Meritocracy

When the Left tries to cow us and trammel our prowess
____We resort to a stiff upper lip,
Well aware that their winning will spell the beginning
____Of our comeback the moment they slip.

If the Government makes us repeat old mistakes,
____Then our indolent selves are to blame,
For the measure of worth on this planet called Earth
____Doesn’t favor the halt and the lame.

The inveterate habits of cottontail rabbits
____Are completely conditioned by fear,
And the best habitat for a maze-running rat
____Is a course where incentives are clear.

Neither gender nor race should be cause to displace
____A contender who’s best at the game,
And affirmative action will marshal no traction
____If all people are treated the same.

But if anyone tries to disable our eyes
____So that what they present us is false,
It’s our duty to fight the advancing dark night
____Insofar as our veins have a pulse.

 

Advice to Immigrants

When you’re in Rome, do as the Romans do
And let assimilation be your aim,
Discarding habits you’re accustomed to

That mark you as a rustic zealous Jew.
Renounce the foreign kingdom whence you came
When you’re in Rome. Do as the Romans do

And not what suits a hick from Timbuktu.
Acquire a toga, Latinize your name,
And lose the habits you’re accustomed to.

But never rush to join a galley crew,
For war at sea is sure to drown or maim.
When you’re in Rome, do as the Romans do,

And as for verse, don’t try to “make it new,”
Since what exists has earned sufficient fame.
So shed the habits you’re accustomed to,

Submitting to the test of peer review,
That all may know: at least you played the game.
When you’re in Rome, do as the Romans do
And break the habits you’re accustomed to.

 

Predator

Consider, if you will, the doughty Robin
That tirelessly pursues his minor prey
Across the lawn and at the forest edge.
Precise as any tailor’s spinning bobbin,
From daybreak till the evening’s final gray,
He executes his fundamental pledge:

To feed his mate and hatchlings on her sired.
His beak is laden with collected worms
And other morsels that compose his forage;
This bird is for that very purpose wired,
And let those slimy creatures come to terms
With being hapless victims held in storage.

I watched through someone’s kitchen window once
A robin doing battle with a six-
Inch caterpillar wrought from Satan’s forge.
The combat, much unlike his normal hunts,
Required he slay it with repeated pricks
From thrusting beak: the image of St. George.

When I approach, Cock Robin flies away,
But not from fear—from legendary prudence.
He wears an orange blazon on his breast,
In contrast to his upper hunter’s gray,
And we could do much worse than be the students
Of birds whose luckless foes enjoy no rest.

 

C.B. Anderson was the longtime gardener for the PBS television series, The Victory Garden.  Hundreds of his poems have appeared in scores of print and electronic journals out of North America, Great Britain, Ireland, Austria, Australia and India.  His collection, Mortal Soup and the Blue Yonder was published in 2013 by White Violet Press.


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16 Responses

  1. Joseph S. Salemi

    Top-notch work, as usual, from Kip Anderson. I like the villanelle the best, but the dactylics of “Meritocracy” are delightful too — and well done, which is no mean feat for this meter.

    Reply
  2. C.B. Anderson

    Actually, Joe, unless I am seriously mistaken, “Meritocracy” is an exercise in anapestics (which is easier to execute than dactylics, just as iambic meter is easier to work with than trochaic meter). Nonetheless, I am gratified that you approve of these poems.

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Yes, you’re right of course. I tend to disregard unstressed syllables sometimes, and just immediately begin scanning at the first heavy stress. My mistake.

      Reply
  3. Michael R. Burch

    C. B. Anderson advises immigrants: “Conform, and don’t write free verse!” Ah, but if European immigrants had followed his advice, we’d all be wearing loincloths and writing verse in native American languages!

    Reply
  4. C.B. Anderson

    Ah Mikey, Mikey, Mikey,

    I appreciate the connection you made to Ezra Pound, and I wish you a long association with him in the afterlife. Free verse, as Lewis Turco has explained at length, is an oxymoron. I also appreciate your disdain for Western civilization, without which you would never have penned a word or published a single verse. And I find it incredible that you seem unable to tell the difference between immigrants to an established civilization and conquerors of a culture that lacked any written literature. Wear the loincloth, if you will, but please allow us to compose poetry in established forms, and not give in to pandemic sloppiness.

    From one anglophone to another,
    Best regards,
    C.B. Anderson

    Reply
  5. James Sale

    Meritocracy – very funny. Really enjoyed this work: highly skilled and thought-provoking. Well done. And btw, your droll … ‘and I wish you a long association with him in the afterlife’ is also extremely amusing too.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      James,

      For the last part, I suppose it was a roundabout way of saying, “Go to hell.”

      For the first part, I’m glad you appreciated the humor. Somehow, I can’t seem to escape that in my writing, but I suppose that’s better than being captive to high seriousness.

      Reply
  6. Nathan

    Mr. Anderson,

    I am intrigued by the “never rush to join a galley crew” in Advice to Immigrants. Would you mind speaking on what spurred your decision for this piece of advice?

    Similarly, and I mean this sincerely, how does the concept of the fall of Rome factor into the advice the character gives? How should one view the advice of the roman in regard to the historical events of the destruction of Rome — and what does this say about our current society?

    Respectfully!

    Nathan Dennis

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Mr. Dennis:

      A villanelle has only two rhymes: A and B. You have to fill nineteen line-endings with them alone. Quite naturally this puts something of a strain on the writer, who must on occasion simply take and use whatever word will fit into the pattern. Rhymed poetry is rhyme-driven, no matter what they say in the workshops.

      The poem makes no mention of the “fall of Rome” or “the destruction of Rome.”

      Your question is rooted in the false assumption (a bizarre gnostic one promulgated by Leo Strauss) that every single word in a written text has a specific didactic purpose to it that has been carefully thought out in advance by the author, even if it is disguised or hidden. This simply isn’t true. Sometimes words or phrases are in poems just for the hell of it, without any hidden or special meaning that readers have to ferret out.

      Reply
      • Nathan

        Mr. Salemi,

        While I do appreciate your thoughts on the matter, I believe the question was directed to the poet. I think it is best to let artists speak for themselves, do you not agree?

    • C.B. Anderson

      Nathan,

      On one hand I agree with Robert Frost that, “Too much explaining can ruin a poem.” On the other hand, I am quite comfortable discussing my choices in “Advice to Immigrants”. Rushing to join a galley crew is just a bad idea; perhaps you remember that scene in the film Ben Hur. But as Mr. Salemi suggested, “crew” was one of a shrinking number of possibilities for the necessary end rhyme, and as things often go, the imagination supplies a plausible idea to justify the use of the word. Although I confess that the current immigration situation was not the furthest thing from my mind when I wrote this poem, Joe correctly points out that I made no mention of the fall of Rome (barbarians are not exactly immigrants, though immigrants at times may certainly be barbarians.) If my intention had been to suggest a direction for government policy, I should have written a poem called “Advice to Romans”. It’s clear, I think, that the most successful immigrants to the United States have been those best able to assimilate — that’s why it’s called the melting pot & not the mosaic or the collage.

      Reply
      • Nathan

        Mr. Anderson,

        Thank you for your explanations; I always appreciate gleaning insight from an author where appropriate.

  7. Joseph S. Salemi

    Of course. Kip Anderson is the best person to answer your questions.

    Reply
  8. Stephen Hagerman

    Now your first offering “Meritocracy” here, I like very much. It truely encompasses the very intent of the lyrical metric form. If you can write a lyric like this, I cannot understand how we have become so disparately opposed. As far as the meaning, I am encouraged by your credulous hopes that the post impressionists might slip, but I doubt the reality, as those in power control the narrative. I have just today read Mr Hayes’, “Who Killed Poetry? A Critique of Modernism and Post-Modernism (Part I)” A view I very much agree with, and have held for more than a decade and a half. This is now coming to fruition, I think, as poetry, in the last ten years, has fallen of a cliff (Not my words) as B. S. Acrewe suggests. While I enjoy loose iambic meter, the alternating tetrameter/trimeter you offer here. In scanning, I do see a few minor errors in a few lines. If you are interested, I could give you a scan of this, either here, or in a message, if you want to make a couple of corrections. All in all though, this is enjoyable insight.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Stephen, this is very late in the game, but I don’t mind, and I am interested in anything you have to say. I will keep this window open in hope that something new will fly through it.

      Reply

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