Manual A Dangerous Thing to Do: Poems for Intelligent Readers

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In fact, Morrison's fluttering, anxious prosody resembles Graham's darting graphs of consciousness. For all their disarticulation, Morrison's poems employ an elaborate formal fiction. The end words of every three-line stanza are the same: The framing conceit of this compressed, invented form is richly suggestive: Vertigo is both the story and the style of these poems. By issuing each line as a broken-off, truncated unit, shunning continuity and complex grammatical relations, the poems imply a world where things do not accrue sense, nor progress as story.

It is a choppy, chopped-up world, at best, and a chopped-up speaker, as well. The lack of capitalization and punctuation likewise sets us adrift, implying a landscape of no boundaries:. The poems in the true keeps calm biding its story are full of velocity, often keenly phrased, and conceptually acute. There are scores of intriguing, aphoristic lines to savor, like those above. And Morrison's poems are in concert with modern perspectives on the instability of meaning, knowing, and saying. The conceptual self-consciousness of lines like those above alerts us to the epistemological dimension of the speaker's crisis.

Many lines in the "please advise stop" poems explicitly emphasize the futility--and, in a weird way, the falsehood--of making experience cohere. The content of any one moment does not--perhaps must not--connect to any other in the past or future: Thus, the speaker is exiled in manifold ways: This world is post-Humpty Dumpty: To their credit, the poems are not emotionally obscure--they wear their existential poignancy on their sleeve. In manner and matter, this is a poetry of ardent trauma:.

I add brush-strokes to my visions to thicken their surface courage stop novelty prodding me with its impatience-stick stop my flashlight held high under the blanket stop. The true keeps calm biding its story contains plentiful virtuosity. Nonetheless, after reading nine or ten "please advise stop[s]," one begins to feel worn out.

It takes a lot of work to stay tuned to a present that steadily deconstructs itself, that refuses to make a history. And no discourse does accumulate, because in this universe, each moment, each insight, each breath, each memory is transient, anonymous, and oblique; each insight reiterates its instability.

The reader waits in vain for something besides the speaker's disconcertedness to manifest--more "plot" of some kind. But the sequence itself suffers from exactly this flaw, a kind of homogeneity of disruptedness. The instability of this world eventually registers as a feverish and telegrammatic numbness. Samuel Beckett made great literature of such modern spiritual deprivation, and he too used repetition as a device.

Yet fifty-four episodes of "please advise stop" leave us with the question, Should we praise a book for its intriguing concept and method, or even its brilliant individual lines, if the method creates monotony? Of course, this is an issue--not much acknowledged--that haunts much experimental poetry: Thus the individual poems very often lack individual dramatic identity. They may be remarkable or ingenious in their process, but unremarkable in their shapeliness--in turn, such poems are difficult to remember.

How this affects their value as art is hard to say. One might extrapolate from these several examples the features of a period style.

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Here are the characteristics I observe:. A heavy reliance on authoritative declaration. A love of the fragmentary, the interrupted, the choppy rhythm. An overall preference for the conceptual over the corporeal, the sensual, the emotional, the narrative, or the discursive. A talent for aphorism. Asides which articulate the poem's own aesthetic procedures, premises, and ideas.

Surely I am over-generalizing and omitting some things. But it is curious how much contemporary poetry bears some combination of these stylistic features, even when the poets are concerned with quite different possibilities of poetry. Morrison and Lerner are certainly very different, and both marvelously talented poets. And yet there is a kind of pitching-machine assault in their prosody, a buffeting of dizzy richness. Is this assertiveness of quantity and momentum a kind of correction for the general helplessness of our circumstances?

Is it reflective of a new aesthetics of "confrontation," which strives to overwhelm with velocity and facility? One question we can usefully ask in regard to a particular style or poem is, What is the range of feeling or sensibility in this poetry? Is it narrow or broad? Is it merely whimsical, merely disjunct, merely antagonistic, or can it also be friendly, entertaining, deep, and spacious? One American poet who has been trafficking in disorientation for a long time is James Tate.

Tate has passed through a dozen phases in his career to date, but is probably most frequently labeled as a bonnie prince of whimsical American surrealism. His work of late has been in prose poems, in which his picaresque speaker or characters are spinning through life, inquisitive and clueless as Candide, trying to identify and get with the fiction of whatever world they are in.

Here is the opening of "The Rules":. Jack told me to never reveal my true identity. Here is a vertigo that accumulates. As Tate's poem goes on, it capitalizes on its own excess, and its tale simultaneously becomes more dreadful. In the past, Tate's subject matter has been the illogic and haplessness of private psychic life.

But in Ghost Soldiers, his narratives suddenly seem social and political--more about our collective disorientation and estrangement as citizens than about the eccentricity of an individual speaker.

In "The Rules," the universe seems to be a kind of bizarre police state; the subject of the poem becomes the innumerable unspoken rules which bind us, our tragic willingness to cooperate, and the consequent foreclosure of wonder. Tate's effectiveness makes an argument for the poetic power of context. His narrative frame may be slight, but it offers the reader a place to stand and the opportunity for identification.

When we read a poem like "The Rules," we see modern vertigo rendered in manners as absurd and forceful as those of "The aircraft rotates" or "please advise stop," but more directly and more movingly. These vertiginous poems share much in subject matter but have very different timbres. As "The Rules" are enumerated, one after another, we are able to relish the shifts in implication between, for example, the command to "Never ride on a blimp" absurd and "Don't touch strangers" poignant.

Tate's poem of disconnecting provokes pity, recognition, and laughter. Here is the end of Tate's vertiginous two-page poem:. This sobering conclusion feels heartfelt, deflating, and true, in part because it has been formally prepared for. As a longtime reader of Tate, I feel that his genius has reinvented itself once again, this time as an allegorist and satirist, an American Kafka. The Ghost Soldiers is a fat book, containing nearly one hundred poems; not all of them are political.

But Tate's picaresque imagination has an unerring knowledge of, and tenderness for, human fallibility; at the same time his recognitions about the pathos of modern life, as borne by idiom, manners, and tone, are pitch-perfect. In the mode of fantasist parable, there's no better representation than these poems of what it is to be in the middle of America now. Psychological eccentricity is no longer the topic of Tate's narrative melodies, but collective tragedy:. I asked Jasper if he had any ideas about the coming revolution.

There might be," I said. You're always trying to fool with me," he said. It's hard to tell which side they're on," I said. Isn't that what you believe? There are a few misguided stragglers who still believe in something or other," I said. It's important to believe in the cause," I said.

We have no rights," he said. We fell silent for the next few minutes. I was staring out the window at a rabbit in the yard. Finally, I said, "I was just saying all that to amuse you. What is more tragic, and in this case, less true, than the speaker's disclaimer: At the end of "Desperate Talk," we feel the absurdity and pathos of human ignorance, and the echoing vacancy of the social landscape. Even so, we are able to breathe inside Tate's poem, and to sense the development of dimensions, sympathies, shades, and transformation, because we are given the gift of context.

With the asset of that third dimension, a narrative frame, the poem makes room for the reader, and gives the reader a chance to respond. Inventive and discursive, quirky and non-linear, she is warmer and more humane than Ashbery, and, for me, more satisfying to read, because she is less intentionally vacant empty-headedness, about half the time, is a strategy for Ashbery. Alternately dipping into the textual and the experiential, sometimes straightforward and sometimes wildly errant, her work doesn't want for speculative intelligence of many kinds--but in Hejinian's writing, one feels the attachment of the speaker.

Though she is dead-set against predictability, her method doesn't feel like a lunge for novelty, or an obedience to an ethic of deconstruction, but like a comfortable, well-worn style of dress. As a consequence, in a Hejinian poem, ideas are shaded and fleshed by experience, and vice versa. Her work is simply more three-dimensional than most poems, conventional or experimental:. It is January 7 or perhaps it's a thank you note. Instead of creating realities art gives us illusions of illusions--so says Plato and for Plato little could be worse.

Would you agree with Plato? B wants to liberate phrases from the structural confines and coercive syntax of sentences and so does C but C is in France. A relation between an I and a You. What kind of exchange are we dealing with? The lyric poem seeks to mesmerize time. It crosses frontiers and outwits the temporal. It seeks to defy death, coming to disturb and console you. It can survive changes of language and in language, changes in social norms and customs, the ravages of history. I believe such stored magic can author in the reader an equivalent capacity for creative wonder, creative response to a living entity.

Graves means his statement literally. The reader completes the poem, in the process bringing to it his or her own past experiences. You are reading poetry—I mean really reading it—when you feel encountered and changed by a poem, when you feel its seismic vibrations, the sounding of your depths. The profound intimacy of lyric poetry makes it perilous because it gets so far under the skin, into the skin.

I am convinced the kind of experience—the kind of knowledge—one gets from poetry cannot be duplicated elsewhere. The spiritual life wants articulation—it wants embodiment in language. The physical life wants the spirit. I know this because I hear it in the words, because when I liberate the message in the bottle a physical—a spiritual—urgency pulses through the arranged text.


It is as if the spirit grows in my hands. Or the words rise in the air. But there are others who welcome the transport poetry provides. They welcome it repeatedly. They desire it so much they start to crave it daily, nightly, nearly abject in their desire, seeking it out the way hungry people seek food. It is spiritual sustenance to them. A way of transformative thinking. A method of transfiguration. There are those who honor the reality of roots and wings in words, but also want the wings to take root, to grow into the earth, and the roots to take flight, to ascend.

They need such falling and rising, such metaphoric thinking. They are so taken by the ecstatic experience—the overwhelming intensity—of reading poems they have to respond in kind. And these people become poets. Emily Dickinson is one of my models of a poet who responded completely to what she read. Here is her compelling test of poetry:. These are the only way I know. Is there any other way. Dickinson recognizes true poetry by the extremity—the actual physical intensity—of her response to it.

Rather, she recognizes it by contact; she knows it by what it does to her, and she trusts her own response. Of course, only the strongest poetry could effect such a response. Her aesthetic is clear: Dickinson had a voracious appetite for reading poetry. She read it with tremendous hunger and thirst—poetry was sustenance to her.

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Dickinson was a model of poetic responsiveness because she read with her whole being. I, too, read for soul-culture—the culture of the soul. Reading poetry is for me an act of the most immense intimacy, of intimate immensity. I am shocked by what I see in the poem but also by what the poem finds in me. It activates my secret world, commands my inner life.

I cannot get access to that inner life any other way than through the power of the words themselves. The words pressure me into a response, and the rhythm of the poem carries me to another plane of time, outside of time. Rhythm can hypnotize and alliteration can be almost hypnotic. The moan of doves in immemorial elms And murmurings of innumerable bees. And onward, as bells off San Salvador Salute the crocus lustres of the stars, In these poinsettia meadows of her tides,— Adagios of islands, O my Prodigal, Complete the dark confessions her veins spell.

The words move ahead of the thought in poetry.

The imagination loves reverie, the daydreaming capacity of the mind set in motion by words, by images. As a reader, the hold of the poem over me can be almost embarrassing because it is so childlike, because I need it so much to give me access to my own interior realms. It plunges me into the depths and poetry is the literature of depths and gives a tremendous sense of another world growing within. I need the poem to enchant me, to shock me awake, to shift my waking consciousness and open the world to me, to open me up to the world—to the word—in a new way.

I am pried open. The spiritual desire for poetry can be overwhelming, so much do I need it to experience and name my own perilous depths and vast spaces, my own well-being. And yet the work of art is beyond existential embarrassment. It is mute and plaintive in its calling out, its need for renewal. It needs a reader to possess it, to be possessed by it. Its very life depends upon it.

I paused for a long time to drink in the strange truth that all the sublimity of poetry comes down in the end to mere air and nothing more, to the sound of these words and no others, which are nonetheless delicious and enchanting to hear. The phrase has an elegance suitable for writing, for inscription on a cup or in stone. Writing fixes the evanescence of sound. It holds it against death.

The sound of the words is the first primitive pleasure in poetry. Stevens lists the love of the words as the first condition of a capacity to love anything in poetry at all because it is the words that make things happen. There are times when I read a poem and can feel the syllables coming alive in my mouth, the letters enunciated in the syllables, the syllables coming together as words, the words forming into a phrase, the phrase finding a rhythm in the line, in the lines, in the shape of the words crossing the lines into a sentence, into sentences.

I feel the words creating a rhythm, a music, a spell, a mood, a shape, a form.

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I hear the words coming off the page into my own mouth—in transit, in action. I generate—I re-create—the words incantatory, the words liberated and self-reflexive. Words rising from the body, out of the body. An act of language paying attention to itself. An act of the mind. The pleasure all this creates in the mouth is intense.


The poem is an act beyond paraphrase because what is being said is always inseparable from the way it is being said. The words are an erotic visitation, a means to an end, but also an end in and of themselves. The poet is first of all a language worker. A shaper of language. This is at the heart of the Orphic calling of the poet: The lyric poem walks the line between speaking and singing.

It also walks the line between the conventions of poetry and the conventions of grammar. Poetry is not speech exactly—verbal art is deliberately different than the way that people actually talk—and yet it is always in relationship to speech, to the spoken word. The slacked or shorted, basketed, identical Food-gathering flocks Are selves I overlook.

Wisdom, said William James,. One hears in this poem the plaintive, intelligent voice of a suburban housewife who knows she has become invisible, who wants only to be seen and heard. What particularly marks the poem as a verbal construct is the self-conscious treatment of the words themselves, the way the words behave in rhythmic lines and shapely stanzas. The medium of poetry is language, our common property. It belongs to no one and to everyone. Poetry never entirely loses sight of how the language is being used, fulfilled, debased. Language is an impure medium. Speech is public property and words are the soiled products, not of nature, but of society, which circulates and uses them for a thousand different ends.

Poetry charts the changes in language, but it never merely reproduces or recapitulates what it finds. The lyric poem defamiliarizes words, it wrenches them from familiar or habitual contexts, it puts a spell on them. The lyric is cognate with those childish forms, the riddle and the nursery rhyme, with whatever form of verbal art turns language inside out and draws attention to its categories.

The poem refreshes language, it estranges and makes it new. That power can only be released when the spell is chanted aloud. And a charm is only effective when it is spoken or sung, incanted. The lyric poem separates and uproots words from the daily flux and flow of living speech but it also delivers them back—spelled, changed, charmed—to the domain of other people. Two opposing forces inhabit the poem: The poem is an original and unique creation, but it is also reading and recitation: The poet creates it; the people, by recitation, re-create it. Poet and reader are two moments of a single reality.

The transaction between the poet and the reader, those two instances of one reality, depends upon figurative language—figures of speech, figures of thought. Poetry evokes a language that moves beyond the literal and, consequently, a mode of thinking that moves beyond the literal. It is a collision, a collusion, a compression of two unlike things: It is a transfer of energies, a mode of interpenetration, a matter of identity and difference. Each of these propositions about the poem depends upon a metaphor: The poem is a capsule where we wrap up our punishable secrets William Carlos Williams.

A poem is a well-wrought urn Cleanth Brooks , a verbal icon W. A poem is a walk A. Ammons ; a poem is a meteor Wallace Stevens. A poem might be called a pseudoperson. Like a person it is unique and addresses the reader personally W. A poem is a hand, a hook, a prayer. It is a soul in action. What did he mean then? This book tries to tease out the implications.

Key to the Kennedy assassination" and the futuristic "Letters to the Cyborgs" --science fiction stories based on today's inventions and the AI crisis. Recent secret file releases and new witnesses have linked her to Oswald in New Orleans and Dallas. Judyth, the daughter of electrical engineer Donald Vary and of Gloria Whiting, whose mother was born in Hungary, was 16 when she invented a superior method to obtain magnesium from seawater: Her dream was to cure cancer after her beloved Hungarian grandmother, Anna Nemith Whiting, died of breast cancer in Judyth's further work in cancer research attracted national attention and widespread support, culminating in the yr-old's inducing lung cancer in mice in only 7 days, using tobacco aerosols and radiation - a feat that had not been accomplished, at the time, in the nation's top laboratories.

Newspaper articles chronicled her work, which was investigated, then mentored, by three doctors noted for their crusades linking cancer to tobacco products: Alton Ochsner of Ochsner Clinic, Dr. These doctors, who had campaigned together against smoking, as well as Nobel Prize winners Dr. Harold Urey and Sir Robert Robinson, gave Judyth assistance and training, with a focus on melanoma and cancer viruses.

Newspaper articles described their long-term assignment for Judyth was "to make the cancer more deadly Ochsner to New Orleans to work with noted cancer specialist and surgeon Dr. Sherman, having been promised early entry into Tulane Medical School. However, it was the height of the Cold War and Judyth was being steered into a biological warfare project aimed to eliminate Cuba's Fidel Castro, directed by Ochsner, whose organization, INCA, was famed for its anti-communist zeal.

Haslam has linked a linear particle accelerator to the project headed by Drs. Ochsner and Sherman, through a detailed study of Dr. Sherman's brutal, unsolved murder on July 21, , the day the Warren Commission came to New Orleans for testimonies. A love affair commenced that ended November 22, when President John F. Shot after only 47 hours in custody by Mafia bagman and nightclub owner Jack Ruby, JFK and Lee were buried the same day, leaving Judyth broken-hearted and terrified as to her own fate. Judyth says she was ejected from the project to kill Castro weeks earlier because of her ethical objections to use one or more prisoners -- so-clled "volunteers" to test the deadly, SV derived cancer bio-weapon.

Forced to return to Florida, Judyth, in whom newspaper were still interested, was placed in a high-end chemistry laboratory, Peninsular ChemResearch, to temporarily hide her being "blackballed" from cancer research. She was then forced to leave the field altogether. Judyth says she and Lee kept in touch after her return to Florida, and that they planned to divorce both had unhappy marriages , but first, Lee had to deliver the material, now successfully tested, to a contact in Mexico City. When the contact failed to show, Lee tried to enter Cuba himself with the material, though he then suspected he had been lured to Mexico City to associate him with the Russians and Cubans.

When Baker told researcher Jim Marrs about the "abort team" in late or early , at this time only a handful of insiders knew of its existence. Marrs, after investigating her thoroughly, wrote the Afterword for her book "Me and Lee. She describes herself as a "Crusader" working to clear Lee of a crime he didn't commit, and to reveal the cancer treatment industry's crimes. Due to death threats as a whistler-blower, Judyth was forced to live overseas, though she returns periodically to continue her crusade. The whole world is now learning the truth. How I came to know, love and lose Lee Harvey Oswald" Trine day, is in hardcover, paperback, kindle,audio book, and is to be published in Spanish.

Her science fiction short story collection, "Letters to the Cyborgs" includes a short story written by Lee Oswald.