Monday, April 21, 2008

Feeling a Little Bit Better; Poetry and Power Lyrics

I haven't blogged in four days and the universe hasn't shifted. My mood has improved up to the point where blogging seems like some kind of external burden instead of a welcome distraction. My operative secret has been pretending to be myself.

Strange how a change in mood changes one's valuation of things; let ethicists debate that.

And they have. The Marquis de Sade: “Everything that is is good.”

Anon: “Happiness is a side effect of right behavior.”


“I don't feel like going out tonight, honey.”

“We need to talk.”

“Not again!”

It's like being a low rent jeweler, stringing these cliche's together into a necklace of tears. Still you see the mood determination factor. Kennedy met with Khrushchev after morphine injections for his back. Jack the Junkie, as history fondly recalls him. How did this affect Berlin, I wonder?

And his wife! Model pretty and model thin. Too bad he preferred the upholstered couches.

I wrote a decent poem in the last year, so I was told by twenty comments at a poetry forum recently, the Gazebo. You want to see it?

Among Schoolchildren

A old man in a brown cardigan
walks a black Chow
on a chain leash
beside a fence
where children throng and
in a supplication of small fingers
reach through galvanized
diamonds of steel,
each clamoring for a touch,
the soft substantial feel
of mammalian welcome:
trusting, dependent fur.

How many would trade
the fence for the leash?

I dedicate this poem to my old friend, poet John Benson, whom I spoke with last night for the first time in years and who is thinking of starting a blog. Tell him “Yes!” One of the brightest and funniest men I've ever known. His son, David Benson, is a poet as well.

I thought of a couple aphorisms:

It is hard to create a literature that captures its time and outlives it.

Great poetry communicates an involuntary experience.

As to the second aphorism above, I'm talking about the book you can't put down, the movie you can't walk out of, the poem that, once you begin it, there's no turning back; you're hooked.

Poetry ought to be that pleasurable. Poetry ought to make that kind of impression. To do that today poetry must strive to be open and concise, colloquial and precise, syntactic and musical, but most of all experientially epigrammatic—a shot of indelible snapshots to shoot up in words.

I have previously written about Logopoetry and Power Lyrics if essays interest you. My point is simple; either we accept that the audience for poetry will continue to dwindle to irrelevant proportions while we experiment and re-invent the wheel, or we fashion a poetry muscular enough, compressed enough, compelling enough to command attention from the multitasking modern mind. (I take some comfort from the Swedes' Retrogardism.)

Here's another of mine that wants to be a power lyric:

About the Bracelet

You sent me a silver bracelet.
"Damn I'm good," it said. I found it
heavy and constricting, painful
in its alien density. (I was forgetting
my body again, how any restriction
burns like handcuffs, even a watchband,
but you know this.) So I hung it
from my key chain. I like the heft
of it there, I like to stretch
my knuckles against its links and feel
the ache of constant use relax.

What if all the righteous faded
by subtle increments to stark transparency
until no one could see them but themselves?
Left to our sordid board games,
would we even notice their absence?
In this scenario you'd have disappeared
before we met. I'm so glad I see you!
And this bracelet, whether it
rings my wrist or jabbers with the keys,
proves you see me, too!

You saw the poor boy in the rich man's house.
You clothed him in your sea-green light.
You kissed him with your coral lips,
sucked poison from his stonefish heart
and smoothed the ragged seaweed
from his brow with patient fingers, saying,
"You are loved, little boy, you are loved."

This one is likely too dense for a power lyric. A power lyric should be more direct, I think, require less of the reader. Here:



Kick at the rock, Sam Johnson, break your bones:
But cloudy, cloudy is the stuff of stones.


We milk the cow of the world, and as we do
We whisper in her ear, 'You are not true.'

--Richard Wilbur

Perhaps that one is too riddle-like but I love it.

That first poem of mine ended in sort of a riddle. Hmm...

Here's another poem that approaches my ideal:

The Heaven of Animals

Here they are. The soft eyes open.
If they have lived in a wood
It is a wood.
If they have lived on plains it is grass rolling
Under their feet forever.

Having no souls, they have come,
Anyway, beyond their knowing.
Their instincts wholly bloom
And they rise.
The soft eyes open.

To match them, the landscape flowers,
Outdoing, desperately
Outdoing what is required:
The richest wood,
The deepest field.

For some of these, it could not be the place
It is, without blood.
These hunt, as they have done,
But with claws and teeth grown perfect,

More deadly than they can believe.
They stalk more silently,
And crouch on the limbs of trees,
And their descent
Upon the bright backs of their prey

May take years
In a sovereign floating of joy.
And those that are hunted
Know this as their life,
Their reward: to walk

Under such trees in full knowledge
Of what is in glory above them,
And to feel no fear,
But acceptance, compliance.
Fulfilling themselves without pain

At the cycle's center,
They tremble, they walk
Under the tree,
They fall, they are torn,
They rise, they walk again.

-- James Dickey

My aforementioned poet friend contemplating a blog, John Benson, turned me on to this poem.

Wordsworth, go fish.

It is silly to put my own work on the same page as Dickey or Wilbur, but in the blogosphere of the cyberuniverse it is perfectly acceptable. I am content if any of these show, however enanescently, how poetry can not only matter but actually attract more readers

Obviously my mood has improved, as I said at the outset, though I do not put my faith in this appearance yet. Thanks to all of you for your encouragement, faithfulness and patience during these last two years. I am not saying it is over; if it holds I may blog about it.


Craig Erick


  1. Thanks, Gwen, can't find you through the links in your neon blue lit-up name; have two Aunt Gw/u/ens, one living, one dead. Obviously you are neither. But I strive to respond to compliments for the sake of my (unmentionable) condition!

  2. Enjoyed your poems and surprise visit today. Hope your bride is resting well after her root canal. She is beautiful even when still numb from oral surgery...but you know that. : )


  3. "Pretending to be myself" --- Me, too. I think you've hit on a description for what I've been doing for years now. It works (mostly).

    Good title for a book --- Pretending to be Myself.

    I enjoyed your poems, both but especially "Among Schoolchildren."

    Thanks for posting the Dickey poem. A great poem that I hadn't returned to in years. Dickey seems to be unfairly neglected these days for reasons that have nothing to do with the poetry.

  4. Glad you are feeling better and I hope that continues.

  5. Thankis, all, and I blush for my bride, Pat.

    Anhaga, great idea! Since I think I have failed as a novelist, perhaps a self-help book will be my ticket to everlasting notoriety or a quick profit--preferably the latter.

  6. Cheers from western Pennsylvania. Nice writing, C.E.

    Glad you've had a better day. Lots of ups and down on the road to recovery, but then you know this already. I'm rooting for you.


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