Dedicated to far too many of my contemporaries, and they know who the hell they are.

I.

I am the perfect poet—
I strike a dainty pose.
I sniff the air for floral scent
And elevate my nose.

I’m not a coarse and graceless type
Who spouts obscene derision.
Instead I generate a cloud
Of pure Platonic vision.

II.

I hunger for the precious,
For sweetness and for light.
Harmony and peace and love
Are present when I write.

Emotion is the air I breathe—
I’m caught up in its fever.
My arms swing in inclusive arcs
Like some bel canto diva.

III.

My scope is truly global;
My art embraces all.
I’m open-minded, liberal, and
I’m multicultur-al.

I’ll never write offensively
Or touch on taboo’d topics,
Like stuff you read in Rochester
Or Henry Miller’s Tropics.

IV.

I frequent all the workshops.
I share my early drafts.
I network with like-minded friends
And suck up to the staff.

I go to every conference
To venerate my betters,
And thereby gain a foothold in
The inbred world of letters.

V.

I’m also vaguely leftist—
That’s how you have to be
If you’re to be accepted in
Polite society.

And this accounts for my success
With all the folks who matter:
My letter-perfect expertise
In brainless, po-biz chatter.

 

Joseph S. Salemi has published five books of poetry, and his poems, translations and scholarly articles have appeared in over one hundred publications world-wide.  He is the editor of the literary magazine Trinacria. He teaches in the Department of Humanities at New York University and in the Department of Classical Languages at Hunter College.


Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.”

61 Responses

  1. Joe Tessitore

    Rapturous, the Underside?

    To everything, an underside
    that poets see – it does not hide
    but clamors for us to attend;
    on us , indeed, it does depend.

    How else for it to reach the stage?
    Who else can put it on the page
    but those of us who raise the pen?
    Think well before you do again.

    It is for us to choose to write
    about the darkness or the light.
    Is it for us to validate
    with brilliant verse, the curse of hate?

    For each of us there is a Muse –
    May ours not lead us to abuse.

    Reply
      • Joe Tessitore

        Thanks Beth.

        Yes, I did write it, inspired by the poetry of Joe the Other.

      • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

        Dear E. V.,

        Just so you know, there is a tradition in satire, one of ancient origin. It is expressed in our English phrase: “If the shoe fits, wear it.”

        And here, one must also be a good reader, the very thing a fine education provides—the ability to analyze the poetic text. For, “Going Along To Get Along” is not about suppressing this or that “topic” or “subject” of poetry, as Mr. Tessitore’s straw man response suggests (the rest of us are not falling for that).

        The straw man about “my right to choose any topic I please” was constructed to dissimulate the fact that Mr. Tessitore—as I believe many of us have observed directly—is the very sort of “poet” Mr. Salemi’s sword of truth has just cut to pieces. This is my opinion.

        Unfortunately, by coming out of the shadows and creating the straw man response, Mr. Tessitore fell into the very trap that Salemi’s satire sprung for him and all “poets” of his type. So that Mr. Tessitore’s futile rhymes demonstrate to absolute perfection one and one thing only: The shoe fit!

        For, indeed, Salemi’s satire is not at all an inventory of right or wrong topics. Rather, it powerfully exposes the ills of the kind of incestuous societies that men create whenever they place what Dr. Salemi calls “politeness”—his term for liberalism’s pervasive bludgeon to suppress intellectual discourse—above truth and wisdom.

        It’s a little what the Novus Ordo sect of Vatican II does. In the name of unity, unity is placed above truth. This process leads to things like Article 841 of the its false catechism which states: “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.” So not Christians, but Muslims are said to be “in the first place” amongst those who acknowledge the Creator, with Christians and Jews being in some other position in the hierarchy. Wow!

        The French have a wonderful expression. “Avoir un coeur d’artichaut.” He who has an artichoke heart has a leaf to tear off and give to everyone. A perfect example is when a commentator in a poetry clique compliments each and every poem published with “Amazing! I love it! The way you did x and the way you did y! Well, done Charlie!” when the blunt mediocrity of poem after poem could not be more evident to everyone else. Some, to avoid the appearance of routine will add a wee critique about meter, but the effect is always the same: The erosion of the commentator’s credibility and the sad acceptance of mediocrity as a norm.

        None of which advances the progress of classic poetry. In fact, modernist poetry advances us far more, because we contrast with it, whereas we are identified with the horrifically mediocre “formalist” verse we publicly embrace as excellent.

      • Charles Southerland

        E.V.-

        All you have to do to hear the mockingbird is look at the thread a couple of days ago where I used the words “Straw Man” and you will find the mimic here in this thread a few times. He also cheeps out phrases like: The “rest of us” and “many of us” to bolster his breast feathers. He does this mimicking when he can’t win an argument on his own. Who are “most of us” or “many of us” in his chirping? No one that I know. I would like to be the one to take credit for outing this mimic,this mockingbird, but it wasn’t me. It was Monty, who some time ago caught sight of this with a good pair of binoculars. Thank God. Just remember that the mockingbird has no voice of his own. It’s all about the lying and survival.

      • Charles Southerland

        Joe-

        You could have e-mailed me about this instead of going public with it some time ago. I tried to be kind to you and thoughtful of others, but you wouldn’t have it, permitting McKenzie to continue his verbal abuse of me and others. You could have stopped this and you didn’t. Since McKenzie has been here, nearly 3 years, by my count, he has done his level best to destroy and defame Leo. I have all the emails. Let’s air it all out. Mr. Mantyk could have stopped McKenzie too. He didn’t. All you’ve done by not stopping him is encouraged him to double down on his demeaning language towards me and several others who regularly visit this site. You even acknowledge that Mckenzie uses other avatars and overlook that as well. Now that he’s been called out on it publicly, you’re mad at me. I would have let it go for your sake, but either you are blind or just don’t care. Now you’ve taken to attacking Tessatore and anyone else who dares to criticize the coward, Mckenzie. I didn’t start this, he did. You’ve supported him one way or the other. Fine. He’s all yours.

        You should have stopped him when you had your chances, instead, you let Leo get crapped on. Now, the big man, McKenzie, after Leo’s dead and gone, pretends that he loved Leo and his work. You know better. You say that your heart bleeds for Leo, Bull.

        There are two ways to end this: You and Mantyk can ban me. Or, Mckenzie can and will stop his demeaning language peppered throughout nearly all of his threads. I don’t care which one it is, at this point.

        If you think McKenzie is your Golden Boy, ya’ll go ahead and keep shining him up until he sparkles.

        But if you choose option #1, you and I will be done, in every way. Your choice.

        If everyone here knew what I know about the “man”, they would be appalled. He is poisonous to this site, pure poison.

      • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

        It is interesting to me that Charles Southerland accuses Dr. Salemi of not contacting him discretely by email when Mr. Southerland could have done the very same thing by contacting Dr. Salemi by email…

        …rather than going onto a public forum and using the dead body of Leo Yankevich as a bargaining chip to drive wedges between people, lay down ultimatums, and turn the SCP into a show trial in an ongoing campaign of defamation he started many years ago and will never, ever be finished with.

        I find this sickening and unworthy of this venue and pray that Mr. Southerland’s shameless statement will be removed.

      • Charles Southerland

        Mr. McKenzie, if you accuse me of defamation again, I will publicly release every single email in my possession. You’d better pray that I don’t. Now crawl back into your hole.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Charlie, you are a good friend and I am deeply beholden to you. But this kind of childish name-calling has to stop.

        MacKenzie and you have widely different opinions on many subjects. But this ongoing rampage against anything and everything he says is nothing but a vicious vendetta. And as we Italians say, “Vendetta rebounds upon those who practice it.”

        MacKenzie is a very learned and erudite man whose knowledge of literature and its analysis is deep and comprehensive. Having him here to comment at this website is a precious gift that we should cherish, regardless of whatever disagreements may separate us.

        Calling him stupid names like “McSkirt” and “Kintale” is unworthy of you. It will only turn this and other discussion threads here into a mindless war zone like Facebook, Twitter, and those other venues for philistinism. I doubt that Mr. Mantyk wants that, nor do I think that you would either, in your better moments.

  2. e. v.

    Good morning!

    The photo of lemmings following one another over a cliff reminds me of those reporters who leaped onto the Covington H. S. smear campaign bandwagon and are now facing defamation lawsuits.

    When I casually read the poem, the meter sounds perfect. However, when I attempted to analyze it, the line-by-line syllable count isn’t uniform. There’s also some variability with the iambs. Yet, (to my ears) none of these variations appear to impact the meter’s consistency. If any one cares to be generous with a little tutorial here, I’d appreciate it.

    Unfortunately, many of today’s media outlets tend to have a pro-left bias. Stereotyping rarely, if ever, works well. Foul-mouthed people speak from all sides of the political spectrum. Ditto for polite people.

    Just as I defend Prof. Salemi’s right to express his views in the above poem, I defend the rights of other poets to write about life’s beauty … or ugliness … or whatever else inspires them.

    People are too complicated to have their personalities’ neatly summarized and shoved into a shallow and narrow claustrophobic box.

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      A wee tutorial, E.V., as graciosuly invited.

      I can assure you that the metrics of “Going Along to Get Along” are all deliberate on Dr. Salemi’s part, keeping in mind he is one of very few poets appearing on the SCP who writes from a very traditional, philological background which, of course, includes the history of letters.

      What this means, in short, is that Salemi possesses all the techniques of the great masters of English prosody, techniques which the Meter Maids of the SCP are mostly unaware of, and which would require a Covington Patmore fully to set forth.

      But that looseness, that suppleness, that servitude of Dr. Salemi’s metrics to his satirical sense—which is really what you are indicating—is just that, an alignment of form to meaning, and that’s why Salemi’s verses are so powerful, capable of shaking things up and making people think. Look into Robert Browning, Swinburne, the Rossetti’s, Matthew Arnold, and the others, and you will be shocked by their metrics and then understand exactly what I mean.

      But this idea of rubber stamping the same rigid, inflexible, metrical pattern, or even number of syllables, line to line is a very recent, American formalist idea that never even existed prior to formalism (Shakespeare, Milton, all the Elizabethans rejected it in their praxis). It’s one of those errors we can attribute to American public education—the fruit of pure ignorance, in other words.

      It’s better to do as you have done and ask, rather than jump to a false conclusion based on ignorance of the principles—this latter being what we see all too often with the Meter Maids (my epithet for the proponents of false formalism, whoever they may be).

      Reply
      • e.v.

        Thank you, J. C. M. I never doubted that Prof. Salemi is a master of meter and his choices are meticulously planned. I think that what I’m attempting to clumsily ask is how can the meter flow so flawlessly when there are minor variations in the order of stressed and unstressed syllables?

      • James A. Tweedie

        I have nothing to contribute to this conversation except to say that I like the phrase “meter maid” as offered by Mr. McKenzie, but with the caveat that it be understood to be gender neutral so as to be as inclusive as possible!

  3. Bruce Wren

    Ha! Great stuff! I would hate to be the target of this witty, satirical ditty. Praise also for the superb use of rhyme (very ingenious) and rhythm.

    Reply
  4. Peter Hartley

    I liked this. I wonder how many of your desiccated dedicatees would recognise themselves in it (hoping I’m not one of them). But isn’t that the point? They won’t, so you won’t give offence.

    Reply
    • E. V.

      Actually …. some will … and still won’t take offense. I’ve been the target of Prof. Salemi’s ire (see SCP’s 1/8/19 post by Charles Southerland in memory of Leo Yankevich). With me, Prof. Salemi hit bull’s-eye in that I do seek peace and beauty. However, he totally missed some other marks; i.e., my politics, for the most part, are right-of-center. Moreover, when “my arms swing”, I’m usually knockin’ something over because I’m a total klutz.

      Reply
  5. Sally Cook

    Good Morning to you, Joe, and to all bel canto divas mentioned in your excellent poem —
    I am sure most divas sense who they are, though certainly there are some who will never know.
    Some questions: Should the aim of poetry only to be polite — just a group minuet to sweet music?
    Look at the world – examine most personal experience. Emotion is only one part – no reason for it to be the sole approved basis for writing a poem. Many appear to think so.
    Is not a poem an artificial construct, subject to rules that make it easier to read and understand?
    Must we all huddle together dreaming of the ideal as we tumble over the cliff?
    Why is the truth so often perceived as anger?
    I would welcome some answers to these questions.

    Reply
    • E. V.

      Just like the blank canvas awaits the painter, an empty page (or screen) awaits the poet. We’re free to express and explore all that inspire us; we shouldn’t be forced to explore realms that don’t. Some writers choose to focus on a narrow field; others pursue diverse horizons. The answer to your question regarding whether poetry should be limited to polite expression is “no”; however, neither should politeness be barred from poetic acceptability.

      The klutzy “bel canto diva”.

      Reply
      • Sally Cook

        Dear EV –
        So sorry if you were misled by an interpretation of my words, and I misunderstood!
        To clarify — I would never say and have never said that politeness/manners should be eliminated, though I have often remarked that over-zealous pursuit of the vague is counter-productive to anything honest and direct.

        Even under an azure dome, the handsome blue jay pursues his prey. To ignore such things is to be cruising for a peck on the head !

        As the Jay knows, there is always a right moment to strike. And by strike, I mean strike to the core of the question. Any poet has to know this. And yes, whether addressed or not, there is always a question.

    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      For readers:

      The world actually has a magnificent illustration of the kind of poetry that is most assuredly not a target of Dr. Salemi’s satire, and that is Sally Cook’s collection “The View from Here” (White Violet Press, November 15, 2014) which may be found at: https://www.amazon.com/View-Here-Sally-Cook/dp/0692267263

      The kind of perfection Cook consistently produces in her poems makes her one of the original poets of the Ars Poetica Nova.

      Let us not forget both parts of Du Bellay’s formula: not just “défense” but “défence et illustration.” We must be proud of and take pleasure in those victories and accomplishments of La Nouvelle Poésie, especially in the lyric verse of which Cook is one of only a scant handful of modern masters, occupying a solid place alongside that of Leo Yankevich.

      Reply
      • Sally Cook

        Dear Mr. MacKenzie –

        Thank you for your compliments. They are a balm. of which I only hope I deserve some part.

  6. E. V.

    @ J. C. M.: Hi! After re-reading Prof. Salemi’s poem, I agree with your interpretation. Any poet so concerned about avoiding controversial expression that he neglects digging (in the dirt) to seek truth, compromises his work. Freedom of speech requires those who exercise it to have a spine. Got it! Joe (Tessitore’s) poem was also good. He’s not contradicting Prof. Salemi’s position about truthful integrity; rather, he’s saying poets should responsibly employ their talents.

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      That’s right, E.V., he is unable to refute Dr. Salemi’s poem, so all he can do is change the subject to dissimulate. We differ only in that I think Joe Tessitore’s poem dashed-off and mediocre.

      Reply
      • Joe Tessitore

        Could I possibly write anything that you’d like?

        Could Salemi possibly write anything that you wouldn’t?

  7. Evan Mantyk

    I genuinely think that Mr. Salemi is referring to his contemporaries, as he stated. That means mostly college and university professors who engage in the poetry establishment today, which is predominantly free verse, and some formalists fawning on free versers, all the while passively going along with the tendency of using peace and love as a pretext while promoting socialist/communist values (inhuman values). I don’t think he is referring to any of our ordinary poets or commentators at the Society. That is my interpretation anyway.

    Reply
    • Charles Southerland

      I met a “dog trader” when I was barely 19 years-old and still wet behind the ears. I wanted my own coon dog apart from the influence of my Dad, so I listened to the fellow talk his dog up. She was a young gyp, about a year and a half old. She was skittish, but he said that she wasn’t used to anyone else being around but him. He only wanted $75.00 for her and he wouldn’t come down on the price none, which helped to further my belief that he was being honest. I swallowed everything he said about her and kept her up and fed her for a few days until she got used to me. I took her out alone one night to hunt and all she would do is follow me around. I repeated this for several nights and finally she struck a track. She had a great voice, a long bawling voice that carried through the Ozark hills. When she finally sat down to tree, she barked the short, choppy bark any Black and Tan hound would sound. But as I got close to her with my wheat light, I recognized the unmistakable aroma of a skunk. She’d treed the critter in a ground-hog hole and the skunk had taken offense. He dosed her pretty good. I endured the stench even as I leashed her and loaded her up in the truck. I took her home and let her out to run free. She stunk up the place for days and still, I fed her because she belonged to me. By the time she quit stinking, she wouldn’t come to me anymore and went back to her skittish ways. I grabbed my shotgun, loaded it with slugs and shot her dead down near Dexter Creek. I never dealt with another Dog Trader the rest of my life.

      I didn’t blame the dog trader, the dog, or the skunk for a darn thing. I blamed myself. I didn’t tell my Dad for a long time what happened, but he’d heard through the grapevine what occurred. He never brought it up.

      Dr. Salemi, among others, writes wonderful poems. His wit and satire are comparable to some of the ancients: Martial, Catullus and others who’ve gone on before. His wheelhouse is cultural and political verse. I enjoy it. Although he is not perfect in his metrics at all times, he strives to be perfect at all times. I can admire that. I do admire that.

      He’s published my poems several times, but he will tell you that I’ve never sucked-up to him, and he won’t dare say my work is mediocre.
      I’d buy a dog from him any day.

      And then there are dogs out there who only bark and can’t find a coon to tree.

      Reply
      • Joe Tessitore

        Dear Charlie,

        This is every bit as brilliant as your Pygmy Rattlesnake story and is equally on the mark. If these are in a book I would love to know it’s title – if they aren’t, they absolutely should be, and the Society would do well to publish it – simply spectacular writing!

        Joe

    • Joe Tessitore

      If you’re right, Evan, then it fails not only in meter and rhyme (Joseph Charles notwithstanding) but in message as well – it’s opening line is “I am the perfect poet -” and doesn’t really ever venture from it.

      Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Dear Mr. Mantyk,

      Your astute speculation, of course, would not prevent the name of an ordinary poet of the SCP immediately springing to mind if that poet, on the one hand, speaks of “the curse of hate” in one of his verses, but, on the other, openly supports an anti-pope who has delivered the Catholic Church in China to the Communist Party.

      http://thefederalist.com/2018/02/12/accepting-communist-chosen-bishops-pope-francis-betrays-chinese-christians/

      Reply
  8. Aedile Cwerbus

    A Dedication

    To whom do I dare send this little poem, witless, fresh,
    I’ve polished off with arid learning, silicon its mesh?
    Perhaps Alemi, Yanus’ son, who thought no whit of it,
    but had explained the Ages with his thick, Pern-icious Spit.
    O, he alone of all the people dares pontificate;
    in the Half-Circle Sea Hold he holds a certificate.
    So take this po’m for what it’s worth; whatever it may be,
    o, Virgin Goddess, Jupiter, it’s worth no more to me.
    And let it last for no more than a second, maybe two,
    immortal as Cornelius whose Lives were but a few.

    Alemi was originally from the Half-Circle Sea Hold. He was the son of Yanus Sea Holder (not Yiannis Chryssomallis, known as Yanni), and was crucial in the rediscovery of the Dolphincraft.

    Reply
  9. Jan Darling

    Fellow Poets
    Thank you for your entertaining and informative exchanges. My question is not to do with derivation of subject or quality of product – it simply concerns grammar. Here is an example of the use of the past participle when Oxford English would use past tense: She stunk up the place for days. As I was taught, this would read: stank, not stunk. I have noticed many times this use of part of a past participle replacing the past tense. Is this how English is taught in USA today? Does anyone have any idea when or why it changed?
    And Joe – you have a wandering apostrophe: it’s opening line.
    Thank you for consistently thought-provoking reads.

    Reply
    • Sally Cook

      To Jan Darling

      Sometimes (as in Burns) the vernacular fits best, while the correct version would appear stilted and out of place. That’s why stunk is better in this instance than the word stank

      As a British subject, you would not necessarily be aware of this way of speaking..

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        Sally,

        Is a Kiwi actually a British Subject? I know there’s the British Commonwealth and all that, but isn’t New Zealand an independent nation?

      • Sally Cook

        Dear Jan —

        My apologies for referring to you as a British subject when you are a New Zealander! CB has also corrected my factual infraction. Alas, I was thinking in the larger sense; of your sort of NZ education, not your factual nationality.

        I believe — if grammar is taught at all — that “stink, stank, stunk” still holds in our schools. Perhaps they closed the libraries and are now making “safe places:” out of them for some random pressure group. I do hope that is not the case; there is a particular ambience to libraries that I enjoy, don’t you? To mix in the scent of stale cigarette smoke and orange peels, would be the ruination of it.

      • Jan Darling

        Dear Sally
        I’m still not sure about the ‘British subject’ issue because since the early passport I referred the subject line has been dropped. So far I have found no specific reference to when or why it was dropped. I suspect that NZers may still have the same rights and privileges now as when my early passport was issued. Like many things political, it may have been omitted but not revoked. Yes, libraries are excellent places to be. It’s rewarding to note that Australia has good library programmes for children – readings from authors, activity sessions and group memberships and not just in main centres. Let’s hope that this is an antidote against the determined efforts of Teaching Unions to devalue the language and limit the vocabularies of their innocent victims. I play bridge with a retired headmistress (still tutoring English privately) who consistently uses the past participle instead of the past tense (hence my sensitivity) and worse – she pronounces ‘ing’ as ‘ink’ giving her students nothink!
        I was taught by nuns, many of whom were sent to the colonies by the church. When I moved from a Catholic Primary school and went to a State Secondary (age 13 up to and including University Entrance level) I was so far ahead in Grammar and Comprehension (which can never be separated) that I grew lazy until the syllabus offered new and relevant English teaching when I was 15. We should demand higher standards and pay our teachers more.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Jan,

      No, English is not taught this way, or at least it wasn’t when I went to high school, but pupils who were not paying attention might have thought so. It’s always been stink/stank/stunk, drink/drank/drunk, sink/sank/sunk (though some so-called students might have come out of it with think/thank/thunk. “Who’d-a thunk it?” is usually considered a humorous expression, an indication of a highly uneducated person). But I couldn’t find “stunk” anywhere in the poem, nor could I find a wandering apostrophe, or any apostrophe at all, for that matter. Were you referring to something in one of the comments? I find the expression “I stunk up the joint” very endearing, especially when uttered by a professional ballplayer after a bad outing.

      Reply
      • Jan Darling

        My apologies, C.B.
        My mind moved into a side gear when I made the past participle comment (or maybe it was reverse) – it was in reference to Charles Southerland’s Jan 22 ‘Dog Trader’ tale in which the he recounts how the dog ‘stunk’ up the place after the encounter with the skunk. I had read through: he wouldn’t come down on the price ‘none’ and: he dosed her pretty ‘good’ imagining that it was written in ‘character’ but when I arrived at ‘stunk’ I wondered whether these usages (odd to me) were widely used vernacular.
        Hence my past participle preoccupation .
        My reference to the wandering apostrophe relates to Joe T’s four and a half line response to Evan on Jan 27.
        Thank you for your tolerant and helpful explanation.

      • Charles Southerland

        Yes , Jan, they were and still are the vernacular in the area where I was raised.

    • Sally Cook

      Jan – I enjoyed reading about the somewhat illiterate headmistress! She sounds like a subject for a short story, if you write them.

      You are right on the mark – we should demand higher standards. My only disagreement with you is your assumption that higher pay for teachers will achieve this. In the area where I live there is a very powerful teacher’s union. Our teachers receive higher pay but never seem satisfied and are constantly demanding more. Not sure if it is still going on, but for many years they had such good health insurance they could get face lifts and sex changes on the taxpayer’s dune, More money paid out will never succeed in changing anyone’s philosophical bent, and so long as our schools promote non-challenging activities and children are taught that everyone’s a winner, well – standards will continue to decline.

      So you play bridge? I never enjoyed it but somehow was always getting trapped in it during college.. I would send you my poem about it, which might give you a few laughs, except that I shy away from inserting poems in commentary — doesn’t seem fair somehow. What’s your opinion on that?

      Reply
      • Jan Darling

        Dear Sally
        I agree absolutely but it sounds as though your teachers are better remunerated than those in Australia. Worse, here, university entrance standards are being lowered and university exams themselves are often not a reflection of student progress – rather a reflection of student value as a contribution to state income. We have a lot of international students. I would love to continue the conversation – if you think it worthwhile, please send me your email address. Mine is jan.darling2016@yahoo.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

  10. Evan Mantyk

    Hi Joe T and E.V.,
    I haven’t been reading every word here, but regarding the meter, I believe that it’s just a ballad form with alternating iambic tetrameter (four hard stresses per line) and iambic trimeter (three hard stresses), with some delightful variation in the strict tetra-tri order such that the first line in each section is trimeter instead of tetrameter. It’s splendidly musical. Below is my scanning of the lines. I think this mold fits the rest of the poem more or less…

    I AM the PERfect POet— 3
    I STRIKE a DAINty POSE. 3
    I SNIFF the AIR for FLORal SCENT 4
    And ELeVATE my NOSE. 3

    I’m NOT a COARSE and GRACEless TYPE 4
    Who SPOUTS obSCENE deRIsion. 3
    InSTEAD I GENeRATE a CLOUD 4
    Of PURE PlaTONic VISion. 3

    Reply
    • E. V.

      Thanks, Evan. When I casually read the poem, I couldn’t hear the variations; they didn’t become apparent until I tried to analyze the meter.

      Reply
    • Joe Tessitore

      … Mr. Tessitore – as I believe many of us have observed directly – is the very sort of “poet” Mr. Salemi’s
      sword of truth has just cut to pieces …
      JCM

      Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Dear Mr. Mantyk,

      I also found the variations you are indicating delightful and splendidly musical, which runs precisely counter to Mr. Tessitore’s conclusion (see below) and I quote: “If you’re right, Evan, then it fails not only in meter and rhyme (Joseph Charles notwithstanding) but in message as well…”

      Reply
      • E. V.

        The mystery I’d like to solve is … How was that done? How were these variations imbedded into the poem’s text in such a way that it isn’t obvious?

      • Charles Southerland

        E.V. It’s called an ear. An ear can either be developed or natural. And, some people can develop (fine tune) the natural ear.

        Some people have a tin ear. It’s easy to spot. They are typically known as: “One Note Johnny’s.” The natural rhythms in writing can’t be heard by them. They think that meter is an accident of learning when nothing could be further than the truth. There are no accidents. “One Note Johnny’s” are also better known as “Mimics”. That means that they have no original ear. They can only mimic and steal. Mockingbirds come to mind. A mockingbird has no sound of his own. In other words, he picks up on other bird’s sounds purely for lying and surviving. He presents the sounds “of many others” as his own. It’s an impressive trick, really. You can go back and forth on The Society’s pages and figure out the mockingbird when he opens his mouth to chirp.

        I’ve never discussed sound with Dr. Salemi. I suspect he has a natural ear, but it could also be a willingly developed ear. His is not the ear of a mimic.

        Sometimes mimics last a long time undiscovered, but sooner or later they are exposed for what they are, a lying bird.

  11. Mark Stone

    Dr. Salemi, Hello.

    1. My dictionary says the past tense of the verb “taboo” is spelled “tabooed.”

    2. The fifth stanza reads as follows:

    My scope is truly global;
    My art embraces all.
    I’m open-minded, liberal, and
    I’m multicultur-al.

    It is, of course, perfectly fine as it is. But if I were editing it, I would delete the last “I’m” and move “and” to the last line, so it would read like this:

    My scope is truly global;
    My art embraces all.
    I’m open-minded, liberal,
    and multicultur-al.

    3. I think the poem is very well done.

    Reply
    • James Sale

      Hi Mark,
      Generally speaking, I am against giving advice to poets on how to improve their poetry for a number of reasons, which I won’t bore you with her; but I am especially wary of advising great poets – like Joseph Salemi (not that I wish to create any hagiolatry around any one poet) because they usually have reasons for their choices that we may not have seen. So, whilst your proposal is good in what I would call the metrical flow of the verse, I think it wrong in terms of the overall semantics and impact that Joe is aiming for. Note, for example, that last stanza has 4 lines that begin with the following respective words: “My… My…I’m…I”. I think these represents Joe’s way of portraying the essential narcissism of the type of poet he is describing; to miss that final ‘I’ would be to weaken the impact. I may be wrong, of course, but that is how I see Joe’s use of words here.

      Reply
      • Mark Stone

        James, I have always been conflicted about posting constructive criticism of poems on SCP, since it is not a poem workshop website. I can generally tell which poets appreciate my recommendations and which do not. If I sense that a poet does not, then I won’t make suggestions about that poet’s poems in the future. I wasn’t sure about Dr. Salemi, but I decided to take the risk. I did learn from making the comment (Bruce explaining that an apostrophe can substitute for a letter, and you explaining the point about repetition to emphasize narcissism). And I believe that some people occasionally benefit from my suggestions. I am still struggling to glean the proper decorum for SCP. I looked in the About section of the website and didn’t see any guidance. Of course, in any profession or avocation, some rules are unspoken. I would very much like to hear the reasons that you are against giving advice to poets on how to improve their poems. I value your opinion and would like to better understand it.

      • James Sale

        Hi Mark,
        it would take a long essay to give you all my reasons, which range from the personal, the legal (in music, for example, if you contribute one word to a song, you are co-writer. co-owner), psychological, technical and aesthetic. But I recognise that my view is not the majority view and please note that I said ‘generally’; it’s not an inflexible rule. For myself, Simon J Harris has been an incredible help in improving my Canto 1 on this site: the revised version in hardback format will be out soon and I freely credit his contribution. TS Eliot, of course, famously benefited from Ezra Pound’s insight into his poem. But that’s it – it takes a special contribution from a special person for such advice to really stick. Just anybody saying, ‘you should do this or should do that’ is probably not going to help the ‘soul’ of the poem. I note with interest that the great Bruce Dale Wise disagrees with my rejection of your suggestion. Bruce I regard as the most independent-minded mind on this site – his opinions are frequently wise, and also frequently from my perspective, wacko! But I love his contributions and think him incredibly well informed. So what do I know? Bruce likes what you say; I have my reservations. But the key thing is to do it with good heart and stick with talking about poetry – which you Mark are doing. So carry on!!!

  12. Damian Robin

    Them

    With social wiles and expert ease,
    his Poet Breath wilts tenured trees.
    Across course vales, they smell his skill
    though forest thick or over the hill.

    They fail to fear his numbered lumber;
    can’t con-cur their clicks encumber.
    Their groupings’ glue groans “Strength in sieze !”
    And there they hide – in their demise.

    And Us

    His god-like voice is Oracle —
    We stand below, stark stoical —
    He booms so well, we’re never bored
    But when His cannon-blast lampoons
    Some non-specific lump of loons,
    Our eyeballs drain to bulge-veined moons —
    Initially, beneath His spell,
    It’s “OMG — Is it I , Lord ?”

    Reply
  13. B. S. Eliud Acrewe

    1. I enjoyed Mr. Salemi’s Byronic verses, which are almost Poundian. Unsurprisingly, I appreciated the hyphen in multicultur-al, the fever/diva rhyme, and the phrase “po-biz”. The last two lines, however, suggest Mr. Salemi’s “perfect poet” is as aware as Mr. Salemi himself.

    2. There is nuance in Mr. Tessitore’s final couplet.

    3. I enjoyed Mr. MacKenzie’s dredging up the French expression so much, I attached it to a poem, that attempts to follow Mr. Salemi’s advice:

    Not Going Along to Get Along
    “Avoir un couer d’artichaut.”

    Here is the man whom you are reading—yes, the one you want.
    who marshals martial thoughts, which he would never dare to flaunt.
    He is known over the whole World for his translations and
    his humours and panache, if not for his grand epigrams.
    You, who have honoured him, you studious, regard his words,
    while he is still alive and can put forward pearly blurbs.
    You, readers, will perceive he has a sense of his great worth,
    as few receive in life, or after death, upon this Earth.
    I, on the other hand, am unconvinced, I am aloof.
    I am not going, no, to get along with any fool.

    4. Ms. Wyler’s observation, “When I casually read the poem, the meter sounds perfect”, shows that the poem’s musicality is sustained, even when the meter varies; however, unlike Mr. MacKenzie, I would not base my meters on the Victorian Coventry Patmore, who was a garrulous, sentimentalist allied with the PreRaphaelites; nor do I think the meters of Browning, Swinburne, the Rosettis, and Arnold would cause one to be “shocked”. That loosening, which has influenced all of us, was preparation for Modernism. Hopkins could see he was close to Whitman.

    5. Mr. Hartley’s point begs the questions, despite Mr. Mantyk’s interpretation: Is Mr. Salemi’s “perfect poet” that unaware? Are not the poets @ SCP, as Mr. MacKenzie seems to think, also the target of Mr. Salemi’s poem? perhaps even Mr. Salemi himself?

    6. I think Ms. Cook answers her own questions, when she asks: “Should the aim of poetry only [be] to be polite?…Is not a poem an artificial construct?…Must we huddle together? Her last question is the more interesting to me: “Why is the truth so often perceived as anger?” Perhaps because it often comes from anger (or other intense emotions), as in the first words of Homer’s Iliad and Vergil’s Aeneid.

    7. Mr. Tessitore’s questions “strike to the core”; and, like Ms. Cook, he answers his own questions.

    8. Though I disagree entirely with Mr. Southerland’s reasoning, his prose was Faulknerian.

    9. I do believe Mr. Cwerbus used Catullus to counter Mr. Southerland’s assessments.

    10. In addition to her poetic standards, Ms. Darling has grammatical standards as well—a good thing to see @ SCP: stink, stank, stunk. With time, even grammar shifts. Ms. Darling is correct to point out that poets should be very watchful of grammar; that is one place I agree with Mr. Salemi. Yet, obviously there are differences between the English spoken in England and Jamaica, in Singapore and India, in Nigeria and South Africa, in the United States and Canada, in New Zealand and Australia, etc. Probably my favourite New Zealand series is the The Brokenwood Mysteries, which I love to listen to just for the vowel differences between New Zealand and the rest of the English-speaking world.

    11. Unlike Mr. Sale, I very much appreciate Mr. Stone’s readings and “corrections”. Where Mr. Stone surpasses most, if not all, of the writers @ SCP is in his “main stream” verbal analysis, which in its own way, is striving after a kind of “classical” writing, id est, a normative prose that I believe poetry desperately needs at the present moment.
    a. Mr. Salemi is correct on taboo’d; he used the apostrophe to take the place of the “e”.
    b. Mr. Stone makes an interesting choice by streamlining an “I’m”; but note the double-double egocentric leads, which feed the meaning of the poem.

    12. Mr. Robin’s “And Us” reminds me of Gratiano’s “Sir Oracle”, in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”, and not unironically.

    Reply
  14. Joseph S. Salemi

    Dear Charlie —

    Let me tell you something about Leo Yankevich and Joseph MacKenzie. It’s very true that they had a bitter dispute here in the past. I personally patched up that disagreement, convincing MacKenzie to apologize for some of his antagonistic language, and convincing Yankevich to ease up in return. It took me weeks to do it. By the time my peacekeeping was done, they had buried the hatchet and were friends. Leo had even invited MacKenzie to submit work to The Pennsylvania Review, but his sudden death and the closure of The Penn Review to new submissions rendered that offer moot.

    That was all I could do in Christian charity, and I think I accomplished something good. I have no power here at the SCP; I’m just an advisor and commentator. I can’t tell Mr. Mantyk to ban people, nor would I want to do so.

    I have no knowledge of MacKenzie using different avatars; and I can’t see why he would do so. His prose style is distinctive, and any posting of his would be immediately recognizable. MacKenzie is real, he exists, he lives in New Mexico, he has a wife, and has no reason at all to pose as someone else.

    No one wants to ban you from this website. But keep in mind that if you go on with a vendetta against individuals, eventually you will effectively drive those persons from the site. How is that different from banning someone? Every time MacKenzie puts up something, you see red and go into attack mode. This is what leftists and liberals do — they hammer away at people they don’t like until eventually those persons give up and disappear, and the leftists and liberals then have the website all to themselves. Look at Eratosphere, where it has happened to all sorts of people.

    I’ve not “taken to attacking” Mr. Tessitore — he simply goes out of his way to denigrate my work, and then piously poses as some kind of exemplary Catholic. He’s one of the three persons I had decided to ignore totally in these discussion threads, but surely I can be forgiven for snapping at him occasionally. Most of the time I simply pay no attention to what he says.

    I’ll agree that MacKenzie can come across as overbearing at times, and yes, he does see things from an almost exclusively traditionalist Catholic viewpoint. He needs to lighten up a bit. But you have decided to go after him unrelentingly for every single thing he says. Is that fair? Is it in keeping with our general desire to maintain a level of civilized discourse here? When I spent those weeks patching up the dispute between Yankevich and MacKenzie, I spoke very pointedly (and sometimes harshly) to MacKenzie, urging him to be more open-minded in debate. MacKenzie took my fraternal corrections to heart, and did his best in humility to approach Leo. Leo had a good soul despite his angry persona, and as soon as this happened he was willing to cease hostilities.

    Can’t you two guys do the same?

    Yes, my heart really does bleed for Leo. In fact, when I received news of his death in December I became extremely ill, and nearly lost all hope of continuing to live. I’m not lying, no matter what you think.

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      And indeed, Dr. Salemi, you and I have prayed for Leo for a very long time. You may remember my adding him to my daily Rosary as soon as I understood his difficulties. In the end, my friendship with brother Leo, truly the work of divine grace, compelled me to have a very holy bishop offer what only Christ, in the person of a priest, can offer, the most perfect and Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the repose of Leo Yankevich’s soul. And I can remember your own almost crippling grief as you struggled to help me to help my priestly contact in Poland to get in touch with Leo’s family.

      I shall never forget, after we had become such friends, thanks to your wonderful interventions, how brother Leo had complimented me on Christmas Eve, from Poland, on a poem of mine which he himself inspired.

      Please read all the comments on the poem’s thread most carefully, as you will find that someone actually contradicts Leo even in the knowledge that Leo liked it and inspired it: http://classicalpoets.org/2017/12/24/nativity-i-christmas-eve-1683-by-joseph-charles-mackenzie/

      My De Profundis is offered for Leo each and every night, and likely will be for the rest of my life, along with a prayer from the Office of the Dead.

      But ultimately, this is not about avatars or how overbearing my personality (and Leo’s wasn’t?) or even poetry.

      As of tonight, this is now about someone who uses the dead to put wedges between people, lay down ultimatums to superiors, and wage continual hate campaigns that will never, ever end. And the dead he has used here is dear to me also, Dr. Salemi, as I believe you know well—and I would never dream of using his death as a bargaining chip.

      Reply
  15. Charles Southerland

    Keep going, and we will be discussing the Counter-Currents issue. Remember?

    Reply
  16. Jan Darling

    Thank you Sally.
    You make a good point. I was brought up in the far south of NZ where Hogmanay and first-footing were observed. The Scots, much like the Irish, have extensively different vocabularies as well, so I expect differences in use. I just wasn’t prepared for these USA adverbial and verbal uses to leap at me from otherwise familiar language.
    The sixties NZ Passport, I think, had an opening page declaring: British Subject, New Zealand Citizen. Today’s version simply states NZ Passport in English and Maori.

    Reply
  17. The Society

    Dear SCP Readers,

    Please note that I have added some fine print on all of SCP posts, including this one. Going forward, if you feel that someone is out of line, and it is on your poem or other writing, then you can simply email me and I will remove it. The authority will rest with the poet or writer of the post. For this particular post, if Mr. Salemi wants any or all comments removed he can contact me:

    Views expressed by individual poets and writers above and by commenters below do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section below is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion, but may naturally include stinging and unpleasant exchanges. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer above has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.” Thank you.

    My apologies. I probably should have done this earlier on.

    The SCP Editor, Evan Mantyk

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Dear Mr. Mantyk —

      No, I don’t want anything removed from this comment thread. But I would like it to be closed right now to any further comments by anybody.

      In the future, if I publish any other poems here at the SCP website and the thread becomes another free-for-all of abuse, I will ask that ALL COMMENTS on that particular poem of mine be deleted.

      We already have cesspools like Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and all the other disgusting venues of the accursed “Social Media.” They are sickening dumps of mindlessness and yahooism. I’d rather that my poems at the SCP receive no commentary at all, than to be the occasion for more of this ordure.

      Reply
    • Sally Cook

      Hi, Evan —

      Said I’d never get into one of these impossible discussions, yet – here I am!
      Just want to say how disappointed I am in myself that I was not able to better define my questions for what they are — general, rhetorical questions to be discussed, not actual queries.
      Leo liked a good fight, it’s true, but surely there must be a better way to memorialize his passing. I also miss him very much —

      Reply

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