Though beauty also beckons there,
Mt. Shasta’s peak projects severe,
So from her panoramic view,
Is cast a pall on me and you

And everyone approaching here,
Courage take but caution, fear
-ing much to broach her topic light,
On foot, on sled, by rail, or flight

For space respected beauty gleams,
Race unprotected foolish seems.

 

Alexander King Ream, formerly known under the penname Neal Dachstadter, is a poet living in Tennessee. His work has been printed in Decanto Poetry Magazine (UK), Western Viewpoints and Poetic Images: the Great American West (Woodinville, Washington), Society of Classical Poets Journal 2015 (Mt Hope, New York), Rocky Point Times (Puerto Peñasco, Mexico) and The Lyric (Jericho, Vermont). A member of the Demosthenian Literary Society at the University of Georgia, he deployed to Hawija, then wrote on Lookout Mountain, continuing with Delta Kappa Epsilon International. Berkeley, Ann Arbor, and Athens encouraged him as a writer. In 2015 he wrote in Arizona at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument five miles north of Mexico.

 


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8 Responses

  1. James A. Tweedie

    I had the pleasure of living on the slopes of 14,162-foot Mount Shasta for over seven years and climbed it once. It is, perhaps, one of the most spectacular and picturesque mountains in the world. It has inspired artists and authors of all kinds and been featured in the writings of such folks as John Muir, Joaquin Miller, Mary Austin, John Greenleaf Whittier, Bram Stoker, and Robert Heinlein. Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and Carleton Watkins photographed it and Albert Bierstadt, William Keith, and Thomas Hill painted it. Curiously, I have never made an attempt to capture its supernal essence in either verse or prose. I have been content to let others do it for me. Joaquin Miller wrote, “As lone as God, and white as a winter moon, Mount Shasta starts up sudden and solitary from the heart of the great black forests of Northern California.” Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “I consider the evening twilight on Mount Shasta one of the grandest sights I have ever witnessed.” And John Muir (who nearly died on its summit) wrote, “When I first caught sight of it (Mount Shasta) over the braided folds of the Sacramento Valley, I was fifty miles away and afoot, alone and weary. Yet all my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since.”

    This morning I woke up unusually early and, as is my habit, turned to the SCP website for my daily dose of literary inspiration. I have now read Mr. Ream’s poem over a dozen times and, while I commend him for his attempt, I submit that this is the first poem I have ever read where I was unable to make sense out of a single line. In short, the poem accomplished what Mt. Shasta was unable to do: it defeated me. Perhaps Mr. Ream or someone else would be so kind as to offer a translation.

    I might add that, if the airplane in the photograph was flying to the left (north) it would have been directly over my old house in about 1/4 mile.

    Reply
  2. Alexander Ream

    Thank you for the foray and the inquiry Mr Tweedie. The underlying substance of the poem is that Severity, in Aesthetics, is under rated. Severity, though, is a key ingredient in Beauty, and Severity may well eclipse the more popular category of Beauty. For example, there was a cheerleader at my high school that I had a crush on. I’ll never forget how she looked in seventh grade – and most people would say “beautiful.” Having said that, her Striking aspect (striking goes with severe, notice) was the simplicity of her face and her form: not given to over adornment and décor. Another example would be in architecture: St Martin in the Fields, where the Brit Royal Family worships – it’s plainer, more severe – not the usual calculation of Gothic intricacy.

    Severity projects danger as well as magnetism, or at least warning. Mt Shasta does as well. I hope it does; thank you, sincerely, for affording me the opportunity to communicate my friend.

    PS – my poetry really…is…characterized by density – former Arizona football player and English major told me that. I don’t know what to do about it, I just try and be humble via the physical work that enables the writing.

    Reply
  3. James A. Tweedie

    Thank you for your positive and helpful response. You also raise an interesting point in suggesting that “severity” can carry an aesthetic of beauty. I suppose the pyramids would be an example of beautiful severity in architecture, but the so-called International Style once associated with high rise architecture is also “severe” but few would consider it to be beautiful. In my mind, “severity” (whatever the word may mean) is is a neutral term as regards beauty. Something may be both beautiful and severe but it is not the severity that infuses it with beauty. Landfills are severe landscapes, but only someone completely divorced from a classical understanding of beauty would consider it to be such. Nonetheless, an idea worthy of a conversation.

    Reply
  4. Monty

    In early February, three shabby poems by the same author appeared collectively on these pages; in response to which, I made what I considered to be a forthright and accurate Comment . . which was (almost immediately) ‘deleted’ by the author (by means of the damaging new facility at SCP, whereby authors can delete any Comments which they consider to be unfavourable: regardless of whether the Comments are valid and warranted or not).

    And now we have the above mish-mash of words by Mr Ream, seemingly thrown together at random in inexplicably senseless lines (most of the individual lines are, in themselves, deserving of the fullest criticism) . . and yet, ludicrously, the piece may now be beyond criticism: in the sense that any critical Comments it attracts may be immediately deleted by the author (maybe this very Comment will suffer the same fate).

    I feel that the powers-that-be at SCP have made a grave error with this new facility, and that they’ve simply capitulated to the American way: everyone wrapped in cotton-wool.. everything dumbed-down to ridiculous levels.. and “let’s give every contestant a prize, lest we hurt someone’s feelings”. I (and the world) expect that from America: that’s how it is . . but I don’t expect it from a ‘serious’ poetry-site. Poetry MUST remain above the political-correctness nonsense, and any poetry-site which considers itself ‘serious’ about poetry MUST do the same thing.

    One wonders how the above piece by Mr Ream even got through the door at SCP – it surely wasn’t checked by security; but, given that it somehow ‘did’ gain entry . . if (hypothetically speaking) the author chooses to delete all Comments which he considers to be unfavourable . . . then kindly imagine the following scenario: A human is trawling through the net for poetry-sites with which to become affiliated; he happens upon SCP, and starts browsing its pages.. and the very first ‘poem’ that he bumps into is the above piece. That alone could be damaging enough to SCP – even before they introduced this new facility – in the sense of said human thinking to themself: ‘How did they ever allow this on to their page? I’m looking for proper poetry’ . . bang: they’re straight on to another site.
    But with this new facility, not only may said human be wondering how the piece got onto the page . . but they’ll also notice that it’s attracted NO negative Comments; which may lead them to reasonably conclude that the SCP readership doesn’t know any better. Which can only endorse their decision to jump straight to another site.

    I don’t for one moment expect (or ask for) SCP to reverse its decision (more below); but, at the same time, I don’t expect to see pieces such as the above on these pages; and what’s more, I don’t expect to see pieces such as the above accompanied by NO negative Comments.

    The only time I’ve ever had a poem published was by SCP a cuppla years back (for which I shall be eternally grateful): after which, I was unashamedly chuffed with myself that one of my poems had appeared on what I considered to be a serious poetry-site . . and I felt it to be a major personal achievement in my life.
    But in view of the above piece, my sense of achievement has been a tad diluted . . in the sense that “If they’ll publish that monstrosity.. they’ll publish anything”. It shouldn’t be like that on a serious poetry-site; it should be the case that if one has their work published.. they can feel satisfied that they’ve done a decent job.
    That same sense of satisfaction will not exist if SCP gains a reputation for being ‘easy’ to get a poem published.

    It’s not beyond the imagination to picture a scenario where the author of the above piece, together with a friend or two, devised a challenge: “Let’s intently write a totally indecipherable poem: send it to a few (apparently) serious poetry-sites: and see if anyone publishes it.” Although that’s obviously not the case here; imagine if that WAS the case . . does SCP really wanna be known as the site which ‘fell for it’?

    p.s. If I may return to my first paragraph above: I’ve noticed that the author of those “three shabby poems” has – in recent days, and in response to someone else’s Comment on her three pieces – made the following outrageous admission: “There were some errors – the kind that always occur when rushing” . . obviously in the belief that ‘rushing’ a poem is a natural and acceptable practise, and is also a valid excuse for an error-ridden piece (“Well, I was rushing to write that poem; there are bound to be errors”). And she wonders why one referred to her poems as “shabby”! There are innumerable ways in which to write a poem; ‘rushing’ is not one of them. One should either write a poem properly (without time-limit).. or not write it at all. There can be no in-between. To rush a poem is to do a flagrant disservice to poetry, and a disservice to one’s own potential poetic ability. It’s practically a criminal act (although, Salemi – given that the author is one of his ‘chums’ – will probably now tell us – in his misplaced loyalty of patently defending the undefendable – that ‘rushing’ a poem is acceptable if it’s done in a . . . yawn, yawn, how predictable).

    Ironically, the main thrust of my original Comment which the author deleted.. was in regard to how patently and obviously the three poems had been “rushed and unrevised” . . AND NOW, we have that same author admitting that she was guilty of the very things (rushing a poem; not revising it) which my deleted Comment suggested. Hence, using the new SCP facility, she was able to delete a valid Comment that she knew to be perfectly true and accurate. In view of that very act, I ask SCP to consider the following: As I said above, I don’t ask for or expect the decision to be reversed, but I believe that the following modification would be a reasonable compromise . . . Instead of one being able to ‘command’ SCP to delete a Comment.. one should only be able to ‘request’ SCP to delete a Comment. Thus, if someone wishes for an unfavourable Comment to be deleted, they can petition SCP.. giving their reasons for the justification of the deletion . . but the final decision rests with SCP (either “Yeah, we believe you’ve got a case; this Comment is unnecessary . . we’ll delete it for you” . . or “I’m sorry, but we feel this Comment to be valid and warranted in the context of the poem . . we don’t feel it should be deleted”). Of course that would upset some . . good! But it may also motivate them to take the necessary care and attention over their future submissions . . which’d result in stronger poetry . . and surely a stronger SCP (at a time when it’s showing just a hint of weakening).

    p.p.s. As an attempt at a (semi) humorous aside: If any Comments at SCP are worthy of deletion: it should be all the cringe-worthy dialogue (in the form of comments) between Salemi, Kenzy and Sale. The ludicrous, toe-sucking, untrustworthy, disingenuous way in which they all (quite possibly through gritted-teeth) defend each others poetry; the way in which they try to falsely sway opinion at SCP towards promoting each others work; and their narrow-minded belief that their collective views and opinions are superior and unchallengable . . . has become a farcical and predictable side-show at SCP. One can never be sure when they actually mean what they’re saying.
    I recently had occasion to advise one of the three that “in defending the undefendable, one can never say what one truly feels”. If some or all of them didn’t seemingly carry a bit of weight at SCP, then all of the above could be dismissed with a chuckle (‘leave ’em to their own blinkered devices: they’re harmless) . . but the fact that they obviously DO carry some weight at SCP is, potentially, the opposite of harmless.

    Reply
    • Monty

      I should make it clearer than I did that the “author” referred to in the very first line of my last missive was not Mr Ream; but another SCP affiliate, who submitted the aforementioned 3 poems in early February.

      Reply
  5. Alexander Ream

    Monty – I appreciate your insight into my writing; seriously. I’ve no way of knowing what someone thinks of my work – because I’ve written it, and I’m sort of “wrapped around the axle” about it…thank you for helping me to know how it sounds, my friend. Being an author, even of a poem, is like being a father; it’s difficult to analyze what I’ve made objectively. You helped me with that…thanks for the wisdom. I’ll use it.

    Reply
    • Monty

      Well, it must be difficult for you to “appreciate” such a severe and damning appraisal; but if you do, then I sincerely hope that it compels you to re-read your piece thoroughly . . line by line.

      Regardless of my Comment, the fact that the other Commenter above – seemingly an experienced reader of poetry – has stated that he was “unable to make sense out of a single line” surely in itself speaks volumes (in my case, even the title raised an alarm-bell).

      Consider the following diction – reading from comma to comma (which is how poetry should be read, not line by line) – “courage take but caution” . . “fearing much to broach her topic light” . . “or flight for space respected beauty gleams” . . “race unprotected foolish seems” . . “Mt Shasta’s peak projects severe” . . “is cast a pall on me and you”.

      I’m sure that you yourself know the meaning of said diction; but it’s virtually impenetrable to others.

      The ‘major’ who told you that your poetry was characterised by “density” . . chose the perfect word!

      Reply
  6. Alexander Ream

    The Arizona football player, photographer, and friend of my fraternity brother from California, used the word density (italics) in a humble sense. As in, to imply there might be aspects of someone’s work that escape one particular reader at the present time. The self-effacing words “I might be wrong” are scarce today. When I was young, my parents were center-right Presbyterians; their best friends were center-left Episco-Jewish. I was always at their gatherings, and I never heard harsh-word-the-first.

    Reply

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