Poetry

- 1887-1972

I too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle.
   Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers that there is in
   it after all, a place for the genuine.
      Hands that can grasp, eyes
      that can dilate, hair that can rise
         if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because they are
   useful; when they become so derivative as to become unintelligible, the
   same thing may be said for all of us—that we
      do not admire what
      we cannot understand. The bat,
         holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf under
   a tree, the immovable critic twinkling his skin like a horse that feels a flea, the base—
   ball fan, the statistician—case after case
      could be cited did
      one wish it; nor is it valid
         to discriminate against “business documents and

school-books”; all these phenomena are important. One must make a distinction
   however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry,
   nor till the autocrats among us can be
     “literalists of
      the imagination”—above
         insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have
   it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand, in defiance of their opinion—
   the raw material of poetry in
      all its rawness, and
      that which is on the other hand,
         genuine, then you are interested in poetry.

The Paper Nautilus

   For authorities whose hopes
are shaped by mercenaries?
   Writers entrapped by
   teatime fame and by
commuters' comforts?  Not for these
   the paper nautilus
   constructs her thin glass shell.

   Giving her perishable
souvenir of hope, a dull
   white outside and smooth-
   edged inner surface
glossy as the sea, the watchful
   maker of it guards it
   day and night; she scarcely

   eats until the eggs are hatched.
Buried eight-fold in her eight
   arms, for she is in
   a sense a devil-
fish, her glass ram'shorn-cradled freight
   is hid but is not crushed;
   as Hercules, bitten

   by a crab loyal to the hydra,
was hindered to succeed,
   the intensively
   watched eggs coming from
the shell free it when they are freed,—
   leaving its wasp-nest flaws
   of white on white, and close-

   laid Ionic chiton-folds
like the lines in the mane of
   a Parthenon horse,
   round which the arms had
wound themselves as if they knew love
   is the only fortress
   strong enough to trust to.

He "Digesteth Harde Yron"

   Although the aepyornis
   or roc that lived in Madagascar, and
the moa are extinct,
the camel-sparrow, linked
   with them in size--the large sparrow
Xenophon saw walking by a stream--was and is
a symbol of justice.

   This bird watches his chicks with
   a maternal concentration-and he's
been mothering the eggs
at night six weeks--his legs
   their only weapon of defense.
He is swifter than a horse; he has a foot hard
as a hoof; the leopard

   is not more suspicious.  How
   could he, prized for plumes and eggs and young
used even as a riding-beast, respect men
   hiding actor-like in ostrich skins, with the right hand
making the neck move as if alive
and from a bag the left hand strewing grain, that ostriches

   might be decoyed and killed!  Yes, this is he
whose plume was anciently
the plume of justice; he
   whose comic duckling head on its
great neck revolves with compass-needle nervousness
when he stands guard,

   in S-like foragings as he is
   preening the down on his leaden-skinned back.
The egg piously shown
as Leda's very own
   from which Castor and Pollux hatched,
was an ostrich-egg.  And what could have been more fit
for the Chinese lawn it

   grazed on as a gift to an
   emperor who admired strange birds, than this
one, who builds his mud-made
nest in dust yet will wade
   in lake or sea till only the head shows.

	.	.	.	.	.	.	.

   Six hundred ostrich-brains served
   at one banquet, the ostrich-plume-tipped tent
and desert spear, jewel-
gorgeous ugly egg-shell
   goblets, eight pairs of ostriches
in harness, dramatize a meaning
always missed by the externalist.

   The power of the visible
   is the invisible; as even where
no tree of freedom grows,
so-called brute courage knows.
   Heroism is exhausting, yet
it contradicts a greed that did not wisely spare
the harmless solitaire

   or great auk in its grandeur;
   unsolicitude having swallowed up
all giant birds but an alert gargantuan
   little-winged, magnificently speedy running-bird.
This one remaining rebel
is the sparrow-camel.

Baseball and Writing

(Suggested by post-game broadcasts)

Fanaticism?  No.  Writing is exciting
and baseball is like writing.
   You can never tell with either
      how it will go
      or what you will do;
   generating excitement—
   a fever in the victim—
   pitcher, catcher, fielder, batter.
	Victim in what category?
Owlman watching from the press box?
	To whom does it apply?
	Who is excited?  Might it be I?

It's a pitcher's battle all the way—a duel—
a catcher's, as, with cruel
   puma paw, Elston Howard lumbers lightly
      back to plate.  (His spring 
      de-winged a bat swing.)
   They have that killer instinct;
   yet Elston—whose catching
   arm has hurt them all with the bat—
	when questioned, says, unenviously,
   "I'm very satisfied.  We won."
	Shorn of the batting crown, says, "We";
	robbed by a technicality.

When three players on a side play three positions
and modify conditions,
   the massive run need not be everything.
      "Going, going . . . "  Is
      it?  Roger Maris
   has it, running fast.  You will
   never see a finer catch.  Well . . .
   "Mickey, leaping like the devil"—why
	gild it, although deer sounds better—
snares what was speeding towards its treetop nest,
	one-handing the souvenir-to-be
	meant to be caught by you or me.

Assign Yogi Berra to Cape Canaveral;
he could handle any missile.
   He is no feather.  "Strike! . . . Strike two!"
      Fouled back.  A blur.
      It's gone.  You would infer
   that the bat had eyes.
   He put the wood to that one.
Praised, Skowron says, "Thanks, Mel.
   I think I helped a little bit."
	All business, each, and modesty.
        Blanchard, Richardson, Kubek, Boyer.
	In that galaxy of nine, say which
	won the pennant?  Each.  It was he.

Those two magnificent saves from the knee-throws
by Boyer, finesses in twos—
   like Whitey's three kinds of pitch and pre-
      diagnosis
      with pick-off psychosis.
   Pitching is a large subject.
   Your arm, too true at first, can learn to
   catch your corners—even trouble
	Mickey Mantle.  ("Grazed a Yankee!
My baby pitcher, Montejo!"
	With some pedagogy,
	you'll be tough, premature prodigy.)

They crowd him and curve him and aim for the knees.  Trying
indeed!  The secret implying:
   "I can stand here, bat held steady."
      One may suit him;
       none has hit him.
   Imponderables smite him.
   Muscle kinks, infections, spike wounds
   require food, rest, respite from ruffians.  (Drat it!
	Celebrity costs privacy!)
Cow's milk, "tiger's milk," soy milk, carrot juice,
	brewer's yeast (high-potency—
	concentrates presage victory

sped by Luis Arroyo, Hector Lopez—
deadly in a pinch.  And "Yes,
   it's work; I want you to bear down,
      but enjoy it
      while you're doing it."
   Mr. Houk and Mr. Sain,
   if you have a rummage sale,
   don't sell Roland Sheldon or Tom Tresh.
	Studded with stars in belt and crown,
the Stadium is an adastrium.
	O flashing Orion,
	your stars are muscled like the lion. 

Related Poems

Poetry

There is nothing beautiful here
However I may want it. I can’t
Spin a crystal palace of this thin air,
Weave a darkness plush as molefur with my tongue
However I want. Yet I am not alone
In these alleys of vowels, which comfort me
As the single living nun of a convent
Is comforted by the walls of that catacomb
She walks at night, lit by her own moving candle.
I am not afraid of mirrors or the future
—Or even you, lovers, wandering cow-fat
And rutting in the gardens of this earthly verge
Where I too trod, a sunspot, parasol-shaded,
Kin to the trees, the bees, the color green.

Poetry is

poetry is evanescence
 

poetry is life sentence, release
on words, liberté sur parole
 

poetry is a blind guide to an ancient
enigma, to an inaccessible
secret
 

poetry is an argument
dynamic and jarring
 

poetry is a rag tag cos-
mology we can
raise and wave,
it's a small (abregée) cos-
mogony: unaware,
seamless, unstitched,
breathless, in tatters
 

poetry is to forget
forgetfulness
 

poetry is to separate self from
self
 

poetry is what's completely
left out
 

poetry is emptying without
exhausting
 

poetry is constraint to the remote,
to the not yet, the not
now, the not here,
the not there, the
not before, neither not after,
nor not now
 

poetry is breeching
 

poetry is to burn and give birth
in the same vocal gesture
 

poetry is being-there multiplied
by not being-there, remembering
to trans-be-there traversely
like a watershed
 

poetry is a misunderstanding about
what I don't know exactly,
but a misunderstanding
 

poetry is infinite impotence,
limpid, lucid, hallucinated
 

poetry is intersection
interjection
intersession
interruption
 

poetry is a low blow
 

poetry is transit and exit
 

poetry is infusion and trans-fusion
 

poetry is memory of what is not
and what must not be; that is
the culminating, liminal Self
the Self as an incomplete cosmos
never to be completed
 

poetry is tying—untying
 

poetry is the ritual scene of
infinite uncertainty, of the
inaccessible Infermity
(Infirmitas)
 

poetry is a streak
a swerve
a splay
a spade
 

poetry is crib—cradle
it's nook—needlei
of the Trans-Organ
of the trans-organic
of the Indistinct
of the In(de)terminable
 

poetry is ash
 

poetry is diagonal
it's ramble
inside the manifest body
of Universal Inexistence
of Global Entropy
 

poetry is stiffened laziness
an arm hanging from the
branch of the Tree of the Knowledge
of Good and Evil; that is
a Monkey in Brazil
always hanging by an arm
from the branch of a tree (it's the Preguiçaii )
 

poetry is terrorism in the domain of speech,
a bang in the cloister of language
 

it's terror in the depths of rhetoric
 

poetry is liberation from knowing
escape from the known
a release from mechanics
 

and at the same time it's falling, sinking
into repetitive, obsessive, iterative
mechanics, which are also the
mechanics of hinting, of the
norm, of ritual (of strict
obligation, of rhyme, of number,
of essence)
 

poetry is the implosion of zero time
and in(de)finite degree
 

poetry is unleashing, un-phrasingiii, a potential
threat, breaking, robbing,
destruction
 

poetry is smashing, shattering, shaking
 

 

it's a clash between
strength and restraint
that tends to erase.
We are truly
infinitely mad

 

poetry is almost everything: that is everything, less
what it really is
 

poetry is impermanence crossed with
trans-manence
 

it's impertinence
 

poetry is counter and encounter (spontaneous
and predestined) between neurosis and unconscious,
between archetype and Self
 

a monotonous and perpetuated ring between
impulse and obsession
 

poetry is aggression
 

to write poetry is to cut slits, produce cracks,
point out filaments in the
curtain, in the Barred
Wall
 

poetry is a fight against the night
 

poetry is night against the night
 

poetry is a rub against the voice
 

poetry is friction against the Dragon's skin
 

poetry is this
it's this and that
and so be it
 


iIn the original Italian, this verse literally reads: it's cell—eye of the needle. Villa may have been thinking about the passage from the New Testament "It's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19: 23-24)
iiPerguiça literally means "sloth" in Portuguese. Here Villa uses it in reference to the mammal that dwells in the trees of South America, specifically those of Brazil, where he lived for three years.
iiiSfraso might derive from the verb "sfrasare," meaning to disrupt the phrase. It is, however, one of Villa's many neologisms and the interpretation offered here (un-phrasing) is merely hypothetical.

Poetry Anonymous

Do not fall in love with a poet
they are no more honest than a stockbroker.

(Do you have a stockbroker? If you do, 
your poet is with you because you have one.) 

If you think that they are more sensitive because they care about language
pay attention to how they use language.
Are you included? Are you the "you"?

Or are you a suggestion?
Are you partially included as a suggestion? 

        Are you partially excluded because you are a concept 
        in some jewel-like nouns, almost throwaway,
        yet a perfect resemblance? 

        How does narcissism 
        assist you, who is also the object of desire?
        Do you become the tour-de-force?  

        Consider that poem's vagueness doesn't account for your complexity
        and the epithets don't suffice, you are not "one who is a horse-drawn carriage" 
        nor are you a "sparrow with hatchet." 

Perhaps they quote Mallarme when taking you to bed, 
carefully confusing you with their charm and faux-chastity.

All this before voracious body-pressing.
The lovemaking is confusing until, you remember, they said something:

thus spake the dreamboat, your poet, alarmingly announces during climax:

I spend my fires with the slender rank of prelate

and then fierce withdrawal with a rush of perseverance to flee.

You are mistaken if language furthers your devotion.
You are a fallen person now.
They care more about "you" than for you (you, the real person you).

Line after line, a private, unmediated act done to you with confusing abandon, 
flailing in its substance, however deceptive.

It will enhance your own directionlessness, 
you will be harmed. 

You cannot mediate it with caress. 

Do you think because they understand what meaning looks like, 
they have more meaning than others? 
They are the protectors of feeling, mere protectors: earnest? 
        No. They are protectors of the flawed,
        filling zones of bereftness. 
        The aftermath of pleasure. A contested zone for all.  

What about the lawyer who loves the law? 
Isn't he just a poet with a larger book—
the way they protect and subject language 
to sense-making? 

A kind of cognitive patternization. 

Ultimately, both undertake the hijacking of language, 
they won't love you the way
you are; it's in this inability to love— 
unless you embody the poem— 
you embody the law and its turn of phrase.
Unless you see the poet clearly: loving utterance, 
an unadulterated utterance—seized and insular. 

You must entice with otherness.
        You must catch the poem as a muse does. 
You must muse and muse and muse. 

In thralldom to encounters that stand in for sexual ones, 
we terrorize with sense-making, 

it stands in for intimacy. 

It stands in and suggests that all other kinds of feelings 
and declarations yield to it.

It will move you if you ask for permission 
to exist within its confines,
and you move the poet toward you and you hold the poet's head,
wrapping your arms around it 
strapped in your wordless hold, but soon words do come 

and in the trailing off of speech, you will be permanently lost.