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The Poets

July 29, 2011

Beneath the Mask

The story behind the poem below is a tragic one, and true. A ‘father’ throws acid on his daughter’s face which leaves her disfigured. In a course of time she develops a deep level of depression from the abuse she suffered at the hand of her own father, and from the notion that she will never be beautiful again. Reeling in disparity, she takes her life. Very sad.

I first heard this piece performed a couple of months ago by one of the most gifted spoken word poets I’ve ever met, Cassidy Belville. I was left in awe at its delivery, and finally got the courage to ask Cassidy if I could post it here. Without skipping a beat she said yes. I was (and am) totally honored that she did so.

About the poem itself, it’s a really good read; but when I heard it performed by Cassidy at the pool I was blown away! The deliverance of it was perfect, the internal rhythm and cadence were astonishingly harmonic, the constant back and forth between ideas (life vs. death) made one feel the existential struggle the poem puts forth, and the subject itself was both breathtaking and tragic at the same time.

Now, I’m a writer of poetry, not a performer or spoken word poet. Cassidy is both. I’ve heard a lot of poets deliver their pieces before- and deliver them well- but I was utterly floored by the gravity of Cassidy’s gift to write and recite a work of art such as this- pure talent. You’ve got to read this poem and let me know what you think …



Beneath the Mask

R.I.P. Katie
Death? Unpreventable. Suicide? Pathetic.
For one who regrets with a life that's less? Death? No.
You are a breath,
Even if it's a mind going crazy on meth, it is not death! It's life. And for

those who give it up with the stroke of a knife, listen Tony plight.
For this girl gave her life for a reason. She had a father of treason.
The liquid of acid threw her porcelain skin to acid,
In a hospital bed she lie, because of the one that said the lie,
The lie, that made her die.
We have life. Does she? Yes, she survived.
However her face she has to hide under a mask that divides, her beauty
from her life. Who wants that life
A mind bent on suicide? Because she died.
An act of breaking of what that mask was making.
Suicide? Some may say so. But for the ones that know,
She is a victim of death because it was her time to go. So next time you
take that knife to your wrist,
Think of the girl that lived the life of a risk.



Thanks, Cassidy ... this is a very touching piece.
















July 28, 2011

The Bookery Nook and Rexroth

I first began to learn about Kenneth Rexroth last year- he’s apparently a sort of prodigy, a sort of Renaissance man who happens to write poetry. He also happens to be associated with key figures of the San Francisco Renaissance and the poets of the Beat generation.

At the time I became aware of Rexroth I was in the middle of studying a few different schools of poetry (especially the Beat and Chinese Misty poets). Because of this I didn’t have a real chance to read his works- but all that changed about two weeks ago.

A few of my friends invited me to a privately owned bookstore that, and I loved heck out of this about that store, served ice cream. It was a cool little place located off of 4280 Tennyson Street in Denver called the Bookery Nook.

It was at this store that I came across an excellent collection of transliterated Chinese poems by, you guessed it, Kenneth Rexroth. (The book is called Songs of Love, Moon, and Wind.)

I was excited because I knew a little bit about the guy, but what really excited me was that I just finished studying the history of the Chinese Misty poets- and had a bunch of them I liked. Unfortunately, the poets in this collection were poets from long ago, and no Misty poet was represented.

Still, the book was a goldmine! So many incredible poems, so many incredible poets … I was utterly pleased with the book and the bookstore (and the bookstore’s ice cream).

Anyhow, since then I’ve read some of Rexroth’s own works, and was also very pleased. I thought I’d post a poem of his here to give you a taste. The poem is called, Gic to Har. Let me know what you think …


Gic to Har
by Kenneth Rexroth

It is late at night, cold and damp
The air is filled with tobacco smoke.
My brain is worried and tired.
I pick up the encyclopedia,
The volume GIC to HAR,
It seems I have read everything in it,
So many other nights like this.
I sit staring empty-headed at the article Grosbeak,
Listening to the long rattle and pound
Of freight cars and switch engines in the distance.
Suddenly I remember
Coming home from swimming
In Ten Mile Creek,
Over the long moraine in the early summer evening,
My hair wet, smelling of waterweeds and mud.
I remember a sycamore in front of a ruined farmhouse,
And instantly and clearly the revelation
Of a song of incredible purity and joy,
My first rose-breasted grosbeak,
Facing the low sun, his body
Suffused with light.
I was motionless and cold in the hot evening
Until he flew away, and I went on knowing
In my twelfth year one of the great things
Of my life had happened.
Thirty factories empty their refuse in the creek.
On the parched lawns are starlings, alien and aggressive.
And I am on the other side of the continent
Ten years in an unfriendly city.

Kenneth Rexroth*

Kenneth Rexroth (1905 - 1982)

On December 22, 1905, Kenneth Charles Marion Rexroth was born in South Bend, Indiana. Orphaned at fourteen, Rexroth moved to live with his aunt in Chicago, where he was expelled from high school. He began publishing in magazines at the age of fifteen. As a youth, he supported himself with odd jobs--as a soda jerk, clerk, wrestler, and reporter. He hitchhiked around the country, visited Europe, and backpacked in the wilderness, reading and frequenting literary salons and lecture halls, and teaching himself several languages.

Rexroth and his first wife, the painter Andrée Shafer, moved to San Francisco in 1927. There he published his first poems in a variety of small magazines, while also pursuing an interest in eastern mysticism and leftist politics. He kept company with like-minded left-wing poets such as George Oppen and Louis Zukovsky, and with them aimed to rescue poetry from its supposed downslide into formalist sentimentality. They organized clubs to support struggling writers and artists.

By the early 1930s, through a correspondence with Ezra Pound, Rexroth was introduced to James Laughlin of New Directions press, who included Rexroth’s poems of in the second volume of Laughlin’s pivotal annual, New Directions in Poetry and Prose in 1937. Rexroth’s first collection, In What Hour, which articulated the poet’s ecological sensitivities along with his political convictions, was published by Macmillan in 1940. In 1944 another collection, The Phoenix and the Tortoise, continued his exploration of the natural and the erotic, presented his pacifist stance on World War II, incorporated references to the work of classical poets from the East and the West, and expanded his tonal range with poems touching on world religions and the history of philosophy. A consummate activist, during the war Rexroth aided Japanese-Americans in escaping West Coast internment camps.

By the late 1940s, Rexroth was laying the groundwork for what would become the San Francisco Renaissance. He promoted the poetry of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Philip Whalen, Denise Levertov, William Everson, LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), and many others on the radio station KPFA. He organized a weekly salon and invited friends and other poets to come and share their philosophical and poetic theories. Among those in attendance were Robert Duncan, Richard Eberhart, and, eventually, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and other Beat poets.

Rexroth organized and emceed the legendary Six Gallery reading on October 7, 1955, at which Ginsberg introduced the world to "Howl." Rexroth’s work was composed with attention to musical traditions and he performed his poems with jazz musicians. Nonetheless, Rexroth was not wholly supportive of the dramatic rise in popularity of the so-called "Beat Generation," and he was distinctly displeased when he became known as the father of the Beats. By 1955, his marriage to his third wife, Marthe Larsen, the mother of his two daughters, was coming to an end.

By the 1960s, Rexroth’s appeal reached far beyond San Francisco. He was devoted to world literature and brought public attention to poetry in translation through his "Classics Revisited" column in the Saturday Review and through his anthologies, One Hundred Poems from the Japanese and One Hundred Poems from the Chinese. In 1964 he was given an award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He went on to publish collections of his shorter poems and longer poems in 1967 and 1968, respectively.

Rexroth moved to Santa Barbara in 1968, where he married his assistant, Carol Tinker. From 1968 through 1974 he taught at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 1974, he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study in Japan, and in 1975 he received the Copernicus Award from the Academy of American Poets in recognition of a poet’s lifetime work and contribution to poetry as a cultural force.

A life-long iconoclast, Rexroth railed against the dominance of the east-coast "literary establishment" and bourgeois taste that was corrupting American poetry. While he refused to consider himself a Beat poet, his influence as champion of anti-establishment literature paved the way for others to write poems of social consciousness and passionate political engagement. His greatest contribution to American poetry may have been in opening it to Asian influences through his mystical, erotically charged poetry and superb translations. Kenneth Rexroth died in 1982 and is buried in Santa Barbara on a cliff above the sea.

*Biography from Poets.org

July 18, 2011

Sorrow



I woke to sounds of singing birds
To joyful morning sun and sky
All creation woke in bliss
I woke in sorrow- ah, but why

The mystic thrill of dawn was spent
The feel of summer waxed away
The blue and amber sky was black
My heart … a writhing winter gray

-jwm

July 15, 2011

Helen by H.D.



I first came to know her name toward the end of 2010, and now am totally drawn in by her … Hilda Doolittle is now my fourth favorite poet (the others being Milton, Dickinson, and Yeats).

She was the soul upon which
Imagism was founded, and, along with Pound and Eliot and a handful of others, was responsible for the rapid emergence of Modernism and Free Verse in poetry.

I love her works primarily because of her intense depth, her incredible use of imagery, and her extensive use of
Greek mythology. If you haven’t read her you’re missing out- way out. Here’s an example of her works, this poem is called, Helen.


Helen

All Greece hates
the still eyes in the white face,
the lustre as of olives
where she stands,
and the white hands.

All Greece reviles
the wan face when she smiles,
hating it deeper still
when it grows wan and white,
remembering past enchantments
and past ills.

Greece sees, unmoved,
God's daughter, born of love,
the beauty of cool feet
and slenderest knees,
could love indeed the maid,
only if she were laid,
white ash amid funereal cypresses.

Hilda Doolittle*



Hilda Doolittle (1886 – 1961)

On September 10, 1886, Hilda Doolittle was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She attended Bryn Mawr, as a classmate of Marianne Moore, and later the University of Pennsylvania where she befriended Ezra Poundand William Carlos Williams.

She travelled to Europe in 1911, intending to spend only a summer, but remained abroad for the rest of her life.

Through Pound, H. D. grew interested in and quickly became a leader of the Imagist movement. Some of her earliest poems gained recognition when they were published by Harriet Monroe in Poetry.

Her work is characterized by the intense strength of her images, economy of language, and use of classical mythology. Her poems did not receive widespread appreciation and acclaim during her lifetime, in part because her name was associated with the Imagist movement even as her voice had outgrown the movement's boundaries, as evidenced by her book-length works, Trilogy and Helen in Egypt.

As Alicia Ostriker said in American Poetry Review, "H.D. by the end of her career became not only the most gifted woman poet of our century, but one of the most original poets—the more I read her the more I think this—in our language."

Neglect of H. D. can also be attributed to her times, as many of her poems spoke to an audience which was unready to respond to the strong feminist principles articulated in her work. She died in 1961.

*Biography from Poets.org

July 12, 2011

Bless the Rain


The rain was awful yesterday
Or so I heard some lady say
That struck me, and with deep surprise
Since we depend on all that gray

By rain the maple trees arise
Their thick blue roots absorb those skies
And we, as she, are bless as they
To curse that weather ... never wise
 

-jwm




Of the Poem (Parameters and a Brief Note):

Stanza: Quatrain, Rubaiyat
Meter: Tetrameter
Rhyme Scheme: aaba bbcb
 

The poem was done in tetrameter (i.e. eight syllables per line). What I like most about the poem’s s structure is that the stanza employed is a Rubaiyat stanza- the rhyme scheme being aaba bbcb (where the ‘b’ of the first stanza becomes the dominate rhyme of the second). It’s a fun form to play around with.

Hey, thanks
for stopping by, and I hope you enjoyed it.

As of April 9th, 2010