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Mind Games—Three Cerebral Triolets 

Propaganda 

It wants your mind. It wants you blind.
It warps and washes wayward brains.
It gains control of humankind.
It wants you blind. It wants your mind
To cave, to close, no cogs to grind
Till not one stain of you remains.
It wants your mind. It wants you blind.
It warps and washes wayward brains.

.

Plot 

They want you led. They want you dead.
They’re carnage cloaked in care’s disguise.
They want you cowed—afraid—unfed.
They want you led. They want you dead.
They wield the reaper’s scythe of red.
They suck the soul from guileless eyes.
They want you led. They want you dead.
They’re carnage cloaked in care’s disguise.

.

Peace 

Delight in dreams and set them free
Like butterflies and birds in flight.
Rejoice in treasured reverie!
Delight in dreams and set them free.
All hope is fair and feathery;
It rises like a wind-kissed kite.
Delight in dreams and set them free
Like butterflies and birds in flight.

First published in Expansive Poetry Online

Like butterflies and birds in flight.

.

.

An Expert Villanelle 

“We have not overthrown the divine right of kings  
to fall down for the divine right of experts.” 
—Harold Macmillan 

We’re iron-fisted experts paid to lie.
We’re fat cats foisting fictive finds and clues.
__We’re here to make unruly minds comply.

Our tongues are forked and primed to specify
Our poison-laden views—they drive the news.
__We’re iron-fisted experts paid to lie.

We sell you hell and pile our treasures high—
Our wealth depends on ramming home a ruse.
__We’re here to make unruly minds comply.

We spoof with proof no goof would dare deny.
We fox, befuddle, flummox, and confuse.
__We’re iron-fisted experts paid to lie.

We crush concerns and questions. Don’t ask why—
To prod and poke and pry will not amuse.
__We’re here to make unruly minds comply.

We thrash and trash your trusty truth supply—
Veracity’s a vice we won’t excuse.
__We’re iron-fisted experts paid to lie.
__We’re here to make unruly minds comply.

.

.

Susan Jarvis Bryant has poetry published on Lighten Up Online, Snakeskin, Light, Sparks of Calliope, and Expansive Poetry Online. She also has poetry published in TRINACRIA, Beth Houston’s Extreme Formal Poems anthology, and in Openings (anthologies of poems by Open University Poets in the UK). Susan is the winner of the 2020 International SCP Poetry Competition, and has been nominated for the 2022 Pushcart Prize.


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25 Responses

  1. fred schueler

    these are similar to a song from 18 Nov 2014 at an Energy East open house –

    Biostitutes, the Open House-ing throng
    paid by big oil to say what they know is wrong.
    With gentle grins they sweep the waste
    from tarsanding away –
    deny deny, deny deny –
    it’s the industrial way.
    O Canada, glorious and free
    We’ll stand on guard ‘gainst tarsanding for thee….

    – for Sustainable North Grenville, and provoking

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Interesting Fred… I don’t know anything about tar sanding but I’m certain there are “experts” in many fields that push propaganda. Wisdom has led me to believe if the government is funding the finds, it’s likely to be in their interest, not ours. As far as the environment is concerned I’d like to see the outrage over the amount of death and damage caused to the bird population by wind turbines… I won’t because the government and unprincipled landowners are getting huge kickbacks from inefficient “renewable energy” – oh the hypocrisy of going green.

      Reply
  2. James A. Tweedie

    Susan,

    As usual, your poetic skills amaze me! The triolets are perfectly shaped and formed and your thought follows clearly from one line to the next with alliteration slipped in as a bonus–not an easy feat to pull off within the formal limitations of a triolet.

    It is the villanelle, however, that impresses and inspires me the most. Both the form and subject are presented flawlessly. I picture you with a self-satisfied smile on your face as you spelled out phrases like, “We’re fat cats foisting fictive finds and clues” and “We spoof with proof no goof would dare deny./
    We fox, befuddle, flummox, and confuse.” And even if you didn’t smile, I most certainly did!

    I read the villanelle soon after it was posted and in the early morning West Coast darkness it inspired me to jot down my own thoughts on what it takes to be considered an “expert” these days.

    Although it doesn’t come close to measuring up with your villanelle, it was written a way of paying you back for the smile.

    I used to spurt out research facts and data,
    There was no reason to put on an act.
    But now I simply make stuff up and state a
    Reasoned guess as if it were a fact.

    Please take me at my word and just believe me!
    I’ve traded “spurting” for a judgment call.
    I now refuse to let the facts deceive me.
    That’s why I’m called an “ex-spurt” after all.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      James, thank you very much for your generous comment and I love your poem. I went beyond a smile when reading it… your wonderfully woven wit has given me a Saturday morning snigger – great stuff! I’m proud to have this expert ex-spurt poem on my page… and you’re right. I was smiling when I wrote the villanelle. It seems I never suffer for my art.

      Reply
  3. Mo

    This is Susan at the top of her game, as usual. Always insightful…

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Mo, thank you very much for your lovely comment. I’m glad you see where I’m coming from. It’s tough to remain sane in these strange times, let alone insightful… I can only do my best. Thanks again.

      Reply
  4. Stuti

    The triolets are beautiful. I love how you’ve structured the 3 parts beautifully and how one flows from the other.

    The villanelle I enjoyed reading out aloud to myself in the room! The bursts of alliteration and assonance – “We spoof with proof no goof …..” and there were a couple of others there, so clever! my favourite line in the piece though is “Veracity’s a vice we won’t excuse.” and so well placed towards the ending of the piece for the punch. Thank you for sharing these.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Stuti, knowing how seriously you take your poetry, I am honoured to receive such a beautiful comment from you. Your favourite line is mine too. It’s the line I most relate to. In this post-truth era, veracity is definitely a vice the powers that be won’t excuse. I’m glad I got my point across with a smile and a wink. 🙂 Thank you very much!

      Reply
  5. Mike Bryant

    These poems are technically brilliant, insightful and wonderful when read out loud. I’ve said it before… you write like a dream.

    Speaking of propaganda and experts, I just saw a meme that said:

    I remember reading about propaganda in history books and thinking, “Wow, this is so obvious, nobody would fall for this today.” Boy was I wrong.

    It made me think of an article sent to me by one of the brilliant poets here at SCP that contains this list of eleven absurdities:

    1. Men give birth.
    2. It is fair to allow biological men to compete in women’s sports.
    3. Defund police and crime will decrease.
    4. Racial segregation is antiracist. Opposition to racial segregation is racist.
    5. Latinx.
    6. Your race matters.
    7. Diversity is strength – and happiest countries in the world are Finland, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland.
    8. Free speech does not allow for hate speech.
    9. You’re not a human until you are born. 
    10. Capitalism is evil.
    11. America is systemically racist.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Mike, this is just the sort of thing that inspires my poetry… “experts” hired to further an evil ideology, and you (as ever) have pointed it out perfectly – this ridiculous list points the idiocy of “expertise” out.

      Reply
  6. Joseph S. Salemi

    The triolet and the villanelle are difficult forms to manage well. Susan Bryant shows a superb command of both.

    We’ve reached the point in modern society where “experts” have assumed the attitude of the Third Reich’s Nazi Gauleiter, who sincerely believes that he has the legal right and the moral duty to tell other persons how they must behave, think, perceive, react, and express themselves at all times. And this is fiercely defended by people who call themselves “liberals” (i.e. partisans of freedom).

    The great Eric Voegelin said this of liberals: “They are the intellectual pimps for power, who will tomorrow connive in our murder.”

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Joe, thank you for your encouraging comment on the poetry front. As for your observations on the political front, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Sadly, I learned the hard way. Having gone through the Covid crisis, I firmly believe Eric Voegelin has it right. I took a lot of convincing… but, I know it (first hand) to be true. My view of the world has changed and I’m still getting my head around it.

      Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Joseph, You should also add, “. . .who will tomorrow connive in our murder” and then, in turn, find themselves consumed and erased by the powers they serve. After all, the Anitfa crowd has as much love for Diane Feinstein as they have for Donald Trump. Once they get rid of the one, they will turn on the other.

      Reply
      • Joseph S. Salemi

        I can’t remember if it was Georges Danton or Jacques Mallet de Pan who said it:

        “The Revolution, like Saturn, devours its own children.”

        Diane Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi are absolutely scared shitless of the left-wing of their party.

  7. Paul Freeman

    Yes, some folk regarded as experts are seduced by the big bucks and will fight tooth-and-nail for something they know to be false.

    But why has the word ‘expert’ been seized upon to glibly disregard (cancel), out of hand, anyone with specialised knowledge merely because we don’t like what they’re saying?

    Thanks for the thought-provoking reads, Susan.

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      Paul, did you look at the list of eleven absurdities that government experts are pushing?
      You’ve missed the point again. Macmillan understood that as sovereign individuals we each are free to decide which expert or experts we trust. You, Paul, have simply decided to trust government funded experts, the ones that are NEVER canceled.

      Speaking of cancel/disregard…
      “cancel’ on wordhippo…
      https://www.wordhippo.com/what-is/another-word-for/cancel.html
      Hmmmm… disregard does not appear…

      so, I checked “disregard’
      https://www.wordhippo.com/what-is/another-word-for/disregard.html
      and, wouldn’t you know it… “cancel” does not appear.

      Shouldn’t a writer be a bit more careful with their words?

      Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      It’s one thing to be an expert on Roman coins or Anglo-Saxon poetry, where your opinions have no bearing on human life, freedom, and choice. It’s quite another to try and control human beings by using your “expertise” to lord it over them and limit the scope of people’s lives and opportunities, against their better judgment. If the COVID hysteria has taught us anything, it is that these kinds of self-described “experts” are in the wings everywhere, ready to leap out and start distributing regulations and Diktats.

      Reply
  8. Brian Yapko

    Susan, I love all four of these poems. Triolets are a funny little form which I’m still getting used to. The form is demanding because the repeated lines take up so much of the poem’s real estate and each reiteration needs to offer a fresh view or insight. In some ways it’s harder than a rondeau. So the success of your trio is exceptionally impressive as are the messages within each. The first two really nail some of what threatens our deeply-besieged society, while the third offers a tender respite. Those “they”s and “it”s are truly terrifying. Query: Why is the dream poem called “Ploy”? I’m reading it literally rather than with a subtext. Am I missing something sinister?

    Your villanelle on “experts” is fantastic! I’m reminded of The Merchant of Venice (that seems to be coming up a lot lately) when Antonio says “the devil can quote Scripture for his purpose. I can tell you from many years of litigation experience that all expert opinions should be taken with a boulder of salt. Read through the cross-examination in any deposition or trial transcript and you’ll see how much experts are influenced by agenda, bias, who is paying them, ego, the desire for notoriety, an eye towards future clients, and on and on. Isn’t it a bit coincidental that every case with expert witnesses ends up being a battle between two completely antagonistic viewpoints that nevertheless purport to be based on the same raw data? They are paid to be advocates, not some ethereal finders of Truth. To find an expert who is sincerely neutral is a bit like Diogenes looking for an honest man.

    Reply
  9. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Brian, your comment is a breath of fresh air. I am so glad you have the “expertise” of the “experts” pegged. Your “The devil can quote scripture…” from The Merchant of Venice explains my villanelle in a nutshell (oh dear… I’m beginning to think in rhyme!). After the Covid-19 debacle, we should be surprised that any government official or news outlet would impart with the word “expert” when disseminating information they want taken seriously. Our overlords have rendered the term defunct… it should be on the scrapheap with the term “racist”.

    I love your observations on the triolets. The triolet is indeed a funny little form, which is why I love playing with it. I enjoy the challenge of fitting words and meanings together like a jigsaw puzzle… I start with the edges and work my way in… never forcing the pieces… just gently placing them until they fit… then I stand back and drink in the picture. For me, they’re tough but rewarding. This is the first series I’ve done. I’m impressed that you picked up on the title of the third triolet. Because it pulled you up, I’m not sure that it worked. My idea was to come up with a title that revealed a cunning little plan… the propagandists and plotters can do all they will to twist and own the mind. “Ploy” is a message to have something hidden away, something the thought thieves can’t steal…hopes and dreams. I may have to work on this. If you have an idea, I’d love to hear it.

    Brian, as ever, I thoroughly appreciate your fine eye and wisdom. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Brian Yapko

      Ah, I understand exactly what you’re going for in “Ploy.” First let me reassure you, I think it’s an excellent poem. I just perceived a disconnect between the substance of the poem and the title. The word “ploy” for me has a manipulative, cynical connotation that I couldn’t connect to your sweet poem about dreams and butterflies. I think the concept that would fit would be Haven, Refuge, Sanctuary, Sanctum… something along those lines. Am I right? I appreciate your desire to play with “P and O” sounds connecting the titles of the triolets, so another possibility might be “Postern” which refers to a secret or concealed door in a Medieval castle or tower to allow for escape during a siege. That might fit your concept (we certainly need all the siege protection we can get these days!) and it might also give you your P-O word. Just a thought. Either way, splendid work, Susan!

      Reply
      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Brian, I really appreciate you getting back to me on this, and I love your ideas… they’ve sent my head spinning in all directions. I like the feel of Sanctuary/Sanctum and I adore the word “Postern” – a new one for me. All of these have led me to the title “Peace”… peace of mind, if you will ;)… little play on the mind-games theme and a place of sanctuary in our heads that no one can get to. I couldn’t have got there without you. Thank you!!

  10. Shaun C. Duncan

    These are fantastic, Susan. I particularly like the second triolet, which really pulls no punches. I also really enjoyed the villanelle as experts are a pet peeve of mine.

    I used to work for a press clipping service (or media intelligence agency, as they now style themselves) and the one thing I found striking was that on any given issue the media would only ever consult a small handful of approved experts and often only a single individual again and again. Naturally these people would claim to speak for all their peers (who were never, ever quoted) and, of course, they were also on the payroll of agencies and corporations selling solutions to the problems they were promoting. False credentialing is also extremely common and seemed to reach an unprecedented level during the covid scare – anyone with a white coat and a Twitter account was being touted as an expert so long as they fed the fear.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much for your comment, Shaun. I’m thrilled you like the poems and even more thrilled you can see through those “experts” foisted upon us. Oh, what damage they can do, if left unchecked… we’re reaping what many of them have sown during the pandemic now.

      Reply
  11. C.B. Anderson

    These poems, Susan, are all on point and satisfyingly mordant. I did wonder, however, why you chose to indent certain lines of the villanelle — which nonetheless was expertly done.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      I’m glad you enjoyed these acerbic morsels of sardonic poetry, C.B. I simply can’t help myself. As for the indents on the villanelle, I just decided to go all fancy with the repeating lines. I know indents are often used for lines of different meter. I also know my quirkiness is off kilter. I like to practice anarchistic calisthenics now and again. I am such a goody-two-shoes, I have to break the rules sometimes to keep me ready for the day I’m called upon to rebel for the good of society. I only hope I’ve managed to go against some stringent villanelle codes of practice, otherwise all would have been in vain. Thank you for noticing my naughtiness.

      Reply

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