Photo of Allen Ginsberg.Three Sonnets on Contemporary Poetry, by Joseph S. Salemi The Society October 8, 2021 Culture, Humor, Poetry 25 Comments . Prerequisites for a Trendy Poetry Reading Casual clothes, streetwise but debonair: Knit sweater, denims (slightly dishabille); A tentative, apologetic air, As if you told what you would most conceal; Credentials of the avant garde, implied In the unstudied flexion of your spine; A contrapposto at the lectern’s side To match the supine slackness of your line; Serious subjects, or some apt remark That shows you au courant with modern times; Personal torment, but conjoined with stark Social awareness of our bourgeois crimes; Above all else, an audience of sods That hears its platitudes confirmed, and nods. . . Poetry Today Since Baudelaire and Verlaine, the field has shrunk: Mere feelings, hokum, moral cant, and whining. In greater ages, poetry was drunk On Bacchic dance, blood lust, occult divining, The savagery of Swift, the wit of Byron, Poe’s death-wish, Dowson’s pedophilic viols; The obscene lisping of a sluttish siren Formed Wilde and Swinburne’s Dionysian styles. No tawdry brothels now, nor spired cathedrals: Just thatched mud huts for lemmings to call home— Epiphanies of small, pathetic people As pallid as a cracked and sunbleached bone. Today verse wears the regulation dress Of inoffensive bourgeois politesse. from The New Formalist . . On a Workshopped Poem How nice! You’ve seen to every single thing. Congratulations on your deft removal Of any phrase that might offend or sting The consciousness of Those Who Grant Approval. There is no word disparaging or vicious; No heinous hint of ethnic derogation. Your verse is free from anything suspicious Like thought or wit or humorous deflation. You’ve excised terms insensitive and callous, All slurs, invective, insult, and aspersions. You’ve stayed away from vulva and from phallus (We do not sanction those obscene diversions). Indeed, you’ve labored long and hard. And now Your poem is as placid as a cow. . . Joseph S. Salemi has published five books of poetry, and his poems, translations and scholarly articles have appeared in over one hundred publications world-wide. He is the editor of the literary magazine Trinacria and writes for Expansive Poetry On-line. He teaches in the Department of Humanities at New York University and in the Department of Classical Languages at Hunter College. 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 email@example.com. 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. CODEC News:Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) 25 Responses Allegra Silberstein October 8, 2021 Hello…wonderful sonnets and I especially love the “Workshopped Poem”! Reply Kanta Roy October 21, 2021 I love the freedom you have for sonnet to new subjects of contemporary everything. My great expectation you are. Reply Damian Robin October 8, 2021 Neat and spiky with a souciance of much needed air freshener. Reply Paul Freeman October 8, 2021 * Clicks fingers* I hear you, man. Reply Brian Yapko October 8, 2021 Thank you for three very fine poems which are painfully observant. I really like your arch tone — especially in “On a Workshopped Poem”. I can’t abide anything written by committee or which demands consensus. That type of spineless approval-seeking is how people become sheeple. Reply C.B. Anderson October 8, 2021 Well, Joe, all three of these were technically as taut as a triple-C piano wire. But the message — Oh the message! In the spirit of mercy, I hope that none of the malfeasants you advert to read this, because total deflation is sure death. I don’t want them to die; I just want them to go away. Reply Reid McGrath October 8, 2021 Well said as always. Reply Sally Cook October 9, 2021 Joe you follow the truth where it leads. So few do, and I congratulate you. Truly it is a delight to see in print what so many do not take the trouble to articulate. These are fine poems. Not only because of their interesting technical attributes or even their conviction. And certainly not just because of what they make me feel. They are not significant because of any emotional reaction on my part or because they offer an opportunity to make a witty riposte. Wonderful! Marvelous! Your poems on contemporary oets and poetry are good because, in addition to all the above, they reflect the slackness and the wandering desire to follow convention even when it becomes insane. (appropos of this, I would like to hear more from Brian on the Sheeple People, because we are fast becoming just that.) Joe, we are all fortunate that you have not yet caught that virus! Reply Joseph S. Salemi October 9, 2021 Thank you, Sally. What I really wanted to do, by bringing these three sonnets together here, was to focus on three problems in the contemporary po-biz world. The first poem deals with widespread posturing and virtue-signaling, and the pretense of being “hip” and “cool.” The second poem deals with the growing absence of any interesting subject matter in contemporary poetry, and its replacement by canned piety and “niceness” and personal epiphanies. The third poem deals with the obsessive concern that we not “offend” anyone, and that our poems be approved by focus-groups and majority vote. I could have added something about a really big problem, affecting both free verse and formal verse today. And that is the endless flood of poems that are consciously child-friendly and folksy and cutesy-poo and plastered with Smiley-Face buttons, as if we were running a Quaker kindergarten. Reply C.B. Anderson October 9, 2021 What?! You gotta problem wit Quaker kindergartens now? Can’t we all be Friends? David Watt October 10, 2021 You have summed up trendy poetry perfectly: Placid, pallid, and taking the utmost care not to offend. Thank God we still have poets unwilling to censor themselves into insipidness. Reply Patricia Redfern October 10, 2021 Poetry, Today, perfect! I cannot bear the kissy-face, 6th grade level topics I witness at other sites. And they win prizes! It’s nauseating….politics being the worst thing to write. They won’t write on humanity or survival.Thank you ever so much, Joseph! Patricia Redfern Reply Joseph S. Salemi October 10, 2021 Thank you, Ms. Redfern. I believe part of the problem at those other sites is that the people who frequent them think of such sites as support-groups or therapy meetings, where everyone reflexively congratulates each other on their “honest expression of true feelings,” or some such irrelevancy, and everyone is in a state of hyped-up enthusiasm. Reply Patricia Redfern October 10, 2021 Joseph, right on the money! “ Soeaking from your heart”.yikes, I hate that kind of comments. Contests are like the Kentucky Derby. WORSE..A CIRCUS with games, everyone in”contests” .I don’t play them.Then I found The Society and awoke to the craziness I was involved in. I can be sane here. So terribly grateful, love the Zoom and videos and beautiful poetry here. Appreciate your thoughtfulness and time. Patricia Redfern Susan Jarvis Bryant October 16, 2021 Beautifully crafted, highly entertaining, and oh so bloody well true! Thank you! Reply Norma Okun October 27, 2021 The best line in your poem is “as placid as a cow” What is wrong with placid cows? If a poem brings me serenity and comfort, I like it. What are you hoping from poetry? To be a burning forest fire where all goes up in smoke? Reply Joseph S. Salemi October 31, 2021 There’s nothing wrong with some poems being placid, Norma, but not all of them should follow that pattern.. I’d also like to see some poems that kick ass. Reply Norma Okun November 1, 2021 Perhaps you ought to play ball. That is the thing to kick. Reply Joseph S. Salemi November 1, 2021 Actually, Norma, there’s plenty of human ass out there that deserves severe kicking. If you don’t think so, you must be leading a charmed life. Reply Norma Okun November 1, 2021 According to the gospel, even Moses broke the tablets. But, “kicking blank” the way you are saying it is to me on behalf of an inflamed ego. Joseph S. Salemi November 2, 2021 The account of Moses smashing the tablets of The Law is in Exodus, not the Gospels. “Kicking blank”? What’s the matter, Norma? Can’t you say the word “ass”? James Ph. Kotsybar November 1, 2021 I’m staying out of the arguments. I enjoyed your poems very much. I liked C. B. Anderson’s (probably missed) witticism. Reply Gregory Spicer November 2, 2021 Doctor…DOOOOOOMM! Conform all verse to what I say! All other poems are too weak And may just seem a little bleak If people don’t do things my way! It’s true, you know, I wouldn’t lie! I will not shoot you for your thoughts Since I’m…Professor Polyglots… On sixty’s acid perma-fry! Oh no! Not so! I am quite sane! And claim as I more contradict That I, to ego, do not addict Or otherwise become inane… Because when I mastered humanities… I immunized from vanities! Reply Joseph S. Salemi November 2, 2021 Once again, Spicer proves that he has no skill whatsoever in poetry. Reply S.A.Todd November 6, 2021 Really enjoyed these, thanks, especially that last couplet in ‘Prerequisites’ which was deliciously on point! – Steve Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. Δ This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.