Sunday, July 15, 2012

Rutger Kopland dead at age 77

I see that Rutger Kopland died this past week:

Here is a reprint of my earlier "appreciation" of a sonnet by the Dutch poet:

appreciation: Rutger Kopland's "Breughel's Winter"

I admire James Brockway's translations of Rutger Kopland's poems . . .
This Dutch poet is (was? I hope he's still alive, born in 1934) much
honored in his native country. Brockway before his own death did
2 or 3 books of selections in English.

Here's my favorite:

Breughel's Winter

Winter by Breughel, the hill with hunters
and dogs, at their feet the valley with the village.
Almost home, but their dead-tired attitudes, their steps
in the snow—a return, but almost as

slow as arrest. At their feet the depths
grow and grow, become wider and further,
until the landscape vanishes into a landscape
that must be there, is there, but only

as a longing is there.

Ahead of them a jet-black bird dives down. Is it mockery
of this labored attempt to return to the life
down there: the children skating on the pond,
the farms with women waiting and the cattle?

An arrow underway, and it laughs at its target.

A sonnet. With a truncate-jolt volte after an octave in which repetitions of words and phrases (at their feet, at their feet, grow and grow, landscape, landscape, there, there) act to lengthen or delay our progress, to pause us as the hunters have been halted for the static moment of Breughel's depiction,

caught upon his crest.

The jet-black bird, the crow, the raven, harbinger of mortality, or symbol of its post-predatory ease.—

It doesn't have to trudge down that slope with feet aching from the endless trek, lugging the heavy slay on sag shoulders, it can dive down zoom, as fast as the skating kids.

Does this swoop mock their laborious attempts to return to the down-there life of children farms women cattle?

These adult males stand there suspended, the wild at their backs and the domestic before them;

their duties as savage hunterkillers and their duties as tending-to fathers farmers husbands and stockbreeders hang in the balance,

poised at this schizophrenic midpoint. Here, there (four "theres" in the poem), it's split—

The bird is an arrow of course, but so is the artist's brush, the feather at its front instead of at the tail; the hairthin threadstrands of the brushpoint are feathery in their effect.

The target—the work of art—can rarely or perhaps never be reached by this arrow's flight.

The artist's paintbrush is always underway.

Underway, halfway between the willed desire of the artist to stalk down his/her feral-furred nature, to haul it baked into the cozy parlance of the anthology—

It hunts its target to feed our needs, but what are these hungers; and where do they achieve rest, cave-wall or salon?

Does it laugh to demean, to dehumanize its victims for the abattoir: worldhistory's pogrom patrons and patriarchs stationed, armed with grins, at their torture posts and burning stakes—

Does it laugh at what it aims to pierce, it laughs at its prey, risus sardonicus laughs at us.



Saturday, July 14, 2012

as good as or better than

just left a couple comments praising this poem at "e-universe":

Please go take a read at it if you can.   The poet's name is Jehanne Dubrow.  She writes this kind of poem about as well as or better than any contemporary who comes to my mind, including some Pulitzer Prize winners.


from bad bad to worse


I have become the epitome of everything wrong in writing—

For example,

when the moralist Craig Morgan Teicher wants to insult a young poet, he uses his pulpit at Publishers Weekly to tar him or her with me—

2 examples: the first from his review of Chelsea Minnis's book "Bad Bad":

"Petulant, clever, sometimes funny, sometimes irritatingly flippant, Minnis's poems will inspire questions as to whether this work qualifies as poetry at all, though some readers — fans of, say, Bill Knott, at his silliest — may find much to like."

The second, again from a review in PW:

"[Karl] Parker is one of the oddest poets you're likely to meet. . .  No poet has had this kind of simultaneous reverence for and disregard of the poetic tradition since Bill Knott." 


—and here from another censurer, this tweet:

Bill Knott is Tao Lin in 30 yrs

Daniel Casey must really despise Tao Lin to say something this vicious.  To forecast such a horrible fate for this or any young writer seems kind of hardhearted and punitively pessimistic wouldn't you say.

Think of the sad miserable future Casey is predicting for this young writer Tao Lin: 30 years from now he will be detested, scorned and ridiculed by everyone in the literary establishment, his books will be rejected by every publisher, his work will never appear in anthologies, he will be blacklisted, declared persona non grata, etc., etc.  He will be unemployable.  He will never be invited to give readings or participate in conferences at the AWP or the PSA or Poets House or any other locus of lit-world power.  No magazine will publish his work.  His name will be a curse-word used to condemn other writers.  In short, his life will be the same as mine has been for as long as I can remember. 

It seems the worst insult you can apply to a young writer is to associate them with me.

Imagine how hurt and humiliated Minnis and Parker and Lin and others must feel to read such a cruel invidious comparison.

And then of course there's this:

"Bill Knott, the crown prince of bad judgment."
—Ron Silliman, Silliman's Blog, June 26, 2007

Yes: if you want to slashtag the wrongness and badness of any writer, just invoke my name.  You can't damn them worse than that.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012


A poem by Glenn Shaheen, from the Spring 2012 issue of Ploughshares:


Steam lifting from the highways, ascending
to the heavens beneath the misery of commute,
fires below the pavement. I have become

a better driver by the standards of Houston.
I will hurt somebody if they deserve to be hurt.
No, ok, no, but I’m an expert in menace. All

this blinding steel and glass, we’ve made
the world a brighter place. They tell me Israel
is a great problem. I don’t care. They tell me

it is our final hope. The world is a maze of
definitions and borders, problems, signs painted
in an array of colors scientifically chosen to

arrest the vision. Israel is a place that rolls
from the tongue. There are no enemies unless
you make it so, unless you inch menacingly

over the paint. The album is criticized for its
lack of structure, for the singer’s refusal to
repeat herself. Hold me, hold me, the heater

is broken, cars are being pulled over outside.
Adults are in the park, groping casually over
glasses of wine they’re not supposed to have.

It’s all true, I am weak. Give me a nation
to hate, to love, to touch and trust the borders of.
Come here, entreat me - inside of you, on you,

what difference does it make. Nobody to call
and nobody who would come out. Come forth,

fond wrench, and do something different to me.


I hope to write some thoughts about this poem in an upcoming post . . . thanks to Mr. Shaheen for allowing me to reprint it here.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

addendum to previous post:

I don't know what I can write or if I will be able to ever write again before I die.  Many poets are quelled by old age, I think many or perhaps even most poets do slow down or cease in their 8th decade, which is where I am—

Philip Larkin couldn't write any in his last years.  Old age dries one up, you don't see many poets my age (72) or older publishing new books.  The body wears out, the mind loses its sharpness.  

The willpower that sustained me even 2 or 3 years ago is diminishing with every day it seems.  

The artwork I'm trying to do is a substitute effort to stay in a creative mode, and hopefully that urge will yield some verse, but I just don't feel the force that propelled me in the past to wake up every morning and go to my typescripts and notebooks and from those drafts work up lines and stanzas.  The stamina is not there anymore, nor the desire.  

(And why write poems whose reception will inevitably be this:,

and this:

Probably successful poets are more immune to these inertias of old age— 

C.K. Williams has an interesting essay entitled "On Being Old" in the current American Poetry Review about his similar situation of being an aged poet, and about how good he is at coping with it: 

but he doesn't mention the one thing which I think is most relevant in his case, the one impetus which eases and facilitates his ongoing career, and which endows him with the strength and the confidence to keep writing, to continue practicing his art: surely that unique privileging factor is his spectacular success as a poet—

I quote verbatim the bio note below his essay:

"C.K. Williams has published many books of poetry, including Repair, which was awarded the 2000 Pulitzer Prize; The Singing, which won the National Book Award for 2003; and Flesh and Blood, the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Prize in 1987.  He has also been awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the PEN Voelker Career Achievement Award in Poetry for 1998, a Guggenheim Fellowship, two NEA grants, the Berlin Prize of the American Academy in Berlin, a Lila Wallace Fellowship, and prizes from PEN and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  He teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Princeton University, is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and is currently a chancellor of the American Academy of Poets."

I envy Williams his success, which I think is the ameliorating mitigation that most enables him to persist as a valued poet with important work still to contribute,

in contrast to me and other lesser talents contemporaneous to him in years.

And of course I wish the poetry I wrote over the past half century had been good enough to merit the honors his work has—

but it wasn't, it isn't.   I wish that final outcome weren't so, but—

The verdict is in.  The poets of my generation have been evaluated and ranked.  Williams is in the top tier, and I—

well, I'm somewhere further down.  

(Trying to estimate the exact level of mediocrity on which my poetry has been shelved is a waste of time because in the long run, historically, only the uppermost poets remain in name: all of us below-fellows are soon forgotten, gone, goodbye.)


Thursday, July 5, 2012


If anyone reading this has followed my posts on respectively my poetry blog and my art blog,

they may have noticed a decrease in the former and an increase in the latter.

I currently devote almost no time to poetry, and the meager creative energies I still have, sapped as they are with age, are spent on my sputtering artwork . . .

As I've pointed out many times on this blog and perhaps elsewhere, it has become more and more clear to me that my poetry is and has for the most part always been a failure—

I wish it were otherwise.  I wish my poems were in the anthologies, but they aren't.  Go look at the walls of Contemporary American Poetry anthologies—there have been hundreds of them published during the 40 or so years of my active career as a poet, and while I was fortunate to appear in a few back in the late 1960s/early 1970s, as time has passed my time has passed—you won't find my work in hardly any of the thousand relevant anthologies.

Maybe "thousand" is hyperbole.  But hundreds isn't.  It would be interesting to see a complete bibliography of anthologies published in the past half-century which include poetry by contemporaneous USA poets.  I'd bet my verse would show up in less than one-tenth of one percent of them.

In any case, I don't think I will write any more poems. The law of diminishing returns, old age, the loss of any valid hope for official recognition, the repeated failures that pile up and crush one's ego— 

I can't go on trying to write poetry which no one wants to publish (don't take my word for that, go look through the twenty pages posted here:,

and which no one (with the exception of a few isolated and insignificant marginalists) respects.  (Again, don't take my word for that: go read the facts yourself:

Monday, July 2, 2012