Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Finally got a look at  Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and I will have to agree with what's been mentioned that the movie has no script, or even the semblance of a plot. What it seems to have, though, is an outline, a diagram of a sort, like a football plays scribbled on a notebook page; there is never a point where you didn't get the feeling that Cruise and the other performers--one hesitates to call what they do in this movie "acting"--huddled together between location shoots, breathlessly improvised the next improbable scenario and then frantically making it all happen, frantically.

The only thing I remember regarding the rhyme and reason of all this hustle and bustle were about the Kremlin blowing up, a rogue nuclear scientist/philosopher in possession of Russian missile codes, and the occasional speech from the same about how nuclear catastrophe has become part of the natural evolution of existence; complete devastation is needed for the planet to start new life from the burning cinders.  It would have been a clever and intriguing investigation to see the peace-on-earth paradigm reversal explored more thoroughly and cleverly, but that is a matter for another movie, a better script and a director who can balance brains with action. As is, though, this a fine series of brilliantly orchestrated action sequences, one unbelievable scenario, whether prowling through the bowels of the Kremlin, climbing up the side of the tallest building in the world in Dubai, or desperately trying to get the metal suitcase containing the said codes while combating the villain in a robotic parking garage in  India. I enjoyed it as pure spectacle, at the sacrifice of losing all impression of the film once the auditorium lights went on.

 There was a lasting image, though, that of the ever youthful Cruise looking his age; at 47 years old, the star remains fit, but there the evidence of the sort of body transformation that comes with increased years. The chest muscles sag, the gut isn't the toned washboard it used to be, one detects a hint of loose skin under the biceps that were formerly tight as drum heads. I mention only because Cruise wore wife beaters during the prison sequence when he first entered the film. This is the sort of extreme form fitting shirt that can flatter a physique that is fit and muscular in classical terms, or which can belie the wear, tear and aging a body has undergone.It was not flattering. Perhaps he thought no one would notice.

Tom Cruise remains what he has always been in his action films, a five foot something windup toy that springs into frenetic, limb-splitting contortions when the director blows his whistle. I liked it for the action set pieces, which were spectacular and truly awesome. The problem, though, is one that no can simply ignore, that that entire glorious spectacle is in service to making an aging narcissist look vital and youthful. Bruce Willis is more appealing as an aging action hero, especially in the Die Hard movies, because he feels pain, expresses trepidation as he goes into action, and is obviously tired, haggard and operating on reserves that are near depletion. Cruise wants to suggest that his energy is boundless, without end, and this becomes sad, very sad after a point. Even the flashiest editing and loudest car crash can't distract you from that. This movie was enjoyable as pure light show, a shadow play performed against white bedroom linen. It was, be assured, monumentally idiotic.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Writing about death will kill you

A  dubious perks of being an older poet  is that you are allowed, it seems, with each year you add to write about death regardless of subject matter or choice of images. Death is everywhere, the world is fraught with things that are symbols for the lack of pulse or heartbeat, the bowel of cereal you just poured milk in stares back at you with big, sad eyes, as if to say farewell as you lift the spoon of Wheat Chex to you lips. 

Always death, that subject and intangible menace in the deeper shadows of the alleys, in the cracks between the shelves of the used book stores, seeping blackness dribbling in from old hotel hallways under grey doors, death, ever present, a fact that is a bider of time, a patient representative of perhaps an even vaster gasp of the Unknown, death is always there in the things and the places and within the people one encounters. It becomes a habit of mind, I suppose, to look into the rubble of architectural ruins or the long pauses between moves in a chess game between two old men and to visualize the void that awaits them and finally ourselves, and there is something to be said in the meditation on the subject of approaching the end of the line where one's ticket is punched , once and for all;indeed, I sometimes regard the day to day activities as performances of a sort, scenarios acted out, improvised upon, and I am the critic, assessing how well I met the standards of appropriate response to the world or getting keen on far I fell short.
The thought that my life would be no more,that there would no more matinees or encores leaves one breathless and in a vague panic if I park my ride in that neighborhood too long. 

Lucky for me that I push on, get on with the day, write a poem about those feelings that pushes death , that shadowy enigma, that uncompromising lack, to the margins and emphasize the life that is with me. Tragedies are constant and we consider their impact, we measure the loss, but we take stock of what we have still and stop watching the clock. For the moment, for this day, we stop fearing death, we learn to live with it, we move on and call a friend, we help a neighbor, we excel at our jobs, we create meaning in the life that still engages our senses. We find joy. 

Not that we ignore death, of course; I am leery of poems, though, that too quickly shifst the focus of their lines from what begins as one of a limitless prose description of a an urban locale into a bit of self-estimation that evaluates the present life against an imagined calendar that is quickly running out of pages.Alan Williamson's poem "No.1 Piazetta Calamandrei", wants something to be delivered to him with a bang, a crash of cymbals, an orchestral fanfare; his details too readily ooze the impending arrival of his private end of days. 

Does being you still mean walking your own mind
as if it were a tightrope? With anger rising
against those nearest you, as if they were depriving you
of some dearest hope?
What is the thing, the flaming-up or darkening,
that brings you peace?
No answers. But why does a sudden joy
go through me, at this thinning of the veil
between me then and now?
For a moment I no longer fear the death
that waits for me,
as if it were no more than the drawing of a just sum.
Pausing, as if to enter,
my hand on the great knob of the street door. ... 


This too readily finds dread in the    everyday things around him,  which would have been a good way to go had he not chosen to lard up the proceedings with so much thinking. The deliberation is too deliberate; Carl Sandburg or Emily Dickinson this is not, two poets who recognize Death, with a capital D, as a the huge bag of nothing ness it was. Williamson's poem is  bothersome because it dredges up so much worry and reflection triggered by trivial details, nicely designed and symmetrically pleasing as they might be to the eye; poetry , among other facets, concerns itself with finding significant things, images, notions in unexpected places in unexpected moments, but Williamson's writing finds too articulate; the dualism of a young man compared against his older self  laces whatever irony that might be had into a supremely literary echo chamber and cheats the subject out of the element of surprise.
The poem's  tone that reads as if it has been practiced, that is too say, rehearsed. I realize the poem is Williamson composing his thoughts about his own death and that he is attempting here to establish a believable objective correlative, providing a backdrop of physical things in the material world to enhance a poem about a moment in his interior life, but I think this fails because the poem the first person narration, all the references to self, put this in the league of whining complaints about encroaching infirmity. Any one can complain about their fading light, anyone can express regrets festooned with first person pronouns--a good poet, though,should have the craft,the instinct, the ear to get that across by removing themselves from the discussion almost entirely, to not pad what is already poetic.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Has anybody noticed...

I was relieved to find out that I wasn't the only one who thinks Tom Cruise looks bizarre when he beats a hasty path. After seeing the new film Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, I came across someone who asked on Facebook if anyone else thought if Cruise ran funny, a stylized herky jerky scramble, very kinetic with the arms making piston like moves up and down. He makes me think of toy that had been wound up too tightly and was thrashing about until unwound, or the the spring snapped. The only thing missing was the key in his back. Cruise is a problematic actor , of   course, rigorously stylized, overly assertive with those gestures and quirks of the head: the laugh is too quick and barking, the smile is too fast to appear and too tight besides, the eyes are bright and attentive, but you cannot shake the feeling that he thinks you're a mirror he's staring into. 

Not that he doesn't try to do good work; his fans would cite  Eyes Wide Shut with director Stanley Kubrick. To tell the trurth, I didn't much care for Eyes Wide Shut, which I thought was a stiff , creaking attempt at necro-erotica. Cruise isn't the actor I would have cast for a role like this, but I think the main fault lies in what I suspect was the movies incomplete status. Despite what the studio and Stanley Kubrick's might claim, I doubt this film was finished. The editing is especially ragged and arbitrary, not something you'd expect from a Kubrick project. It was a supremely pretentious swan song from an already pretentious director.

Cruise's career work is slick, commercial and slick promotion, and it is one of the truly embarrassing things an audience member will ever have to do than to watch this two-dimensional action toy try to convey complex emotions or states ofmind. But he is, like a good many other screen personalities, effective as a presence if he is in the right project. The secret, I think, is to keep the story going moving along at a brisk pace that doesn't sacrifice coherence or allow Cruise the opportunity to get Hollywood on us. Spielberg, for all the griping one may do about him, knows how to keep a movie brisk and made Cruise the perfect protagonist in Minority Report. Interestingly enough, I think the pair also did good work in War of the Worlds.

got a letter from the IRS

I got a letter from the today IRS saying I owe them money from last year. Stunned by this, I rooted around for my return and my W2s  and other paperwork together,  and tried to make sense of  this rude how do you do. I  remembered filing everything that was given to me by my various employers for  2010, and yet here is they are, giving me numbers on particular lines in the   1040EZ form where they said I presented erroneous information. 

Now what? 

I didn't have a stiff drink, although the thought occurred to me; I remembered that I  tried doing that many times before, over and over, over many years, and all those things that I wanted to make go away went away for only a little while. When I woke up, or emerged from the  bog, as it were, there was three things for certain, a hangover, more wreckage from previous night's events I barely remembered, and those boogieman I tried to dissolve with a string of stiff drinks. I gave myself over to the IRS .

So I surrendered the whole game and gave them a call, waited a half hour on the phone, got a representative finally, he brought my return, did some work with a pencil, and said my return was correct, discovered the source of the problem, and told me what to write back in response. the upshot is that i don't owe them anything from last year. i didn't need to call suicide prevention nor change my sobriety date. I won't go into the insanely banal error on my part which caused the IRS computer to kick out a change in my 2010 return with the message that I owed them,but I will  offer this one tax tip: make sure you enter the various amounts of income on the right lines so designated. Don't lose two hours of a perfectly beautiful afternoon fretting more than a guitar assembly line.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens is Dead

Christopher Hitchens holds forth at D.G.Wills Books in La Jolla, California, 2006.
Christopher Hitchens is Dead: Iconoclast and public intellectual passes away at a Houston hospital after battle with cancer.:

The recently dead Christopher Hitchens was an ornery son of a bitch . That said, I have no doubt that he will be remembered perhaps the last of the great gadflies, a brilliant and fluid essayist who was fluent in the subjects of politics, history, art, literature, philosophy and, indeed, pop culture itself who could then effortlessly, it seemed, essay forth and parse the particulars of his subject with a quick, subtle read, reaching conclusions that pleased and displayed hundreds and thousands of readers world wide in equal measure. He was a contrarian, a supporter of the Iraq War, an aggressively eloquent atheist, a discoverer of elegance, grace and integrity in unexpected places, from unusual sources, defending his positions with a moral consistency that was rare, founded on a bed rock of values he developed as a young man active in the British New Left of the Sixties.

One wishes that he hadn't allowed his hatred of dictatorship and brutality to support a war that was immoral from the get-go; Hitchens argued as much that although the rationale behind the war was a calculated stream of falsehoods, the intentions were honorable none the less --to rid the world of an evil tyrant--and that we might as well go ahead and instill a Western sense of justice on a country that had not attacked the United States; that there were no facts presented by any credible accounts in our intelligence agencies connecting Iraq to terrorists , nor evidence nor discovery of the alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction Saddam Hussein's possession mattered not at all to the intransigent Hitchens, who conducted his pro-war argument on a slippery slope; his willingness to ignore an immoral premise for a war of no coherent purpose , favoring instead a Higher Morality that has yet to justify itself in terms of an arguable Good Result that has been achieved is the mill stone that will hang around the memory of Hitchens for years to come. There will be embarrassed silences when this comes up, heated debate,exaggerated praise and gross condemnations. Eventually , of course, many things will be overlooked, forgiven or forgotten altogether and we can again appreciate the sheer brilliance of Hitchens the journalist, the gadfly, the pundit, the scintillating essayist, the uncommonly astute literary critic.

At his best , Hitchens despised cant, bullshit, received perceptions and championed intellectual honestly fiercely, fearlessly. He did not pussyfoot, he did not apologize, he presented his case, he bulldozed his opponents with hard reason , deep reading and seemingly perfect recall of vetted facts in their sources. One may have disagreed with this Hitchens on various matters and be on solid ground with their opposition to his views, but shame on he or she that dares confront him with a sub-par set of counter moves. You had to up your game to engage this man, you had to up your game to Olympian heights. You also had to succeed in not passing out in the thin air of Hitchens' altitude.

Christopher Hitchens, a damnable son of bitch, and a pleasure to read over these past twenty years.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


A consistent gambit in the postmodern bag of tricks and pranks has been the idea of pastiche, the piecing together or the layering over of unlike elements, a mix and match of contrasting aesthetics and purposes that, when rendered successfully, are supposed to stun and bewilder the audience; the more grandiose hope, in a generalized apology from academic critics, is that an audience member is supposed to confront the limits of the filters that. The suggestion was that consumers would become aware of how our popular arts present a conveniently small and cozy version of the world where there is structure and rationale for all events, but this is a reach, at best, for most of the practicing post-coders out there that have made the laziest of ironic art.
It always occurred to me that all this pastiche making was producing was sometimes amusing, too often ugly and pointless poems, films, and artwork. 

It seemed more the gesture, the off-hand flick of the wrist instead of the stylistic signature of intelligence that shrewdly weighted the materials at hand. Sometimes, of course, it is nothing more than two things joined in willful defiance of whether anything makes aesthetic or intellectual sense; the result is more primal, cynical, and vindictive even, such as Bob Dylan singing Christmas songs.  The convenience of untutored "avant gard" thinking in our ranks might claim genius for Dylan's scruffy vocal and equate it with the thorny rasp of the best blues singers, certainly artists in a style that has redefined the modern ideal of good singing. I wouldn't compare this to an old blues singer: they can at least carry a tune. Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Bessie Smith, even genius spawn Tom Waits can rise above the melody line with their rattled vocal equipment and lend the lyrics the qualities of nuance, texture, rhythmic interplay with the instrumental arrangement. What's most notable about Dylan's singing, once you get past the oddness, is the flat reading; it's grudgingly workmanlike.

 There isn't a traceable sense of joy, spiritual uplift. Even the comfort of ironic distancing, the Brecht's alienation effect, is lacking.  There is little, if anything, epic about this. This is something that was conceptually brilliant in 1970 when he released his four sides of deliberate schlock "Self Portrait", with different vocal affectations, orchestral arrangements, vocal choruses, odd song selection and a host of other purposefully non-Dylanesque elements. That was precisely the point, I think, as Dylan never had much patience for those who would make religion and political philosophy from his songwriting; it was like he wanted to confound his idolaters and see if they could perversely turn this mash-up into a further message from the Godhead. I understood that immediately when the album came out, but the listening stopped being funny long before side one was over with. It is one idea that depends entirely on the ironic effect it's trying to sustain. 

It was a burden to listen to, the Middle Of the Road playlist ; it was a prank that did not pay dividends for taking it seriously. It was a prank that was also an entreaty to the gathered fans who interpreted what he did or didn't do, said or didn't say as gestures signifying the movement of history; I'm not one to put words in the mouths of men or women greater than I , but here goes>"Knock it off, you guys."The concept has not aged well, and repeating the gimmick here just strikes me as a near tragedy. It is schlock, and it doesn't matter whose name is on it. Dylan, I think, is up to his old game of screwing with the heads of people who take him too seriously. He may love this tune, love singing it, but I still think his intention is to throw another wrench into the mechanics that insist he is something more than a brilliant songwriter.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

To Boredom by Charles Simic

I’m the child of your rainy Sundays.
I watched time crawl
Over the ceiling
Like a wounded fly.
A day would last forever,
Making pellets of bread,
Waiting for a branch
On a bare tree to move.
The silence would deepen,
The sky would darken,
As grandmother knitted
With a ball of black yarn.
I know Heaven’s like that,
In eternity’s classrooms,
The angels sit like bored children
With their heads bowed. -
-Charles Simic, New Yorker 12/10/07

A fine, chiseled ode here. Boredom is those moments when you find yourself that seems to make you heavier with a lethargy that seems to have grown hands attached to big, brawny arms that grab you around the chest and drag you to the floor;ennui turns to terror, as you're too lazy to fight and a passing thought turns into a concrete, concentrated panic over teh notion that the floorboards and checkerboard tile might fall away and the metaphorical hands and arms would drag to a hell where every second of the eternity to come is the precisely the agony you felt on the worst day you ever had while wandering those years in the material world. Time stands slows to an inch worm's slither and there is the feeling of being suspended between dimensions. Charles Simic is a great poet and gets it right about heaven as well; eternal perfection is without dynamics, variation, a constant state of equilibrium.

Some times a loud mouth is just a loud mouth

Some of  otherwise bright pop culture journalists reveal  in the frequent  over rating every entertainer who displays a  spark of independent thinking and an unwillingness to stick with the status quo. Such is the case in a recent Slate article staking a claim for anti-magician Penn Jillette as being a public intellectual, ala Chomsky,Vidal Christopher Hitchens or William F.Buckley. 

It makes me imagine that some desperate cabal of  Internet editors, eager to have ready  material on which to fill up their web pages with the daily requirement of sniping, toadying, salivating gruel, decided that Jillette was a public intellectual because he had a loud mouth, was a libertarian, and an aethiest;  being a contrarian, though, does not a credentialed Big Thinker make, although it is ideal for the tell-tale Swelled Head . A bellicose sort, Jillette is the kind who considers his opinions--routinized contrariness  all--are made brilliant and more nuanced if he both shots them in hoarse bombast and laces the points with various "fucks" and "shits".

But really, when was the last time you read something from this guy that was worth quoting?I suspect that Jillette would stiff if he were to a sit down discussion with these writers. Jillette is a moderately funny provocateur who can from time to time get you to think in meta-terms about the whole issue of images and appearances and or willingness to surrender our skepticism for some sense of living in a meaningful universe. Fine and dandy, but that is as far as his discourse goes when one listens to him at length, and extending his nihilism to media corruption and seduction of its audience false paradigms presented by entrenched political concerns , all through the clever metaphor of his magic act strains after awhile, and is reflective of the usual grousings of a self-appointed 

Everyman who has found a pitch that can be applied to nearly every subject that comes his way. Jillette is less a public intellectual than he is crank with a malleable script. Not that he's alone in this guise of being a "public intellectual"; Gore Vidal, more knowledgeable by far than Jillette in the Humanities, none the less manages to reassert a particular number of notions that he's been carping on for several decades. I will say that Jillette is as much a public intellectual as Orson Bean was. Or Dick Cavett.  In defense of Bean and Cavett, though, both realized that they were paid entertainers, not pundits credentialed with degrees and teaching positions, and honed their curiosity about more worldly and abstract affairs by knowing how to ask interesting, knowledgeable questions to those who were the professional experts. At best, this skill gave the curious audience better answers than they would have expected. Charlie Rose does this. And again, Jillette is not Charlie Rose. Penn Jillette is a bellicose fool in a perpetual state of irritation. He is a man in search of a stroke.

A bomb from Bosch

Daniel Bosch gives us a parody he
s written of  Mikail Lernmontov's poem "The Triple Threat" with his own "Dream (After Lermontov)."    As you might expect, this poem is as successful as the reader's familiarity with the  source of inspiration. Bosch's poem is a car that  will never get out of  the garage.The problems with parodies is that an audience needs to be familiar with the object being mimicked and thus ridiculed. Otherwise the snickering, guffaws, belly laughs and general knee slapping is reduced to polite attention or a wandering gaze. So it is for Daniel Bosch's send up of Lermontov; it adheres to the sinewy formalities of the original poems, but the zany intrusions of transgressively contemporary items, like an Ipad and a GPS, is too determined for my taste to catch me off guard with an unexpected combination of things that should not normally be in the same narrative. Bosch is a wonderful poet in most respects, but this sort of dies in the dungeons of literary self-reference, that part of the Prison House of Language where poets continually fail to write poems that can make it to the streets of the city the writers live in. This is to say that it is, again, another poem about poetry, and it is a tendency that drains spark and a spontaneous sense from the poetry we too often read. Bosch is , again,a wonderful poet , and I hope, I hope very much that he hasn't decided to unpack his bags permanently where the stories are about the stories he's read, not the life he has experienced or felt close to the bone, close to the heart.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Paragraph about a being a paragraph

The paragraph you're reading.
We will call this a paragraph and pray to the gods of limitless expansion that there is enough energy to bring this sentence another two lines further down the space I have given myself to type a coherent , albeit self aware sentence that serves no purpose other than to stare back at the reader in an expressionless, unblinking stare--metaphorical expressionless stare, of course--and qualify that stare with an equally suggested shrug of the language defined shoulders, a skinny, surly punk of a paragraph sentence that could care less what your trying to read into it now matter how powerful your readerly intents and desires, a sentence that is cool and impervious to what needs to be confirmed in our world, a sentence that will win because it will not let the air outside it's self referring walls inside; we can almost detect the faint reek of dust mites that have gathered on the shuttered spines of the books that have not been read for twenty years or so which have been squared away in unmarked boxes and grey shelves that are exposed to whatever moisture and elemental tears a store room gathers after the will is read. This paragraph divides into two sentences and a gratuitous image simulating a snap shot you think you saw once in a family basket holding hundreds of other Polaroids is tossed in for confusion's sake--a young girl, age four, standing in the middle of a snowy street bundled up to her small face except for a left boot, which is missing, stuck in and removed by a muddy incline she tried to walk over--and this becomes the point where the paragraph begins a long spiral upward, like ashes up a smoke stack from some merciless incinerator, up the concrete tubing to a sky that is not clear as this paragraph might have been, but is encumbered with clouds and thick flocks of birds crossing the face of the moon.

Monday, December 5, 2011

On Why Jazz Isn’t Cool Anymore . . . . | Nicholas Payton

On Why Jazz Isn’t Cool Anymore . . . . | Nicholas Payton:

Nicholas Payton is a grumpy man with some spiky opinions geared to get readers to first read and then decide which side of the polarized divide they want to pitch their temps as regards agreeing or disagreeing with his opinion. This is definitely a man after my own heart, and it is something valuable in having an African American intellectual cut through the decades of codified crud and crust that has passed as jazz-criticism, mostly written white critics. In this case I happen to disagree with Payton's unsubtle declaration that jazz is dead and it died in 1959; I think the music , as all art must do to survive generations beyond it's origins and first bursts of creativity, must enter a larger tapestry of a dominant culture: it needs to belong to everyone over time. That is a argument that could on forever, I realize, but let me cut to the quick here and say that I understand Payton's point, that "jazz" is a corporate label over all, and that being called a jazz musician identifies who you are and dictates, sans black jacks and brass knuckles and rabid white cops, what you can do.


All you have
is your face
after your name
appears in letters
that arrive from
machines you don't recall
meeting or speaking to
in any dialing tone of voice.

Your face
on t-shirts
and billboards
and internet banner ads
that sell you the idea
that all you
have is is your face
until gravity
reveals itself
in the morning mirror
that cannot tell a lie
no matter
how hard you wish it would.
From then on
that face belongs
to someone else.

I remember your face
from every
imagined camera angle
my dreams
would give me,
the last frame
being your profile,
your head half turned
toward me
as you walked out the door,
your hair
an insane corona of electric morning sun.

From this window
from this height
on this day
there are many buildings
with windows
full of faces
staring out to and beyond
the skyline,
to the river
that seems
like nothing but a
slow gray streak,
a thousand faces, perhaps,
drumming a lower lip with an index finger,
scratching where it doesn't really itch,
faces with vague frowns propped up
with hands
that should be busy
with the time someone else is paying for.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

David Cronenberg: It's as if my old movies don't exist - Movies -

David Cronenberg: It's as if my old movies don't exist - Movies -

David Cronenberg may insist that his old movies don't exist, metaphorically, as he seeks to be taken seriously by mainstream critics, but his previous horror films are a stain on his resume that will not come out: he is almost alone in being among the dullest and most pretentious film makers of his generation. He has had a William Burroughs fascination for years, an obsession actually, and many of his films are obviously modeled on the author's novels for themes and imagery. What Cronenberg never got, though, was Burrough's gallows humor, being too busy conceiving of humans merging with the machines they build to help them rather than take a cold look at the charity we dispense that winds up assassinating us with procedures and protocol. Cronenberg got the fear, but never the punchline.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lawn Sprinkler

 by Howard Nemerov

What gives it power makes it change its mind
At each extreme, and lean its rising rain
Down low, first one and then the other way;
In which exchange humility and pride
Reverse, forgive, arise, and die again,
Wherefore it holds at both ends of the day
The rainbow in its scattering grains of spray.

I  know a couple of folks who expressed  opinions  approaching outrage that a poet would dare write a poem to a Grecian urn; the situation these views where  these views arose turned out, finally, to be one of the worst poetry discussions I ever had. The protesters, professed Marxist sorts who thought John Keats was guilty of gross objectification by  subjugating Human issues to the realm of metaphor and abstraction. Absurd, I think, but I think my earnest opponents were disguising personal issues—perhaps they didn’t like  having their sense of humanity even vaguely equated with a receptacle many of us would associate with being a repository for spit, urine and feces—with a vulgar political stance that was quick to criticize and condemn before it understood what was being said. That is the problem of knowing everything. 

I  resist demanding that the poet  obey anyone’s list of do’s and don’ts. My only requirement is that the poem be interesting.  Personifying H allow the poet some room to imagine a man made device in non-material terms; offensive as it may seem to those who've no use for powers greater than themselves, associating a lawn sprinkler with such abstract things as democratic spirit and the great chain is a sure way to get someone to think harder on a subject and ease their burden. Every action starts in one direction and yet completes itself by returning from where it came; the rain rises and then falls again across a community of grass, humility and pride change places, a mind that is dedicated to one direction begins to see wisdom and need in areas that it might not earlier have imagined as things that mattered. I see this as about equilibrium, of things coming toward the center even as tensions seek to stray and take apart; the center grows, it adapts, it changes its premise for being in service a greater good. Individual greatness does not matter if there is nothing the brilliance is connected to and interacts with.