A poem on the current state of poetry

A Note On Verse Style


(Written in 2004 as a preface to a chapbook.)

In many of the poems here, I've used a verse style drawn on the ancient mode: declaiming for a present audience from memory, instead of modern styles meant to be read in silence, monk-like, slavish word and jot and tiddle softly tick by tick exactly from a printed page into the velvet cave of single consciousness, preferably, for mercy's sake, without your lips even moving.

Therefore here extreme metric elasticity, scafoldings of metamorphing metaphor behind all merely aural dissonance or rhyme, and other technical peculiarities of pseudo-extempore verse you may be unfamiliar with unless, of course, you've ever heard a good announcer on the radio.

Apologies for any inconvenience.

But may I be quite frank in my opinion?

Poetry in America today doesn't work very well.  It speaks thinly and vaporously, compared with what it ought to do.  It's far too dogmatic in its recipe of sweet luscious distillate of consciousness of consciousness.

You'd almost think that ours are not the broad horizon days of Homer nor of Shakespeare nor (to put the case more seriously) of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, despite the obvious fact of course they are.  Our poets chain themselves to Robert Frost, the watercolor man, with rare exception, all in fear of exile into Tartary.  Even our primordial Titan of the worldscape's edge, even Ginzberg, felt required to stand still in some private room behind his eyes or in some small walled garden such as Dickinson kept so fragrantly watered, as his starting place for each striding out to meet the universe.  Your average poet scarcely peeks outside the realm of "me!"  at all.

No wonder so few people listen to the stuff.  It's mostly dull as dust.  It's ready for a re-think.

But me?  Well, I plan to seize the listener's attention.  I want to grab him by the short hairs of his brain and shove a picture in his gaze.  Is that too rude or something?  I have a lot to say.

We have a lot to say.

It's time to tell our story.

I don't mean journal entries.  I mean it feels as if the world is tumbling upside down and there are cries all over of alarm.  I mean it seems like Sartre said: the god who led us here is dead and we are left to riddle out the horrifying situation.  Like Jung and Joseph Campbell said, we need to tell the truth in such a way that we can understand it fully deeply broadly with our whole selves.  It's really not enough to press our faces on the page.  We need real paintings too.

It's now as though the hallways of Lascaux stand empty waiting for a brush.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

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  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
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Is this why time speeds up as we age?

We take fewer mental pictures per second.

Photo by Djim Loic on Unsplash
Mind & Brain
  • Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
  • In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
  • The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)
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In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.


Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Climate change melts Mount Everest's ice, exposing dead bodies of past climbers

Melting ice is turning up bodies on Mt. Everest. This isn't as shocking as you'd think.

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Surprising Science
  • Mt. Everest is the final resting place of about 200 climbers who never made it down.
  • Recent glacial melting, caused by global warming, has made many of the bodies previously hidden by ice and snow visible again.
  • While many bodies are quite visible and well known, others are renowned for being lost for decades.

The bodies that remain in view are often used as waypoints for the living. Some of them are well-known markers that have earned nicknames.

For instance, the image above is of "Green Boots," the unidentified corpse named for its neon footwear. Widely believed to be the body of Tsewang Paljor, the remains are well known as a guide point for passing mountaineers. Perhaps it is too well known, as the climber David Sharp died next to Green Boots while dozens of people walked past him- many presuming he was the famous corpse.

A large area below the summit has earned the discordant nickname "rainbow valley" for being filled with the bright and colorfully dressed corpses of maintainers who never made it back down. The sight of a frozen hand or foot sticking out of the snow is so common that Tshering Pandey Bhote, vice president of Nepal National Mountain Guides Association claimed: "most climbers are mentally prepared to come across such a sight."

Other bodies are famous for not having been found yet. Sandy Irvine, the partner of George Mallory, may have been one of the first two people to reach the summit of Everest a full thirty years before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did it. Since they never made it back down, nobody knows just how close to the top they made it.

Mallory's frozen body was found by chance in the nineties without the Kodak cameras he brought up to record the climb with. It has been speculated that Irvine might have them and Kodak says they could still develop the film if the cameras turn up. Circumstantial evidence suggests that they died on the way back down from the summit, Mallory had his goggles off and a photo of his wife he said he'd put at the peak wasn't in his coat. If Irving is found with that camera, history books might need rewriting.

As Everest's glaciers melt its morbid history comes into clearer view. Will the melting cause old bodies to become new landmarks? Will Sandy Irvine be found? Only time will tell.

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