Friday, February 16, 2007

Is My Poetry Too Inhuman?

After my rant on literary narcissism, I feel impelled to follow my own dictum: suspect yourself first.

Regarding the defects of my poetry, I have had critics say it was "inhuman" or unapproachable, had it compared to "stainless steal." After my last post a good friend wrote me with some insightful comments I would like to excerpt:

"If you're trafficking in authentic mysteries, truly the sublime,
then the intellect can only pretend a sort of false-mastery. So there is
perhaps a tendency towards smugness that you should perennially be on
guard against.

"A challenge for you I would think is how to strike a communion with your
audience that is earnest and authentic without lapsing into condescension.
[I'm sure you] grasp.. the perils of cerebral poetry in this subjective age."

I went through some poems trying to find one that exhibited more room for "communion" with the audience, an "open" poem if you will, as opposed to a "closed" or internally completed poem. It took me some time to settle on one I thought would qualify. Here it is:


My grandson’s cry tonight
is a buzz saw on aluminum,
a kickstand scraping concrete—

Reminding me of Beckett’s last play,
where a heap of post-apocalyptic trash appears,
then a baby’s cry, then darkness.

I can’t rid these prickles from my heart,
resentment at his shrieking intransigence—
the fuse of a child abuser?

Holding him is best because
I feel as if I’m doing something.
He is mine and I can’t stand it.


Mood holding, thanks be to God and medications and an understanding wife,



  1. Anonymous1:03 PM PST

    Okay CE here's another nugget for you...

    You have conceded on various occasions that as a manic-depressive, you are effectively 'crazy', that is, beneath the thinnest veneer of rationality and self-possession, there is unalloyed madness. Fair enough.
    However it occurs to me that your poetical exercises are peons to self-possession and self-mastery, that is to say, your poetry my be a sort of mindful evasion. Isn't it striking how a poet with such vast stores of non-linearity manages to write, on the whole, such poised, 'rational' poetry? Why would such a person's poetry tend toward perfect sense? Perhaps it is a stratagem for keeping the demons at bay.

    Maybe it serves as a subconscious advertisement to his former keepers that he has 'mastered the art of sanity' and need never be returned to the loonie bin; a fear of detection masquerading as a revelatory act.

    Clearly there is a monster lurking in this poem. Interesting how when you elect to 'open' yourself, it's the monster (of madness) that first appears. What prevented this speaker from beating his own grandson's head against the wall in a fit of projected self-loathing. After all, it happens every day in America. Was the 'veneer' of self-composure enough to stop him? Does he underestimate the tensile strength of his veneer? Is he short-shrifting his own reserves of sanity?

    Stop me if I probe too much. I take your desire to better your art --and your determined self-exposure-- as an invitation to these sorts of persoanlized queries.



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