Classical Poets Live with Andrew Benson Brown

Episode 2: Fake Poets and Hollow Prestige


Audio version available here:



Thomas Gray complete poem “Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes” read in this episode by Susan Jarvis Bryant:


Ode on the Death of a Favourite
Cat Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes

by Thomas Gray (1716-1771)

’Twas on a lofty vase’s side,
Where China’s gayest art had dyed
The azure flowers that blow;
Demurest of the tabby kind,
The pensive Selima, reclined,
Gazed on the lake below.

Her conscious tail her joy declared;
The fair round face, the snowy beard,
The velvet of her paws,
Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,
Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes,
She saw; and purred applause.

Still had she gazed; but ’midst the tide
Two angel forms were seen to glide,
The genii of the stream;
Their scaly armour’s Tyrian hue
Through richest purple to the view
Betrayed a golden gleam.

The hapless nymph with wonder saw;
A whisker first and then a claw,
With many an ardent wish,
She stretched in vain to reach the prize.
What female heart can gold despise?
What cat’s averse to fish?

Presumptuous maid! with looks intent
Again she stretch’d, again she bent,
Nor knew the gulf between.
(Malignant Fate sat by, and smiled)
The slippery verge her feet beguiled,
She tumbled headlong in.
Eight times emerging from the flood
She mewed to every watery god,
Some speedy aid to send.
No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred;
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard;
A Favourite has no friend!

From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
Know, one false step is ne’er retrieved,
And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
Nor all that glisters, gold.



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The Society of Classical Poets does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or commentary.

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38 Responses

  1. Margaret Coats

    I have no time to listen to podcasts, but I am concerned to see how this one is presented. It reflects on me as a member of the Society of Classical Poets when the Society presents a reading of Thomas Gray’s poem “Cat Drowned.” I suppose this is a sloppy shortcut for the full title of one of the great burlesque odes in English (and I see that the shortcut appears only on the Society website). Don’t we have enough trouble with hostile online claims that the Society is a group of doggerel writers? Do we need more laughs at our ignorance?

    And does the Society (as sponsor and promoter) claim that others are “fake poets” in podcast number 2, copyrighted by Andrew Benson Brown? Let’s recall a little controversy in our Comments section a few years ago, when someone claimed that another poet’s work was NOT A SONNET. He meant that it was not up to the highest standards of the sonnet form. But the exchange turned bitter, leading to bad feelings, at least one departure, and a major change in comment policy.
    Do we have podcast policy?

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    Margaret —

    The title of Gray’s poem is somewhat lengthy, and it was probably not possible to put all of it on the screen. In any case, an early edition of the poem, showing its full title, was presented during the podcast, and Susan Bryant gave the full title when she began her reading. There is no “ignorance” here, but merely a convenience for a computer screen.

    Moreover, do you really think that our enemies will be anything except hostile to us, no matter what we do? Our writers could put up a second Iliad here, and our enemies would still dismiss us with contempt. The fact that there is a near-universal agreement not to mention us or allude to our work in any way, shape, or form is glaring proof of their hatred.

    We are in a constant polemical war. Why the hell shouldn’t we attack some of the sacred icons of modernism as “fake poets”? Why do WE have to be the polite and considerate ones?

    Pining for the approval of one’s mortal enemies is always pointless.

    • ABB

      Thanks for backing me, Dr S. I might be putting a target on my back here, but oh well. Just going to push forward and not be apologetic.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Andrew, all of the regulars at the SCP have targets on our back, and have had them for a long time. I am an incognito lurking member at many left-liberal and “progressive” poetry sites, and I can tell you that the private discussion rooms there are filled with savage hate for us that defies belief.

        Don’t think we are not being read. We are being scrutinized and lambasted and excoriated. But since we have been shadow-cancelled, they can’t say anything about us publicly.

        P.S. Please call me Joe. I wish everyone here would do that.

  3. James Sale

    This is an excellent podcast: vivacious, varied and interesting in so many aspects. It is a new way of presenting classical/formal poetry and the ideas behind it, but I think that is necessary and in this instance I think it works. The prelude to the main piece – an interview with Susan Jarvis Bryant – is fascinating in its own right; ABB has certainly put himself out there, but I totally agree with his views on Ginsburg as anyone who has read my Canto 10 from HellWard will know, since I put him in Hell along with Whitman for the general crime of massacring poetry! The interview with SJB is excellent and covers in a gentle and modest way a number of important topics ranging from influences to advice to new poets. I think we should not seek to undermine this as it is important and will help advertise the work of the SCP. We have plenty of brilliant classical images that Evan ingeniously finds to grace the pages of the SCP; the occasional more “60s” image I don’t think detracts.

    • ABB

      Thanks for your support, James. Glad you agree about Ginsberg and I do love how you having him ‘howling’ in HellWard. Hopefully I can keep up a slow trickle of subscribers to keep this thing going,

  4. Mike Bryant

    I love the podcast. Andrew is irreverent, interesting and watchable. Each of Andrew’s productions involve hours of planning, actual online interviews and, especially, editing the video. We’re talking days, not just hours. He makes it look effortless, but it is a huge effort all inspired by SCP and Evan’s vision. Hostile online claims are a huge part of every successful podcast.
    Yes, Evan Mantyk is a visionary. SCP is the best thing to happen to traditional poetry in many years. If you want to know who Evan Mantyk is, take the time to read his introduction to Journal XI. He has created a big tent for traditional poets to populate, however, he is still the ringleader. It’s a great metaphor because sometimes, it seems like a circus around here with the lions and tigers, the high wire artists, the daredevils and even the clowns. Read the introduction… then you’ll understand Mr. Mantyk. He is a uniter and a great advocate for free speech. He is a teacher and he wants all the children of the world to always have the rich blessings of tradition.
    Everyone is welcome at SCP, as long as they leave their matches at home. I guess that is one of the dangers of the big top… it is vulnerable to fire starters.
    I’d love to see Evan’s intro to Journal XI posted here.
    Also, The Mantyk Prize will soon be better known than the Pushcart.

    • ABB

      Thanks for acknowledging the amount of time that went into this thing, Mike. The video editing took me an entire day to do. Still having some issues with that and hopefully I will get better at it. Am learning how to do this as I go. The next episode will be a little more sophisticated, with more animated slides.

  5. Mike Bryant

    Andrew, Joe Rogan better watch out! I really loved the interview. I think you did a great job, of course the interviewee seriously outshined your onscreen presence!

    • ABB

      Yes, I cut myself out a lot because editing the video footage was more of a headache than pairing the cleaned-up audio-only file with a slide. But didn’t want to sideline Susan so I didn’t do that when she talked.

  6. James Sale

    Sometimes almost casual asides, as in the interview, contain a wonderful idea and I, like Mike, love the idea of The Mantyk Prize. We mustn’t forget the opportunistic fact that the word ‘mantic’ actually means ‘relating to divination or prophecy’ and so there is truly a poetic meaning hidden in the homophonic name! Also, like Mike, I would want to acknowledge Evan’s pre-eminence in what he has achieved with the SCP – it is a remarkable achievement and as that has to be qualified with ‘so far’, I am pleased to contemplate what it is further going to do.

    • ABB

      Hmm, am glad that what began as a half-joke is picking up steam. Just something I was thinking about, that the big prizes–Nobel, Pulitzer, Booker—all seem to be two syllables.

  7. Paul Freeman

    To be honest, I felt photoshopping a quill and ink bottle next to a picture of what seems to be a genuinely starving South-East Asian man, followed by a mocking commentary about starving poets, is rather tasteless.

      • Joshua C. Frank

        I don’t know if anyone should be taking advice on taste from someone who routinely makes fun of Susan for her poetry.

      • Paul Freeman

        I don’t recall ever making fun of Susan, Joshua. Disagreeing, yes. But not making fun.

      • Mike Bryant

        Paul, maybe you recall this post:


        You wrote this ditty:

        “Then let us merrily rejoice,
        of vaccines we all have a choice.
        Avoid the clots, both those of blood
        and folk who think the cure’s a dud.”

        You were replying to Susan and everyone who refused the experimental jab. You referred to these people as “clots.”

        Here is the second definition of ‘clot’ from the Cambridge English Dictionary online:
        clot noun [C] (PERSON)
        UK old-fashioned informal
        a stupid person

        You really do like to stir things up.

      • Joshua C. Frank

        Or how about this?


        “Fiddling and diddling and riddling while Rome burns. Amazing!

        “You sound like the Mayor in ‘Jaws’, denying the truth and the science staring him in the face.

        “I’m sure you and Mike’s militia have their reasons.”

        Or this:


        “My favourite line – ‘those not blessed with elements of sense’ – seems to cut both ways.”

        That’s the problem with putting things in writing: you can’t deny it later.

      • Joshua C. Frank

        P.S. I keep asking a question that you still haven’t answered: Why only Susan? I’ve written far more controversial content than the things you pick on her for writing, indicting nearly every person in the industrialized world. I’m still not convinced that there’s no misogyny behind it.

      • Paul Freeman

        I said I thought the starving man was a bit too much.

        Andrew took the point.

        End of story, men.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      My understanding was that the point was not to make fun of actual starving people, but to point out the absurdity of romanticizing being a “starving poet” by showing what starvation actually is.

      Poetry doesn’t make enough money to put food on the table. That’s why I have a regular job and write on the side.

  8. Joshua C. Frank

    This one was great, Andrew! Keep ’em coming!

    One thing: I enjoyed the interview with Susan Jarvis Bryant, but the subtitle implies that you also had an interview with Thomas Gray scheduled along with others. It’s too bad you couldn’t speak through time and interview him! In any event, Susan’s worthy to stand among the classic poets, so I wasn’t disappointed.

    • ABB

      Thanks, Josh. I guess I could get someone to dress up as Thomas Gray, at least?

      • Joshua C. Frank

        Interesting idea! Though I’d choose Robert Frost or William Wordsworth (two of my influences).

  9. C.B. Anderson

    Your conversation with SJB was superb, ABB. I found it riveting and look forward to other such telling segments. BTW, you have the makings of a great moderator.

    • ABB

      Appreciate your kind words, CB. I need to work out some personal quirks as far as my delivery, but hope to get better. Hoping to promote a lot of members work in the future to help get the SCP names out there, a somewhat unfortunate necessity in a screen-staring age.

  10. Shaun C. Duncan

    Nicely done, and I’m not surprised to discover that Susan is as delightful to listen to as she is to read.

    The poverty of Ginsberg’s so-called talent is on display in the poems he wrote in form. One of them was printed in an anthology of modern, formalist poetry called “Strong Measures” and it’s easily the most awkward and clumsy piece in the entire book.

    And, of course, if we really want to take the gloves off, we could bring up the fact that Ginsberg was also a card-carrying member of the North American Man-Boy Love Association, a paedophile advocacy group, and made public statements defending child molestation up until the year he died. He wasn’t just a bad poet, but an evil man to boot.

    • Damian Robin

      Thank you for this information, Shaun. I did not know of NAMBLA but, through recovery from incidents of childhood sexual abuse, I was aware of the ideas that fuel it.
      We castigate Ginsberg as a bad poet. We couldn’t kick him from poetry platforms because of his predilections or we’d be following cancel culture. But I am glad his work is terrible – so that becomes a reason to keep him at bay in the classical and good poem circles – and I am glad I never met him.

  11. Monika Cooper

    Do I ever listen to podcasts? No, I don’t. But I listened to this one and they were 47 sweetly flowing minutes. Susan Jarvis Bryant has the mellowest voice and Andrew Benson Brown is a close second. And it wasn’t just the mellowness of the voices it was the gentle seasoned wisdom. Confusion while growing up is natural. How dare the sickos in “healthcare” exploit it? And, Shaun, I didn’t know that about Ginsburg: utterly disgusting. They need to leave the boys (and girls) alone. Make pedophiles afraid again (with strong laws properly enforced).

  12. Damian Robin

    Andrew, I missed this one going out LIVE – so much content on SCP, impossible to keep the pace (and another reason to marvel, ro-mantyk-ise, and amaze at the emblematick Man-tick.)

    You are doing a neat job with irony and deep-pen-ed poised in spoken content and visual images a skillful tight-rope, type-wrote-walking balance that blends so nicely and respectfully in your interaction with your guests, present and via email and Journal.

    Terrific, tender, and tenacious. Keep going with your building chronical of this confusing age and the sane responses to it by accomplished poets (and editor and prize-winner-chooser.)

  13. Damian Robin

    Thank you, Susan, for your lovely readings and composed demeanour in the interviewee’s chair. And for giving us some fine insights into your poetic life journey and your poetics that are wise and considered. Keep on.


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