Friday, November 22, 2013

Two Poems (Burton Raffel)


A house heavy with books is neither
a literary cannon nor a pile
of acidic tight-pressed paper.

Nor is it dangerous waste,
collected explosions of dust,
or the death of our famous flag.

Whoever thinks that books
are any different from Mozart,
Gershwin, or Louis Armstrong’s trumpet,
has neither eyes nor ears
or much of a brain, and lives,
alas, in a deep dungeon of slush.


You cannot claw a bear
with tiny mannish fingers.
No elephants fall over,
whacked by helpless fists.
The world was never made
for a human playgrounds field,
since whatever works in brains
can only guarantee nothing.

Oh, feet are a fool’s devices
for climbing snow-shined slopes!

Think of your feeble sizes,
you creatures constructed in flesh:
whatever you ever wish for
may never be what you get.

21 Nov 2013

Dear Alex: I tend to work in bursts. When some while back I finished working on my last novel, I went wild on poems, writing five successive volumes. All five of those will appear in Kindle; the first two are already there.... Today, after a nap,  I might start up the poetry machine. If not then, certainly tomorrow. In full days I seem to produce an average of two poems. It takes 15 or 20 or even more versions to satisfy me, and sometimes stretches out into days. Let me, then, promise you ... that of course you can have all the poems, and do whatever you want to or can do with them. I can’t do a damned thing!

There has now been, I should note, a significantly different approach to my poems. I haven’t gone off into some wild stupidity. But I abhor what today apparently passes as good stuff, when I take it as dumb, pompous, and exceedingly dull shit. I will not write out my views, until and unless I have gotten enough of my own poems out for general readership (such as it now is). Why waste time on new ideas for stuffed and dried-out ears and eyes? A former student of mine, some 30 years ago,  now an “established” poet (I am not, bien sûr), has sent me some new poems — awful junk, suffering from just the kind of sloppiness I had tried to teach him away from. I finally sent him all the fully marked-outnesses of a lousy, pretentious, sloppy poem he sent me. Bang! I’m off his mailing list.....The machine got me out of bed at 2:30 this morning. I handled some other things, but was waiting to see if poems were on their way. They were. An hour later, there came new poem #2.

--Burton Raffel (Yes, THE Burton Raffel!)

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