all poetry by Bruce Dale Wise

The Captive Caesar

by Aedile Cwerbus

Though it was many years ago, millennia, in fact,
it seems, like yesterday, when Caesar’s ship-trip was attacked.
He had gone off to Rhodes to study rhetoric, it seems,
with Apollonius Molo; the Roman had his dreams.

When suddenly some pirates overtook his vessel’s flight,
he was made captive for a ransom, when he could not fight.
Though he behaved, as Plutarch says, more prince than prisoner,
he was a rather vile, wily, cruel customer.

Like Cicero, who’d also gone to Rhodes to study too,
he scribbled verses, wrote out speeches, entertained the crew,
and said that he would crucify them after he got loose.
They laughed at him; he seemed not more than but a honking goose.

They did not understand this man, for once he was set free,
he raised a force, surprised the corsairs, in a ruthless spree,
recovered all the ransom cash, and kept his promise flat
he’d crucify each one of them, which he did, just like that.

Aedile Cwerbus is a poet of ancient Rome.

Big Brother’s Watching You

by Esca Webuilder

No matter who you are some will find fault with what you say.
Someone won’t like what you have said or how you tried to pray.
It seems that everyone’s a critic, cutting down to size
whomever they don’t like, whether it’s ladies, babes or guys.
So patter on in patterns. Don’t give in to incensed geeks,
nor red-tape bureaucrats in hats, or censor-bully freaks.
There always will be someone who won’t like what you might say.
PC Police are on patrol. This is the Jackal’s Day.
So watch your words. Remember spies are everywhere you go.
Big Brother’s watching you. Are you not glad you have Big Bro?


The Rise of Digital Authoritarianism

by Esca Webuilder

Red China’s digital authoritarianism
is threatening democracy across the global realm.
Not only are the Chinese crushing freedom in their land;
but they’re exporting their extensive censorship command.
While China is by far the worst, it too has company,
like Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Ethiopia.
Estonia and Iceland, Canada and Germany
are countries where the access to the Internet ‘s most free.
But why is not America up at the top of these?
Surveillance now is happening by US companies.

Esca Webuilder is a poet of the Internet. He recently read the Freedom House report from which some of this information comes.

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20 Responses

  1. Joe Tessitore

    A somewhat chilling way to start a Saturday, but brilliant, nonetheless.

  2. James A. Tweedie

    Bruce, Timely and up to date as usual . . . except for the Caesar poem which, although it was old news, was a tale well-told and my favorite of the three.

  3. Esca Webuilder

    Mr. Tessitore’s comment on the chilling quality of these poems is a good reminder for me that all times are benighted. These three poems come from earlier in the year, so it has been some time since I have seen them (I just sent Mr. Mantyk a slough of poems from this year, and he chose any he found useful); but it is a good thing for an artist to face his work unexpectedly. In retrospect, I am surprised at the facetious tone of “Big Brother’s Watching You”, which I didn’t realize at the time I was writing it; there is a disconcerting disparity between the tone and its topics. Another problem with it is it’s all over the place; it takes up too many topics, as for example, fault-finding, censorship, spying. I also think some of the diction preposterous: “ladies, babes or guys”, “patter on in patterns”, “red-tape bureaucrats in hats”, incensed “geeks”, “Big Bro”. Too, it’s very odd I didn’t realize the point of view was second-person when I wrote the poem. I would not claim any brilliance for this poem, unlike an earlier poem “Death in the Afternoon” that Mr. Salemi thrashed; which in retrospect seems even better than I thought it was, at the time of its writing or at the time of its recent critique.

    Having done enough analysis of one of the poems, I would like to attend to a haiku of Mr. Tessitore’s:

    “A mirror shatters
    and what most clearly matters
    remains to be seen.”

    Although this violates the practice of haiku masters of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, by omitting kigo (seasonal term), kireji (cutting word, or punctuation), and the juxtaposition of two image-ideas, I like it because of its image, its ideas, its diction, and its suggestiveness. It is a micropoem that reverberates. Micropoetry does seem to be the arena in which Mr. Tessitore flourishes. Like Mr. Tessitore, and many English haikuists, I too use the 5-7-5 syllable count, as opposed to the Japanese morae. And though an overt rhyme is very cluttery in a haiku poem, yet I like it here in Mr. Tessitore’s poem, as well as in Postmodernist poet Richard Wilbur’s many haiku stanzas, e. g.,

    “This, if Japanese,
    Would represent great boulders
    Walloped by rough seas

    So that, here or there,
    The baked water tossed its froth
    Straight into the air.”

    By the way, this is just one place in New Millennial poetry where English writers count syllables.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Back to Robert Frost for a moment: too much explanation can ruin a poem. Your knowledge of poetic literature runs deep, but sometimes your overlong explications cause eyelids to droop. Just write a crisp refreshing poem and be done with it.

    • Joe Tessitore

      Thank you, Mr. Wise, for taking the time to critique my haiku. Reverberation is what I seek – you know it when you achieve it and you know it, perhaps even more clearly, when you don’t.
      I love your idea of micro-

      To strive for the best –
      a finely-chiseled poem –
      words that resonate.

  4. David Watt

    As both a narrative, and a cautionary tale, “The Captive Caesar” succeeds.
    This was also my favorite of the three poems.

  5. Aedile Cwerbus

    Ancient authorities for the life of C. Julius Caesar, in addition to his own writings, include his contemporaries, like Cicero, Catullus, Livy and Asinius Pollio. Secondary sources, inter alia, include Suetonius and Plutarch. Here I am drawing mainly on the latter.

    Of the three poems, as did Mr. Tweedie and Mr. Watt, I preferred this poem on Caesar’s early life (25 years old), this poem on the great maker of history himself. Here the lines are properly marshalled, and hit much of what I wanted on point. Written in the first week of January this year, it is one of the few poems on the classical world Mr. Mantyk has thought worthy for the SCP audience, perhaps because Caesar is such a famous historical personage.

    I should have liked to include Caesar’s shock of a 20-talent ransom, and his insistence it be raised to 50 talents; and that for leniency, those he captured, he cut their throats before he had them crucified, yet true to his word had them crucified; but that would have required a poem longer than a hekkaideca (16 lines), which I did not want.

  6. Lew Icarus Bede

    In answer to Mr. Anderson, though I prefer the literary criticism of T. S. Eliot over that of Poe (and certainly Frost), I side with Poe on the value of “too much explanation” on a poem. His “The Philosophy of Composition” spends over 4400 words on his composition of “The Raven”, a poem of a mere 1100 words; and “The Philosophy of Composition” is a unique essay indeed. Poe is the poet who showed us that a poet can write about a poet’s own poems. If I follow Poe’s example, I should try to write an explanation that is four times as long as the poem I am analyzing. Poe has always been an inspiration to me, and not only for his attitude to poetry.

    • Joe Tessitore

      “Poe is the poet …” – spectacular sentence!

      I wrote a similar one that I was saving for the Shortest Poem contest, but what the hell:

      On gaining weight:
      There’s more to see of Seymour, so I see Seymour more.

      • James A. Tweedie

        Ha! You inspired me to write this this morning:

        A frosty Highlands sky
        Caught Scots by surprise.
        When asked, one man said, “Aye,
        “I see icy eyes.”

        Maybe we should use these to kickstart a new contest. We could call it “Homophonic Poetry” or something.

  7. Lew Icarus Bede

    As to Mr. Tessitore’s comment about one of the prose sentences in my reply,

    “Poe is the poet
    who showed us that a poet
    can write about a poet’s
    own poems.”

    I like words that are within words, or derived from other words, etc. Playing with that is not unique to me; in fact, I learned it from Will Shakespeare. Here is a poem, first published at Triggerfish with an explication, using that specific name, its topic hidden there within its words. Like Poe, I like puzzles.

    Message in a Tome

    I came upon an old chateau bathed in a moonlit gloom,
    and entered through its Gothic door into a lofty room.
    I came upon an oval portrait of a somber Age.
    The name recorded on the painting was Earl Dolan Page.
    The visage of the gentleman, dark and ethereal,
    was like the face of one’s interred, premature burial.
    Below the image on a table lay an ebon book,
    the Poet’s corpus whose dark countenance adorned that nook.
    I slowly opened it, and came upon what seemed to be
    a purloined letter hidden there. It was addressed to me.

      • Joe Tessitore

        We can have our own little thing going on:

        The First Time I Saw Paris

        When I got
        an eyeful of Eiffel, I ful-
        filled a life-long dream.

      • James A. Tweedie

        I’m particularly fond of Geraldo Palane’s “The Tip and the Nude Plum.”

  8. James A. Tweedie

    Joe, We can have our own little thing going on but your poems are too good not to share. I still think we should issue a challenge for others to see what other homophonic poems they can come up with. Speaking of Paris, here’s one I thought up while driving to Olympia for a meeting last Thursday.

    This little piggy went to Paris and this little piggy went to Rome.
    I asked them if too many lattés in Bern
    Affected them on their return?
    And this little piggy went, “Oui, oui! We wee-ed all the way home!”

  9. Lew Icarus Bede

    This microessay first appeared in Triggerfish Critical Review:

    On “Message in a Tome” by Waldeci Erebus

    That Edgar Allan Poe is a master of the short story there is little disagreement; his tales, despite their morbidity, or because of it, are remarkable literary works of art. On the other hand, Edgar Allan Poe has received short shrift when it comes to his poetry. I understand that assessment, because his output is small, and most of it is of a mediocre or inferior quality. And the same could be said of his literary criticism. Yet amidst all of his hack work in those two areas, there stand two masterpieces, which I believe have not been equaled in their own realms, The Raven, and its concomitant essay, “The Philosophy of Composition”. In the 21st century, I can think of no American poem more universally appreciated, despite Emerson’s sour grapes or T. S. Eliot’s bitterness, and no essay by a poet, which so brilliantly analyzes the work of its author by the author himself.

    In this New Millennium, the writer, who seems, at least poetically, to carry the mantle of Edgar Allan Poe, is Waldeci Erebus; and in a recent poem of his I see he thinks so too. That poem, which I happened by chance upon, is one entitled “Message in a Tome”. It is a small poem, a mere ten lines. It is obviously not in competition with The Raven, and I know the author thinks that too. It is one of those many poems scattered throughout World literature, in which one author pays homage to another, as Milton did, for example, in his “On Shakespeare”. But, whereas Milton’s poem is overt, Erebus’ poem is covert; and therefore, likely to be missed by this generation. Because the poem is so short, shorter even than Milton’s eight heroic couplets, I can unobtrusively place it here within this small essay upon it.

    “I came upon an old chateau bathed in a moonlit gloom,
    and entered through its Gothic door into a lofty room.
    I came upon an oval portrait of a somber Age.
    The name recorded on the painting was Earl Dolan Page.
    The visage of the gentleman, dark and ethereal,
    was like the face of one’s interred, premature burial.
    Below the image on a table lay an ebon book,
    the Poet’s corpus whose dark countenance adorned that nook.
    I slowly opened it, and came upon what seemed to be
    a purloined letter hidden there. It was addressed to me.”

    The poem structurally is ten lines of iambic heptameter, entitled a tennos, because, in addition to its ten lines, it is literally the exact opposite of a sonnet. It has ten lines of fourteen syllables, as opposed to fourteen lines of ten syllables, (i.e., iambic pentameter), and dispenses with the octave and sestet entirely. Iambic heptameter couplets, used most extensively by Chapman in his translation of Homer’s epic “Iliad”, are used here in a miniature ballad narrative, whose events are few.

    At night, the narrator/poet comes to an old castle, and enters through its door into a large room. He sees in an oval frame, a portrait with a name upon it. The face of the man in the painting looked like someone who had been buried alive. Under the depicted personage was a black book on a table. The narrator/poet opens it, and finds a letter addressed to himself. That is it, and nothing more. With the events of the poem so minimal, how can I suggest this poem is Waldeci Erebus’ homage to Edgar Allen Poe?

    Well, first off, within its lines, are mentioned two tales of Edgar Allan Poe, “The Oval Portrait”, a tale about the relation of life and art, and “The Purloined Letter”, a tale of detection. To me, those are dead giveaways. Other words that also indicate the poem is homage to Edgar Allan Poe are phrases, like interred, premature burial and words, like Gothic. Even the capitalized Poet’s, seems indicative, if one takes in to account that Poe’s name is buried in it! Finally, if there were any doubt at all, the name Earl Dolan Page is an anagram of Edgar Allan Poe. Waldeci Erebus may indeed be carrying the mantle of Edgar Allan Poe.


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