When I left the left-center-right madhouse I took the left-wing exit,
and though I had a low opinion of postmodernism -- I didn't like the jargon
-- it was only after I had exited that I saw clearly what a porridge of
pointless gobbledygook postmodernism really is, a fit companion for the
general equilibrium of the right and the significant originality of the
center. It became a particular peeve of mine that postmodernism has
a utopian branch, and expects a great day of postmodern happiness to come.
Progress for its own sake can lead only to alcohol, drugs, and divorce.
So I made a mental note to pillory postmodernism with poems, and got back
to my efforts with Zen which, unlike sociology, is much to my liking.
I had been writing Zen one verse at a time, but several bursts of great
poetic energy resulted in a collection of verses as good as I dared without
meriting school raves, which collection I outfitted into a website, proverbialzen.com.
And then a nagging voice came to the back of my ears, what about my sheer
vanity, what about that old plan to write quatrains as good as Khayyam-Fitzgerald?
The only answer I could find was to try it and see whether giving priority
to stylistic excellence, after all my Zen deadpan, would do the trick.
My vanity was pleased with the quatrain I came up with and I made a few
plans -- which were too many -- to publish a chapbook of such quatrains
online. This is not the place to remonstrate with the algebraic watchdogs
who own the publishing rackets lock, stock, and barrel. Time will
tell about that. Besides, I was not, in that first of my vanity-first
quatrains, taking on logical religion -- Khayyam-Fitzgerald already do
that in a very up-to-date way -- and I noticed instead I was taking on
postmodern happiness. I told myself this idea was a good one, since
a poet trying to match the classics needs a style and message of his own,
much as their old-fashioned magic had way back when. And then something
strange happened. I found myself warming up up to an unusual challenge
of some kind, and quickly determined it was that most ridiculous of poetic
aims, to match up with Shakespeare. My experience of sonnets was
mainly cold-hearted Zen sonnets addressed to the Statue of Liberty, but
I had to try a love sonnet just to see, and felt myself well-qualified
to versify love in a nursing home, and I went ahead with it and soon
was stunned with the results, since my Shakespearean qualifications are
few. My sonnet was a miracle: my muses had smiled enormous smiles
while I wrote it. This also was a further prelude to my efforts with
quatrains. The reader should not take my word for it, but should
judge this sonnet for himself, or herself:
The darkened sun cries "lady, no!" to you,
Who cloud its glare, in wise pursuit of hope
That I patch clouded lanterns into true,
And brighten mundane day, where passions grope --
That in the bitter blaze of time we find
No night of grief, nor day of ecstasy
To crush indifferent dreams in meanings blind
Which our dim hearts might judge a travesty.
To feel what we both felt long years ago
As if sweet youth, were forfeit to conspire,
Since we remember seasons ventured slow
Which fused the falling light above with fire.
Were we still young our feet might rock and roll --
Instead we cherish rhyme -- two lives, one soul.
A while later I returned to my long-time project of making a worthy
comparison with Khayyam-Fitzgerald, and I struck postmodern happiness with
the angry sarcasm of eight more quatrains. Do take my word for it,
they are very good. Since nine are enough for a very short chapbook,
an idea I could not forget completely, here they are:
The old oak that held court above our lawn,
As if to shadow all our dreams, is gone
In warrant of more colorful gardens,
Asleep that gutters greet another dawn.
The wine of old pours thin, and what new wine
Have grace and winds above, when birds resign
Their games with light, and circle to return, --
To brighten faces found below, in line?
In the dawn of battle slow flags rise steep
To map a bit more time, which doctors reap
Who jabber in style, and rate nirvana
Death without wisdom; -- woven braves in sleep.
Were the thorns which disorganize swift hands
So few as the rose of pure truth demands
To serve it commission and rare design,
No famines burst which ravage hard-worked lands.
The games of bygone times corrupted feet,
With sober will to dance, but in retreat
From house and home, built into deviltry,
Which curses those who bet when horns flame neat.
An old preacher granted no level ground
Is lost before his devil, there to hound
His free-minded pride, and mock his advance
Past his book -- which he voice without a sound.
Ghosts never drive sharp wits to angle nice
Between hard luck and providential spice --
No, they bewail their festive carnivals
And call in grief, delivered at a price.
Defiant of blind rote, the urge to pen
The love of wisdom into upstairs den
Of clouds, without counterfeit, ought for truth
Break down the space age into dreams again.
Drunk as old bums recount, and recognise
To be expression of disfigured skies,
An abstract portrait of the dog flares bright
The more in anger, than in treasured lies.
Return to Table of Contents
So much strangeside virtue as this site
shows is not well geared to provide a system of links, and I had decided
to rule a links section out dogmatically; but I find myself disposed to
call the reader's attention to a site which maps most, or all, it sometimes
seems, of the large supplies of Zen poetry available on the web.
The listings include sites, titles, commentaries, quotes, and extensive
links to anything whatever relevant to the poet or poems, and can be found,
as part of a larger assembly, at gardendigest.com/zen/index.htm,
edited by Mike Garofalo.