Mastering Magic

Set the questing mind on fire with magic,
Learn the ancient lore then follow through.
Effortlessness must be automatic,
Forcing sorcery will never do.

Wizardry well done is wild—electric!
Perseverance is your greatest tool.
If the bones show through the flesh, it’s tragic.
Practice. Practice. Practice. That’s the rule.

Incantations misinform perception;
Misconception is your rich reward.
Don’t reveal the slick steps of deception;
What you’ve hidden shouldn’t be explored.

Prime your crowd for maximum confusion;
Draw each awestruck eye and charm each heart.
Set the scene for shimmering illusion;
Craft is what you’re after—sell your art!



Octopus Octet

The octopus
Is beauteous,
More curious than
The platypus,
In consequence
Because he’s so



Mike Bryant is a poet and retired plumber living on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

NOTE TO READERS: If you enjoyed this poem or other content, please consider making a donation to the Society of Classical Poets.

NOTE TO POETS: The Society considers this page, where your poetry resides, to be your residence as well, where you may invite family, friends, and others to visit. Feel free to treat this page as your home and remove anyone here who disrespects you. Simply send an email to Put “Remove Comment” in the subject line and list which comments you would like removed. The Society does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments and reserves the right to remove any comments to maintain the decorum of this website and the integrity of the Society. Please see our Comments Policy here.


20 Responses

    • Peter Hartley

      These are both very fine poems and I particularly admire the epic proportions of the second. You manage to escape the charge of three cacographs in the eighth line of the first (assuming they are verbs) because you live in America, and the only thing I can cavil at in the second poem is the beauteousness of the octopus. It is HIDEOUS!!!

      • Mike Bryant

        Peter H.,
        Thanks… on YouTube I’ve seen the octopus remove itself from a jar by unscrewing the lid from the inside. I’ve also seen one change it’s color and apparent surface to perfectly mimic the coral bed. You should see the octopus make a very creditable attempt to blend in with a checkerboard. You gotta love ‘em.

    • Mike Bryant

      Joe T,
      I really appreciate your support and your comment was a nice start to my morning as well.

  1. David Watt

    “Mastering Magic” sums up the art of illusion quite well: Keep them guessing, work hard, and make it look easy. Perhaps the same could be said of poetry.

    • Mike Bryant

      David W.,
      Keep them guessing, work hard, and make it look easy… those are definitely words for life. Perhaps I wasn’t thinking about poetry or politics, but plumbing.

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    “Mastering Magic” is an example of what genuine, classical, formal, metrical poetry should be! It’s what I have been encouraging for decades. It is clear. It is free from meaningless nuance or complexity. Its language and word choices are very sophisticated and adult. It is OBJECTIVE, in that it doesn’t use the pronoun “I” or blather on about the speaker’s feelings. It is poundingly trochaic, which goes along with the poem’s hard structure as a piece that gives orders and directions.

    The greatest of the above qualities is the objectivity. We don’t learn a thing about the poet or the speaker, and we don’t have any plangent appeals to the emotions, or any whining complaints, and we don’t get any pseudo-philosophical musings. We just get a STRAIGHTFORWARD POEM, in top-notch, flawless English, on what it means to be a magician or prestidigitator.

    Am I getting through to some people? Can we have more poems of this nature. instead of interior self-exploration and the pageant of bleeding hearts?

    Perhaps Mr. Bryant means his poem to be a general metaphor for how a poet should accomplish his tasks. If so, that makes the piece doubly valuable and instructive.

    • Mike Bryant

      Joe S.,
      Thanks so much for your appreciation and analysis. I can see why Joe T. would like to sit in on some of your classes.

  3. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Mike, I certainly can’t compete with the glowing endorsement from Dr. Salemi who makes valid and beautiful points with eloquence and wisdom. What I will say is this – I know you take poetry seriously, and, I know (in spite of the seemingly effortless result of “Mastering Magic”) how much work has gone into every perfect line. I am in full agreeance with Dr. Salemi on the metaphor front, only I feel the metaphor can apply to many subjects and aspect of life. For me, it speaks volumes of the arch politicians weaving their beguiling brand of toxic spin and sin. But, even if there was no underlying meaning intended, this is a wonderful lesson for any would-be magician out there. Your poem weaves a magic spell all of its own. Very well done!

    To move on to your “Octopus Octet”, you know I find those spooky, gelatinous beasts far from “beauteous”, so, the fact that your octopus poem made me grin means it’s worthy of Ogden Nash status. I love it!

    Thank you for your daily inspiration! 🙂

    • Mike Bryant

      You certainly do compete. Thanks so much for Your beautiful comment and for everything else. I never thought about politics, but I suppose those same rules could apply to almost any endeavor. Thanks again, biggest fan.

      • Joe Tessitore

        Have the two of you ever thought about writing a poem together, perhaps trading line for line?

      • Mike Bryant

        That’s a great idea, Joe… why don’t you suggest a form and subject? That’ll make it more interesting, and keep us from fighting about it 🙂

  4. C.B. Anderson


    I won’t comment on the Octopus poem; it is what it is. And though these are truly amazing beasts, they’re not much to look at (except in disguise), but they are good to eat.

    Everything Dr. Salemi wrote about the first poem is true, but I would like to comment on some of the rhymes there. Now, if it was your intention to utilize “almost” rhymes, then I have no point to make. I have written on this subject more times than I care to remember, but let’s just remember what a rhyme is supposed to be:

    There’s no mistake,
    He used a rake.

    Notice that proper rhymes use identical vowel sounds with different consonant beginnings on stressed syllables.

    Thus, the magic/automatic attempt gets no cigar. The stressed syllable in both words is “ma-” and that’s a trivial rhyme. Either magic/tragic or automatic/democratic would be perfect rhymes. Are you following this?

    electric/tragic doesn’t even come close. The unstressed tric/gic pair just doesn’t cut it.

    perception/deception is nothing more than rhyming “-cep-” with “-cep-” and either you can take good advice from someone who has looked deeply into the subject of rhyme, or you can stiffen your neck and learn nothing from this exchange.

    • Mike Bryant

      Perhaps my blind spot where rhyme is concerned is almost equal to yours where common courtesy is concerned. A great poet once said that when it comes to criticism, “Constructive criticism – YES. Gratuitous rudeness and character assassination – NO.” Are you following this?
      Thanks for your input. I have taken note. I’ve learned plenty and continue to learn every day and your study of rhyme is interesting and helpful. I always consider my poems to be works in progress and all constructive criticism is welcome.

      • C.B. Anderson


        Who was that great poet, anyway? My “rudeness” was not gratuitous, and I’m certain your character is alive and well.

        In regard to rhyme, no one should have to take my word for anything, so here is an excerpt from an essay by Timothy Steele, a damn fine formalist poet and a serious prosodist, which appeared in THE FORMALIST in 2003:

        … Neither is it usually a good idea to rhyme a simple word with one of its compounds (e.g. order/disorder, vision/prevision) or two compounds of the same class (e.g. conduce/introduce). Such a procedure may give the reader the impression that the writer, when ending a line with one word, is not seeking thoughtfully for a mate for it, but is simply snatching the nearest, easiest rhyme available and slapping it down on the page.
        It is also wise to make one’s rhymes exact, unless one is deliberately working with a pattern of rich rhymes or slant rhymes. Once readers grow accustomed, in perusing a poem, to exact rhymes, an inexact rhyme may sound a false note. It is especially advisable to avoid inexact rhymes that involve pairing a singular noun with a plural of the same form (e.g., back/cracks, hope/slopes). Doubtful as well are rhymes in which one of the syllables is not accented [stressed] (e.g., pass/carcass, forgive/dismissive), though some critics and poets regard such pairings as daring and sophisticated. It is probably also prudent to be wary of the facile assonantal rhymes (e.g, run/young or mist/kiss) endemic in pop-song lyrics. Such rhymes are less of a problem in pop music, since they are supported and sometimes obliterated by the musical accompaniment. But in poetry composed for the individual voice and reader, such rhymes produce a sense of slippage.

      • Mike Bryant

        My apologies, the Poet’s quote has been recently amended.
        “Constructive criticism – YES. Rudeness and condescension – NO.”
        I’ve taken note of your further research and find it helpful.
        Thank you very much.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        It’s too bad the people who ran The Formalist very frequently disregarded Steele’s viewpoints on proper rhyme.

  5. Joe Tessitore


    I’m honored that you ask.

    Evan has one of mine tentatively scheduled for the 25th. It’s in response to two photos which, I believe, provide the essence of classical inspiration.
    You and Susan can take it in a different direction. You could be the parents going about your day, the children at play ….. well, we’ll see.

    But I’m very excited about the possibilities!

    • Mike Bryant

      Joe T.,
      Susan and I love your premise. Did you want us to base our poem on the two photos as well? If so, we look forward to your post. Thanks for the challenge.

      • Joe Tessitore

        Yes, please – take a look at the photos.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.