"Windsor Castle" by Paul SandbyA Prayer for England by Joseph Charles MacKenzie (with Audio) The Society June 3, 2017 Beauty, Poetry, Terrorism 56 Comments http://classicalpoets.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/03_Four.mp3 Sonnet IV. Edward the Confessor Edward, the Cross no more on England’s shores Thy people blesses. The light of faith is gone. From stolen thrones the foes of Christ wage wars Against thy sons, and not one sword is drawn. Thy Westminster, by pagan rites profaned, Where thy pure corpse awaits the Day of Days, No more receives thy monks, but slaves enchained By petty masters and their taxing ways. Fair Prince, restore the reign of truth and peace, The Merry England of thine own dear times; On Mary’s precious Dowry* send increase Of Holy Faith from Heaven’s starry climes, That rose and lily both on English sod May richly flourish for the sons of God. *Note: “Mary’s Dowry” is another name for England stemming from ancient times. From Sonnets for Christ the King, by Joseph Charles MacKenzie Joseph Charles MacKenzie is the first and last American to win First Place in the Long Poem Section of the Scottish International Poetry Competition, Henry M. Austin Poetry Prize. Related Post ‘Oak’ and Other Poetry by Jeffrey Essmann Oak In quiet awe before a solid oak in summer bloom, I thought: to such as these my Saxon kin of long ago bespoke their pagan prayers—a source of ... Tell the world:FacebookTwitterTumblrPinterestRedditLinkedInEmail 56 Responses Joseph S. Salemi June 3, 2017 This is from MacKenzie’s excellent collection, Sonnets for Christ the King, which I am in the midst of reading right now. England was indeed called “Mary’s Dowry” during the medieval period. It is hard to believe that a land that was so deeply and intensely Catholic, so learnedly devout for nearly a millennium, the land of the Venerable Bede and Edward the Confessor and the Pearl Poet, of Juliana of Norwich, of More and Fisher and the Carthusian martyrs, became a hell-hole of sick Puritan heresy in just a few decades after the Henrician break with Rome. As for the England of today, well… let’s not even think about that. Reply Joseph Charles MacKenzie June 5, 2017 I can assure everyone that the editor of TRINACRIA has just interpreted the octave exactly as it should be interpreted, which is simply to say that the primary cause of England’s demise, indeed the demise of all Europe, is apostasy, the rejection of divine and Catholic faith. While the octave prepares the prayer of the sestet, it also gives the context which Dr. Salemi rightly emphasizes. I also think his comment an invitation to consider his inventory of great English minds in the light of a principle I have always observed: Fides magistra artium. I render this in English thus: “Empty faith, empty art.” As Catholic, England was productive of some of the finest poetry ever produced. As apostate, England’s poetry is a minus sign on the balance sheet of civilization. “By their fruits ye shall know them…” Reply Ken June 16, 2017 The poems are superb. The voice of Ian Russel is the best I’ve heard. Reply Joseph Charles MacKenzie June 16, 2017 Thank you for bringing attention to Ian Russell’s voice. I feel that the Sonnets are put into high relief by the mastery of what this fine actor does so very well in the recordings. James Sale June 4, 2017 It was TS Eliot – plagiarising from GK Chesterton – who said that tradition was the process by which we gave votes to the dead; those who have gone before still live through the influence that they continue to have now. Every age, of course, has to decide how much tradition they want, and how much they will disallow the dead by tearing up tradition. Indeed, it was TS Eliot’s pal, Ezra Pound, who seemingly abandoned tradition altogether with his half-baked dictum, ‘Make it new’, for if we made everything new, what tradition would there be? What possibly could we build on from the past? If he had said, ‘Make it new, make it true, make it you’, then maybe I could find some sense in it, since the three clauses would then form a trinity of internal power and self-correction; but he didn’t. Novelty for the sake of it is a dead end. Alas, one that much C20th and C21st poetry has followed. One mark of a true poet is the ability to live in the past because the past is not dead, but still living. Living, not in an academic sense, but really living, or more accurately ‘alive’. The poet feels these connections. And the same is true of the future too for them; they write in the present but are emotionally connected to both the past and the future. But the past – my focus – especially in two ways: its intensity in terms of what actually occurred, and the meaning of this for living now in the present. Then, there is the future: the what if … things were different, had happened differently, what then? So we come to Joseph Mackenzie’s remarkable sonnet sequence, which I have review in its entirety on these pages last month, but here is the fourth in the sequence: Mackenzie’s Sonnet IV. Edward the Confessor. This wonderful sonnet is wonderful partly because it so intensely imagines the living presence of one of England’s greatest, and possibly the most spiritual, kings. And as he invokes that presence he cannot help but compare it with the tawdry present that we have now. At the same time the whole Roman Catholic world view is lightly, delicately both remembered and presaged, as poetry becomes prayer and a new hope is born for what England might become. A central figure in this ‘becoming’ is the Virgin Mary. I am not a Catholic but even I can feel the power of this image. Further, the poem evokes in me not only a sense of what the country might be in future, but also of the road not taken: the derailment of the Reformation and what was lost then. A poem like this creates a metaphorical rosary, if you will, between our desire and what was lost then. So as Eliot also observed – ‘only connect’ – and this poem does just that. Mackenzie’s collection, Sonnets for Christ the King, is major poetry for our times. They contain 77 superbly crafted sonnets of which this is one. Perhaps we may get – to this yang – some yin, or sonnets to the Queen of Heaven in due course. I hope so, for that would be another major event. Reply Joseph Charles MacKenzie June 13, 2017 In fact, I can assure Mr. Sale that the Mariological sequence has begun, on the very feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But what Mr. Sale is trying to inculcate in this particular comment should be of moment to every member of the SCP, namely the actuality of the past. John Ruskin, yet another important light of Mr. Sale’s country, said that today’s masterpieces took 500 years to complete. This is also Issac Newton’s “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Both Sale and Salemi, albeit workers in two very different vineyards, possess this spirit of time’s unity, tradition’s actuality, the confluence of past and present. It is one of many traits distinguishing them from all the others. So we may be thankful that Mr. Sale has revealed this aspect of his own praxis. This brings me to the central paradox of the Ars Poetica Nova. It is really the Ars Poetica Antica of our place and time. Reply Ken June 16, 2017 I have the 2-CD set. Packed full of poetry. Mr. Sale, you have it right about these. Reply Joseph Charles MacKenzie June 16, 2017 They are quite full compared to the average music CD, say, or audiobook, hence the $24.99 MSRP. But they are now on sale for Father’s Day with a 25% discount. But yes, you get an awful lot of poetry on the two CDs. I wonder what you think of the remastering (by an award-winning company in L.A.? Ken June 16, 2017 I did not get the sensation of being in the past hearing the poems. I seemed even more in the present than ever before. It really doesn’t matter what I understand or not, the poems are beautiful to hear. Like candy for the ear. Reply Joseph Charles MacKenzie June 16, 2017 What is in the past? God. What is in the present? God. What is in the future? Again, God. The Society June 4, 2017 Another poem on the continuing situation in England… Lest You Forget By Karen Mooney Infiltrate young minds to do your worst Steal our future to satisfy blood thirst Wreak havoc, mayhem, generate confusion To forward your aberrant, twisted, delusion That your war is righteous, honourable and just Slaughtering innocents? For you surely a must To strike fear, to enhance your repute Encourage vengeance to help you recruit You can wound our bodies, maim or kill Strike fear, worries and yet even still You will never, ever, shake the foundation Of the spirit embodied within our nation Born of democracy, freedom and pride From which you benefit yet now deride A union of peoples, counties and regions A civilisation, an empire of legions That stretches far beyond these shores Reflected in the culture of a united corps One that endures challenge and threat Standing always together, lest you forget ©Karen Mooney June 2017 https://goo.gl/EEEEP7 Reply Joseph Charles MacKenzie June 14, 2017 Your “spirit embodied within our nation,” if referencing the United Kingdom, is precisely the same spirit embodied in the countries that organized the attack, namely the diabolical spirit anti-Christian, anti-Western, anti-capitalist liberalism. This falsifies the poem and renders it, therefore, meaningless. Reply Ken June 16, 2017 This is pathetic compared to MacKenzie. Reply Joseph Charles MacKenzie June 16, 2017 The current flood of gushy, mushy, terror attack poetry might be said to be pathetic without comparison to real poetry. It is pathetic all on its own, Ken. Basil Drew Eceu June 4, 2017 Mr. MacKenzie, this is an exquisite sonnet, reminiscent of Wordsworth and Arnold, the former poet for its praise and cadence, the latter poet for its melancholy tone. Your message is profound. Your diction is sublime, and clear. “From stolen thrones the foes of Christ wage wars Against thy sons’ and not one sword is drawn.” What I admire most is its idiosyncratic character. I think it stands up to the best of English sonnets. Reply Joseph Charles MacKenzie June 5, 2017 And, of course, Mr. Eceu, we all read with great attention your poem on the Westminster Bridge attack demonstrating your great love for the British peoples. As to your very kind comment, I must confess that I have had almost no affair with Wordsworth whatsoever or only very distantly, still less with Arnold. It may come as a bit of a surprise that I had originally intended to write the Sonnets for Christ the King in French, a language which over time has become my natural language, far more so than my native English. And yet, your poem recalled for me a plaque I had seen on or near Westminster Bridge many years ago referencing Wordsworth’s poem on the subject, composed when the bridge was quite the novelty. Perhaps you are right in suggesting that my diction is Wordsworthian, For, like you, I, too, have composed a poem on the Westminster Bridge attack. It is based on Wordsworth’s Petrarchan sonnet “Composed on Westminster Bridge” and borrows some of its rhymes in homage to this most lyrical of poets. Without posting it within these pages, may I please share it with you now, kind Sir, through the following link: https://mackenziepoet.com/westminster-bridge/ Reply Ken June 16, 2017 Wait til you get the double CDs. You’ll be blown away! Reply Joseph Charles MacKenzie June 16, 2017 I must respond because Mr. Eceu is right to emphasize the diction. It is the diction that really comes out in the recordings. I think Ken would agree. We have been getting a really good response on Ian Russell’s diction, his pacing, his voice. But yes, diction in the voice draws out the diction of the text. It seems obvious, but even the best actors have a hard time linking their diction to a text and all too often replace the text with their own diction. I allow for that, but only if I think it will work! A.N.Other Published Poet June 5, 2017 Theology aside (since I am an atheist), it is a pretty clunky effort at a sonnet. Twisted syntax throughout, and almost impossible to read aloud: “From stolen thrones the foes of Christ”. And why the archaic Thee and Thou? – for goodness sake! Reply Joseph Charles MacKenzie June 5, 2017 As a matter of fact, I was at a party of secular atheist friends last weekend who wanted to celebrate the release of the Sonnets for Christ the King over wine and cheese. Half the group purchased the 2-CD set and later expressed the most positive reactions, emphasizing the musicality of the sonnets. On this very page, just above the sonnet, is an audio MP3 of my poem. After you read this reply, simply scroll up and click on the play button to hear one of England’s finest voices reciting Sonnet IV. You will find that, contrary to your idea that the poem is “almost impossible to read aloud,” Ian Russell reads it with perfect, mellifluous ease, bringing out the poem’s undeniable euphony. As for archaic language, may I please refer you to Mr. Sale’s comment above. I sincerely believe that you are someone who would gain a great deal from my work and cordially invite you to consider making a purchase of the 2-CD set of Sonnets for Christ the King at: https://www.mackenziepoet.com. All good wishes! Reply Ken June 16, 2017 Hearing the poems as a whole might create a different sensation. I’m no theologian myself, but the effect of the entire sequence is haunting. You remember some of the poems. Almost naturally. I can almost recite some of the first sonnets as I drive. Reply Joseph Charles MacKenzie June 16, 2017 James Sale, who analyzes extremely well my verses, never lets himself get lost in the trees. He would doubtless be pleased, Ken, that you are seeing the bigger picture of the sequence and letting that work on you. Very important observation. James Sale June 16, 2017 Yes, Ken, I do recommend the whole sequence; the effect is cumulative; do read my article on this website about the structure, and also for a fuller version of the same article, including more on the numerology, see http://ezinearticles.com/?Sonnets-for-Christ-the-King,-Joseph-Charles-Mackenzie&id=9712185 – the last 14 poems in particular are especially pungent. Reid McGrath June 6, 2017 Mr. Mackenzie, while my comment, this comment, may be lacking in profundity and praise, let actions speak louder than words: I would like to read and study your sonnets. Mr. Salemi purports to be “reading” your SONNETS FOR CHRIST THE KING, presently, and yet all I can find online is the audio version, is there a paperback or hardback out yet? Reply Joseph S. Salemi June 6, 2017 I’m reading the book because Mr. MacKenzie has sent me a photocopy of the text. Reply Joseph Charles MacKenzie June 6, 2017 Gentle Readers, Professor Salemi possesses a copy of the manuscript by virtue of the fact that he is one of our nation’s most respected intellectuals and its finest poet. It is of tradition for the lesser poet to seek the approval of the greater. Oh dear! I now find my inbox receiving requests for mss. Please see below my response to the poet, Reid McGrath, on how to access PDFs of the text. The truth is that I write for the voice, not the page, hence the delay in producing the hardcover for general consumption. I insist that my poems are far better appreciated thawed by the warm voice of Ian Russell, a ten-year veteran of the British stage, than frozen in that freezer chest of words we call a book. Let us not forget that Lentini accompanied himself on a form of the Arabic “oud” when performing the first ever to appear in the world, and that no less than Ronsard, the very Prince of Poets, accompanied himself on the same instrument’s descendant, the European lute, when performing his sonnets in the court of Catherine de’ Medici. As an anti-modernist, I return to the first rites of poetry—song! “Sonetto”—a little sound! James Sale June 6, 2017 Having read the whole MS and listened to the audio CD set as well, I can only say both are superb. It’s a gem of a production and the actor’s readings produce some extraordinary emotional effects. One of the defining marks of Joseph Mackenzie’s poetry is its intensity – to adapt Keats’ phrase: loading every rift with ore. As my review makes clear, there may be a line here or there, or a word, that jars contemporary sensibilities, but the flow and the integration of the 77 sonnets is of the imaginative first order. I do not think any poet in the English language has written a poem as great as Paradise Lost, but the words Dr Johnson used to ‘nail’ Milton’s achievement apply – in their lesser place – to Joseph Mackenzie’s effort: ‘whoever soared so high for so long’? A sustained sonnet sequence of this magnitude is really difficult to do. Joseph Charles MacKenzie June 14, 2017 We are now entering the phase of the hardback. I thank you for your insistence as others are now clamoring. Reply James Sale June 14, 2017 Great news – can’t wait!!! Ken June 16, 2017 It would be nice, but honestly, the audio CDs are an experience in themselves. Joseph Charles MacKenzie June 6, 2017 We are preparing a crowdfunding campaign for a deluxe hardcover copy of the Sonnets for Christ the King, so that’s in the works. You can sign up for updates about that at http://www.mackenziepoet.com For academics and English teachers the meanwhile, I recommend the MacKenziePoet.com Shop where each individual sonnet is available in MP3 audio, PDF text, or both! Click on an individual sonnet, hear the audio sample, and choose “Both MP3 and PDF” or whichever format you want: https://mackenziepoet.com/shop This is my recommended mode of “tasting” the sonnets, as a Franciscan priest who is doing that now explained. The sonnets are extremely rich and therefore better taken one or two at a time, rather than “draining the entire bottle in a single sitting.” Alternatively, you can get a 25% off coupon code for the entire physical 2-CD set (beautifully and expensively remastered by an award-winning company in L.A.) just by signing up on the website. It’s definitely a sound experience with the voice of Ian Russell, an actor form northern England. https://mackenziepoet.com Reply James Sale June 6, 2017 That is marvellous news – I certainly want to support your kickstarter campaign so please keep me posted. My review made the point that all that was lacking really was … the book!!!! Reply Joseph Charles MacKenzie June 6, 2017 When a critic like James Sale call for a book, then it’s time to work on the book, full stop. Ken June 16, 2017 Could the book have a pocket for the CDs? I don’t mean to harp, but I’m loading the poems on my car player because I can’t get away from them. Reid McGrath June 6, 2017 Thanks for the info. Looking forward to it. Reply Ken June 16, 2017 When the book comes out, I’ll still be listening to the audiobook though. Reply Joseph Charles MacKenzie June 16, 2017 As well you should! The voice has precedent over the text. The text is secondary. I write for the voice. Sally Cook June 6, 2017 Thank you for touching on topics few seem to want to discuss. We have become so illiterate and proscribed; hemmed in by political dictates and lowered standards! it is such a pleasure to see someone raising the flag for civilization. Every other poem I see operates in a sort of emotional frenzy. And even when rhyme is used, the meter is absent. If a poet fails to conquer the basics of poetry, then how can he ever hope to say anything in a format which resembles poetry? As for Pound, I have often wondered what Eliot’s work might have been if Pound had not been his editor. In my work; both poetry and paintings, I incorporate and use ideas. I love ideas and want always to make them more concise and attractive by word use. How can any poet worthy of the name ignore them in favor of mushy emotionalism? I love humor, but you have to dig for it, as very little is seen of it these days. Right now, I am interested in a crossover of the senses. For instance, I absolutely agree with you that poetry is music. Too bad there don’t seem to be any composers around to write accompanying melodies for poems. Or perhaps there are, but they are having difficulty finding lyricists? “Empty faith, empty art” — how could it be otherwise? Truth must be respected in everything. A thing I love most about Padre Pio is his respect for truth. Perhaps you know the story about how, when people came to him in the confessional, he was gifted with such perspicacity he could immediately sense lies and would simply say “You’re lying — get out.” Why is that almost never said today in our schools, our churches, our news media, our governments? I must read more of this poem of yours, as well as others you have written. I am new to the Society of Classical Poets website. What originally attracted me to it was your inaugural poem for Donald Trump, whom I believe has an excellent start on being one of our finest presidents, and will ultimately be just that, on a par with the founders. I could not agree more about your remarks about Dr. Joseph Salemi, who has kindly taken an interest in my poems for some years now. He has been grievously neglected. Please keep me posted on the publication of your work, and thank you for your evocation of past things, and for honoring them, and their creators. You and James Sale are inspirational minds Sincerely, Reply Joseph Charles MacKenzie June 7, 2017 I must applaud you, Miss Cook, for your extremely important insistence on the priority of the intellect over the will. This is a constant in the tradition in which I was trained as a traditional cleric in Minor Orders (Lector, Porter, Acolyte, Exorcist). It is fundamental not only among the Thomists of the 13th-century, but among the early Cappadocian, Antiochian, Greek, and Latin fathers. The paradox people are indicating in the recorded Sonnets for Christ the King seems to lie in the emotions aroused in the listener—to the point of tears I am told, or even fervor in prayer—in contrast to a sequence of poems having not one thing to do with the emotionalism you and I are speaking of, which is impossible in any case, as I do not consider either my self or my emotions a source of the poems. And I appreciate to no end your allusion to Padre Pio, a Cappuchin. I must share with you a little secret, a propos of the Franciscans. If you were to attach any label at all to the Sonnets for Christ the King, there is only one I can recommend, and that is Franciscan. I am actually a regional poet. My native New Mexico, illegally annexed by the United States federal government only quite recently, was the pure creation of the sons of St. Francis who first entered these lands in 1540. A local expression of my mother’s generation was: “Todos somos Franciscanos aqui.” We are all Franciscans here. And this was very true before the diabolical destruction wrought by Vatican II. Everything, our language, our native adobe architecture, our cuisine, our customs, even our faith we owe to the Franciscans. The Loretto nuns in Santa Fe who educated my mother were Tertiaries, that is, Franciscans. The true name of our capitol, established in 1610, is “La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francsco de Assis.” The Royal City of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi. Franciscans inspired our first poet, Don Gaspar Perez de Villagrá, to complete his foundational epic poem (we are only one of three civilizations to boast one), Historia de la Nueba Mexico published in Madrid in 1610. Villagrá, a captain of Juan de Oñate, our first governor, was even a protagonist in his own story, and an important one. If one understands St. Francis, his genius, his vision of life, and, above all, his chivalry, then one will understand the Sonnets for Christ the King. If these poems are to be assigned a human authorship other than the poor and wretched scribe whose name is currently attached to them, it would be the 21 Franciscan Martyrs of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 by whose intercessions the entire sequence was begun on the Poverello’s feast day when I informed the Sovereign Master that I would complete the work not as a poet, but an unworthy scribe. Beside, the best poets of all, unsurpassed to this day, are all Franciscans, either “uomini religiosi,” or directly influenced by St. Francis. Consider Gido Guinizelli, the originator of the Dolce Stil Novo, whom Dante himself refers to as his master. Think of Guittone, the humble Franciscan friar of Arezzo, who saved the sonetto from extinction by translating those of Lentini, inventor of the form, into the triumphant Tuscan dialect. Nor should we forget the bold Franciscan spirituality of that most Observant of Franciscans, Fray Jacopone da Todi, who fathoms the depths of hell and soars to the heights of heaven in the magnificent Laude. And yes, these were all men of truth. They watch me, correct me, aid me as I write. What some call my work is really only theirs. The Sonnets for Christ the King are so many roses of a vine that they, good brothers all, had lovingly tended for centuries. This is the truth. I am nothing. https://mackenziepoet.com Reply James Sale June 7, 2017 Thank you Sally Cook, for your kind appreciation. As William James rightly observed: ‘The craving for appreciation is the deepest principle of human nature’. Reply Ken June 16, 2017 Inspirational is right. I think Sally has it right on. The audio experience also shows the inverse of MacKenzie’s “empty faith, empty art.” The audiobook reveals the inverse: “full faith, full art.” Reply Joseph Charles MacKenzie June 16, 2017 Just you know, too, regarding the “cumulative effect” Mr. Sale is speaking of, really any good collection will produce something like that on the reader. My review of Sale’s “The Lyre Speaks True,” was focused on what I thought time and space would allow, but, indeed, Mr. Sale’s collection is also a unity which, indeed, has a cumulative effect. You really feel like you have been somewhere reading “The Lyre Speaks True,” that you have spend some time with a man of many stories and travels. The poet’s personality is often the unifying substrata of a really good collection, which Mr. Sale’s certainly is. James Sale June 17, 2017 That’s very kind of you to say so, Joseph. I hope Ken gets to find and enjoy my poetry some day soon. Best wishes – James Joseph Charles MacKenzie June 7, 2017 And there is a desire infinitely deeper: the desire for God. Reply James Sale June 7, 2017 Ha ha ha!! Yes and yes, though we must remember that what man has, she and he are in the image of God, which is why gratitude (what GK Chesterton called the highest form of thought) toward God is the deepest appreciation of all. Reply Joseph Charles MacKenzie June 7, 2017 Oh yes, how often we forget! And let this ever be the motive of all our works and deeds! Ken June 16, 2017 You can actually feel the gratitude if you listen to the poems one after the other. I did one sitting per CD and it is definitely a gratitude thing. Joseph Charles MacKenzie June 13, 2017 Much of this discussion has had to do with valuing the fullness of language through recourse to ancient usage. Dr. Salemi has provided penetrating insight on this question in one of his recent essays entitled, “The Snares of Simplicity.” Here is a pertinent passage: “…complexity, intricacy, and the use of arcane or obsolete diction have always been an integral part of the poetic endeavor. No one ever spoke the artificial Greek of the Iliad; it was a carefully preserved construct used to fulfill genre expectations. Some people made fun of Spenser’s conscious archaisms and inkhorn terms, but Shakespeare himself also wrote a language that no one heard in Elizabethan London. Ben Jonson’s English is as mannered as Cicero’s Latin. In fact, archaism and non-colloquial diction are the rule in great poetry; Wordsworthian plain language and modernist simplification are the exceptions and deviations. There are other related prejudices that go along with the simplifying tendency: no ideas but in things; show but don’t tell; lard a metrical line with substitutions; if you rhyme do it slant.These little rules make up a Gestalt of compositional orthodoxy that is unconsciously imposed on contemporary writers. The little rules are a backdrop of preference and expectation, all the more constricting for the fact that they aren’t questioned or discussed. Only by a sheer effort of the will does a modern poet break free from them.” The entire essay may be enjoyed here: http://pennreview.com/2017/05/the-snares-of-simplicity/ Reply James Sale June 13, 2017 I always find myself these days agreeing with Joseph – and certainly deeply respecting his views – but never quite going as far as him. The article he cites by Joseph Salemi on Simplification is quite brilliant (and truculent!) and makes a great case for seeing through the real political and theological ideologies underpinning this drive over the last two centuries. Negative ideologies of course. In my own way I have spent most of my life resisting these simplifying tendencies; but I ‘simply’ cannot be a purist about it. Like Dr Johnson, I would take a pragmatic and experiential view of what works in poetry. So – my best example – although Johnson was politically, religiously, and temperamentally totally opposed to Milton, yet he could see that, as a poem, Paradise Lost ‘worked’ – was indeed a great poem. Thus, I have no problem appreciating Ben Jonson or Spenser as they are two of my favourite poets, but I would not therefore move to the position that, say, ‘slant’ rhymes are bad in or of themselves. Just as full rhyme can be used to astonishing effect, and a slant rhyme be a meagre, modernist cop-out; so a slant rhyme – in the hands of a master – can also astonish. The example that springs first to mind is the consonantal ‘slant’ rhymes of Wilfred Owen’s Strange Meeting – surely, one of the greatest poems of the C20th? And the weird dislocation of the rhymes perfectly conveys that sense that they are in ‘hell’. We can have rules and they are good to follow, and good for instruction, but as with the Sabbath – the rules are made for man (and women), not mankind made for the rules. It is difficult to say this, but I am all for generalisations and the big principles and the huge philosophies too, and we do need to see these clearly, but I am also into those subversive details, small details, that poets notice and thrive upon. I guess what I am trying to say is that too much yang requires some yin to achieve balance in the rhetorical structure that a poem is. Reply Joseph Charles MacKenzie June 13, 2017 In some way, I am excluded from the tension, because I ceased to compose in English after my “Dunblane Cathedral” (1996). In other words, the question seems to me “one of those English problems,” the problem of working in a rhyme-poor language. I have no dog in the race and find myself outside the stadium altogether, unless I venture out onto the streets of the profane, which is extremely rare with me. Never do I seek the rhymes that work. The rhymes that work are gathered from the ground. The rhymes that soar above my head come down to me as needed, without my asking. I do wish I had the means to think about these things as Mssrs. Sale and Salemi do so terribly well! James Sale June 14, 2017 Considering how great your poetry is, Joseph Campbell, there’s little need to worry about theory! Again, I am with Dr Johnson on it: theory must give way to practice! We have loads of “professors’ of literature in England and America who theorise ad nauseam and their works reflect, alas, the rootless verbiage that they peddle. Ken June 16, 2017 It seems like there is no getting away from the imperfections of poetry. All I know is that great poetry comes off as great, whatever the imperfections… Ken June 16, 2017 Thank you, Mr. MacKenzie. I see more where you are coming from thanks to the Salemi essay. Reply Joseph Charles MacKenzie June 16, 2017 Oh yes, you absolutely must read as many Salemi pieces as you can, whether the essays or the poems. I also recommend the essays to be found in James Sale’s The Lyre Speaks True (see my review of this very fine book in the separate posting. These are men of great learning and we need to follow their lead. Father Richard Libby June 28, 2017 Mr. MacKenzie, congratulations on a poignant and well-written prayer! Reply Joseph McKenzie June 20, 2018 Thank you, Fr. Libby, for your very kind congratulations. 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