PREVIOUS NEXT FIRST Five Sonnets from The Spanish of Lope Felix de Vega Carpio (1562-1635)

Five Sonnets from The Spanish of  220

Lope Felix de Vega Carpio (1562-1635)
Velazquez's Aesop

When to consider my life's state I pause
and see the steps taken & given, walked, run,
crawled--I'm amazed that such a blind, lost man
could come to recognize his errors' cause.

 To think of all the years I've wasted on Song,
divine reason cast to forgetfulness,
it's clear Heaven's pity endressed
my not having plunged to some much deeper Wrong.

 By such strange labyrinths I've come, until,
entrusting to life's feeble thread
the late-realized deception's roam--

 --But by His splendor were my shadows lit,
by His Existence brought again to life,
and fallen reason thus risen again to home

Cuando me paro a contemplar mi estado
y a ver los pasos por donde he venido,
me espanto de que un hombre tan perdido
a conocer su error haya llegado.

Cuando miro los años que he pasado
la divina razón puesta en olvido,
conozco que piedad del cielo ha sido
no haberme en tanto mal precipitado.

Entré por laberinto tan extraño
fiando al débil hilo de la vida
el tarde conocido desengaño,

mas, de tu luz mi escuridad vencida,
el monstruo muerto de mi ciego engaño,
vuelve a la patria la razón perdida

Sisley's Garden Path In Louveciennes

Without love Joy's royal palms lament
too well, and cast away their branches to the sea;
without love Daphne mourns her lonely tree
of laurel without fruit: and, over discontent,

 Anaxart's ghost grieves at its ponderous stone
because she never paid tribute to love's delight,
Narcissus spins his soul out into petals white,
and the dry meadow bears but weeds alone.

 Yet sand & water's love-affairs engender gold.
And from their affection with th'dew, sea shells
pregnant become with pearls crystal-fold:

 Do not reject me, Lucinda: th'hells
of evening rise anon. Anon the last lilies do lose
their luster, and our must its youth

Vierte racimos la gloriosa palma
y sin amor se pone estéril luto;
Dafne se queja en su laurel sin fruto,
Narciso en blancas hojas se desalma.

Está la tierra sin la lluvia en calma,
viles hierbas produce el campo enjuto;
porque nunca pagó al amor tributo
gime en su piedra de Anaxarte el alma.

Oro engendra el amor de agua y de arenas;
porque las conchas aman el rocío,
quedan de perlas orientales llenas.

No desprecies, Lucinda hermosa, el mío,
que al transponer del sol, las azucenas
pierden el lustro y nuestra edad el brio.

Sisley's Provencher's Mill At Moret

Departing but to stay, and staying to depart,
to leave--soulless--bearing another's soul along,
being th'mast's forever-captive heart
listening to the sweet sirenic song

 imprisoned. To consume Self, and, burning
like th'candle's growing towers in the tender
sand, fall out of Heaven! watching (in luscerning
fires) a still bright suffering demon--Lucifer's defender.

 To deny what's true, and the contrary,
converse alone in the unspeaking solitude
(winds weaving round th'pallid asphodel)

 --Oh, to name eternal what is temporary
this is what's called on earth Absence's 'disquietude,'
'ardorous fires' by the soul, and during life: a 'hell.'

Ir y quedarse y con quedar partirse,
partir sin alma y ir con alma ajena;
oír la dulce voz de una sirena
y no poder del árbol desasirse;

arder como la vela y consumirse
haciendo torres sobre tierna arena;
caer de un cielo y ser demonio en pena
y de serlo jamás arrepentirse;

hablar entre las mudas soledades,
pedir prestada sobre fé paciencia
y lo que es temporal llamar eterno;

creer sospechas y negar verdades
es lo que llaman en el mundo ausencia:
fuego en el alma y en la vida infierno.

Waterhouse's My Sweet Rose

Love's poetry, the random concept's mind
engendered in the cautious soul (in my care)
born from my bubbling senses, intertwined,
less from compliancy writ than despair--

O world abandoned, lost, and all but dead,
shattered & changed, distorted do you trod
the earth--Only where you were begot
would you be recognized, O artly bred!

 You rob Crete's labyrinth, take
Dedalus's lofty thoughts & dreams, the seas'
tremendous fury, th'abyss' Flame:

 If th'asp will not (of what is yours) partake,
renounce the ground and entertain the breeze--
There you'll be nestling on your own midst's same.

Versos de amor, conceptos esparcidos
engendrados del alma en mis cuidados
partos de mi sentidos abrasados,
con más dolor que libertad nacidos;

expósitos al mundo en que perdídos,
tan rotos anduvistes y trocados
que sólo donde fuistes engredados
fuérades por la sangre conocidos,

pues que le hurtáis el laberinto a Creta,
a Délalo los altos pensamientos,
la furia al mar, las llamas al abismo,

si aquel áspid hermosa no os aceta,
dejad la tierra, entretened los vientos,
descansaréis en vuestro centro mismo

Rousseau's Combat of A Tiger & A Buffalo

To faint & dare defy, be furious
harsh, frail as the evening's fair adieu,
foolish, and honest, cowardly, and, too
be brave (bestower of th'soft kiss of excuse).

 To drown, deprived th'breath of breathing Good,
and, mercilessly, take advantage of
the haphazarded chance. To promise, & therefrom
lie, to be that ... vacillating Certitude

 that hides th'true visage from deception,
drinks the mephitic for a fragrant dew,
--To drink pleasure, splendor, woe,

 concede all to a Heaven's [selfish] Concept,
forsake Good, and be blind to one's own true view--
is to love ( as those that have proven this know ).

Desmayarse, atreverse, estar furioso,
aspero, tierno, liberal, esquivo,
alentado, mortal, difunto, vivo,
leal, traidor, cobarde, animoso,

no hallar, fuera del bien, centro y reposo,
mostrarse alegre, triste, humilde, altivo,
enojado, valiente, fugitivo,
satisfecho, ofendido, receloso.

Huir el rostro al claro desengaño,
beber veneno por licor suave,
olvidar el provecho, amar el daño;

creer que un cielo en un infierno cabe,
dar la vida y el alma a un desengaño;
esto es amor. Quien lo provo, lo sabe.

^{220} The nature of these translations is a bit twisted in intent and execution. They are a reflection of how the originals strike me --Unquestionably beautiful in language and technique, while, at the same time, sometimes by time itself made a bit warped, even a little humorous... thus the 'odd' language, and the strained connection to the meaning of the originals.@

^{221} Poetry is the point of prose (presented without most of the setting up to it). All writing is exploration in one way or another, even that writing which purports to point the way --and poetry should strive to be the antecedence of all the different forms of writing, exemplifying a never-ending sense of exploration (where prose ought to be the mere statement of facts). I do prefer that literature deal with consequences & implications, rather than just recount mere actions (descriptions, which is why I find it irksome to read Whitman and his innumerable a-hundred-years-too-late imitators). I don't want a poetry of descriptions and enumerations (and not even of sensibilities and other 'fine' human feelings)... I want a poetry people can use--an insight into the human condition or into humanity itself, where the reader may have to go dig ditches one day and suddenly realize that because of 'that' poem digging those ditches is not as horrible as it might have otherwise been: that's my ideal of poetry.

It's easy to look back and see the progress that brought us to a particular point. Writers can easily see which particular writer or writers' diverging ways set them in the course they presently follow. It is not so easy for contemporaries to see in such diverging efforts the unifying drive that focuses progress towards its ever forward growth, development and (sometimes, even) improvement.

These works sum up my best effort in the realm of the lyrical poetry tradition I have inherited (there are approximately a thousand or so other poems not-poems-yet scattered about in the attic which I hope one day to add to this collection, when I first find the time). I consider my predecessors to have been not only the writers presently in fashion but also the untidy no-names of the immediate and/or distant past. More than any other European language English is an evolving one. (English is not only progressing but pulling along all the other languages of the world, although this is not necessarily a drag.) Books of usage, dictionaries, are superseded in startlingly short amounts of time. With my writing too a reader must allow some leeway to original sounds in the flow of the music (rhythm).

Sometimes universality sounds very stark, odd, even ancient... being only stable. Human relevancy is what's important; not the reference to social or historical fashions (a leg will never become obsolete, the Ford Model "T" already has). Relevancy in my work is not a matter of artificially injecting contemporary paraphernalia, Twentieth Century objects, inventions: I prefer relevancy coming through the sounding out of human feelings and ideas dealing with the emotions, dealing with (ourselves the present) and the always never-ending human condition. If man's view is at times involved with seemingly detached fantasies, at times with stark realities, at times the romantic, satire (whether acutely mature or childish, objective or prejudiced), it is relevant if it affords the means to sum up (sharpen into the focus of our thoughts) a necessary [inescapable, unavoidable] idea or feeling which we were only vaguely aware of before.

Fundamentally, my 'odes' are but lyrical verses. Quality 'lyrical' applies as much to subject-matter as to the character and attitude of the literary means through which these are expressed. The philosophy I adhere to in selecting subject-matter is deterministic: I'm not trying to create any kind of "unified life-work" but constructing and/or re-constructing basic human experiences in a number of different approaches (haphazardly experienced, as is life itself) which can be approached as poems from the first, even if by the mere 'look' of'em... each of which ought to be considered completely independently. There are stories in these poems, of course, but that's only because that's the nature of human life in the sequence of time: a story. (Of late I have also started adding a few children's stories--beginning with CDLXXII and continuing from there.) The lyric should be (as much as the poet can manage it) a concise Form, fashioned so the succinct purity (rather than whatever prosody disguise) of its language makes the point (rather than the mere tale it runs through) easier appreciated--as opposed to merely being strictly understood.

Lyrical (descending from the lyre) demands an inevitable melody... a well constructed harmony (even if only of sound), a unified idea (structured thinking --no matter how crowded the scene: the mob --being mob-- should be seen to be going in some distinct direction, towards some definite conclusion, arriving at which, one seeks no more (no longer --good or bad). And, if not some very didactic one, at least a completely realized summation. As with all endeavors, the poem goes in the direction the poet aims; and how far it reaches (no less than in which direction) is an absolutely subjective opinion. I concede that fact to be inescapable.

I do not know if Poetry can be a profession. It almost seems as if the greatest poems were the product of some unique, felicitous coincidence more akin to discovery than invention. Method in music or painting guarantees a measure of consistency all writers envy: A poet who uses any given Form more than once is suspect of insincere artificiality, of practicing a dishonest art (which is why the poet's first rule ought to be that he should disregard the opinion of others --Let 'them' write their own poems).

For the contemporary poet the term 'traditional' is a tag almost bordering on defamation. That modern poets acknowledge all this is good in that it makes them more willing to look in the most unexpected places for their elusive 'great poem.' The drawback is that too many 'modern poets' (and even those who should know better) are willing to accept mere novelty as a perfect synonym for greatness,' implying they have given over the hard task of artistic judgment (and the craft that goes along with this) to but being satisfied with the superficial appearance (glaze). Modern poetry is a bit glazed, I'm afraid.

The Twentieth Century seems more than any other (since the English Cavalier poets) to be the grand age of the one-poem-poet. Perhaps there have been more great poems added to the body of English Verse in our century than in any other previous single one, but I can count in fingers the number of poets who have each contributed more than a dozen to that --my criterion is my own-- perhaps due to a lack of personal application to craft: (When a man believes his job to be a simple one it is unlikely he will devote every last one of his efforts to it. And we live in an Age in which everybody thinks dashing off a poem is a mere matter of typing out a few odd words.) This is the Poet following up his own line of creative successes for the sake of developing his distinctiveness (his fame rather than his craft)... It may yet result in great personal notoriety for the time being, but I'm afraid that his "poems" will always die with that notoriety they lived by.

Even if its very creation is regrettable, a poem for me is a great poem if it is still so well made a work of art that it cannot be improved. (And a personal expression can be regrettable in many, many ways.) A great many of my works are silly, even seemingly nonsensical, childish, or offensively simple without touching on those legitimizing, all- excusing, all-absolving mantles of The Latest Means (to some only hinted-at ultimate ends), The Absurd, Futility, Caricature, Suffering, Confession... I too have gone to great lengths & taken as many chances as I have been offered in my search for my own particular discoveries, but mine are not 'finds' of an uniformly equivalent value Always toward some narrower and narrower 'insight'), I deal with both the large & the small, the grand and the everyday; my poems ponder God and crack a lot of jokes all over the place; the trivial holds a special place in my heart (for I suspect we poor men may be a lot closer to the trivial than to the Sublime). Elsewhere I declare my undying, emotional antagonism for all things trivial, however: What seems meretriciously self-contradicting should be coolly understood in light of the fact that these are notes separated from each other by purpose and time. One need not resolve contradictions which are mere emotional reactions to different circumstances. "Trivial" here is akin to 'unpretentious' and 'minor' (while elsewhere it might have been used in connection with 'meaningless' and 'pointless').

Whether poetry is the language or its implication, it has been with me less a matter of reducing it to the irreducible than deducing matters into (some) relevancy (even... any). There is a cut-off point at which poetry strikes purely, above which it is unnecessary and beyond which it is without meaning.

The relevancy of art is always a muddled question: That art is good propaganda is undeniable, and valid (since the artist's abilities are his own to give away freely, or to sell). People object most to that art best used by the opposition. The distinctions between art & skill are tenuous, perhaps only applicable to certain forms of art. The use of a rhyme to express an opinion may seem quaint & ridiculous but it's never inadmissible or wrong. If one artist chooses to describe his world as he sees it, the utterly personal way he chooses to, expressing himself politically (propaganda as art), while another artist chooses to explore the psychology of his humanity (morality as art), a third proposing alternative forms of behavior (ethics as art), I have no difficulty respecting their individual choices. We live at a time in which artists emphasize the political in art, making for a poetry that is social (insidiously indirect). It is not a poetry less concerned with morality, ethics, or with individual human rights... just one trying to teach/preach without appearing to do so, sometimes by examples, stories (however hypocritical and a failure). We do not just show ourselves but get in there to do something (the projection of personality implies self-assertion).

Whether language is the tool that shapes us or the tool we use to shape the World, it yet holds us prisoners (or emancipates us); and in the hands of even the least pretentious of us it lies uneasily for any amount of time without creating the undeniable need to attempt endeavors of almost any kind. Poetry looks to be mostly in the structure of the language, not in the meaning that the language conveys (but meaningless art is as irrelevant as form without substance --it can be done but it's only a delusion & waste of good time). No doubt Poetry ought to be the triumph of Form (distinct, and yet become indistinguishable from content): This may seem a contradiction, and it has fueled a long-running controversy on the nature of poetry itself between those who insist on poetry as a form (different from ordinary language) and those who see poetry perhaps merely as a heightened language. Language is indistinguishable from meaning; for me nothing else has to be. Advocates of a poetry not necessarily language [meaning] see merit in the splotches of Concrete Poetry and the babblings of Zen Poetry, akin almost to insight --but that feeling one gets from understanding (that 'high') cannot be confused (the very word cries out this to you), that mere 'sensation' cannot be confused with actually understanding... whether one gets a kick out of it or not: Those who hold poetry to be some sort of purer shorthand insist the directness of anything said "poetically" touches deeply to the very soul of Man, their works often displaying contempt for any need to be understood ordinarily. But to be human is to live between Heaven and Hell (never to know while eternally longing to know). In fact, it almost entails not knowing up from down... or, at least, pretending you know not. The alternative is to imagine ourselves gods: Once one knows-it-all, the human quest is over. 

The difference between writers is in their individual notions of exactly what is more important. With me it has never been a central issue to make poetry competitive as a form of mass communication. Yet I see no intrinsic reason why an important work of poetry should not arouse the same interest any best-selling novel does, which it never does--often because it's not entertaining enough (content, not form is what is always immediately relevant). Neither do I see poetry as a "cause," and in this political age, unfortunately, it is hard to look even on such a thing as an art form without considering how much political activism should be invested in its behalf (or, how best to get a political payback out of it).

This strains the artist's commitment to his personal idea of excellence--not that his idea is always right, but that he stands a greater chance to reach a good result following his artistic instincts than by trying to recreate other people's opinion of excellence: They, not he, are the best judges of how best to get going on their own approaches (he on his). Since this is only an opinion, it is always better to allow others to discover the merit of one's own art than to realize in the end that the value of one's art lies only with its position within "their" latest fad (such things are always ephemeral).

Style is a matter of personality. My personality has always been the spirit of contradiction. Just as every age has its needs and priorities, every writer emphasizes some theme or method. My personality is ever at work on self-emancipating devices (whether constructing the strictest, or the most unpresuming structures). A strong work of art should be foremostly a lesson in method and/or some unique elaboration of its own themes. So the strongest moments of my personality tend to be those which touch upon my own themes with my favorite methods. This leads me at times into being too direct, as when I address the poem without having my speech come out of the lips of some contextually necessary protagonist and directly to the ears of some contextually necessary antagonist... both of whose existences have justification only as literary convention. We have come to regard the direct approach as self-righteous, its result mere platitudes (but sprouting platitudes depicts the character of the average man, and he more than any other peoples my language). The Moderns strive to extirpate the poet from his poem. I see this as an unreasonable attempt against the prerogatives of the Self, and long for the time when we will again admire the artist for his spirit, rather than try him for his work, because a work of art, if you do not confuse its content for its form, is there neither for good nor evil but merely as its own scaffolding --and thereby hangs the artist. After you have come to realize that few truths if any are anything more than the smug self-righteousness of given individuals it will not seem so offensive to sit through the opinions of others; moreover, it may be that the reason for those premises proposed & how & why they are proposed as they are was all along to establish the foundations of some greater structure. (For these, as well as for many other reasons, art is always an adult endeavor; the young come upon it from the wrong end, and always focus first on the contents. Perhaps this is the reason I have so starkly separated adult poems and children's stories in my own experience.)

Even the most apparently straightforward and severe framework must (or should) be mined for its wealth of 'entangled' treasures like any deep-recovered net. We are moral captives of the principles which hold US as if we were the ones who held them. What I call 'self-emancipating devices' are those ideas, concepts, realizations which may help us see beyond the Formulas that make up the way we think (to help us speed-think exactly in the same sense as speed-reading).

Sometimes the key is the entire poem, and sometimes a phrase is enough, sometimes less than a phrase (the key, more often than not, even a mere word or two). One thing is certain, I do not write exclusively to please or cater to the entertainment hunger of anyone other than myself : even my most trifling and facetious work is a serious pursuit of either the implications of the structure itself (why it's put the way it is) or its significance (which is but what is put there). What is most important to me, the supremest form of 'entertainment,' is when they both reach equally high levels. My style is to go down the sum of my experiences within the Tradition I have inherited, and to otherwise employ every tool that has been placed at my disposal without much regard to how they are held by others (who, themselves lacking an adequate amount of originality, seek its mantle in a personal rejection of some one or another aspect of the Tradition). I live & die by my own principles. I will live & die in any case, so how sad indeed were I to seek salvation by denying my life --It's as pointless as declining my death when it's handed down to me on its silver platter (and, here, our greatest achievements are perhaps always inspired by our intimations of mortality).

The Tradition is the sum total of all historical fads. It's important to understand this in order to fully appreciate the scope of the Tradition, and to accept that in the unfolding of it no rival Tradition can arise. Anytime the latest fad comes across the Tradition it is immediately incorporated into it, always as an additional aspect (of it). This is true of every movement that has ever been in fad.

It is always good to expand the Tradition. I salute those who choose to do so on an exclusive level: I have no compelling reason to do so myself, not even mainly. My obsession is a driving feeling that there yet remain many things to be said, many more to be repeated. For what it's worth I am in love with the creation of poems for the sake of their forms: Poetry is its own Tradition. If you're going to shoot someone, a firearm should be your first choice (a knife would be a poor second choice, a tea bag even poorer). If you are going to write a poem you have already made the decision that what you are going to make is something belonging to the Tradition (if you are going to blow up a balloon and call that "a poem" it's your prerogative, of course; but all you're really doing is demanding that the world accept an additional, your own personal --usually nutty-- definition of an already long hard-working word all over-grown with them (definitions). PS. If you can get away with it: "Do. At least it'll keep you on your toes.")

My poems cut across the experience of each moment of creation (and there they end) rather than being each a part of some greater design. They are not printed strictly chronologically because (among other things) creativity does not progress across the creative lifetime from First (or least) to Best... but peaks unexpectedly, as human circumstances will, throughout the whole life-effort. My works are arranged 'symphonically' so that aims, purposes, designs, meanings, moods, objects, subjects & whatever 'effects' do not clash but blend, rather, to some small intimation of the contingencies I have spanned just by having lived. It's not important to emphasize the exact historical moment I lived through because I am not its propagandist; nor do I care to devote any time to the reformation of its immutable historical aspects; to me the specific actions of mankind (whatever) are strictly symptomatic (and those who speak against a particular criminal are stamping on the final flickers of some always greater universal conflagration): The cause of all things is not Good or Evil but Cause & Effect (that is, not this or that particular culprit but life itself). I hold nothing personal against this or that.

Some works do better without titles because they embody themselves so utterly (to entitle the painting of a house "House" detracts importance from its articulation (its components & details). Other titles are mere ceremony (the obligatory sonnet, ode, lyric, etc. as a kind of joke), yet Man derives a great part of his reason-for-being from 'mere ceremony' and... jokes (we are second-hand monkeys, after all); and especially with me the term "ode" denotes a more formal approach than the usual brevity of the other poetic forms (except if used ironically, or flippantly, of course). However, always do keep in mind that, as with anything so complex as the product of human thought & human imagination, even the total effect itself of the poem is but one of its components.

Because no life is monolithic, no matter how sheltered or confined, my work may at times seem as disparate as anybody's. But sometimes heterogeneity of artistic purpose is confused with the recurrence of conventions, mannerisms, eccentricities and other affectations (inescapable in any personality) into the foolish idea that it is possible to measure how full and complete a writer's work is just by the very narrowness of his focus (how few of these traits he displays in it). Then we miss the creative diversity, the imaginative variety (in say, Picasso's blue period... because everywhere we look we see only the blue hue). The artist's purpose, which he always streamlines or highlights, or even just sets off in interplay with rituals of individuality is always an artifice. We should never forget that everything 'exists,' but only those things which have danced about our being have any immediate meaning for us.

I am no propagandist either of movements or philosophies: If a Scottish ballad haunts itself into my moment of creation the moment belongs to that ballad. So even a nursery rhyme, a piece of stage-work, a paraphrase, a declaration, an exclamation as well... the important thing in any art brought to life is always the moment (of its inception) and what belongs to it (all of it). This doesn't mean my poems are only pastiches cobbled together from whatever was available at their moment of creation, for, like all art, they are all too carefully thought out (worked out and reconsidered, and placed in a proper chronology both historical and personal, naturally); and, naturally, those works which are not brief have been, in any case, in the process of composition for torturingly long periods of time-- 'torturing' because it always pains me if a particular work is somehow incomplete (and fully 99% or more of all I've ever engaged in is always in such an incomplete state). I consider the poems included here completed, finished --which a poem is, to me, not so much if I can't bear to rewrite it one more time, but when it fully quenches all requisites. Then I fear not personal or artistic neglect or condemnation, and there can be no disappointment in the whole of the world for me. It is a high which has probably spared me any experimenting with drugs.

The best is not the biggest but the most complete, perfection that which is enough. I challenge anyone to improve upon me --of course, this is the usual challenge all artists face: the test of the integrity of all works of art, even those pieces which seem like pastiches born from a string of time-capsules (of creativity) each broken open at the right moment for its immediate use.

Happy is the artist who has the time to work at length on his work! If the great poem is more a discovery, everyone knows it is a much sought-out discovery, not some chance find. (A genius is that person who has had all the time he or she needs to get the thing done right.) It's still up to the --intellectual-- invention of man to seek the best, the most correct and direct method of approach (and up to our --physical-- determination to see it through).

The method of approach itself is not its reason for being --a poetry that seeks its justification exclusively from its conventions is void from the start. If we're not careful we fall into the error of distinguish poetry from language exclusively on the grounds of the usual poetical conventions. But, if poetry is how it's said (meaning it's in the structure, not the meaning of what is being said) the implication is that language fitted into the poetical conventions is poetry --I am thinking more of the structure essential to create the language mentally, the form of the vision, rather than of the order in which the language must be arranged to conform to conventions (grammar, syntax, usage, etc.) of ordinary human communication.

I see poetry as an insight into the structure of thinking itself, a re-creation of the method of humanity (equate thinking with being). In this lies its directness: Poetry as the structure of thought. It's not just a heightened language, since it can be translated into ordinary language and still gain meaning --even if at the expense of impact-- and it's not something other than language (since, language being meaning, poetry is always enough in itself to hold its meaning, never something other than language): We can think without grammar or syntax, though maybe not for long, nor all too well --and not because it is not important that no one else understand us perfectly but because the very process of thinking is so independent of our personalities (which are so heavily affected by external social --environmental-- pressures) that if our personalities don't assert their demand for a running translation of what's going on with our thinking we immediately begin to lapse into self-doubt & confusion... identity being in the personality.

The poet in his humanity, the artist in his ability to hold the process --mentally-- long enough to share it with others (but there is a huge rift between poet and story-teller). Poetry is still universal (but there are many different tongues). And although the structure of languages is different, the structure of the poem remains the same in all human minds: When great artists translate directly from the structure of the poem into their own languages the results are always a truer translation than if computers translate the structure of the original language into another one. Zen Poetry fails by its arrogance, when it disdains linguistic interpretation while using words.

I want a poetry which paints for the mind's eye, sings to the psyche of the human personality. For anything to succeed at itself it must before & above all be reasonably sure of what it is & what it is not, then it almost cannot help but confirm, uphold, honor itself. A simple act of choice (of anything picked-out at random from things in general) does not equal the act of creativity!

The problem with Concrete Poetry is that it belongs more properly with the visual arts. An additional problem that troubles poetry is the expression of feeling & sentiment (for its sake-- "how much this hurts" instead of "ought it hurt at all?" or the more usual "this is why it hurts"): aspects best expressed by the musical arts. But note that a piece of music can be more readily translated into a poem than the reverse (mood in music is more quickly understood by the widest spectrum of strangers than can the situation/condition in a given poem arouse the same --unquestionably identical-- mood or feeling in different persons). But don't ask a musician about this (for that is his language, music and not words). The same is true with the visual arts.

Would poets devote their lives to poetry if they did not think it the most fundamental of all forms of art?

While the components of the thinking process are not all identified, its separation from the personality is essential to survival: Although control over what we do is helpful, we cannot help thinking what we think: Apparently control over what we think is deemed a hindrance by evolution. Therein the wonder of humanity, the glory of civilization (which evolves through us, and not under us).

Do social movers and propagandists make the best poets? Already it has been proven they do not make the best poems. The reverse is an even greater fallacy --Certainly, a social conscience is desirable in anyone, but it should not be an inescapable duty of every poet to spruce-up the dogmas of his 'party'... and not because the poet should be apolitical (an obvious impossibility) but because the world's artists are just about the only truly international citizens left in this ever fractionalizing humanity; that is, the connections are thinning, and a measure of how thin they are right now is itself a plea for the very humanization of art!

I consider it auspicious rather than ominous that the country in which I was born revoked my political citizenship: If there is a duty to a human being it is at the very least to refuse to JOIN groups, organizations large and small (which have any membership requirements), and since I do not know of a single country that has no citizenship requirements I am happy to report that, if free to do so, I shall live my life without a passport proclaiming my alienation from some part of mankind --for to despise a part of humanity is to despise the whole of it. Include the Red Cross, Peace Corps & any profession or Charity which denies membership because of reasons other than ability and/or anybody's willingness to join: I do not think humanity should subsidize its own dissolution. Naturally few charities & purely helpful organizations are elitists or discriminate, so there is no literate danger of throwing away the baby with the bath-hogwash.

Every stylist announces his own Revolution with the indictment that his immediate predecessors have strayed from their roots (while he himself will now labor in them). Even 3600 revolutions have no way to go but the way they've come.

Poets cannot stray from the (poetic) Tradition as long as they write poems.

If a poem is a vessel which must still contain its own reality after it is sucked empty of contents, still the greatest poem will be a reality/of/contents vessel which cannot be disintegrated to recover either element (content, vessel) unblemished and without defects.

Something other than this has little roots in a Tradition that extends from the very nature of the brain (to process nerve sensations) through its function of establishing relationships between data, into its raison d'etre: To test the soundness of its accomplished relationships against the reactions they occasion in the course of life (for the brain evolved not just to regulate the body but especially to predict the future, possible only in a world where the future is already immutably, inescapably mapped into the present): A Tradition which from these fundamental origins reaches so far as to trust the integrity of historical lessons. Language is all that's human & all that's human is language: anything outside the Tradition can only pretend, not be.

All poets are translators. To say that the most primitive human being lacks anything in his human language is a preposterous and arrogant display of ignorance: what the most (so-called) primitive language lacks (adjectives, other articles, Latin grammar) they more than make up in other equivalents English does not have --but which English does not have to have (nor do those other languages need the tools of English, obviously), this is an important point to make since it is helpful to know which tools are better suited to the matter at hand. If you're going to compose Chinese Poetry it comes out better (or, more natural, or...) in its own ideograms, Spanish Poetry comes out better in its own native tongue, etc. The Poem itself may be fundamentally beyond translation, but the Soul within the form plays upon its physical instrument effectively enough, and eternally so (even as the instrument falls silent the Song still lives on in the Mind... ready to be played on the next instrument that becomes available). The usual translator translates the content, not the form... leaving the poetry behind. We distinguish etymologically between composer & artist.

If we dismiss the fact that the principle (or most immediate) function of language is the spread of information --about things so current it could involve our survival --and assign to literature the role of depicting our "inspirations" , "visions" , "dreams" & other abstractions, thus assuring art is not essential for animal survival (and this cuts down drastically the popularity of anything), that Poetry only interests a limited "market" is distressful (though perhaps only the failure of public education); but I can only speculate on my side of the fence that perhaps of all the arts, Poetry has traditionally been the first to "break with" the Tradition (to enhance, add further dimension to it, since, breaking from it, the new stuff yet carves its own channels). And in a world of always limited resources we tend to hesitate spending our dear time & efforts at The Unknown, unproven. Too bad. And not just because there are so many poets whose Work is nearly the most authentic voice (available in ART) of the common man, who himself would sooner drink hot beer than read even a single "poem" --Perhaps the disrepute into which "art" has fallen amongst artists (who like nothing better than to claim that their work is such a natural outcome of What They Are that "art" (and its connotation with The Man-Made Thing) has absolutely nothing to do with it) has weakened the wherewithal of their reluctant art (which must be approached from first to last as "craft") into almost a contempt for artistic excellence --This being the general (acknowledged or subconscious) impression of the literate public.

It may very well be that the conventions & mannerisms of Poetry contribute to this lack of aggressive general interest in it: the popular superstition that any least display of poetic conventions is Poetry makes for a great deal of empty, pointless verse --any chopped prose is poetry, any rhymed prose, etc. [Although the elite cliques are just as much to blame... to them any oblique or startling comparison or tenuous metaphor is trustworthy as long as it is by somebody they trust.] It makes no real difference if the conventions of this Century are... more abstraction, non sequitur comments & ejaculations, snatches from the stream of the subconscious, colloquialism everywhere & a plastic phenomena, the Madison Avenue attitude, or the analyst's couch for one's soapbox... the bottom line is always that language matters not just only when it has something new to say but when it has something to say about what is being said (and is part of it)... important poetry if the poetry is in the meaning long before it is in the means used to convey it: "Please be sure to read between the rhymes," (and all other 'poetic' conventions... all of which are but part of its grammar, usage, and punctuation). Also, "Rhyme should be a balm for the shock of cutting off a line, sometimes also a bandage," whether used internally (subtly), or as Shakespeare sometimes used it (like the closing chords to a speech). "The strong line is one of the virtues of poetry (over prose). It does not matter if the craftsmanship is too brilliant, for I've grown weary of a poetry that is content to record the world like the mindless film of a camera (unprocessed by the composing Mind) and call that artistic objectivity (you see it every day now in cryptic lines designed to attempt to disguise this only too obvious fact). I've little patience with indolent intellectuals who proscribe subjects with broad implications because of their own narrow interests.

I know of no abstract words (I own a dictionary). I know of no abstract subject (except those I have not had the time or inclination to familiarize myself with --those subjects which have not crossed my path). Whose path has not yet been crossed by Death, Time & eternity, history, language, reality--? Anyone who claims these subjects too abstract to handle probably does great at lollipop-sucking.

There is a grand wave of arrogant illiteracy trying to establish its credentials over hard work in this world. Particularity & concreteness in poetry should be the achieving of striking realizations, certainly not the boring enumerations of urban terms & objects, articles & happenings & sundry other ordinary articles & names... for the purpose of mentioning a situation possibly familiar to 'some' reader somewhere.

"The intellectual attraction of the Complex over the Simple is less in the greater pleasure of achievement one feels at knowing it takes greater competence to appreciate it (though it might), than it is in the interesting fact that the Complex is multi-structured... this makes not only harmony but richness possible." It does not matter at all if yet under all such dazzling craft --reaching even the mannerism of Puzzle-- there still is some significant philosophy, beautiful stories, drama, meaningful, memorable events & characters, amusing, or even depressing notions so solid we may judge or be tried by them, interesting places (too), and perhaps not least of all: a music in the diction speaking assurance to the human psyche.

Yet again, if practically any "drooling" on the printed page can be called a poem (just as any organized sound, even noise, can go under the name of --formal-- music) YET the authentic article is that one which brings into character an expression of the human condition according to its own techniques (in poetry having the poem be the image of the thought-process). Note I specify "image" (the poem ought not be THE thought process itself, which, though surely most worthy of study, is not itself a --formal-- art form). And so too in music, which is not the emotions itself, so a composer can give form to his composition, not just having it be nothing but the record of how he was feeling at the time he composed it. Think on the urgent sincerity of the following quotation from Picasso, and about the art he is referring to: "I have never painted anything but what I saw with my eyes." Picasso had no trouble at all believing he was being faithful to the world, but he worked under the acquiescence to a reality made human by the mere presence of Man (who interprets all he comes across). [Note that when we interpret the future, it's possible to say that what we are really doing is testing our ability to do so.]

The poem can be a complete lie ("Paradise Lost" ) and still be a great poem because mankind can't manufacture what already exists (we but interpret it as Truth), it is intellectually inhuman, it is a human experience (subject to interpretation). Lie is our most exclusive invention --a lie can only come into existence after our interpretation of the Truth with some purpose in mind other than what is obvious.

If as individuals we are not the abstract personifications of ideas, virtues, vices, meanings, yet are we great and marvelous actors. We mean to express a state of mind rather than some cosmic validity... as anyone who has ever tried to reconcile the fact that when you mix unleaded gasoline with regular leaded gas the resulting mixture acquires an octane higher than the highest octane value of either one by itself, or that when certain subatomic particles collide the resulting mass is less than the mass the two particles by themselves added up to (with the fact that 2 and 2 is always 4). Mind is the exceptional particular that proves the existent generality of the universe.

Archibald MacLeish's, "A poem should not mean but be" requests (for me) that a poem should be the image of the thought-process (which is why I specify 'thought-process" rather than just saying "thinking"), this way art need not be dull in order to be faithful to itself. "Art for art's sake" is not an indictment of its humanity, on the contrary it is a plea for the integrity of art as a human achievement. Robert Frost's, "For me the initial delight is in the surprise of remembering something I didn't know I knew," is a perhaps unsimplified (poetic) description of Mind attaining its realization... at least, it does not suggest to me in the least discovering an old photograph. The only part of us (apes) fully human is the intellect... in all its many manifestations.

Art is needed because the thought-process is far too personal for anyone other than the original thinker to experience the realization. Large part of the greatness of any poem is its ability to allow everyone else to reach that realization (I don't mean we are persuaded or even that we grow sympathetic to whatever conclusion) as if it had been our own. The great poet is also the great translator (of the thought-process). So too the difficulties of translating poetry into other tongues (as easily as the meaning by itself can be translated), since this always calls for another poet of matching abilities as the 'original' one. How often does a realization hit us which when our ability to communicate it fails puts us in awe (a kind of creative incompetence) forcing us to acknowledge that we are not sufficiently accomplished to summarize the necessary portion of the 'experience' enough to give it meaning. We may unexpectedly laugh out-loud & then apologize: "It wasn't that funny, really, forget it," when our laugh says it must have been. The greatest human pleasure is to attain a realization, and, in this, literature is the most direct of the arts. Poetry is the most direct form of literature (of these poetry is the one which "does not mean but is"). This we acknowledge instinctively, a piece of music or a sculpture or painting just about has to quality first as an --intellectual-- poem before we can translate it into art, great or minor. Only then can it be interpreted and rationalized (in our --intellectual-- prose). Only when one think about this relationship does one notice poetry's special nature (as apart from prose)... language, meaning, thinking, but not the thought-process itself, which is not itself Poetry: which is art, and communicates not so much knowledge & information but a consciousness of our humanity.

Like music, speech is contained by time. The musician's problem is how much to include without compromising overall intention (which is, or ought to be: that listeners be able to follow what he has in mind). My use of Grammar depends on how much of what is in my mind I can include and still be understood over & above the enjoyment of the music. As in colloquial use, I depend heavily upon the intelligence and imagination of the reader [implications] because my own language is that of the average man (who may not necessarily be the common man).

I do not necessarily use stanzas as paragraphs, nor line endings to keep track of metrical feet: Rather, I use these conventions as if they were a Godsend additional punctuation device allowing me to add a dimension to my writing over & above the mere factual exchange of information (which is not the case in the chopped-prose of my children's stories). I depend heavily on run-on sentences, because I assume the maturity of the reader (the same reason we all talk in run-on sentences). And so I do not have to be absolutely complete in my statements. My use of these conventions implies a 'poetical' grammar allowing the reader to glimpse the state of mind, emotions of the many speakers who (jumbled together in the cosmos of my lines) play the parts somewhat as if the printed text could take the place of an impossible stage.

I try not to muddle the meaning. Even in my earliest nursery rhymes you can see I intend to be understood. But I am always trying to make the meaning multiple (and if ambiguities are not avoidable, they are but compromises in interpretation rather than misleading riddles). Any riddles in my poetry are there to be solved (solvable), for they all have a (human) solution. Some of my 'puzzles' are, like the compromises which allow a piano to play music in several different keys: compromises among the perfect tones of each's perfection (for the sake of achieving a greater harmony). Thus, perfect as the standard rules of grammar may be, I assume a flexibility or two, here and there.

Language grows out of symbols meaningless in themselves. From sounds to metaphors, words are accepted to stand for something other than themselves. We get to know them through similes. They all eventually become cliches. Just as inevitably, we finally realize we cannot do without those 'cliches' if we wish to say what we mean (be understood rather than be interpreted), and most of all what we feel (the more cliches we own... the greater our treasure of meanings). Which all boils down to: the fuller we can express ourselves and the more immediately we can make ourselves understood the better.

There comes a time in the accumulation of meanings when men cannot distinguish what they know from the language through which they know it. Then they can only think that "In the beginning was The Word...." and that from the word came meaning itself (since existence has no existence without meaning, for us, Meaning, and thusly the whole of existence erupts --figuratively AND literally-- from the word by which we comprehend its meaning). I do hope, to paraphrase Frost, that somehow some of us will yet be convinced that "words were ours before we were the words'."@