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“the oxford companion to modern poetry”

the oxford companion to modern poetry

…the major part of his verse is published on his very sparsely visited WordPress blog.
He is still part of the Romantic school even though this mode has long been repudiated.
His work lumbers through the same recurring themes over and over again —
the failed (or failing) romance, the ever popular carpe diem trope and a kind of bitter melancholic nostalgia that this reviewer, for one, finds distasteful.
An early instructive example is “Astrophysics (Halley’s Poem)”.
Here the lover is unflatteringly compared to Halley’s Comet.
She left the poet in 1986 traveling at high rate of speed and the grandiose Galileo quotation would only gild the lily if there was a lily to gild.
His more recent work such as “And the operator said, ‘May I help you please?’” again finds the poet au fait with loving and losing.
Poems such as these have this reviewer wondering whether Tennyson’s famous aphorism is generally applicable.
Providentially his verse is interlarded with songs from the 1970s (the poet’s salad days) and occasionally (and regrettably) some hair metal classics.
We do not expect a volume of his collected works at this time but anticipate further elaboration of these leitmotifs on his blog.

— J.S.

When I was stone blue I knew what to do.

cf. National Geographic Magazine (1948)

EXERT thy voice, sweet harbinger of Spring!
This moment is thy time to sing,
This moment I attend to praise,
And set my numbers to thy lays.
Free as thine shall be my song;
As thy music, short or long.

Poets wild as thee were born,
Pleasing best when unconfined,
When to please is least designed,
Soothing but their cares to rest:
Cares do still their thoughts molest,
And still th’ unhappy poet’s breast,

Like thine, when best he sings, is placed against a thorn.
She begins, let all be still!
Muse, thy promise now fulfil!
Sweet, oh sweet! still sweeter yet!

— Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea, “To the Nightingale” (excerpt)

Stone Blue

My precious queen, forbear, and give true evidence to his love, which stands an honorable trial.

cf. Maclean’s Magazine (1965)

ANTONY:
Hear me, queen:
The strong necessity of time commands
Our services awhile, but my full heart
Remains in use with you.

Antony and Cleopatra

Never Can Say Goodbye

And the operator said, “May I help you please?”

National Geographic Magazine (1948)

I waited all night, I remember that
smoked a cigarette
watched TV
went out and saw some friends
drove by your house
went to a bar and had a beer
got back home and tried to sleep…

— J.S.

I knocked the phone off the nightstand
And the operator said, “May I help you please?”
and I said “No thanks, baby tonight there ain’t no help for me —
see I just had a bad dream, that’s all that’s wrong with me
see I just had a bad dream.”

Crying In My Sleep

Sonnet CXLV

Photograph by Amarpreet Singh via Pixabay

THOSE lips that Love’s own hand did make
Breath’d forth the sound that said ‘I hate,’
To me that languish’d for her sake:
But when she saw my woeful state,
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that ever sweet
Was us’d in giving gentle doom;
And taught it thus anew to greet;
‘I hate,’ she alter’d with an end,
That follow’d it as gentle day
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away.
‘I hate’ from hate away she threw,
And sav’d my life, saying—‘Not you.’

— Sonnet CXLV (in late 1582 William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway)

Sooner Or Later

“The Road Taken”

George C. Laur, “Students on Their Way to Senior High School…” (ca. 1975)

The Road Taken

Two hundred roads diverged from a yellow house,
And sorry I could not travel all two hundred
And be one traveler, briefly I stood
And looked down one and thought it was good;
And looked down the other one hundred and ninety nine
And thought they were mine.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Even knowing how way leads on to way losing track,
I never doubted that I could come back.
I am telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages ago:
Two hundred roads diverged —
I took number one ninety nine to my regret,
And that is what I can’t forget.

— J.S. (cf. Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”)

Broadway Hotel

Falstaff’s armamentarium

OSU Special Collections & Archives: Commons, “Woman slicing potatoes for potato chips” (2008)

[Enter Mistress Page and Mistress Ford.]
FALSTAFF:
…Who comes here? My doe?

MISTRESS FORD:
Sir John? Art thou there, my deer, my male deer?

FALSTAFF:
…Let the sky rain potatoes,
let it thunder to the tune of “Greensleeves,”
hail kissing-comfits, and snow eryngoes;
let there come a tempest of provocation,
I will shelter me here.
[He embraces her.]

The Merry Wives of Windsor

Love Potion Number Nine

[He reads the letter.]

cf. Toni Frissell, “Woman and man lying on a dock” (ca. 1969) and video by 5239640 via Pixabay (edited, modified and collage recomposition by me)

Doubt thou the stars are fire,
Doubt that the sun doth move,
Doubt truth to be a liar,
But never doubt I love.

Hamlet

We’ll Never Have to Say Goodbye Again

The Dewey Decimal System

Thomas J. O’Halloran, “Young people working in Library” (1964)

From women’s eyes this doctrine I derive.
They sparkle still the right Promethean fire.
They are the books, the arts, the academes
That show, contain, and nourish all the world.
Else none at all in ought proves excellent.

Love’s Labor’s Lost

What A Wonderful World

O MISTRESS mine, where are you roaming?

cf. Maclean’s Magazine (1970)

O MISTRESS mine, where are you roaming?
O stay and hear! your true-love’s coming
That can sing both high and low;
Trip no further, pretty sweeting,
Journeys end in lovers’ meeting—
Every wise man’s son doth know.

What is love? ’tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What’s to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty,—
Then come kiss me, Sweet-and-twenty,
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.

— from Twelfth Night

Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes

Bipolar Disorder

Photograph by Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash

This is the debt I pay
Just for one riotous day,
Years of regret and grief,
Sorrow without relief.

Pay it I will to the end —
Until the grave, my friend,
Gives me a true release —
Gives me the clasp of peace.

Slight was the thing I bought,
Small was the debt I thought,
Poor was the loan at best —
God! but the interest!

— Paul Laurence Dunbar, The Debt

The Real Me

meditating upon the meaning of the line “clams on the halfshell and rollerskates” in the song “good times” by chic

cf. photograph by Thomas J. O’Halloran, “The Plum disco dancing [1119 21st St. NW]” (1977) and
video by Luiz-Jorge-Artista via Pixabay (edited and recomposed collage by me)

go away, you bitter cuss.   it’s still 1980 somewhere, some corner
  of your dark apartment
where the mystery of the lyric hasn’t faded.   and love is in the
 chorus waiting to be born

— D. A. Powell, meditating upon the meaning of the line “clams on the halfshell and rollerskates” in the song “good times” by chic (excerpt) (Poetry, September 2006)

Good Times by Chic

Greeting Card

cf. TV commercial (ca. 1987)

Alas! is even love too weak To unlock the heart, and let it speak?

Ah, love, let us be true To one another!

Bright are the stars that shine Dark is the sky

Love seeketh not itself to please,

If thou must love me, let it be for nought Except for love’s sake only

And to his eye There was but one beloved face on earth, And that was shining on him.

She knew she was by him beloved

All passions, all delights, Whatever stirs this mortal frame, All are but ministers of Love,

And in Life’s noisiest hour, There whispers still the ceaseless Love of Thee,

Love is not a feeling to pass away

My heart’s so full of joy, That I shall do some wild extravagance

Love is most nearly itself When here and now cease to matter.

You who suffer because you love, love still more.

A thing of beauty is a joy forever

I love thee, as the good love heaven.

Love keeps the cold out better than a cloak.

Imparadis’d in one another’s arms.

Love is the crowning grace of humanity,

Not grace, or zeal, love only was my call,

Love’s too precious to be lost,

We love but while we may

Love will conquer at the last.

Omnia vincit Amor; et nos cedamus Amori.

To see her is to love her,

Oh my luve’s like a red, red rose,

❤️
— J.S.

Chapter and Verse

Echo

Library of Congress, “Reflection” (ca. 1910)

COME to me in the silence of the night;
Come in the speaking silence of a dream;
Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright
As sunlight on a stream;
Come back in tears,
O memory, hope, love of finished years.

— Christina Rossetti, “Echo”

Body And Soul

The Waste Land

cf. Maclean’s Magazine (1969) and The Mechanical & Landscape Photo Co., “bedroom interior…” (ca.1870)

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain…

Only A Memory

Et tu, Brutè? (a true story)

cf. Kim Rintling, “IMG_5859” (1980) (edited)

Et tu, Brutè? (a true story)

I stepped out of my office to have a cigarette.
It was about 11 o’clock and I needed a break.
I was standing near the parking lot when I noticed a large shadow.
I could vaguely hear a muffled argument.
I looked up and to my horror and surprise I saw the Little Caesars blimp
coming in fast, low and right towards me.
I could see the pilots arguing in the gondola so I started waving in what must have seemed like a futile gesture.
The wind picked up and the blimp began to fishtail down the street —would it hit me, my office or my car?
It must have been headed to a grand opening or something but my office had nothing to do with it.
I tried to light another cigarette out of nervousness but it’s difficult in the wind and then I realized it probably wasn’t a good idea to have an open flame in the area.
After what seemed like an eternity the ship seemed to right itself and it sauntered past me and down the adjacent street.
I ran inside and tried to pull myself together.

— J.S.

Up, Up and Away

Solitaire

W.E. Daugherty, “Solitary” (ca. 1904)

BEHOLD her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

— Wordsworth, The Solitary Reaper

I’m thinking of you Mary Anne…

Mary Anne

O! for my sake do you with Fortune chide

O! FOR my sake do you with Fortune chide
The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds,
That did not better for my life provide
Than public means which public manners breeds.
Thence comes it that my name receives a brand,
And almost thence my nature is subdu’d
To what it works in, like the dyer’s hand:
Pity me, then, and wish I were renew’d;
Whilst, like a willing patient, I will drink
Potions of eisel ’gainst my strong infection;
No bitterness that I will bitter think,
Nor double penance, to correct correction.
Pity me, then, dear friend, and I assure ye
Even that your pity is enough to cure me.

— Sonnet CXI

Work To Do

So thy great gift, upon misprision growing, comes home again, on better judgment making.

cf. Maclean’s Magazine (1962)

FAREWELL! thou art too dear for my possessing
And like enough thou know’st thy estimate:
The charter of thy worth gives thee releasing;
My bonds in thee are all determinate.
For how do I hold thee but by thy granting?
And for that riches where is my deserving?
The cause of this fair gift in me is wanting,
And so my patent back again is swerving.
Thyself thou gav’st, thy own worth then not knowing,
Or me, to whom thou gav’st it, else mistaking;
So thy great gift, upon misprision growing,
Comes home again, on better judgment making.
Thus have I had thee, as a dream doth flatter,
In sleep a king, but, waking, no such matter.

— Sonnet LXXXVII

Don’t Hurt Yourself

Time has but half succeeded in his theft— Thyself removed, thy power to soothe me left.

Frances S. Allen, “The difficult step” (ca. 1900)

OH that those lips had language! Life has passed
With me but roughly since I heard thee last.
Those lips are thine—thy own sweet smile I see,
The same that oft in childhood solaced me;
Voice only fails, else how distinct they say,
‘Grieve not, my child, chase all thy fears away!’

— William Cowper, “On the Receipt of My Mother’s Picture out of Norfolk”

Everything I Own

Dépression à Tucson

cf. National Geographic, 1953

A little less returned for him each spring.
Music began to fail him. Brahms, although
His dark familiar, often walked apart.

His spirit grew uncertain of delight,
Certain of its uncertainty, in which
That dark companion left him unconsoled

For a self returning mostly memory.
Only last year he said that the naked moon
Was not the moon he used to see, to feel

(In the pale coherences of moon and mood
When he was young), naked and alien,
More leanly shining from a lankier sky.

Its ruddy pallor had grown cadaverous.
He used his reason, exercised his will,
Turning in time to Brahms as alternate

In speech. He was that music and himself.
They were particles of order, a single majesty:
But he remembered the time when he stood alone.

He stood at last by God’s help and the police;
But he remembered the time when he stood alone.
He yielded himself to that single majesty;

But he remembered the time when he stood alone,
When to be and delight to be seemed to be one,
Before the colors deepened and grew small.

— Wallace Stevens, “Anglais Mort à Florence”

Born yesterday

The Birth of Bacchus

La Dolce Vita (1960)

But if he be indeed the thund’ring Jove,
Bid him, when next he courts the rites of love,
Descend triumphant from th’ etherial sky,
In all the pomp of his divinity,
Encompass’d round by those celestial charms,
With which he fills th’ immortal Juno’s arms…

— Ovid, Metamorphoses (Tr. Garth, Dryden, et al.)

Give Me An Inch

footfall

cf. Photograph by Shane Rounce (detail) via Unsplash and CGI by pixel shox

footfall

i stepped back into time
waded into the same river twice
you know, nick had some really good advice for gatsby
it’s easy to get lost
romance glancer
true love chancer
happiness chaser
gone again spacer

— J.S.

Spacer

What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?…
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare…
And, happy melodist, unwearièd,
For ever piping songs for ever new…

— Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn

“Flying High Again” Randy Rhoads Guitar Track

I thought once how Theocritus had sung

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky

I THOUGHT once how Theocritus had sung
Of the sweet years, the dear and wish’d-for years,
Who each one in a gracious hand appears
To bear a gift for mortals old or young:
And, as I mused it in his antique tongue,
I saw in gradual vision through my tears
The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years—
Those of my own life, who by turns had flung
A shadow across me. Straightway I was ‘ware,
So weeping, how a mystic Shape did move
Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair;
And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,
‘Guess now who holds thee?’— ‘Death,’ I said. But there
The silver answer rang— ‘Not Death, but Love.’

— Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese: i

The Power of Love

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought

cf. “Shy Guy” (1947)

WHEN to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear times’ waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unus’d to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish’d sight…

— Sonnet XXX

Whenever You’re On My Mind

When I consider every thing that grows holds in perfection but a little moment

cf. Edwin Rosskam, “Untitled photo…” (1936)

WHEN I consider every thing that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment,
That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;
When I perceive that men as plants increase,
Cheered and check’d e’en by the self-same sky,
Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease,
And wear their brave state out of memory;
Then the conceit of this inconstant stay
Sets you most rich in youth before my sight,
Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay,
To change your day of youth to sullied night;
And, all in war with Time for love of you,
As he takes from you, I engraft you new.

— Sonnet XV

Who Knows Where The Time Goes

carpe diem quam minimum credula postero

Party at The Met, ca. 1960s

LOVELIEST of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

— A. E. Housman, A Shropshire Lad

BELL & JAMES — Livin’ It Up (Friday Night)

Phenomenal

cf. Arthur Murray Dance Studio television commercial (ca. 1970)

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet…

— Maya Angelou, Phenomenal Woman

Extraordinary

evocation

Carol M. Highsmith, “Dramatic View of John Hancock Building, Boston, Massachusetts” (ca. 1980)

evocation

i called you on the telephone
i was on mass ave
with a guitar and flowers
on the wind
summer twilight
and your voice

— J.S.

Sharing The Night Together

Delia 53: Unhappy pen and ill accepted papers

cf. Handy (Jam) Organization, “American Look” (1958)

UNHAPPY pen! and ill accepted papers!
That intimate, in vain, my chaste desires:
My chaste desires, the ever-burning tapers,
Enkindled by her eyes’ celestial fires.
Celestial fires! and unrespecting powers,
That deign not view the glory of your might!
In humble lines, the work of careful hours,
The sacrifice I offer to her sight…

— Samuel Daniel, “Delia 53: Unhappy pen and ill accepted papers”

Cut The Cake

But she was not made for any man, and she never will be all mine

cf. Courier Company, Theatrical poster (1899)

She is neither pink nor pale,
And she never will be all mine;
She learned her hands in a fairy-tale,
And her mouth on a valentine.

She has more hair than she needs;
In the sun ’tis a woe to me!
And her voice is a string of colored beads,
Or steps leading into the sea.

She loves me all that she can,
And her ways to my ways resign;
But she was not made for any man,
And she never will be all mine.

— Edna St. Vincent Millay, Witch-Wife

Mississippi Queen

“Take, oh take those lips away”

William Glackens, “At Mouquin’s” (1905)

Take, oh take those lips away,
That so sweetly were forsworn,
And those eyes: the breake of day,
Lights that do mislead the Morn;
But my kisses bring again, bring again,
Seals of love, but sealed in vain, sealed in vain.

Measure for Measure

Hurting Each Other

“Scott, your last fragments I arrange tonight…”

Scott, your last fragments I arrange tonight,
Assigning commas, setting accents right,
As once I punctuated, spelled and trimmed
When, passing in a Princeton spring—how dimmed
By this damned quarter-century and more!—
You left your Shadow Laurels at my door.
That was a drama webbed of dreams: the scene
A shimmering beglamored bluish-green
Soiled Paris wineshop; the sad hero one
Who loved applause but had his life alone;
Who fed on drink for weeks; forgot to eat,
“Worked feverishly, ” nourished on defeat
A lyric pride, and lent a lyric voice
To all the tongueless knavish tavern boys,
The liquor-ridden, the illiterate;
Got stabbed one midnight by a tavern-mate—
Betrayed, but self-betrayed by stealthy sins—
And faded to the sound of violins…

— Edmund Wilson, from the Dedication to “The Crack-Up” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Back on the Chain Gang

“Santayana wants me, Lord, I can’t go back there!”

“PHILOSOPHICAL” DIALOGUES BETWEEN SOCRATES (S) AND AN IMAGINARY INTERLOCUTOR (ii):

 

S: Wittgenstein at a restaurant or we can dine at home.

ii: Bertrand, can you Russell up some dinner for me?

S: Francis, Bacon sure smells great when it’s cooking doesn’t it?

ii: That hits Lamarck.

S: I Goethe go.

ii: Rousseau long!

 

S: Let’s play Heidegger seek!

ii: I Kant find you!

 

S: Hegel, what’s going on?

ii: We were supposed to go Schopenhauers ago!

S: Don’t put Descartes before the horse! We’ve Spinoza this many times before.

ii: John, Locke the front door and we’ll get going.

 

S: Foucault? I didn’t hear the phone ring.

ii: Hume are you referring to?

S: Camus come over to visit today?

ii: I’m Newton town so I’m not sure where to go.

S: I’ll Nietzsche in front of my house. Drive Pascal and then take the next left. Husserl can you get here?

ii: Is your house Nietzsche and clean?

S: Rousseau it is. I really Fichte this place up. It looks great. Kierkegaard-en I told you about with lots of flowers.

ii: If that’s Sartre than I’m a Hottentot.

 

S: Santayana wants me, Lord, I can’t go back there!

ii: Don’t Thoreau your life away!

Indiana Wants Me

Endymion

cf. Unknown, “Amateur Snapshot Album” (1890–92)

Many and many a verse I hope to write,
Before the daisies, vermeil rimm’d and white,
Hide in deep herbage; and ere yet the bees
Hum about globes of clover and sweet peas,
I must be near the middle of my story.
O may no wintry season, bare and hoary,
See it half finish’d: but let Autumn bold,
With universal tinge of sober gold,
Be all about me when I make an end.
And now, at once adventuresome, I send
My herald thought into a wilderness:
There let its trumpet blow, and quickly dress
My uncertain path with green, that I may speed
Easily onward, thorough flowers and weed.

— Keats, Endymion

Carefree Highway

Read my palm and tell me why do lovers come and go

George A. Alsop, “Sweet Memories” (ca. 1917)

NOT from the stars do I my judgment pluck
And yet methinks I have astronomy,
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality;
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell, 
Pointing to each his thunder, rain, and wind,
Or say with princes if it shall go well,
By oft predict that I in heaven find:
But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
And, constant stars, in them I read such art…

— Sonnet XIV

Mrs. Rita

da capo

Hillary G. Bailey, “The Last Chord” (ca. 1935)

da capo

I remember the songs you taught me
by heart
and I can still see your hands on the keys —
graceful and intuitive
and the old upright still reverberates your memory
through the light and dust
and the years

— J.S.
 

Perseverance

Photograph by Les Anderson via Unsplash

Perseverance

When all the world is looming dark
And things seem not so clear,
When shadows seem to hover ’round
Lord, may I persevere.
When it seems everything’s been tried
And there’s no way to go,
Just let me keep remembering
Sometimes the journey’s slow.
I may just need to stop and rest
Along the path I trod,
A time to try to understand
And have my talk with God.
As I gain new strength to carry on
Without a doubt or fear,
Somehow I know things will be right,
And so, I persevere.

— Anne Stortz

Roll On Down The Highway

“parking lot denouement”

Maclean’s Magazine, 1970

parking lot denouement

the passionate shepherd stood next to his honda civic
juliet stood nearby
all the stars in the sky
time slowed down
our lives were suspended
just for a moment
at a point turning
and then you were gone
the parking lot was empty,
all the pleasures waiting to be proved

— J.S.

There She Goes