Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added)
is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.
--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Friday, November 03, 2006

Palace Aphorisms nos. 66-88: in which I hog out on poetry

Palace Aphorism no. 88

It is better to clip bad poetry into pieces than to clip prose into pieces called poems.

Aphorism no. 87, or Why Shakespeare was Shakespeare

Whatever you are as a poet, that is the norm and the daily bread you eat—even for Shakespeare, even for Milton and Dante and Homer.

Aphorism no. 86, or the Classical Caddy Aphorism

Poetry is a muddy girl with leaves in her hair, shouting her betrayal from the dark side of the moon, and it is the scribble of blood taken by sand, next to the fallen hoplite: both these, neither, and more.

ILLUSTRATION CREDIT: Fountain detail, Place de la Concorde, by permission of Laura Murphy Frankstone and Laurelines. This is the final image from Laura's month of sketching in Paris.

Aphorism no. 85

The forgotten word that is nagging you—the one that you can’t quite remember and catch—one day a poem will restore it.

Aphorism no. 84

Time is crueler and more ruthless to bad poetry than to badness in any other form of art.

Aphorism no. 83

The source of power in poetry lies in the unsaid; the unsaid never lies.

Aphorism no. 82: the Academic Male Poet aphorism

No more little men’s little poems about the paper over morning coffee, depression, and a dog!

Aphorism no. 81: the Lee & After aphorism

The seeds of poems lie in the pockets of dead soldiers, watered by tears, and when spring finally comes the kernels swell and sprout and make the fields green.

Aphorism no. 80: the Corset

It is impossible for a poet to be free who has never worn the elegant, erotic, restrictive straitjacket of form.

Aphorism no. 79: the Great Vacillation

The early poems of Yeats are lithe young girls, standing among roses, half obscured by leaf and petal—who will shelter them from the brutal, disastrous glory of the late poems?

Aphorism no. 78: the Emperor

Poets who never submit to formal verse are born naked like us but never wear clothes.

Aphorism no. 77

In the Golden Age of nanobot and microchip, one danger is that a poem may shrink but contain no worlds.

Aphorism no. 76: the Shrug

Is the poem too grand? Then go your way; the poet will bother you no more.

Aphorism no. 75, the Effortless

A seeming carelessness pleases in a poem, as of something tossed-off with grace.

Aphorism no. 74

The problem with many contemporaries called poets is that they practice a strict separation between body, soul, and mind.

Aphorism no. 73

A writer must emulate the growth of the universe, pushing forward into the void.

Aphorism no. 72

To read, rejoice in, and meet the soul of a writer—one meeting the other like a long-lost twin—is the gift of the reader.

Aphorism no. 71

If Shakespeare can die, then how can we help following his lead?

Aphorism no. 70

One of the three most important sensations in a writer’s life is the feeling of going to the pouring fount and fetching a pail brimming with water.

Aphorism no. 69

All these critical arguments over realism versus irrealism in poetry and prose simply ignore the fact that a writer can do anything, given sufficient fire.

Aphorism no. 68

As a poet, be a Jack or Jill who fetches the pail from the fount, even at the cost of crown and fallings-down.

Aphorism no. 67

Natural speech in poetry is highly overrated.

Aphorism no. 66

Even the greatest poetry ends in silence.

5 comments:

  1. Wow! Such a lot to ponder! I think, on first blush, the last is the most stunning. And how true about the early and late Yeats poems. And the men's little poems, yes. Egotistical little things.

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  2. I can only read a couple at a time.

    I just don't have enough poetry, good or bad, in my life, except maybe through music. You should have a random segment "Poetry Ponderisms" or something to that effect with a random poetry aphorism just to prick that piece of the soul that reminds us of our humanity.

    That sounds so cheesy doesn't it, I just dont care, bring on the cheese baby! (I tried to upload the comment once, if it fails again I am going to take it as a providential sign that I shouldnt post this)

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  3. A lot, yes. I can imagine that a few at a time might be best. Just felt like being done with something for a change!

    I'd like to stick up some of my own poems, but that actually counts as a publication. Maybe I'll put up some older ones some time.

    Music lyrics can be quite good, and at least musicians know that lyrics should approach the condition of singing--something that a lot of poets don't seem to know.

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  4. There is nothing here about the poetry of the Kitchen. Nor about the beautiful poetry of the Advice Columnist.

    I am steamed! Also boiled in ire, and fried in the oil of irritation. I feel some advice coming on.

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  5. Just catching up a bit now...
    Yes, like Laura I really like that last one...and No 88. Yes, exactly, well said...and No 85 is happening to me more and more these days. I keep thinking it is a sign - but I'm ignoring it...No 83 'The unsaid never lies' - wise words. No 77: that's good - 'a poem without worlds' - such an empty place. And I agree with No 67...and I'm back to wonderful No 66 again. Have enjoyed these. What's next, Marly?

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.