Dear Editor,

My odes are grandiose and overblown
With pudgy gluts of stodgy adjectives
In floods of flabby babble prone to drone,
All topped with tired, archaic additives.
Forsooth, methinks the proof’s before your eyes,
But, twixt these lines exists a masterpiece;
A svelte and blithesome, lithe, linguistic prize
If fat is scythed from all that’s deemed obese.
Thus, thus shalt bite the dust and thou wilt flee,
Each dumpy euphemism will expire;
No jelly-bellied metaphors for me;
All portly similes will hit the pyre.

You’ll hear from me anon, yes, mighty quick—
I’ll slim this sonnet to a limerick.

Revision:

I once wrote an overblown sonnet
as brash as a flash Easter bonnet;
I devoted five hours
to the trashing of flowers,
and here’s the result—do you want it?

 

 

A Purple Villanelle

I wallow in the wonder of each word.
Each tongue-spun crumb I’m fed is daily bread;
I relish every lyric lilt I’ve heard.

My passion for loquacity has spurred
poetic pearls to swirl around my head;
I wallow in the wonder of each word.

I revel on the level of absurd,
embellishing ice blue with spicy red;
I relish every lyric lilt I’ve heard.

I twist life’s gist and drift with breeze and bird
to seas of balladry where glee is bred.
I wallow in the wonder of each word.

I linger in lush lexicons—I’m stirred
by plush, plum, peachy paths that few will tread;
I relish every lyric lilt I’ve heard.

I spill grandiloquence—I’m undeterred
by voguish prigs who squish linguistics dead.
I wallow in the wonder of each word
and relish every lyric lilt I’ve heard.

 

 

Scoffer

He casts a haughty eye upon your toils;
the warp and weft of words you’ve woven tight.
He revels like the devil in his spoils
and claws at every thread with raw delight,

unraveling each seam until your cloths
of heaven look like rags on beggars’ backs
benibbled by a gnash of hungry moths.
He spills his ills on all your opus lacks.

The silvered weave you’ve spread with golden flair
through moonbeam dreams embroidered with the night,
will only prompt this gloater to declare
he wouldn’t wipe his feet on such a fright.

He spurns the nightingale and Grecian urn.
The lofty Canon’s far beneath his taste.
So, poet, grab your gifts before they burn
in bile that lays the very best to waste.

If weavers of silk ode succumb to scorn,
all mists and mellow fruitfulness will die.
No jocund daff will dance upon the lawn.
No Tyger, blazing bright, will light an eye.

First published in Snakeskin

 

 

Susan Jarvis Bryant is a church secretary and poet whose homeland is Kent, England.  She is now an American citizen living on the coastal plains of Texas.  Susan has poetry published in the UK webzine, Lighten Up On Line, The Daily Mail, and Openings (anthologies of poems by Open University Poets).


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36 Responses

  1. Alan

    “I spill grandiloquence—I’m undeterred
    by voguish prigs who squish linguistics dead.”

    These lines seem to summarize your modus operandi. I hope you live to write a lot more! (But be careful with those adjectives.)

    By the way, “the coastal plains of Texas” sounds so nice and charming (and poetic), but I wonder whether that area feels charming during hurricanes. “The rain in Spain stays mostly in the plains.” But, “The rain in Texas just comes to vex us.”

    I enjoyed hearing you read last Sunday.

    Reply
    • Alan

      It is obviously not you whom the prigs are squishing, but your grandiloquence or linguistics.

      Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Alan, thank you very much for your appreciation of my poetry. I too hope I live to write a lot more. Perhaps my epitaph will read; “She spilled grandiloquence – plain undeterred / by voguish prigs who squished linguistics dead.” I love it!!

      As for the coastal plains of Texas, I will admit my new home has taken some getting used to. The summers are hotter than hell, and the snakes and alligators are enough to set any Brit’s heart aflutter… but, I’ve come to appreciate the wild beauty of the land. We live on a migratory bird path with some of the most magnificent birds to photograph. These include 5ft tall whooping cranes and hummingbirds – tiny avian gems that grace my backyard for around three months a year. And, the winters are wonderful. Mostly tee shirt and shorts and no snow drifts or thick frost. I’m happy. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Julian D. Woodruff

    A gnash of hungry moths, eh? Oh, what the heck … ‘swonderful!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Mr. Woodruff, I love to play around with collective nouns and I’m thrilled you appreciate this one.

      Reply
  3. Peter Austin

    Susan:
    I love your way with words and your sense of humour!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much, Mr. Austin. I appreciate you stopping by to read and comment. I will admit, like a poor comedian, I sometimes laugh at my poetry as I’m writing it. I never suffer for my art. LOL

      Reply
  4. Joe Tessitore

    Let me join the chorus and ask “how about ‘benibbled’”?

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Mr. Tessitore, “benibbled” is blatant and rather naughty poetic license. I think it goes with my “gnash of hungry moths” perfectly, and I sincerely hope it will be added to the dictionary shortly – I don’t know how the English language has managed without it. 😉

      Reply
      • Jan Darling

        Dear Susan
        Thank Goodness (who dwells in too few hearts) for your sense of humour and wickedness with your naughty poetic licence. I was so transported that I am certain I heard the gnashing of hungry moths benibbling Tessitorean ears.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Dear Jan – what a grin of a comment. I thoroughly appreciate your humour. The world could do with a few more happy hearts brimming with sunshine – thank you for sharing yours.

  5. Joseph S. Salemi

    Mrs. Bryant has cast light on two tendencies that motivate modernist critiques of poetry in the traditional style. In “Dear Editor,” it’s the hatred of adjectives, adverbs, unusual words, and metaphors. In “Scoffer” it’s the generalized distaste for canonical works, verbal intricacy, and beautiful artifice.

    Remember this about modernist critics of formal poetry: they are the same people who like abortions such as minimalist painting, deconstructive architecture, surrealism, and Danish Modern furniture. You really can’t trust them on any aesthetic subject.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much for your observations, Dr. Salemi. I am going to make a horrible confession now… don’t tell everyone… but, I like Danish Modern furniture, and surrealism intrigues me.

      Reply
      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Gasp!…. Choke!… Danish Modern?!?

        Surrealism I can understand… there might actually be something worthwhile hidden there, especially in work by Dali. But Danish Modern is the epitome of bourgeois pretentiousness.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        I’m glad you mentioned Dali – it was him I had in mind. As for Danish Modern furniture – I was just testing, Dr. Salemi, just testing. 🙂

      • Ib Claus Weeder

        I, too, appreciate Danish Modern furniture, which is hardly the “epitome of bourgeois pretentiousness”.

    • David Gosselin

      Dear Mr. Salemi,

      I recently stumbled upon your “The Lilacs on Good Friday.” I saw it when I was looking at the poetry of Kevin Roberts on TheHyperTexts.

      I think the poem is a great example of timeless classical poetry written in our own modern English vernacular. I also agree with what you said about modern/contemporary critics (of course there are exceptions): “it’s the hatred of adjectives, adverbs, unusual words, and metaphors.” Pieces like your Lilacs are definitely the best way to stick it to the modern critics.

      While there is plenty of poetry written in formal styles today, much of it suffers from a lack of idea and inspiration. I think that’s something that can only come from a rigorous spiritual and philosophical development, and a sense of purpose. It seems that most modern writers lack a sense of purpose, for their life or work, so it becomes much easier to play around with language and try to generate effects without any real intent. Even a talented writer can be destroyed by that kind of thinking. Their axioms lead them to believe that there could be no real purpose, that such an idea is in itself foolish, naive, and even dangerous.

      So I was glad to find your Lilacs poem and hope to see more of that kind of stuff here on the SCP.

      Reply
      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Your comment is serendipitous. I was planning to submit “The Lilacs on Good Friday” to Mr. Mantyk in the near future. I consider it my most successful poem.

        About what you say, it’s probably the case that in every century the great bulk of poetry that is written is only so-so, or mediocre, or not especially memorable. Even top-notch poets are often remembered for only a small handful of their best poems. Some writers, like T.S. Eliot, manage to squeeze out a very small corpus of material. Others, like Wordsworth, produce reams of pages. And yet in both cases posterity probably fixes its attention on just a few favorite pieces from each man.

        I’m not upset that much formal poetry today is lacking in real force and vigor and imagination. That’s par for the course in ANY time period, not just ours. What I find much more dangerous is the fact that many persons writing formal poetry are still in thrall to modernist and Romantic suppositions and attitudes! This unconscious enslavement to modernist dictates, and to modernist habits of thought, is what will kill off any formalist revival before it can produce anything of value. I compare it to wanting to be a traditional classical musician, while only knowing and believing in the crackpot theories of Arnold Schonberg and John Cage. It’s an absurdity.

        Mr. Gosselin, if you will ask Mr. Evan Mantyk to send me by e-mail your postal mailing address, I will send you the book in which “The Lilacs on Good Friday” appears.

    • David Gosselin

      Hi Mr. Salemi,

      That’s a nice coincidence. It is a rather perfect poem. Also a coincidence, I wrote a poem that touches on a similar theme, “Lilacs in the Rain.” I’ll be happy to share it.

      Perhaps it would be easiest to email. I can be reached at thechainedmusepoetry@gmail.com.

      As well, I have a recitation project where I’m recording a series of 21st century classical poems. I think your Lilac poem would be a good fit.

      Here are two examples I’ve published so far, with many more coming:

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TiopfE958jw

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LVrEycm162c

      The art of classical recitation is also something that has been largely lost, and I think that it may be one of the keys to seeing a genuine revival of classical poetry, and a classical culture more generally. The goal is to publish a whole series of recitations like the ones above, by various writers.

      Reply
  6. Peter Hartley

    Susan – to which list I would add Art Deco as exemplified by the pottiness of Clarice Cliff, although the Chrysler building at least has a stateliness about it and I couldn’t see the flashy bits at the top anyway from ground level. Your sonnet I found totally lacking in vibrancy, immediacy and local colour, truth and honesty. And in this day and age we could all do with a bit of probity in our lives and a few hackneyed phrases; it has no literary merit whatsoever. There is what I can only describe as a pudgy glut of stodgy adjectives which detracts from any appreciation of the whole. The language is otiose, redundant, euphuistic to the point of pudgy gluttiness, the over-implementation of sesquipedalian vocables is unnecessary, supererogatory, especially the adjectives (I think you’ll find), repetitive, tautologous, and unnecessarily iterative. I don’t know how you could have the brass neck to put this in the same bracket as Samson Agonistes, Comus, the Aeneid and the Holy Bible. Like the Chrysler building it starts at ground level with great promise to terminate in a miserably exiguous little finial. No great denouement, no anticlimax, no deus ex machina. Apart from the forgoing remarks the first two are brilliant and the third I won’t criticise till I’ve tried writing my own.

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Peter, that’s a brilliantly comic statement. But recall something that is true about countless readers today, including many who are participants in this forum: they have no perception whatsoever of irony, sarcasm, or sardonic statement, and they take everything that they read at face value.

      Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Mr. Hartley, as Dr. Salemi quite rightly points out; “a brilliantly comic statement” in true British tongue-in-cheek style. I have a friend who collects the potty Clarice Cliff (I’m grinning), and your Chrysler building analogy is magnificent – I’m a Gherkin fan myself. But, the pièce de résistance is your wicked way with words. The deliciously rich “sesquipedalian vocables” makes me want to steal every last one of your exquisite terms and fashion them into a new poem! I do believe your comment has outdone my poetry… but, I promise not to hold this against you.

      Reply
  7. C.B. Anderson

    Susan,

    You are a comedic genius. But as everyone knows, the best comedy is laden with nuggets of truth, for otherwise it wouldn’t be funny. And your attention to technical detail makes the comedy all the funnier. You are the Gilbert and Sullivan of contemporary poetry, to say the least. God help us all if you ever decide to venture into heavier modes of expression.

    I see that SNAKESKIN has smiled upon you, just as it has lately smiled on me, after a decade of disappointment. George Simmers is a quirky editor, and he seems to love an oddball piece. Sometimes I think maybe, but at other times I just don’t know. SNAKESKIN is a Mecca for the dirt dogs who let everything hang out. Free verse is welcomed there as well. George is a total maverick.

    Reply
  8. Rod Walford

    Hello Susan – I never cease to be both thrilled and amazed by your lexicographal dexterity! I got a great deal of pleasure from reading these – and I’m not just saying that because we would have been neighbours back in the old country ( I’m a Brighton boy) but I can appreciate somewhat the degree of culture shock you must have experienced moving to Texas. Great work Susan and of course many a true word spoken in jest! – thank you 🙂

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much, Rod. I appreciate you reading and commenting. And… ahh… Brighton. I spent many a day on Brighton beach with my grandparents when I was a child, and you’ve just taken me right back there. The last time I visited Brighton was in 2017 – I had fish and chips at the end of the pier! Delicious… the two things I miss in Texas are fish and chips and crumpets. I’ve tried making both and they’re simply not the same.

      Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you for popping by, Jeff. I’m over the moon you enjoyed the poems.

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        Susan,

        You must know that it’s only a matter of time before you become the featured poet in an edition of LIGHT. Despite what others have written, your adjectives will serve you well.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        C.B., I am sniggering. Perhaps they’ll post my latest; “D-Day Desecration” – they do say they’re completely apolitical… we’ll see. 😉

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        LIGHT is “apolitical”? ROTFLMAO.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Yep! I think they may have stretched the truth somewhat in this broadminded statement on their submissions page.

        We’re open to work from the left or the right,
        to formal or free verse, refined or with bite,
        to thought that’s like ours or that’s different by half:
        we just want good stuff that’ll make people laugh.

        I was suckered in until I started to read the poems alongside my publications. Oops!

  9. David Watt

    Susan, I fully believe your line: ‘I wallow in the wonder of each word’.
    The evidence of your wallowing is to be found in the wonderful interplay of rich language, humor, and social commentary.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much for dropping by and offering your perceptive take on my poetry, Mr. Watt. I do “wallow in the wonder of each word” – I simply can’t help myself. I’m very happy you enjoyed my wallowing… I hope to wallow for some time to come. 🙂

      Reply
  10. Sultana Raza

    To Susan, when I heard you recite these poems during the Symposium, I really wanted to read them, so am glad to do so now. Could the adjectives, bold and beautiful be applied to your juicy poems? Not to mention comedic and pointu? If all poets were suddenly asked to fence with rhymes, few would be able to stand in front of your delicate dance with words. Needless to say I love the last two stanzas of Scoffer.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Sultana, thank you so very much for dropping by and reading my poetry. I love your poetic observations – the fencing analogy is delightful. I will now think of the creative process as a delicate dance with my word flourishing epee in hand. Thank you!

      Reply

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