Thursday, January 25, 2007

Inductive Poem

I'm on the road with little opportunity to connect, and I mean to offer examples of poetry other than my own to illustrate the principles of inductive and deductive poetry, but I have no poetic library with me on the road. It so happened that today, staying at my daughter's, I saw a scene which inspired an inductive poem.

Inductive poems are often "found poems" in the larger sense, not confined to words found in a paper or book and rearranged, but built from a scene actually experienced that lends itself to poetic treatment--though not to the extent that Keats' "Ode to a Grecian Urn" is developed, though strictly one must admit that ode to be an inductive poem, since it was inspired by the Elgin Marbles.

Anyway, here's my poem:

A Touch

A old man in a brown cardigan
held a black Chow by a chain leash
beside the chain-link fence
where children thronged,
reaching their small fingers
like the white flames of stars
through the open diamonds
of the woven steel, crowding
arms on shoulders, shoulders on backs,
chests pressed against the fence,
clamoring for a touch of fur,
the feel of a living thing
behind no barrier
but not beyond its chain.

Thanks for reading, and when I return from my trip around Feb. 1 I'll be able to write more about my new dichotomy for poetry, especially how inductive poetry seems to be in the ascent right now, whereas during the Restoration it was deductive poetry that ruled (Pope, Dryden). I also mean to visit and comment on my favorite poet-bloggers when I come back. Time is restricted at this library near Sacramento.

Oh, and my mood remains improved, glory be to God and new medications!



Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Examples: Inductive and Deductive

Got my computer back but little time to blog as I will be leaving on a week's trip. Before I do, here are two poems of mine that exemplify the inductive and deductive methods of composition.


At the Aquarium of the Pacific

I saw a brilliant angelfish whose tail
and fins shimmered yellow until it turned
and silver spread like an undercoat of fur
when stroked against the nap, across its scales.
Black as caviar and rimmed with gold,
its eyes, though flat as dimes, looked deep as wells.
The clownfish cruising by above the shells,
its idiotic smile painted bold,
passed disinterested as if it’d seen
it all before. Maybe. But I've heard
fish see only black-and-white, so why
this purple puffer and iridescent green
parrot fish-- and for whom? It's absurd
to credit chance. Either for us or for the light


On the Anthropic Principle

Here at the spoke-ends of our galaxy
it is easy to forget the central axle
moving insensibly slow, still
the silvery-white dispersion of stars
soothes randomly until we impose a pattern,
like the Magi, like the Greeks.

And despite the most accurate of calendars,
dawn remains a wager until the great lion of the sun
peers over the plains with a growl of heat
and the day blooms and withers toward the violet hour
where even wise men arrive as strangers
because the arrangement is never the same.

As the latest layer of bones,
can we ever appreciate how far
the swan's neck stretched to uphold the head,
the spider's strand thinned without snapping?
Do we recall the dark alternatives dodged,
any of which could unmake us?
Always there were detours
where the river never creased the rock
that never rose from the sea
that never spawned a single fossil.

When light illuminates the Grand Canyon
in winter's slant at sundown,
the stripes of ages burn
with every visible color.
What is the color of a radio wave?
Only a man asks that.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Brief Note

I have five minutes left on a cafe computer. I will continue my discussion of inductive and deductive poetry when my computer is repaired. For now, I encourage any interested to look at Frost. He does both kinds well, but I think his inductive work better. A favorite of mine is "Spring Pools." "The Oven Bird," another good poem, is deductive mainly. Frost is a nice place to start in showing examples.

Gotta sign off. Will be back soon! Mood definitely improved.



Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Deductive vs. Inductive Poetry II

My nascent thought posted last night regarding inductive vs. deductive poetry needs some fleshing out. First, I did not give any examples of inductive poets. William Carlos Williams has to lead the pack, with Gary Snyder, Frank O'Hara, Charles Bukowski, Wordsworth to some extent; Robert Lowell late in his career (Life Sketches), and from what I've read of Franz Wright I might include him, and certainly the entire canon of Chinese poetry, where emotion is provoked by events or surroundings. That is, events and surroundings are not used to support an emotion; the emotion arises from them.

Keats was a deductive poet. We should not be fooled by his "Ode to a Grecian Urn," where he is not responding to an experience so much as transmogrifying an icon. "The Eve of St. Agnes" and "Lamia" are more typical--poems organized around a legend or narrative, not in response to experience.

Hopkins tried to get at nature through "inscape," but even so his work is so doused in Christianity that he cannot be considered inductive.

Basically, confining ourselves to the west, deductive poetry ruled until the twentieth century. Donne and Milton and Jonson were all deductive, so was Herbert. Sir Walter Scott epitomizes the deductive poet as he strives to communicate romances in verse. Ginsberg is an odd duck; "In a California Supermarket" is certainly an inductive poem, though a paean to Whitman; but Ginsberg is best known for his deductive work, as in "Howl," where images are used to support his emotion, that emotion not being a response to immediate experience, but to years of psychic pain.

Whitman is another odd duck; he seems to be writing inductive poetry, reacting to nature and man, until he assumes that mystic voice where he merges with all, indeed, becomes all. So he is inductive and deductive, because of the strong influence of Transcendentalism throughout his work.

Pound championed Eastern verse in his youth and wrote some inductive poetry, but his Cantos are primarily deductive, where his substance becomes almost preachy at times (not to mention disconnected).

In summary, then, like rhyme, deductive poetry ruled poetry in English until the late twentieth century, with Williams and Lowell as pioneers and Snyder and the rest following behind. What I read in current literary journals strikes me as 90% inductive. Nowadays inductive poetry is expected by teachers of creative writing; "That's not real," they may say; "That doesn't ring true;" or, "Have you ever actually seen an otter? Then you have no business writing about one."

I satirized this view in my poem, "At the Workshop."

Anyway, I'll continue to flesh out this thought until I can cobble an essay out of it. I've never written an essay this way, except for the interlocutions of my dear wife. But here in a blog format anyone can help me, provide further examples, or simply tell me I'm full of shit--which, of course, I am. But just because my opinions may stink doesn't necessarily make them untrue. ;-}



Monday, January 15, 2007

Two Kinds of Poetry: Deductive vs. Inductive

I recently opined that there were only two divisions in post-modern poetry, Beatniks vs. Academics. There is another division that has occurred to me, which I think much more important, since it stretches across ages.

Deductive Poetry originates from within, based on internal projections on the page, imagined scenarios, monologues of imagination, twisting facts and experience to accord with its production. Shakespeare subjugates poetry to character, for instance; Coleridge makes up "The Rime" internally and uses his experience only to fill it out; Eliot, for the most part, tries to establish a stand from which all else is gradually deduced; Strand, as well, creates an internal world of imagination for which the outer world is only employed to propel the poem; and I, for the most part, also confess to being an deductive poet. This means that the poet does not merely respond to reality, but establishes his own reality about which he arranges images and scenes of the world as ornaments, but not for definition.

Inductive Poetry rules the present age, and is based on real experiences recited in poetic form, whether pigeons resting on a statue or the experience of nearly being run over by a taxi. Inductive poetry builds from experience towards an emotional conclusion. It does not establish an imaginative subject to be enlarged, rather submits itself to an experience to be described. Hence it inducts a poem from experience instead of using experience to support a subject determined by the poet's internal projection.

I do not claim one form is better than the other; clearly, the inductive poem rules the art today, and the deductive poem is in decline, often dismissed as rhetoric, as not having "the juice of the apple in your teeth."

Are you a deductive or inductive poet? Certainly I have written both types; my first book of poems is more inductive than deductive; yet I feel this is a dichotomy I have never read about and now seems obvious.

In this sketch my generalities are insufficient for the subject, why I naturally welcome comments on the idea.



Sonnet: The Corpse; More on Iraq

The Corpse

The corpse was dragged into the public square
Where dogs fought over it, chomping on feet
And rolling in the dirt to pull some meat
From the unyielding body, lying bare—
Bare because it had been analyzed
By all the best minds money could recruit,
Who pulled its clothes off like some winter fruit
And broke their teeth on them, and thus surmised
The thing, though dead, maintained some special power,
Resisting all decay like a vampire,
Mocking the immortality we desire
By its intransigence—a steel flower.
The corpse’s name? Iraq. Do you recall
The wounds from Vietnam? Double them all.

As I've said before, I rarely write political poetry or polemical poetry, a bit of a contradiction, since once you become polemical your poetry nearly always descends to mere verse. But truly, nothing has pissed me off as much as our "New Iraq Policy" since Nixon went on television to justify bombing Cambodia.
Since a poet must write what he feels, I keep spouting these anti-war poems. I fear that posting one on a listserv I belong to had me removed, as it was perhaps too controversial--but they haven't written me, I just get no further mail since I shared "Men in Suits" with them. And this a men's group dedicated to peace! To that I say, "fuck 'em."

I don't care if you have a relative in Iraq fighting; to me, supporting them means getting them out. Let's not spend time justifying our occupation as geopolitically necessary.

To say this, one must confront the chorus of, "Then our men died in vain." Not at all. They died for our nation, but nations make mistakes. They died believing, I think, that they were doing the right thing. But military discipline allows for little freedom of thought, a necessity for the chain-of-command in battle, and thus suppressed by the military culture. One needs an ideology to fight, if only "us" vs. "them." I submit in Iraq it is now "us" vs. "us."

And the Democrats are blowing it. They were elected on an anti-war "surge," and now they wring their hands about funding while the President brags on 60 minutes that he'll have the additional troops in place before funding can be challenged, and afterwards, congress won't be able to cut off funding because that would endanger the additional troops. What self-fulfilling poppycock! And yet, it is true: Bush will beat them to the punch because the executive branch can move so much faster than the legislative branch.

I could go on but I'll stop. My anger is a good sign for recovery from depression. Coming out of a depression one often gets very angry. Anger is empowering, sorrow is exhausting.

I won't rate myself for fear of falling.



Saturday, January 13, 2007

Villanelle: Close Encounter; On Faith

Close Encounter

Be still, old heart, the Lord walks through the grass.
His porcelain feet divide the snaking mist.
You weep and worship as you feel him pass.

You won't look up; your eyes have turned to glass.
Your sin imagines some unholy tryst.
Be still, old heart, the Lord walks through the grass.

You almost raise your eyes, feel small and crass.
He turns toward you and all your muscles twist.
You weep and worship as you feel him pass.

You would look up; you check the hourglass,
Timing the timeless, hoping he'll desist.
Be still, old heart, the Lord walks through the grass.

Eye contact seems too much of a trespass.
You hear him saying, "Stand! Do not resist."
You weep and worship as you feel him pass.

You dodge God's love as if he would harass!
Your faith can't get beyond his mailed fist.
Be still, old heart, the Lord walks through the grass.
You weep and worship as you feel him pass.

This poem approximates how I sometimes feel toward the Almighty. I can't look, I can't even raise my head up because I am so beset with my own sins. This is unfaith; I should believe Christ has taken all my sins upon himself and gaze at God with confidence. But what I believe and what I feel are divided.

When I last wept in church, I don't know if it was because I felt God had failed me or I had failed God. Mostly it is a feeling of being cast out of the garden, of being unable to believe that God would accept me in his loving embrace.

The psyche bleeds into spirituality without doubt. The fact that my mother never held me affectionately, but took care of my needs in a semi-robotic way, certainly influences my inability to accept grace, "God's unmerited favor toward sinners." It's hard for me to imagine, psychologically, a God so loving that he suffers all and forgives all. Christianity is hard to grasp partly because it's too simple: "You mean all I have to do is believe this is true?"

As I said, believing by no means translates to feeling, and humans need feelings to back up their beliefs. In one such as myself, who suffers from a disease of feelings, it's particularly hard. Perhaps that makes my faith more noble, perhaps less. I can't say. I only know, dimly, that there have been times in my life when I did feel whole, forgiven, cleansed, bathed in light. Usually these experiences came in the presence of unspoiled nature rather than church. I make no apologies for that; the redwoods exceed any cathedral I've visited.

A question for thought: How might an autistic person relate to God?--someone the opposite of me, afflicted with no feelings, rather than feelings too intense and sustained.

Here endeth the epistle for the day.

Thine in Timid Faith,


Friday, January 12, 2007

Sonnet: The Preppie's Burden; More on Iraq

The Preppie’s Burden

Nowadays it’s hard to know anything at all.
Experts chatter on the radio
(Though slightly more succinct on video)
About the war, America and withdrawal.
What should we think? The Mideast is a call
To sacrifice our sons for liberty?
To give the region new stability?
We need more troops to dance a dying fall?
The President’s sending in six new brigades.
Many will die from bombs, shrapnel and guns.
Many more will live as amputees.
Generals generally earn their brocade.
Not so for their commander and his chums
Who think to rule millions of Iraqis.

I went to pick up a desk for Kathleen today, from an old barn at a bed and breakfast. The trip took over three hours and my poor back feels it. I’m hoping her having a desk will clear the floor of knitting bags, yarn bags, bags of recipes, and the small lamp frosted with thick stacks of paper.

The thought of a force of 160,000 stabilizing such a sectarian nightmare as Iraq beggars credulity. Imagine 160,000 New Yorkers invading California and you get the picture. LA would swallow them up. Gangs would be competing over territory and how many New Yorkers they could snuff. Respectable folks would be so enraged they would join with the gangs against the enemy. And the enemy would be overwhelmed by sheer force of numbers. And don't think Angelenos differ much from Southerners in their love of guns.

It’s plain silly. Silly, silly, silly. Why McCain endorses "the surge of troops" is beyond me, but this certainly can’t help his election chances, which argues he is a man of principle. But principle in the name of illogic can only be admired for its stubbornness. And only stubbornness can keep someone convinced that an additional 21,000 troops will make a difference in a country of 30 million.

It's time for someone to say, "We failed, we give up, good-bye." This is not cowardice but wisdom. We have already lost.

Have a good weekend,


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Poem: "Half-Belief;" Brief History of the Illness

As I was blogging yesterday I came to a space to pray; it may have been inspired by that Gaelic prayer anonymous posted in yesterday's comments. But as soon as I tried to pray I began to weep; as I've said, faith is a sore point with me. So I tried to jot the experience down, resulting in this raw poem below.


Thank you for this
disease, O Lord,
that has ravaged my life
like a bulldozer making
and destroying mountains,
or a savage volcano destroying
the very mountain it was
in a cutting rage of lava.

Thank you
for the humility
of never knowing
how I will be--
whether low
as a nematode
or the radiant
king of the universe,
your chosen one.

I only wish the uncertainty
of these shifting states
didn’t undermine
my belief in the future,
my ability to plan.
I am a homeless soul,
a faithless soul.
What I build
I don’t believe in;
what I lose
I never deserved;
what I love
will be taken from me.

But faith declares
I should praise you;
it feels unnatural,
but isn’t that the point?
As a “new creation” in Christ
what was unnatural before
should be natural now.

Little did I know
how hard it would be
to live out this religion.
When I was young
bursting with adrenaline,
hypomanic without knowledge of it,
it seemed easy—but I fear
I was a fake buoyed up by feelings,
by the steam of my imagination.

Past the middle of my life now
how would I know
if my prayer were genuine?
The half-belief
my sickness grants me
is no belief.
(You may disregard
this prayer or not.)

I can't even begin to describe the depth of grief that fills me upon any attempt to practice Christianity. I still believe that it's true, but it's toxic to me. It has always been toxic to me in depressions, sometimes even in manias, when I felt specially chosen and empowered (as Jesus' younger brother--Laugh with me on this because it is funny).

That a man of my intellectual capacities and strength of endurance could become a plaything for a capricious, biochemical disease is an antidote to pride, at the least, besides the obvious irony. Yet as a child and later on, in high school, my chief fear was losing my mind. I must have known something about myself before I ever knew it. My first major depression came at the age of 13, but naturally was dismissed as adolescent weirdness. My second came at 16, while a foreign exchange student to Germany. I had a mild mania at 18, when I became engaged to an unsuitable mate, followed by a deep depression that I endured so as not to break my promise to the woman. Things just tumble on after that until the present day, though the frequency of the extreme moods has decreased with medication. Nevertheless, my first two major adult decisions, marriage and career, resulted from psychotic revelations. I was ill-suited, by temperament, to medicine as well.

All that time I thought it was God's will to marry this woman, God's will to become a doctor, and I feared not doing God's Will. How sick to have the foundations of one's life based on psychosis and fear of displeasing the Almighty.

I suppose by way of background I want everyone to know how sick I've been in the past, and that I'm not that bad now. Experience has taught me much about enduring depression, not that it dampens the pain much, but it does improve the outlook. I know I'll get better someday, I always have before.

So a raw confessional poem and a little history.


Dr. Chaffin

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Poem: Elohim Overheard; The God Delusion

I will take today off from more formal compositions. Instead I offer an unpublished, free verse poem.

Elohim Overheard

"Let us make a creature who knows
he is destined to die
but can imagine eternity--
So a paradoxical longing
shall afflict him all his days
like a disease.”

Isn't this cruelty to animals?

"Let this longing spawn
prophets and religions
as this indefatigable beast seeks relief
from his untenable condition,
a grub haunted by visions.

This is funny?

"We don’t explain our jokes.
Something that breathes
and bleeds yet ponders God
may be the greatest miracle--
it took billions of years
to hear matter pray.”

Why does this matter?

“You are the end of matter.”

How does this ease my suffering?

"Would you rather you didn't exist?"

These are my choices?

As the reader may see, I have had a long and ambivalent relationship with God. I don't really know what "a personal relationship with God" means, though I do pray sometimes--but when I pray I feel that I undermine my own philosophy regarding God. The essence of prayer is praise and thanksgiving, but most of us, including yours truly, resort to requests. I remember praying for a pet dinosaur when I was five. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose, and God forbid that I should place restrictions on honest prayer. Suffice it to say that I don't think God protects us from anything, but he does help us to endure suffering. If suffering is without meaning, if it is only blowback from Darwinian competition, we are lost.

Dawkins' new book, "The God Delusion," interests me, but I have yet to purchase a copy. So far I have found atheists' arguments unconvincing. As a friend of mine remarked, the only logically consistent position to hold toward God is agnosticism. The scholastic proofs of Anselm and Aquinas now seem, well, anachronistically amusing at best. How I do go on! I have other writing to do today, and I don't want to curtail its accomplishment with the pleasurable and easy bloviation this medium affords me.

My mood seems to change daily. I'm on quite a roller coaster right now. Can go from 0 to 3 kilorats in no time. Wanted to cry yesterday afternoon but instead forced myself to exercise at the gym for two hours.



Monday, January 08, 2007

Light Verse: Conference

The Conference

A hundred poets came into a room
Armed with their folders, pens, and microphones.
The mediator had a rosy bloom
Of optimism, fearing no millstones
Be hung about his neck
Like deep Atlantic wrecks
Until he would make way for the well-knowns.

Chief among them was Sir Randall Wright
Whose poetry was known to be obtuse.
“It’s not obtuse,” he said, “It’s quite forthright.
“I need a smarter audience for my muse”--
Not realizing he
was dumber than a tree
To claim ignorant readers as excuse.

Behind him, breathing hard, in a beret
McDonald pleaded his preeminence.
“I speak the lingo of the world today.
Wright belongs to the past, I’ve evidence”—
Despite his leaden ear
And prose cut like veneer
With bad line breaks, pretending relevance.

The unfledged followed, rushed the podium
With papers flying, wrangling for a word
With the poor mediator, whose odium
Replaced his prior sanguinity with a turd.
He closed the frenzied show
But first let egos know,
“Your fabled art is grotesque and absurd.”

Now all the poets united against the man
Who fled out back to catch his limousine
They rocked the car, screamed epithets, and ran
To the Arts Council, calling him “obscene.”
He had to laugh out loud
At the rabid, blithering crowd
That populated the faux poetry scene.

I thought that since my mood had improved somewhat, I would not attempt anything serious this morning. There are, as satirized in today's poem, still two major divisions of poets in English since the 1950s: Beatniks and Academics. I know of all the other schools, but it really boils down to Kenneth Koch vs. Richard Wilbur, Maya Angelou vs. Rita Dove., performance poetry vs. written poetry. I suppose my verse leans more towards the academic, as I am poles apart from that great poet of the common people, Charles Bukowski. Here's a link to my essay on him: "Charles Bukowski and the Nadir of American Poetry."

I'm sorry to puke on the Buke. But live, paper bag in hand concealing a cheap bottle of wine, he was quite the entertainer. His childhood is painful to read about, as is most of his adulthood. But pity ought not to influence artistic judgment.

I'm still wondering about goals. Until I reach the goal of not being depressed, it's hard to think of other goals. When I come out of a depression it's a simplifying experience: Life is good as long as I'm not depressed. I can endure anything, assay anything, survive anything--just pray that that anything does not include depression. What matters most is not being depressed. Let's hope I continue to improve.

All for today.

The Unknown Poet

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Sonnet: Performers; Why I Won't Reach Celebrity


On the radio is Bonnie Raitt.
“Anything you want,” she sings, a cover
Of one of Roy Orbison’s last great
Additions to the canon of the lover.
He died not long thereafter, dressed in black
With sunglasses, stiff in life as death.
But would Bonnie or Roy ever take it back,
Trade the crowd’s adulation for the nest
Of home and hearth, routine and routine love?
Must performers’ love bow to the pull
Of one more sparkling wheel of fans to move?
Four walls, a fireplace, it would be dull.
And what of us, wouldn’t we trade it all
To be admired on stage, to swoon and howl?

I loved Roy Orbison and I love Bonnie Raitt, indeed have followed her since the 70s when she wasn't well known. The question I raise here, however, is one that recurs and recurs. Does everyone want to be a celebrity? Or are there those who prefer to be doctors, lawyers and candlestick makers? Those with little entertainment skills might not lust after the spotlight, but most of the talented people who could fill it will never taste it. The media barrage on our psyches only twists the knife of enforced anonymity deeper for the truly talented. Yet, except for a few lucky breaks and family connections, most successful artists got where they are on sheer grit: thousands of auditions, playing the cheap clubs where no one listens to the music, giving poetry readings at open mikes, doing graphic art to support an oil-painting habit, hoping one day for a show.

In a word, I think you have to want it really bad, and sustain a positive attitude on the journey. It never ceases to amaze me that Robert DeNiro, Robert Duvall, and (I think) Dustin Hoffman (if not Pacino) shared a cheap apartment in NY coming up, taking jobs as waiters and what not until their big breaks. But their breaks only came because they never stopped trying.

I think like many I play with success. I don't want to get down in the mud and wrestle for it. I don't want to live out of my car and give readings of a self-published book from here to Oklahoma. I work but I don't work that hard. My sister-in-law shares a horse with Jane Hirschfield and I've never taken advantage of that connection. That's just plain stupid--or else breeding--you don't inopportune an acquaintance of your sister-in-law just to get ahead. If I were properly ambitious I'd be begging to meet her.

I likely don't have it in me to "make it," i.e. garner a larger audience and standing. I think I'm hesitant to pay the social price. As in many things, I am divided about this question down to my bones.

Not feeling half bad for a couple of days. Shhh!


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Sonnet: On Mental Health; Meditation

On Mental Health

Nature abhors a vacuum, the mind as well.
Thought must people the unpopulated,
Limitless caverns where blind cave fish dwell,
And keep stalactites and stalagmites mated.
If it weren’t limestone it would be a bear.
If not a bear then an army of snakes.
It doesn’t matter what it puts in there
As long as it’s not empty; the mistake
Is to assume mental health only a blank.
It’s not; the brain is a menagerie
With chimps on wheels and starfish in the tank
To stanch the flow of evil memories.
Better to stuff your head with trivial news
Than leave it open for demonic use.

Christians traditionally meditate on something, a rosary being an easy example. Buddhist tradition would have us empty the mind until it is a windless pond. I have achieved the former but never the latter.

My experience confirms that to meditate on something is better than trying to achieve nothingness--then maybe I am spiritually impaired when it comes to eastern meditation. I did chant for a time, but even then my mind was filled with the words and the rhythm of the chant in order to produce a change in my mind, or its brain waves--which is what we all seek in meditation, from a neurologist's point of view.

I would rather work at a task than meditate, write a bad sonnet than stare at a blank piece of paper. I'm for the pursuit of something, not nothing; a positive good, not just complete detachment. Eliot tries hard to distinguish between attachment and detachment in his Four Quartets, but I don't know if he ever nails them. Both are necessary. The point of this sonnet, I suppose, is that idle hands are the Devil's playthings, and so are empty minds. "You must stand for something or you'll fall for everything."

There is no real dichotomy here, just my inability to meditate passably in an eastern fashion. But in coping with depression, that kind of blankness scares me; I feel my black, looping thoughts curl like snakes to enter into all the mouseholes of the empty house. Perhaps if I were healthier I would change the final couplet.

2 Kilorats,


Friday, January 05, 2007



Because of you I wear a seat belt.
Because of you I know what love is.
Because of you I have sympathy for animals.
Because of you I know how a woman can worship a man with her body.
Because of you I’m not afraid to come home
Because of you I’m not afraid to go out.
Because of you I watch my blood pressure and take my pills.
Because of you I know woman as well as a man can.
Because of you I am a better writer.
Because of you I know loss because I nearly lost you.
Because of you I have wept in front of the children.
Because of you I have broken doors in anger.
Because of you I can sometimes move gracefully.
Because of you I dress better.
Because of you I think my life might not be a waste.
Because of you I believe in the love of God.
Because of you I am always in love.
If only God were as loving as you!

People seemed to enjoy yesterday's "pattern poem," distinguished by a repetition reminiscent of the pantoum. In any case, this was written for Kathleen, who, despite the greatness of her brain, is still ruled by her heart--which is a gift to all who know her.

2.5 Kilorats,


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Poem: "Everyone;" Depression Update


Everyone fears their own death
But everyone has a vague faith in an afterlife.
Everyone goes to the parade
But everyone forgets their umbrellas.
Everyone goes to see strippers
But everyone knows it was only for a bachelor party.
Everyone has had diarrhea
But everyone denies soiling their pants.
Everyone has bad credit
But everyone can buy a car.
Everyone means to exercise more
But everyone is the victim of television.
Everyone has a pet of some kind
But everyone has to clean up after them.
Everyone loves the rain
But everyone hates getting wet.
Everyone loves to party
But everyone knows “party” is a code word for drinking and drugs.
Everyone says they like poetry
But everyone says they don’t understand it.
Everyone is opposed to war
But everyone watches it happen.
Everyone went to college
But everyone didn’t graduate.
Everyone’s future is rosy
But everyone’s past is an ankle weight.
Everyone lives selflessly for others
But everyone hoards chocolates and dope.
Everyone’s had homosexual contact
But everyone denies it.
Everyone has prejudices
But everyone loves blacks and Jews.
Everyone is afraid to speak up in class
But everyone knows the answers.
Everyone was properly breastfed
But everyone sucked on a bottle, too.
Everyone loves nature
But everyone prefers an RV.
Everyone has written a book
But everyone is unpublished.
Everyone follows celebrities
But everyone says they don’t care.
Everyone believes in God
But everyone evades church.
Everyone has been told they’re dying
But everyone has outsmarted their doctor.
Everyone is sensitive to a fault
But everyone is a hard ass about money.
Everyone loves to dance
But everywhere the dance floors are empty.
Everyone could have been a rock star
But everyone didn’t have time to practice.
Everyone could have been Gandhi
But everyone didn’t want to wear diapers.
Everyone could have been Lincoln
But everyone didn’t want to be that ugly.
Everyone could have been Dr. King
But everyone was too white.
Everyone could have been a god
But everyone had other things to do.

Though formulaic and over-generalized, I nevertheless find this poem entertaining in its depiction of human foibles. I seem to be running ahead of my blog, as I now have two new poems I haven’t posted yet.

My crying jags come twice a day now, sometimes three times, in general at 11 AM and 4 PM, with other occasions dependent on circumstances, as when I saw my psychiatrist yesterday or when Kathleen foolishly asks me, “How are you doing?” Or worse, “How are you feeling?” It’s that personal connection to others who care that really slays me. I suppose I feel unworthy, or perhaps it’s that I feel safe revealing my inner sadness to someone I trust. But my sadness is generic, there is no object to it, it just is. Naturally the frontal cortex always seeks a reason out: I don’t like where I’m living, I miss my children, I’m a failure as a poet, what’s the point, I’m bad with money, I should do better by Kathleen, yada yada. All these points are irrelevant, I assure you. When the primitive part of the brain is askew, when the amygdalas and limbic system malfunction, the neocortex (what distinguishes us as humans, what allows us self-consciousness, reason and language) seeks a reason—feelings should have antecedents, the brain knows that much. But the brain knows too little; in severe depression the sadness and anxiety are self-generating; the brain is stuck like a scratched record; and the goal of treatment is to free the brain from the reptile feedback loop that constantly renders your feelings inappropriate to your situation.

To use a simple test, I have been blissful under the worst of circumstances and suicidal under the best. So one question I have asked my patients is: “If you won the lottery tomorrow would you be any happier?” The truly depressed answer “No.”

On the positive side, look how many words I’ve spilled on the nuances of depression. It seems an endless subject and I suppose it is. But it must be kind of depressing reading about it. I hope today’s poem brings a chuckle.

3.5 Kilorats,


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Sonnet: Self-Portrait; Gibberish

Self Portrait

Take off all your disguises. There you are,
Like John the Baptist naked save for fur.
I would not spoon your soul out from a jar
Or squeeze you like a tube of brown manure.
I only want to know your naked heart,
Its tangled bridges to your fortress mind
Beset with Harpies, Gorgons, pried apart
Because your integration was a blind
For separation of the self from soul,
Division of the heart from the intent,
Dissembling for the public in your role
Of thaumaturgic poet discontent.
I’ve lost you once more, Craig, you’re hard to pin.
Sit for the portrait. We’ll begin again.

Prose Stream

Sit for the portrait. The brush strokes the canvas in favonian languidness. Who knows of the flamulated owl? Who mutilated the television with crayons? The blade iron that heats and cuts? Cuisinart for reptiles only. As if man would eat crabs, or oysters. Then man's like a rat; he'll eat anything, even shoe leather when he's starving. No one has to starve today but out of greed humans prevent other humans from eating. It is a cruel cruel cruel world out there, Dorothy. Don't trust your ruby slippers; get a kick-ass pair of boots.

Saw my shrink today. My case looks pretty hopeless. May have to find a way to get ECT. Anyone know how to start a foundation? Shock a poet today!

3.5 Kilorats,

Craig Erick

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Sonnet: Sad Harvest; Back to Depression

Sad Harvest

There is no madness like hatred of self.
It’s not confined to those with diagnoses.
There is a poison book upon the shelf
That makes allowance for all psychoses.
You wake; you dread yourself; you dread your mind
Where deadening thoughts orbit like lifeless moons,
Still, have sufficient gravity to grind
Your music down to an ice cream truck’s tune.
Wake, you could wake—but how would you even know?
The vulture on your shoulder keeps you blind.
Communicate by smells. By touch. By show.
Endure your looping brain—pause is rewind.
Sad harvest that a human being should turn
Upon itself. Shackle, beat and burn.

If the sonnet is depressing, well so it is. I am not well. I am more pretending to be well than formerly, seeking activities to distract the central maelstrom of self-despite. I wonder if any here have read “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever.” Throughout the book the protagonist preserves a despite for himself, no matter how much he helps the land to which he’s been transported. He’s more than a reluctant hero; he’s a self-despising, cynical hero who feels helpless and at the same time responsible for much of the tragedy that besets his new world. I don’t claim to have his powers, naturally, but I identify with his feelings toward himself. I think the series is pretty good for the fantasy genre.

How shall I greet the New Year? “Same as it always was.” These artificial divisions of time do little to center me, though those who celebrate en masse must enjoy a different experience. I’d like to wear a lamp shade on my head, but I’ve only done it once at a party with fellow psychiatric residents. Except that we be surrounded by other revelers, it is hard to capture the spirit of a holiday. There is the religious exercise for Christmas, but I am not that devout. Church makes me weep anyway.

I’m fragile; I’m not well. I refrain from crying, it upsets my wife. Sometimes I can’t help it. I wish I could say the new antidepressant has improved things, but it only did so temporarily, and then my melancholy descended back in its miasmic inevitability.

Nine months of depression for a manic-depressive is not unusual. But it is extremely painful, and it seems the brief happy times I have had within that span are such anomalies that I can hardly relate to them. Clearly I need for more social interaction. While involved with other people I feel better, think less about myself; the afterglow lasts about an hour but it is better than no contact at all. I am, after all, a gregarious person when not beset by a major depression. To encounter me now would be different; I am not that person, more of a listener, more of a background shadow. But if buoyed up by the circumstances, by the conversation, I can occasionally exceed my melancholy and participate—and once I do I am well-received as an “interesting person.” Little do they know how much I bore myself.

I’m truly sorry to begin this year with another confession of depression, but the tears that crease my face as I write can admit no other truth, and dissembling on a blog would make a blog pointless—unless it was simply a shill for promotion.

Back to 3 Kilorats,


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