering as exemplified by the old three network network--we are inundated with grains of sand.

    Of course I encourage my students to write poetry for its own sake, for excellence and beauty, but I'm on the downward half of age, and I guess I want to leave something behind, something that might be remembered. The theme of achieving immortality through poetry is as old as poetry, and we shouldn't be ashamed of it. But the chances of being "discovered" later, like a Blake or a Dickinson or a Hopkins (whom Logan recently trashed), are miniscule.

    And is it because of narcissism? Or because I wanted my contribution to the great conversation to remain available after I'm gone? That my poetry might give some of the joy other poets have given me over the years? Who knows. But I think most writers are haunted by this notion.

    Further, accuse the audience. If the audience can't distinguish which grains of sand are worth beholding, if they cannot discern superior accomplishment, then all measure of quality is irrelevant, unless we follow the admonitions of critics, whose preferences I, for one, find equally suspect (excepting myself and possibly you).



  5. C.E. I would very much like to read your essay Karaokepoetry. Is it anywhere on the web.

    I am an earnest scribbler hiding in St. Paul, MN. I agree with you about the Spoken Word thing. It is truly abysmal here in the Twin Cities.

    Look forward to talking with you in the future.



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