For Elizabeth
On the Poet’s Eleventh Wedding Anniversary

 

Though you behold me silent in this room,
Know that I walk in fields of fresh-cut hay;
Though I be still, my thoughts like roses bloom
And run with clouds across the vault of day.

The west wind summons me beyond this chair
Where you now see me, seemingly transfixed;
Though closed, my window draws the mountain air
With scent of pine and cedar intermixed.

We twain this mortal clay shall not confine,
Nor seasons circumscribe, nor passing years
Encase eternity. Our stars outshine
The squandered light of this world’s dying spheres:

For love, unbounded, cannot be contained,
Save by that Heart to whom it is ordained.

 

Festum Sanctae Mariae Magdalenae Poenitentis
Anno MMXVII

 

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.

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66 Responses

  1. James Sale

    Normally we think of squandering time or money, so I love the conceit of ‘squandering’ light; very powerful. The tight ‘boundary’ of the concluding couplet, of course, reverse that effect of the world’s squandering, since nothing is wasted in its precision.

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Mr. Sale, you have greatly relieved me by your comment.

      Although, the couplet, in the sense of the “snapping back awake from the meditation” that I so very much hoped to achieve, and which only you have that technical agility to indicate, is really no act of any poetic virtue on my part.

      I feel that the many, many uses of the couplet readers have pointed out in the Sonnets for Christ the King are the effect of the English sonnet’s primary developer, your own countryman William Shakespeare.

      Someone once accused me once of “returning to the horse and buggy days” with the English sonnet’s traditional idiomatic usages. But a better analogy came to me later.

      Shakespeare’s sonnet form is not a horse and buggy. For me, it is rather a 1742 Guaneri “del Gesu” violin, the same that we saw Rachel Barton Pine play on last Saturday at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. (Her 18 million dollars worth of fiddle is on permanent loan to her, by the way!)

      For, when you really blow the dust off of Shakespeare’s form, when you polish it up, position that bridge, add the new strings, and warm it up, you find that it does anything you want. You want the couplet to do this? Then, by my faith, it will do it.

      And I think that Shakespeare did not live to fully understand what he had accomplished. Wyatt and Surrey had furnished all the material, but as a player, I think Shakespeare was really just beginning to understand the form’s capabilities.

      It seems there are so many things, alas, that are not traceable to any virtue on my part, this being one of them.

      Reply
      • James Sale

        Dear Mackenzie – that may be so: as a poet one may always be conscious of the technique one is employing – or even fully of what one is saying (did Shakespeare himself ever imagine that he said what all the subsequent critics have ascribed to him?) but the fact is that the ‘Muse’ through us does accomplish extraordinary things if we are in the right mode of receptivity, which I do believe you to be. And further, on your point about Shakespeare’s sonnet form, again you are spot on. I like all sonnet forms, including the Petrarchan, but I think, as I think you do, that the Shakespearian form is superior in English precisely because of what it is capable of. The Petrarchan’s structure of octave/sestet lends itself beautifully to a binary contrast; but the Shakespearean form in its 3 quatrain + couplet structure lends itself to extraordinary emotional and logical leaps: a sort of thesis, antithesis, synthesis, and then when you think you can’t go any further – boom – the couplet that clinches everything. Stephen Fry observed, and I think he is right, that the ability to write an effective sonnet is the test of any poet worth their salt. Your 77 on Christ the King, therefore, are an extraordinary performance.

  2. Amy Foreman

    This is a stirring and beautiful love poem, Joseph Charles MacKenzie, with the perfect tension between the seen and unseen, the corporeal and the immaterial, the still, silent “clay” and the walking, running, shining soul loosely bound to that “clay,” but not confined . . . Very lovely, sir.

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Thank you, Amy. I greatly appreciate that you have identified that dichotomy “material/immaterial.” For you, I will explain.

      At St. John’s College, I had the privilege of getting to know the founder of that school’s Great Books Program, Mortimer J. Adler, a popularizer of philosophy who was popular himself. Professor Adler was a very good Thomist and Aristotelian. A Jew, he converted to Catholicism at the end of his life.

      He could read Aristotle’s Greek without recourse to any dictionary, when I knew him.

      One of his favorite Thomistic teachings was the “immateriality of the intellect.” It is not surprising that he appeared on TV with William Buckley to discuss just that. He loved proving it, as well, one of his favorite proofs.

      So you have actually discerned the very thing which makes the poem a metaphysical poem, as well as a love poem. And the couplet adds the final, Chistological note.

      As to love, its only real expression is marriage—matrimony being a perfect state, as we learn in our sacramental theology. This is reflected in the mystical marriage.

      The Heart in the couplet is the Sacred Heart because the Feast of the Blessed Magdalene, the date of our anniversary, occurs in July, what we call the Month of the Sacred Heart. The Sacred Heart is also for us a play on material immaterial, because, metaphysically, it is both the heart that was pierced by the centurion’s lance, the Heart of Mary’s flesh, but also the metaphysical bridge, if you will, between our visible finite world and the Infinite One.

      But you comment proves what a Franciscan told me about the Sonnets for Christ the King: “Everyone will discern in the poems what he or she will be given to discern.” So that can be many things, this layer or that layer.

      As James Sales has said, the hallmark of true poetry is the disarming of the critical intellect. One might even say the lifting of the critical intellect once disarmed.

      Reply
  3. Satyananda Sarangi

    Greetings Sir!
    It is undoubtedly one of the pleasant experiences to read your sonnets. And this love poem is quite good.
    Needless to say, I am getting inspired by every post on this website.

    Regards

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Dear Mr. Sarangi,

      I always appreciate that you have experienced this lightness, this pleasure. Pleasure is a thing we have destroyed in the West.

      In your Indian tradition, it seems you have had many medieval poets who understood the pleasures of poetry—even Kabir, I would say—possibly because they accompanied themselves on musical instruments in recitation and so understood one of the purposes of art: to unburden.

      Art is for man. I write for you in view of my King.

      Reply
      • Satyananda Sarangi

        Yes, indeed. Being from a land where English is not the native language, sometimes it is quite impossible to write in strict metrical form. But, I still want to dedicate some lines to you :

        Art that withers with time isn’t what we seek,
        For heavens never wished men to slumber;
        These clouds that mask our vision may lumber
        Around and mock us for being so weak.

        The carrion of truth, the dying beauty
        And warmth of the genuine lives that fade,
        Where e’erlasting wonders of world are made,
        Die not, but live on as one entity.

        O Lord! With a zillion eyes, behold
        The men lying in dust, blood and folklore;
        With each elapsing day, You bless them more
        By the far stretching sun rays carved of gold.

        Ere the pendulum hands freeze to be stilled,
        Guide all through good, and let Eden be filled.

        © 2017 Satyananda Sarangi

        ( This poem has no meter, I would like you to ignore this fact.)

        Regards

    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      I boastfully, pridefully, and shamelessly want everyone to know that this generous comment comes from someone whose command of prosody is the absolute best our nation has to offer!

      So there!

      Reply
  4. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    And, of course, we have discussed in another thread Salemi’s use of olfaction in his “Potpourri,” so verse 8 of the sonnet has a very contemporary precedent, if you will.

    New Mexico contains part of the chain of the Rocky Mountains. Our balcony gives onto the nearby Sandia Mountains which are proud, rough, and majestic in an austere and mysterious way. I call them my “mystical mountain.” If the winds are just right, indeed the scent of pine and cedar can be discerned.

    But I am also situated among three medieval “pueblos” or villages. Jemez to the west, Santa Anna to the north, and Sandia to east. The Puebloans have traditionally used the various trees for medicinal purposes and have evolved a symbology of trees, much in the manner of European medieval culture.

    The pine tree is the tree of the gentiles whose boughs can replaces the palms of our Palm Sunday liturgy. The height of the conifer symbolizes the stature of the Messiah.

    The cedar is of such biblical importance that I have no reason to expound on that here. Our New Mexico cedars are of humble appearance compared to those of Lebanon. They characterize our landscape. The Indians associate them with creativity.

    I offer this for readers as I live in a very symbolic world which informs every verse!

    Reply
    • Lorna Davis

      Mr. MacKenzie, I loved this sonnet the first time through, but found so much more after reading your description of the area you live in. I also live in the mountains, but on the coastal slope of a drought-prone area, where the only pines and cedars are the ones I planted many years ago. You’ve painted a lovely picture here, not just of your world and your reverie, where you “run with clouds across the vault of sky”, but also the feeling of a deep and peaceful relationship, one that shares but also transcends the environment you describe.

      Reply
      • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

        For Readers, Lorna Davis is a fine formalist poet whose biography is most edifying indeed. You may recall her winning 2nd place in the prestigious Society of Classical Poets 2017 Annual Poetry Contest.

        Lorna Davis is also what we call in French a “poetesse née,” who began writing verses at the age of six.

        I had very much enjoyed her poem entitled, “The Harvest.” It contains a moral lesson some very sad, unfortunate souls I have come to know of late, might do well to heed:

        The Harvest

        It’s what you’ve learned to feel in life
        That you will feel in death;
        The love or hate that fills your heart
        Will fill your dying breath.
        The machinations of this world
        Are but a stage for learning;
        The fires that fuel the spirit
        Are what keep the wheels turning.
        Each moment on this earthly plane
        Is one more chance to grow,
        But what you’ll harvest is your Self;
        Be careful what you sow.

        So I thank you most profoundly, Lorna Davis. In a way your comment is the most important because you have seen how our environment is both shared and transcended.

        One of the errors of modernism is the cult of nature, naturalism, which imbues mere creatures with a kind of divine or quasi-divine status—nature as an end in itself.

        Perhaps you might share my Thomistic perspective according to which nature is merely one of the Five Ways to the intellective realization of God’s existence. It is the Way of Causation. The majesty we behold in our environment elicits in us the meditation of its cause. As no created thing can cause itself, the Creator must be, in fact, outside the “chain of causality.”

        Therefore, the grandeur that Lorna Davis and I are contemplating in this discussion is not the grandeur of creation, but the grandeur of the Creator.

      • Lorna Davis

        Mr. MacKenzie, thank you for your kind response to my comment. I am so pleased to know that you found one of my poems worthy of remembering. I am acutely aware of how far out of my league I am here, and as disheartening as the conversations have sometimes been, I am reminded over and over of how lucky I am to be a member.

        We have at times been at opposite ends of the political spectrum – I’m afraid my liberal views run about four generations deep – but a group that abandons civility is unlikely to be much help, in my opinion, in preserving or enhancing our civilization. Surely the one lies at the very core of the other. So I thank you for always being willing to discuss ideas and ideals in a rational manner; it seems likely that what humanity has in common – love of family, love of nature, a sense of the divine – far outweighs our differences. And good poetry is good poetry.

        I looked into Thomism a little today, and will have to look further. One of the most profound spiritual experiences I have ever had was in an astronomy class in my first semester in college – my first sense of the actual scale of the known universe. It didn’t in any way diminish my belief in a Creator – quite the opposite, in fact: I have since that day been in awe, and realize that It is not something we can shrink down to a size that our brains can easily assimilate. I do perceive the Creator everywhere in the creation, not that the creation in itself is divine, or that the creation and the Creator are one, but that It is present in every particle and all of the space between. I’m afraid I’m not finding the words to describe that awareness. Perhaps the words of St. Thomas Aquinas will help. Again, thank you.

  5. David Watt

    Mr. Mackenzie, I would liken this sonnet to a set of scales upon which rest the senses, higher feelings, and the physical world. Balance is effortlessly maintained despite the difficult task of choosing the optimal position for each element.

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Many thanks David Watt for your observation about balance, because in truth, the entire structure of the sonnet, let’s face it, balances motion against rest, statis against movement.

      Of course, this is the observation of a poet. Readers may recall Mr. Watt’s unforgettable sunbeam-savouring rabbit that appeared last June in the Society of Classical Poets: http://classicalpoets.org/taking-a-gambol-and-other-poetry-by-david-watt/

      I would love to hear this poem recited in the Australian accent because I think the full force of its wit would become quite apparent.

      For Readers, David Watt is an Australian poet from Canberra, where the famous Floriade festival takes place I believe—an annual event doubtless worthy a poem!

      Reply
      • David Watt

        Thank you for your kind words Mr. MacKenzie. The Floriade Festival with its artistically displayed tulips and many other flowers would indeed prove a fine subject for poetry. As we generally attend each year, I will keep this idea in mind.

        I hadn’t thought of reciting ‘Taking a Gambol’ in my distinctively Aussie accent. However, I do appreciate your suggestion.

  6. Sally Cook

    Dear Mr. MacKenzie —

    In this dumb, dry age, your poem is so evocative of all that is good.

    Good gets little attention today, and so I thank you.

    I read with interest what you say about trees. My father loved trees, and was always planting them. I can still see a row of pines he planted on one side of a road near here. When we drive by, it is as if I were visiting him.

    I would like to show you some poems I have written about that. Joseph S. Salemi has published some of these in the past in his journal TRINACRIA.

    All good art is in some way an expression of an aspect of love, and symbolic of love. That is why love poems are so difficult to write and so few write them. Your poem puts us one step closer to the ultimate truth.

    Reply
    • James Sale

      Hi Sally Cook – I love your point about good art being an expression of an aspect of love; that is very profound, and I believe it to be true. Thank you.

      Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Dear Sally Cook,

      I am greatly honored by your kind and very important comment.

      [Reminder for Readers: Sally Cook is one of those very fortunate poets who has been able to publish in Joseph Salemi’s TRINACRIA Review—the finest lyric review in our country at this time and well nigh impossible to get into—and is a prolific poet who has appeared in many distinguished publications. TRINARCRIA # 16 presents her exquisite “What the Moon Knows,” but I believe she has appeared in other issues as well.]

      I would love to see your poems on trees! Keep in mind, I am in a wilderness, where my family has been for at least 400 years (with the foundation of our capital of Santa Fe). Trees have significance and play into at least one of the New Mexico poems of Sonnets for Christ the King.

      What I wouldn’t give to hear your Sally Cook opinion about my Sonnet 27 which places our Spanish-introduced cottonwoods in a place of honor! Here is the link and please enjoy, Ms. Cook: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1izFY5IZts

      Is it possible to place an example of the poems you are talking about here now that you have utterly teased all us readers? (!)

      Reply
      • Sally Cook

        Dear Mr. Mackenzie —

        I was able to get where I could hear you read your Sonnet 27, and greatly admired your reading of it. However,

        I would like very much to read your sonnet 27on the page, but don’t have enough computer proficiency to be able to locate it in print.

        Would you mind very much printing it here so all of us may see it?

        Here are two of the poems about my father’s trees – one chestnut, admired; the others, a row of pines planted.

        A Memory Of Franklin Street
        Published National Review

        Heaven surrounded us, all sweetness then,
        Bright sky and earth, so calm and more than fair;
        Warm and expansive, welcoming, so when
        We passed a building it seemed more than square
        Brick and rough timber. I might stop to stare
        And wonder at the glow of what had been
        Before my time; reach out to touch the bare
        And rugged trunk of one great tree again

        Recall my father once stood with me there
        As he explained its decades, more than ten,
        Of leafing and then shedding. Past repair,
        Its life had paralleled the lives of men.

        The Holland Road Pines

        Originally Published in TRINACRIA

        Long rows of pines my father placed
        On Holland Road are interlaced
        With what he knew. I see them there;
        He cannot know my backward stare.

        I sense his purpose here. I read
        His poetry, perceive his need
        To leave a mark, that we may know
        Time moves, although it is so slow

        We barely know it takes us where
        An aging footstep on a stair
        Speaks volumes of the speed of night;
        I see his trees, in fading light,

    • Ken

      Sally, Your “All good art is in some way an expression of an aspect of love, and symbolic of love” has helped me understand Mr. MacKenzie’s work. Every poem of his I read or hear just proves what you are saying.

      Reply
      • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

        I am very please, Ken, that you have also enjoyed the other poems as well. Indeed, if anyone should ask what the Sonnets for Christ the King are about, it would be perfectly correct to answer: “Love.”

    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Sally, the two poems, one published in the National Review and the other in TRINACRIA are gorgeous beyond compare.

      These are fresh, almost nondescript in their ease of language, and one could go on I suppose in a technical way with the rhymes falling so perfectly, just as naturally as leaves from a tree.

      But their most outstanding quality is truly their lyricism, in particular that part of lyricism of which your trees are an outstanding metaphor, to speak of the passage of time.

      The way in which you have integrated what I call the “hidden face of the father” is perfectly magnificent.

      Ms. Cook, I must tell you that the beauty of these two poems far exceeds my abilities to praise them as they clearly deserve. I can only say that this is the Ars Poetica Nova at its finest.

      How very gently, smoothly, and effortlessly your two poems illustrate the shift from the pathetic 20th century with its sad-sack, Negative Nancy self-sophisticates, to the pure beauty and serene perfection of the Ars Poetica Nova! I am so very pleased I asked you to share these—they really illustrate the very best principles of the Nouvelle Poésie!

      Reply
  7. Sally Cook

    Thanks, James Sale —

    I have been being interviewed for a book someone is writing about me, and this and other related topics keep coming up. So I was ready to go on about it. Interestingly, the book will be about my paintings. I find it significant that the same problems exist in all areas of the arts. Don’t you sense a trend toward the ugly, the meaningless, the vague, and the generally unpleasant? Why the arts always expected to take the side of the trivial and whiny? In the past 30 years (probably more) why did so many creative people refuse to grow up? Was it the schools, the entertainment media, the destruction of family, religion, patriotism and other rulers by which we used to measure expression:

    I think everyone might be interested to hear what you have to say.

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      In fact, the observation—and James Sale has stated it elsewhere with aught of eloquence, I might add— is fundamental and primary. As poets, we must never forget this. In a way, it is what makes us poets. It is what we bring to the world.

      The vast history of lyric verse in fact supports Sally Cooks notion.

      But I would be very interested to know when the book Sally Speaks of will see the light of day. I think it would be edifying to have it reviewed maybe in the Society of Classical Poets, assuming the “scoop” isn’t already assigned to another publication?

      Reply
      • James Sale

        Thanks Mr Mackenzie – I hope one day to be invited to review Sally Cook’s poetry; as for her art, I am not qualified to judge, though as Jack Nicholson, playing the Joker in the Batman movie, once observed: “I don’t know whether it’s art, but I like it”!

      • Sally Cook

        Thanks, but It is too early to tell. I will know more later.

    • James Sale

      Dear Sally – thank you very much for your perceptive comments and also wishing for me to express my views on what is – phew! – a huge topic. One indeed worthy of the whole mental capacity of the members of the SoCP, for perhaps if we could answer this with greater clarity then we could seek to redress it in society even more effectively. Of course, we do that by writing poems predicated on ‘beauty’, but sometimes it is true to say that poetry won’t hack it for the terminally unimaginative: they have to have their dose of prose, medicinally -speaking, before they can even begin to comprehend the scale of the loss we have suffered over the last 300 years or so. This is not to say that ‘things’ were better in ye olde days; some things were and some things weren’t. But what more than anything else in my view has contributed to the mass destruction of our values, the values which built society, and which still sustains it (though every year another plank is taken out of the edifice), is the answer to the simple question, once posed by Pontius Pilate: What is truth? Pilate was simply a political pragmatist who liked expediency, but what we have done, and this has accelerated since the Enlightenment, is undermine the basis that truth can exist at all; that everything is ‘relative’ or subjective, or just your opinion. Couple that with the fatuous idea that everyone is ‘entitled to their opinion’ (their voting yes, ignorant opinions no), then we have a recipe for chaos, disaster, and very ugly art – because consequentially from the entitlement to have an opinion, everyone is entitled to be what they want as well – no matter how little study or talent they may possess. Who can gainsay they are artists? This has happened on many fronts. The political and spiritual leaders in the West have much to answer for: when they had a grip on the public mind and opinion, they largely abused it. World War 1 was the watershed after which it all came to a head: how could the public – with its millions dead – have trusted those egregious leaders who promised a new world fit for heroes tomorrow, and who delivered so little – poverty and the Wall Street Crash today? Small wonder that skepticism flourished, alongside a general negativity about life, even as life was, in fact, after the WW 2, about to improve. But this wouldn’t have been total fatal except for the fact that wickedness does like to flourish – remove one constraint, and suddenly we have a flood, all crying ‘freedom’ but really desiring the license of libertines. It is really quite astonishing how many of our cultural heroes and heroines are total hedonists, and if I got onto the topic of atheism and atheists I’d need a long, long space to outline my views. Funnily enough, I have recently been invited by a Quaker magazine to do a long article on just this subject, or more exactly on theodicies, so I am looking forward to engaging with it soon. Hope I have said enough for now – thanks for stimulating me to reply!

      Reply
      • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

        This is very important what Mr. Sale is saying.

        The pagans, both early and 20th-century Germanic, had strong family and patriotic values. And yet their god is death.

        And the few so-called “values” we possess today, are the merest crumbs from Christendom’s table. They can be relativized, re-defined, and even discarded, because no longer a function of truth.

        I would like everyone to know that “Though You Behold Me Silent In This Room,” is now condemned by a 20th-century modernist on grounds that it does not drag through the streets the sensuality of the beloved and, worse, that the poem does not arise from a sexual interlude.

        In other words, that it is not pornographic.

        But such a condemnation. modernist to its core, is one of the highest forms of praise in reverse.

        That the Ars Poetica Nova does not seek to dazzle the audience with sensationalist “originality,” as if this were the whole “game” of poetry—as it was for the modernists, and we see how boring it made them—is the result of a nobler, finer originality.

        The world very rarely sees, as I mentioned to Fr. Libby, love poetry that violates or discards all the cheap clichés of modernism. In fact, I do not know any prior instance in at least 300 years of English lyric verse of a love poem whose foundational conceit intertwines the metaphysics of the intellect with the metaphysics of Love in its highest, purest sense, while retaining the traditional play of beholding/beheld in the perfectly ordinary context of marriage.

        Such a criticism informs the entire world that this one sonnet discards every single dogma the modernists ever held dear.

        I believe that those who have appreciated this sonnet, by their ability to recognize the paradigm shift which has clearly taken place, are already holding Ars Poetica Nova values of poetry (and have been practicing them)—further proof that the Ars Poetica Nova is here to stay.

        Let those who live in the 20th-century, blinded by their own self-sophistications, condemn away. Perhaps my work represent exactly that dividing line between the old school and the new on a level that runs much, much deeper than formalism, which can be very empty.

        Old 20th-century modernists have been been imploding over my work since the Inaugural Poem for Donald J. Trump, and now this sonnet, this simplest of love poems, has their heads spinning again.

  8. Ken

    James Sale hit the nail on the head on the English sonnet and MacKenzie’s gift, even if MacKenzie himself wants to give all the credit to the form. Sale’s beautiful point about the English sonnet sure doesn’t make the form any easier.

    Reply
    • James Sale

      No, Ken, you are right – it is a difficult form, but as Mr Mackenzie has shown – one with such massive potential for expressive power.

      Reply
      • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

        But I also owe something to New Mexico’s poetical history which has more than once united poetry with power, if you will, in a significant way.

        For, the sonnet in its Spanish Petrarchan form did reach my beloved land on April 30, 1598, the day Don Juan de Oñate forded the Rio Grande at El Paso del Norte, served at a solemn High Mass on its banks with his some 800 soldiers, read the Royal Charter of La Nueba Mexico, and declared a day of festivities which included a stage play about the Conquest written by Don Marcos Farfan de los Godos, one of Oñate’s captains, and the recitation of poetry, no doubt including the sonnets of Garcilaso de la Vega, whose works were already popular in Mexico and would have been brought in by the soldiers. Of course, recitation was the primary entertainment in those days with Garcilaso’s tremendous success, especially as this deeply spiritual poet was also a renowned soldier.

        These things matter. AS a poet, I am not disconnected from New Mexico’s literary past. There are hispanic-hating bigots among the old modernist who are aware of my regionality and who despise my Catholic roots with unfathomable hatred.

        But history is also a source of power in poetry, even if we cannot emulate the past. I have learned a great deal even from Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz in terms of the kind of force that Mr. Sale is speaking of, even though I employ none of those lovely, Baroque twists and turns that she is so famous for.

  9. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    Thank you, Mr. Sarangi, for your kind poem. Yes, it is very interesting to approach English from the perspective of other languages, as also in the case of my Scottish mentor (his native languages are Scots and Gaelic). But this can sometimes give a power and concentration to a poem.

    I very much enjoyed your quatrain:

    O Lord! With a zillion eyes, behold
    The men lying in dust, blood and folklore;
    With each elapsing day, You bless them more
    By the far stretching sun rays carved of gold.

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Many thanks for your kind compliment. Are you the Christine Anne Tabaka whose wonderful three-quatrain poem, “The Dying Muse,” was published by the SCP in June?

      By your theme of “the dying of poetry,” it very much reminded me of Sonnet 52 from “Sonnets for Christ the King” which I would love to hear your poet’s opinion on. I think you will immediately see the relationship I am speaking of.

      Here is the audio. Please enjoy!
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9t1vC0y6t64

      Reply
  10. Father Richard Libby

    Mr. MacKenzie, this is a well written and beautiful sonnet. Congratulations on the poem and on your anniversary!

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Thank you, dear Fr. Libbey, for your anniversary congratulations. I am so very pleased that you enjoyed the Sonnet.

      And, of course, we would expect no less from clergy, who love the fact that we finally have love poetry ordained to marriage.

      And this could not be more important, because it counteracts the false idea of love the Romantics have imposed on English poetry since the 19th-century, an idea drawing many souls into perdition, I fear.

      Reply
  11. Dona Fox

    Dear Joseph Charles MacKenzie, Thank you for sharing the poem you wrote for your wife. I forwarded your words to my husband and he came in all the way from the fresh-cut fields to kiss me.

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Ha, ha, ha! I must say the sonnet earned me a kiss from my spouse as well! It looks like I would do well do write as many love sonnets as I can. Maybe this sonnet has a special amorous effect on readers!

      But I am very, very pleased that you have reported such a delightful outcome, Mrs Fox. This goes to what Sally Cook was saying above about all good art having love as its underlying principle.

      Reply
  12. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    All, may I please recommend Lorna Davis’s second response above. I think it is one of the most eloquent statements about the relation between decency and civilization I have ever read.

    And the reality is that I am neither left nor right nor anything else in any kind of spectrum. I am a simple Thomist, that is all.

    But we would all do well to heed Lorna’s advice not only in recognizing the intellect’s priority over the will (Lorna’s “always being willing to discuss things rationally”), but in subjecting the intellect to the highest things, supreme of which is charity.

    Reply
  13. Helen H. Gordon

    I loved this sonnet. The rhymes are well chosen (not the least trite), to carry the theme forward. The English sonnet form suits the subject very well, progressing through the quatrains and ending with a memorable couplet. I also enjoyed the readers’ comments about the contrasts of time and place, material and evanescent. Nice craftsmanship, Mr. MacKenzie.

    Reply
  14. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    Thank you, Helen H. Gordon. May I please ask if you are the historical novelist, composition expert, poetess, and author of a book on Shakespeare’s sonnets,? You are an English professor I understand?

    Oh yes! The readers comments here have given me a greater understanding of the poem as well—one of the joys of the Society of Classical Poets.

    Reply
    • Charles Southerland

       Dear Mr. MacKenzie,

      I agree with all of those before me how beautiful and wonderful your poem is. It is a marvelous tribute to you beloved wife.

      I have read it many times and wondered why the cliches
      of the last three lines of the first stanza haven’t drawn any criticism from experienced poets. Those lines are pretty standard fare in the poetry world.

      There is a hint of cliche in the first line of the second stanza as well, but the bigger issue of the stanza is sense, not cliche. For example: If the west wind summons you beyond or past your chair, where does it summon you to? The line seems to die there without an answer even though you continue on with another clause that ends abruptly without resolution. How is it that the wind can summon the transfixed, seemingly or no? Both clauses are detrimental to the other. One demands action while the other stifles action.

      The issue is further compounded in the third and fourth lines with a closed window, which somehow draws mountain air which produces the scent of pine and cedar intermixed but unexplained by metaphor, simile or allegory. The reader has to make the leap that the house is drafty or poorly built for these events to take place. I don’t think your imagination quite coincides with those specific images. To me, there is no cohesive sense of the sonnet line in the entire stanza. Others may disagree.

      Your final stanza and your couplet are interesting in that, eighteenth century language rides into view. I’m not against the language but it seems that you are stretching your neck to be poetic instead of letting the poetry come of its own accord.

      The sentence: “Our stars outshine the squandered light of this world’s dying spheres.” sounds great but I don’t get the plural “spheres” in position as either a rhyme or sensibility. “Our stars” is possessive and plural, yet “light” is singular, and in the couplet which should resolve the sonnet, Heart is also singular. If clay cannot confine, or seasons circumscribe, or passing years encase eternity, (eternity is forever light) then how can stars (which burn out eventually) outshine anything beholden to time, such as dying spheres?

      Death is a timed commodity, I think. Eternity is not. “The squandered light of this world’s dying spheres” is problematic, in that, as a metaphor, only the Earth and moon are spheres, and I can’t find anywhere in the scripture where either of them die or that the world has more than one sphere that orbits it. Either way, the image isn’t apt.

      Your couplet sounds beautiful.

      For love, unbounded, cannot be contained— seems redundant, does it not? Why waste precious words on restatement?

      I find that love, unbounded or not, contained or not, can falter between mortals. It happens all the time, even if it is ordained. Divorce courts are full of faltering love between mortals.

      Of course, if you are saying that the Heart to whom it is ordained is Christ, I stand corrected, but your title says it’s for your wife, not the Lord.

      Like I said, It is a beautiful poem. Kudo’s.

       
       
       

      Reply
      • James Sale

        Charles Southerland has written a reasonable and cogent critique of our friend, Joseph Mackenzie’s, poem. For all the politeness and civility, it is of course a devastating assault and we should not be in any doubt about that; so what are we going to say to justify the fact that we ‘like’ our friend’s poetry? That ‘that’ is just Charles’ opinion and we have our own; indeed, that all is subjective? God forbid that we should allow that to be the case, for we would undermine our own rationality if we did so.

        What, then, might prove an adequate response to Charles Southerland’s critique? My starting point would be to acknowledge that there is some truth in what Mr Southerland has to say; and I am not under pressure now to make this concession, since I had conceded it already in my original review of JC Mackenzie’s sonnets. The paragraph in question is small, comes at the end of my major endorsement, and is more or less a quibble that I am prepared to let go of for the benefit of enjoying the beauties of Mr Mackenzie’s poetry. I say this:

        “So, in case I am thought to be too uncritical of Joseph Mackenzie’s collection there a number of small – not for me important – elements that slightly jar. One, is the occasional penchant for archaic diction: mayst, ’tis, etc., which, in the case of ‘I Thee Wed’ is brilliantly deployed, but which I would not myself generally recommend. Also, his use and sprinkling of foreign languages, especially, but not only, Latin, tends to make his work appear more highbrow and elitist than it really is. Others may complain of his use of big abstractions, signified with capital letters, like Love, Beauty, and Truth. Plato has indeed returned, and the modern world won’t like it, for like Pontius Pilate they prefer the question ‘What is truth?’ more. But these are minor caveats to my way of thinking; the poetry is a gold mine of multiple treasures, and anyone studying what Mackenzie is doing will learn a massive amount, quite apart from experiencing some absolutely beautiful poetry.”

        In saying this, then, I am saying – and this is not only about Mr Mackenzie’s poetry – that I do think that archaicisms, solecisms, and contractions should be used very sparingly, if at all. But the reason they are used by Mr Mackenzie and others on the pages of the SoCP is because of a central value, which is I think at the heart of this dispute. This value I will call euphony; it is very important to Mr Mackenzie, but it is less important to Mr Southerland, and therein lies the contention.

        To understand this at a deeper level we need to detour backwards to the middle of the C20th where two literary critics dominated the USA and UK literary landscape. Taking their cue from the earlier remark by Ezra Pound to ‘make it new’, I A Richards in America, and his disciple, F R Leavis in the UK, began a programme of redefining what literature is and should be doing. For the sake of brevity, let me focus on F R Leavis, whose influence in the UK permeated graduate and undergraduate English studies for near on 40 years, till his influenced was superseded by the post-modernists. The ‘make it new’ of Ezra Pound became an iconoclastic touchstone by which every poem had to be entirely original, devoid of clichés, full of fresh, sensuous images; and as rhyme and meter were familiar patterns, then poems that were real poems were going to be largely devoid of these contrivances. This sounded fine – at the time – but it led to some bizarre results that were taken very seriously. So, for example, under the advocacy of F R Leavis, D H Lawrence suddenly became a ‘major’ poet (a quaint view now); but more contentious still, Milton became a ‘minor’ poet! Leavis launched a full-out attack on Paradise Lost, as a poem, on the grounds that its diction was artificial, its imagery was vague, and somehow the poem was ‘against’ life in its theatrical depictions of heaven and hell. These criticisms were all piffle, and the great C S Lewis rebutted them all in this magisterial, Preface to Paradise Lost, but the damage was done; and what happened next was what we are all too familiar with today. The academic world didn’t like Lewis – Oxford declined to give him the professorship that was so well deserved after years working there – while the public bought his books in their millions. Leavis, on the other hand, a dour, self-important, and seemingly unlikeable character, had a knack for acquiring ‘disciples’, and these took up senior positions in UK universities and spread his pestilent ideas throughout the land.

        And so we return to Mr Southerland’s ideas on Mr Mackenzie’s poem and why I think we need to reject them. For the standards Mr Southerland is applying are those similar to F R Leavis in the UK, and I A Richards in the USA. They require every word to be precisely accounted for; they want every image to be original and sensuous; they want, in short, specificity, control, and precision. Now, to be clear, these are not bad things in themselves, and as a blueprint for some poets to work within these criteria can be effective. In other words, Mr Southerland has a valid point. But just as F R Leavis went far too far when we discovered via him that Milton was a minor or vastly overrated poet, so too we have to demur when he seeks to lessen the impact of Mr Mackenzie’s poetry.

        For Milton is, if nothing else, euphonious. And, the great ballads are euphonious; indeed, they are full of repetition, grammatical irregularities and a host of other deficiencies, including clichéd images; yet they are powerful poems that speak to the heart. Take

         Western wind, when wilt thou blow,
         The small rain down can rain?
         Christ, if my love were in my arms
         And I in my bed again!
                                                                          16th Century
        OK, the rain is coming down – we get it – why repeat the word ‘rain’, or ask why it can? Or, why is Christ in there? Or what’s the actual connection between a Western wind – as opposed to an Eastern one – and being in bed with a lover? Does this poem make any sense?

        The kind of poetry we like, then, is the kind that is euphonious – meter/rhyme – which speaks to the heart and is less concerned with originality because it recognises that this chimera can often lead to contrivance, formlessness, ugliness, and a strained relevance – to mention only 4 pitfalls. And to be clear, euphony here is a synonym for that constant preoccupation of mine (and others too) – the hunger for beauty.

        Thus, if we now go back to Mr Southerland’s specific points we will, I hope, see them in a deeper context. This does not invalidate his points necessarily, but we will have to consider them all on a one-by-one basis and ask what the trade-off is. It would make this essay too long for me to review all his points, but I note that one of his critiques actually involves a line that I drew attention to as especially beautiful. What Mr Southerland sees is: “The squandered light of this world’s dying spheres” is problematic, in that, as a metaphor, only the Earth and moon are spheres, and I can’t find anywhere in the scripture where either of them die or that the world has more than one sphere that orbits it. Either way, the image isn’t apt.

        My reading of these lines is different from Mr Southerland’s – which I stress is not to denigrate how he sees this. But for starters I am not looking in scripture for some literal description or definition of what the ‘spheres’ are; I assumed that the word ‘spheres’ is a shorthand for the ‘music of the spheres’: the sound that derives from the planetary motion, including the Sun and Moon which were thought to revolve round the Earth. The light of the spheres is, then, from the shining of the planets themselves, whilst there is also a music which their motion creates. This idea is, of course, as old as Pythagoras and is about the invisible, inaudible harmony that underpins the whole cosmos, but which we can scarcely perceive; but if we could – as Dante for example did – everything would change for us here on Earth. There is a profound sense that this light is squandered, because – to invoke a scriptural idea – the world/Creation has been ‘subjected to futility’, that we await a new world, a new heaven and Earth. So I do think the image apt. But I also point out that I think, as my original comment did, that the word ‘squandered’ as applied adjectivally to ‘light’ is a fresh and arresting metaphor.

        These are some considerations on one specific example that Mr Southerland uses; I could go through all his points; clearly, I will reach different conclusions to him, but not I think because I am being difficult, but because I am starting from a different philosophical position regarding the nature of poetry and the value system I wish to invoke to justify my arguments.

        I deeply respect Mr Southerland and his work. Therefore, if nothing else, I hope my outlining these ideas might, if not persuade him to alter his position, may perhaps encourage him and all of us to examine first principles. But we can start with first principles and then find works that match them – and find we like them; or we can go in reverse, and just read stuff we like, and then ask ourselves: hang on a minute, what do these works reveal about what I like and why I like it? In my opinion both methodologies are valid ways of proceeding.

  15. Wilbur Dee Case

    Much of what you have written, Mr. Southerland, is clear-headed here; but I have to admit I wonder why you call the sestet 18th century.

    Let me follow with a brief historical view of the sonnet, but only from the English language standpoint.

    Although one of the early practitioners of the English language sonnet was William Shakespeare, it is Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard who gave it its familiar English form, two quatrains followed by another quatrain and a couplet, the couplet an English contribution to World sonnetry. After Sidney’s sonnet sequence Astrophel and Stella, Elizabethans, like Spenser and Shakespeare, came up with their own sequences, Spenser even developing the Spenserian sonnet with an ababbcbccdcdee rhyme scheme. Of course, Shakespeare is rightfully noted more for his poetic dramas, than for his sonnets, but he did use the sonnet in his prologue to Romeo and Juliet and further on in Act I.

    In the following 17th century, writers like John Donne and John Milton contributed their own remarkable, occasional sonnets; but with the advance of prose in England in the 17th and 18th centuries, by writers, such as Bacon, Donne, Hooke, Browne, Hobbes, Boyle, Bunyan, Pepys, Defoe, Dryden, Swift, Richardson, Locke, Addison, Steele, Law, Fielding, Berkeley, Smollett, Hume, Sterne, Franklin, Johnson, Gibbon, Boswell, Walpole, Adam Smith, Burke, et al., there was a well-deserved reprieve from the sonneteers, as the sonnet could not bear the sweep of thought in science, literature, philosophy, history, politics, religion, and economics. Of course, the conservative reaction to the Industrial Revolution came strong with the escapism of the Romantics, like Wordsworth, Keats, and Shelley, Shelley even using it in a larger work, Ode to the West Wind, though not as extensively, as Pushkin did in his novelistic Evgeny Onegin. Of course, the sonnet’s use in English continued up into the present, including those by Victorians, like E. Browning and Hopkins, Modernists, like Frost and Auden, and Postmodernists, like Lowell and Heaney. In the 1990s and early 2000s, under editor Baer in The Formalist, and in the first decade of the 20th century, under editor Yankevich in The New Formalist, the sonnet continued to have its proponents with writers, like Turner and Salemi. Two recent sonnet sequences, like those of Hilbert and MacKenzie, show that enthusiasm for writing sonnets has not yet died out.

    Reply
    • Charles Southerland

      Dear Mr. Case,

      I suppose I picked on the 18th century purely by my reading experience. I could just as easily chosen other periods. My real point there was continuity of language style and perhaps thought. The poem changed style without reason. It detracted from thought because of the change. I have no issue with language of the period, or any period for that matter. The change in Mr. Mackenzie’s style here is the least of several issues with the poem for me. But it is an issue. I’ve written over 200 sonnets. I hesitate to call myself an expert but my sonnets are widely published. No matter what form one likes to write in, it is a process of practice of failure and success. It is the only way I know of to become proficient. Beauty is art. Artists know where the bad strokes are in art. This poem is a beautiful poem but there are a myriad of bad strokes within its construction which stilt its beauty for me. One artist to another. I love the sonnet form. There are other forms which I practice with great zeal. I am most comfortable with the sonnet though. My apologies for throwing a century out there without the appropriate thought it required.

      Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Thank you, kind Sir. I am deeply grateful, because, ultimately, your words seem to me perfectly useful. Why should not poetry be lovely? Why should it not be delightful? Such qualities are always an invitation to further explore the heights and depths, if one choses.

      We all too often fall into dissection or vivisection in our approach to fine lyric verse. But, in a way, it seems that to experience a poem as lovely and delightful is a far better place to be.

      There are wine connoisseurs I know here in New Mexico who never really enjoy wine. Rather, the experience of tasting becomes a mere indulgence in oenological pretension—the mere savoring of one’s own ego.

      Better to to taste a 2016 Casa Rodeña “1629” (the label is named after the year our New Mexico Franciscans made their first successful vintage) with a sense of loveliness and delight than to spend half an hour of someone’s mortal time rattling off a list of “bouquets,” “palettes,” and “noses” followed by another half hour on botany and soils.

      A lesson, perhaps, for the wannabe literary critic? I am inclined to think so.

      So, thank you, Mr. Hollywood!

      Reply
      • Erisbawdle Cue

        “From the free versers and never Trumpers
        to the formal listers and ever thumpers—
        passion is our veneration—
        talkin’ ’bout my generation.”
        —”Weird” Ace Blues

        “Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings,”
        —Friedrich Nietzsche

        Since feeling’s first, who pays attention to the syntax won’t
        e’er wholly kiss you, wholly be a fool, hee, cummings thought;
        but Nietzsche truly felt, one should be passionate and awed,
        if you believe in syntax, you’ll believe in God—so don’t.
        Such blood approves a better fate than wisdom, and/or love;
        who swears by all the flowers, will not cast his eyes above.
        The brain’s best gesture’s less than eyelids’ flutter. Can’t you see?
        Life’s not a rhyme, and death is not some metric poetry.
        At times I think I am alone in this dark World and wide;
        yet though I am here out of sight, I am not out of mind.

      • Charles Southerland

        Poetry in a Bottle

        A lowly vine begins to grow with care
        and water. Let’s fast-forward three long years
        to pick a crop, add two more to be fair.
        Between the spaces, row and pruning steers

        the vintner to a harvest fine for shears
        when buds broken, flowers yield, and fruit sets,
        self-pollinates—he prays, no frost, but fears
        until the grapes mature and then he lets

        a sigh come out. And then he picks and gets
        his wish with reds to crush beneath his feet
        and press to squeeze between the toes, he bets
        the farm on dark merlot, like sunset heat.

        It’s grace he counts on for the harvest feast.
        At that, he doesn’t need to be a priest.

        I laughed, of course, at your self-defining, self-defeating joust.
        A baby on the teat can’t write sonnets.
        One does indeed need to take the time to
        smell the bouquets, let the trickle wash onto the tongue to the palette and all that goes into the the vino to understand
        what it takes to make a wine fine enough to brag on. I’m a farmer. It’s in the soil. I’ve catered a hundred wine tastings. Connoisseurs truly appreciate what it takes to make a classy wine.

        Poetry is surely an acquired taste, but writing it
        isn’t any easier than tending a vineyard. It took me five-plus years to learn to write. I’m just now hitting my stride. Did lots of
        pruning. I know what it takes to make a classy poem. I’m proud of my merlot in casks.

        May the grapes that make the wine be the judge.

  16. James Sale

    It is certainly wonderful news – beyond all that we normally expect – that Dona Fox’s married love life has improved as a result of a poem – if I were an evolutionist I might say that was progress. But, instead – let me congratulate Dona on her receptivity to love, and Joseph for producing the sonnet of incitement!! I think first names are appropriate here – we are talking of love. We must all now aspire to this greatness: to write a poem that inspires somebody else to kiss or embrace their partner!

    Reply
  17. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    James Sale is correct in his answer to one of the comments (above). For, indeed, merely declaring something cliché for extra-literary reasons, or for the purposes of a campaign, or—if one were to discern from the bitter obsessiveness of some critiques—out of mere jealousy, does not make it so.

    What the ignorant call cliché is what the learned call tradition. How often, for example, do we see in the oeuvre of Victor Hugo almost all of the idioms of Lamartine? Very often indeed.

    Do readers know, for example, that one of the most common words I see in the many evaluations of my poems is the word “enigmatic.”

    And such a term is no surprise. The Sonnets for Christ the King, from their very title, have gone where no one has ever gone before in the history of English verse.

    If it were otherwise, they would not be receiving the attention they are now receiving. People from all over the world are buying them, hearing them, enjoying them, and even using them for various purposes, to console those who have lost a loved one, as gifts, even as a teaching tool.

    No critique is devastating to me. The Negative Nancies pay their homage in the inverse, and draw even more attention, signaling to readers something like: “If the poems are what the critic says they are, then why is he obsessed with them?”

    Vita brevis, ars longa.

    Reply
  18. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    Let me quote, in affirming Sale’s extremely important observation (supra) from Edward Alexander’s book, “John Ruskin, Matthew Arnold, and the Modern Temper”:

    “In the ‘Nature of the Gothic’ Ruskin states it to be a law of art that ‘no good work whatever can be perfect, and the demand for perfection is always a sign of a misunderstanding of the ends of art.’ He [Ruskin] takes imperfection, irregularity, deficiency, to be signs of both life and beauty; and charges those who would banish imperfection from art with trying ‘to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyze vitality.’

    For Ruskin the Greek system of architectural ornament is a warning and not a model. The Greek system enslaved the workman because it denied him the expression of his personality in his art; it confined him to the composition of geometrical forms and symmetrical foliage, that is, to a kind of activity in which Ruskin can see no human faculty expressed.

    The medieval of Christian system, on the other hand, recognizing man’s inherent weakness, also recognized the value of the individual soul and encouraged its expression in art. Ruskin’s quarrel with his countrymen arises from the fact that they have chosen the pagan over the Christian system…”

    And the irony, after all of this, is that the syllable counters and cliché monitors of the modernist “perfection crowd” are so imperfect in their own works that no critic would even know where to begin to enumerate them—and if a critic dares, then there is no end to the bitterness, compulsion, and fury of the one criticized.

    Reply
  19. Charles Southerland

    My apologies, MacKenzie. I am a capitalist. I wish you such success as you never dreamed in selling your collection of sonnets. I haven’t read them so I can’t speak to their quality. I am only speaking to the one poem you published here on this page for people to read. I wouldn’t dream of my critique regarding this one poem to cast aspersions on your work which I haven’t seen. It is this one poem I take issue with. At that, I said it was beautiful, did I not? I know nothing of those poems you so highly tout, so how could I critique what I have not seen or have obsession with such? I don’t. Please do not conflate one thing with the other.

    Reply
  20. "Wild" E. S. Bucaree

    I’m fairly sure, my greatest flaw is failure to adore.

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Who cares about all that!

      I find the anagrammatic heteronyms extremely clever. I did not know one could craft so many of them out of a single name. And that is also a very decent poem you’ve posted as Erisbawdle Cue.

      Where else are we going to read the perfect satire of Nietzsche and his “will-to-power” mentality adopted by every last liberal of the 20th century?

      Readers, you can enjoy a super clever, Bruce Dale Wise, Ars Poetica Nova satire in Issue 16 of TRINACRIA. You will not want to miss “On the Mediocre Manifestations of Robert Lowell”—it’s just too good! Here is one of its magisterial verses:

      “The poetry of Robert Lowell would better serve as planks
      in whalers or for firewood for stern New England Yanks.
      That grand inquisitor of narcissism left his curse
      of wooden, puritanical, rhetoric’lly stiff verse…”

      Reply
  21. James Sale

    No Marcus, I am not Joseph Charles Mackenzie; for one thing he is a yank and I am a Brit, and for another, as Ben Jonson observed, ‘Style most shows a man: speak that I may see thee’. If you examine what Mr Mackenzie has written and what I have written you will find, although we agree on many principles, and like similar forms, yet our styles of writing are extremely divergent! And that’s good.

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Mr. Sale, your interlocutor is no longer with us.

      Meanwhile, if I may, you might find it perhaps interesting to know that in Nuevomexicano parlance, the word “Yank” has a multiplicity of meanings, such as: someone who lacks manners, a land thief, a person who does not honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, or all of the above!

      Reply
      • James Sale

        My apologies, then, twice over! You are not a Yank but an American; and I am certainly not a Brit – a non-existent race artificially manufactured for the purposes of passport of control – but an Englishman or … a limey? All the best – and thanks for explanation of disappearance of Marcus!! Had no idea!

  22. Lew Icarus Bede

    Let me be very clear, lest I be misconstrued.

    1. The literary wood of “On…Robert Lowell” is due to mainly to Mr. G. M. H. Thompson, whose thoughtful voice I hear less and less @ SCP. I hope he has not been chased away, as I found his critical prose, despite its naiveté, at the same level as yours—budding. I do like my last line in that poem, in referring to Lowell’s style as “a cross between Donne’s Metafizz and Melville’s density.”

    2. Despite all of things I do not like about Robert Lowell’s life and poetry, I still consider him the best American sonneteer of the 20th century; and I have read no Postmodern or Newmillennial sonneteer who has influenced me as much as he has, including all the Formalists and writers here @ SCP. When I took a college class with Elizabeth Bishop back in the 1970s, near the end of both of their lives, she said she thought he was the best poet of their generation; and, now, in retrospect, I think so too.

    3. I do think some of your sonnets, like “Edward the Confessor,” are excellent, and deserve to be anthologized in this era. What I admire in Lowell’s sonnets are his variety of topics and his encapsulating the modern moem, as Mr. Turner is attempting in his epics. Despite all that we may hate about our times, I think, as serious poets we must embrace as many aspects of our times as we can.

    4. Even though, like Mr. Whidden and Mr. Southerland, I have written hundreds of sonnets, for the New Millennium I have been shifting my glance to other structures, especially those of my own making.

    5. And finally, I must ask myself, though I do like so many sonnets of the last millennium from around the World, how powerful are they really compared to that fourteen-lined poem by Catullus that Mr. Thornton recently translated? A quick off-the-cuff answer is that though they may not be as structurally powerful, they can be textually richer, finer, more beautiful and fluid; they can be as passionate, as intricate, and as illuminating. Strength is not the only quality; but it is a hard one to get into our language; and that is why we must keep the Puritan Milton in our sights, despite Keatsian slights and Eliotic flights. Strength, as Mr. Sale has pointed out, was an important Ancient Greek qualitiy; and it is, after all, one that lasts.

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      I am impressed with those new structures of you own making, if such is what I have read in TRINACRIA. It seems that your quest is a good one, to espouse the form to the thought, rather than forcing it into the mold of a form

      It is as if you have done all the thinking in advance, at a high, philosophical level.

      I can honestly hear “On the Mediocre Manifestations of Robert Lowell” being performed. An actor would find all kinds of “opportunities” in it!

      Reply

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