American Life In Poetry

For more than a year now I've been receiving ex-US poet laureate Ted Kooser's weekly poetry columns called American Life in Poetry* by e-mail and have never before been so consistently diametrically opposed to a poetry selection. I've even come up with a generic term for the kind of stuff Kooser tends to choose: clod-stuck poetry. (Also see my earlier post Poetry and Abstraction.)

This poetry is all wheelbarrow. It mostly looks like it's coming from the William Carlos Williams corner of the American poetic tradition, but when Williams said "No ideas but in things," he meant that things needed to be transcended. And this is not happening in much of the work Kooser picks – things remain at the thing level.

*All the poems can be seen here.

– Iself

A historical perspective

These are a few things that happened on February 23s a while ago (courtesy msn encarta):

1847: About 5,000 American troops commanded by General Zachary Taylor defeat some 15,000 Mexicans under General Antonio López de Santa Anna near Buena Vista, Mexico.

Way to go, Santa Anna:

Heave her up, and away we'll go
Heave away, Santianna!
Heave her up, and away we'll go
All on the plains of Mexico


1870: Mississippi is formally readmitted to the Union.


1934: Casey Stengel, who had previously been the team's coach, becomes the manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Hhmm ... don't see the historical significance of that, but then I've never been that interested in the Brooklyn Dodgers ... or any baseball team for that matter.


1940: The Walt Disney animated motion picture Pinocchio, about a wooden puppet who longs to become human, is released.

Pinocchio, as I noticed last night, also puts in guest appearances in Shrek (2001).


1945: U.S. Marines capture the highest point on the island of Iwo Jima and raise the American flag for the second time that day.

Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) tells the story of the battle from the perspective of Japanese soldiers who fought in it.


1997: Scottish scientists announce what they have kept secret for seven months: that they have cloned adult sheep DNA and produced a healthy sheep who they have named Dolly.

Dolly, who was apparently named after Dolly Parton, lived from 1996 to 2003.


Free from compositional rhetoric

Triadic Memories by Morton Feldman, played by Roger Woodward to abstract expressionist art and French and English spoken gibberish.


"Let me down, let me down!"

"Yahoo! Dumped you in the croop you dirty breek!"

– Iself

Reading about the composer Morton Feldman that he "began graphic works, with open pitch and rhythm, and music 'free from a compositional rhetoric' in early '50s," I decided to write poetry following the same principles. This is the first example of a poem that is free from compositional rhetoric. It is also quite obvious that its pitch and rhythm are open.

Retroactively attributed to Sunday Scribblings #107 – Compose.

Ein Gedicht der dritten Generation

Alpines Einfaltslied

Zithern schnaufen
in den Röcken

Traute Rauferei
an den Füßen
der Flüsse

Wo das Wetter


(Iself nach Norbert C. Kaser – Original – und Achim Wagner – 2. Generation)



Tier & Baum by Johannes Beilharz
Acrylic on paper, 2007

Is it an illusion, or is there something in there ... an animal, a tree?

Posted in response to Inspire Me Thursday's request – "Think magic… optical illusions… mimes… or any other visual trickery that inspires you."