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Meetings with the famous
Posted by: IanB (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 04, 2005 12:30AM

A bit quiet in e-Mule lately, except in ever-bubbling USP.

That tireless submitter to USP, drpeternsz, recently posted some compositions entitled 'I met Allen Ginsberg' and 'When I saw Ed Sanders', which made me reflect that describing a meeting with some well known person isn't a bad subject for a poem. Leaves endless scope.

Here's one I like by that great American poet Louis Simpson (now in his 80s), first published some 27 years ago, and anthologised by OUP a couple of years later. A nice anecdote. Don't know whether it's fact or fiction. (Maybe like a bustle: fiction founded on fact!)

It's doubtless still copyright, so I hope LS will forgive it being posted in this forum for poetry fans. (If you like this sample, buy his books, is my accompanying exhortation). Moderator, please delete it if he complains.


CHOCOLATES

Once some people were visiting Chekhov.
While they made remarks about his genius
the Master fidgeted. Finally
he said, ‘Do you like chocolates?’

They were astonished, and silent.
He repeated the question,
whereupon one lady plucked up her courage
and murmured shyly, ‘Yes.’

‘Tell me,’ he said, leaning forward,
light glinting from his spectacles,
‘what kind? The light, sweet chocolate
or the dark, bitter kind?’

The conversation became general.
They spoke of cherry centres,
of almonds and Brazil nuts.
Losing their inhibitions
they interrupted one another.
For people may not know what they think
about politics in the Balkans,
or the vexed question of men and women,

but everyone has a definite opinion
about the flavour of shredded coconut.
Finally someone spoke of chocolates filled with liqueur,
and everyone, even the author of Uncle Vanya,
was at a loss for words.

When they were leaving he stood by the door
and took their hands.
                             In the coach returning to Petersburg
they agreed that it had been a most
unusual conversation.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/04/2005 03:40AM by IanB.


Re: Meetings with the famous
Posted by: Desi (Moderator)
Date: October 04, 2005 02:49AM

as I see it, it's good marketing! Nice poem. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.


Re: Meetings with the famous
Posted by: vic Jefferies (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 04, 2005 09:21PM

Anyone want to continue the discussion regarding prose and free verse???


Re: Meetings with the famous
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 04, 2005 10:55PM

"The lines of poetry, the period of prose, and even the texts of Scripture most frequently recollected and quoted, are those which are felt to be preeminently musical"

William Shenstone (Scottish Writer, 1714-1763)


Re: Meetings with the famous
Posted by: Vic Jefferies (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 05, 2005 01:59AM

Once some people were visiting Chekov. While they made remarks about his genius the Master fidgeted. Finally he said, "Do you like chocolates?" They were astonished and silent. He repeated the question, whereupon one lady plucked up her courage and murmured shyly, "Yes." Tell me he said, leaning forward, light glinting from his spectacles, "What kind?" The light, sweet chocolate, or the dark, bitter kind?"

The conversation became general. They spoke of cherry centres of almond and Brazil nuts. Loosing their inhibitions they interrupted one another. For people may not know what they think about politics in the Balkans, or the vexed question of men and women, but everyone has a definite opinion about the flavour of shredded coconut.............

Poetry or prose???


Re: Meetings with the famous
Posted by: IanB (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 05, 2005 08:37PM

Vic, in my opinion this reads poorly as prose, but memorably well when broken into lines as originally written. It's partly a rhythmic thing, partly to do with the economy of language used, and partly to do with whether the line breaks and stanza breaks create expectation, or correspond with discrete capsules of images or thoughts, so as to make the line-by-line/stanza-by-stanza presentation more evocative for the reader. And there are other criteria, such as how the piece originated.

As you know, this is a big topic (too big for me to respond fully here), and can't be freed from all subjectivity. Opinions will differ.

You and I may differ on whether 'Chocolates' deserves to be called a poem, but I would agree with you that you can't just turn any piece of prose into poetry worthy of the name by breaking it into lines. I'd also argue that you can't always take a poem that flows grammatically from beginning to end and expect to turn it into good prose just by eliminating the line and stanza breaks.

I was reared (as you were, I gather) on the old rhyming masters, prominently including Banjo Paterson, Henry Lawson and C J Dennis, and the English balladeers like Macaulay and Kipling, and firmly believe that rhyme is still a worthy poetic technique, as is metre, rhythm and so on. To my taste, a lot of the free verse published in poetry magazines these days has no redeeming merit. I'm amazed the editors prefer it to submissions in more traditional style. They must be almost beyond redemption themselves! But I suspect that's true of every prolific art form; one shouldn't be surprised at finding at least 95% of it to be ephemeral bosh. It's a necessary workout for the artists; and the remaining 5% is what makes the exploration worthwhile.

I don't claim 'Chocolates' to be a masterpiece, but find it delightful enough at its own modest level. It's one of many free verse pieces I'm happy to include in my 'good poetry' collection.

Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 10/05/2005 10:47PM by IanB.


Re: Meetings with the famous
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 05, 2005 09:27PM

::: Georg Baselitz :::
Believe it or not, I can actually draw.


Re: Meetings with the famous
Posted by: Vic Jefferies (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 06, 2005 01:11AM

Ian,


I appreciate your comments on this subject and though I do prefer rhyming poetry with good metre I strive to appreciate all forms of poetry.

My problem is that (as you say) so much of what is written and put forward as poetry today is not poetry at all but chopped up prose and poor prose at that.

A poem is a poem is a poem and no matter how you present it on the page if it is a poem it will remain so! If it is not, then the arrangement of the words, lines and stanzas will not compensate!

You mention the works of Banjo Paterson, a totally different form of poetry, but if I were to re-construct his Man From Snowy River, in the same way as I have done with Chocolates, it would remain a wonderful poem!

I am afraid when I consider some of the free verse published as poetry today that I am constantly reminded of the story of the man and woman who stood admiring a fire extinguisher hanging on the wall of the Australian National Art Gallery until it was explained to them it was not part of the exhibition of modern art but in fact a fire extinguisher!






Re: Meetings with the famous
Posted by: Desi (Moderator)
Date: October 06, 2005 07:09AM

Yes, but what makes art? For me, art is a way to make us look in a different way to things surrounding us every day. It is a sort of eye-opener. In this way, you can argue, that because that couple looked at the fire-extinguisher without taking it for granted, it had in fact become a piece of art.

Personally, I like art to look like something, and I'm not a fan of modern art, and very sceptical about modern poetry.

But truth to tell, chocolates for me reads better as poetry than as prose. In prose I would expect longer sentences, and more details.


Re: Meetings with the famous
Posted by: Vic Jefferies (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 06, 2005 09:26PM

Desi,

NO! The fire extinguisher did not become a piece of art!!!

"Art is that which portrays more than it depicts."

I am afraid that we have all be led down the garden path when it comes to modern art. Apparently to express an idea or to cause some one to puzzle over the meaning of some abstract statement is now what art is all about. I believe without the publicity afforded it the majority of "modern" art would be ignored.

This is probably why the old masters outsell today's free verse poets every year by an enormous amount.

For me, to look at something to hear something to read something that is astonishingly, wonderfully created is closer to what art is about.

I recently witnessed a collection of sardine cans displayed in our National Art Gallery as art. Similarly, I saw a canvas painted completely black, which I might add is valued at thousands of dollars. In an adjoing room I saw a work by Rembrandt!!! Need I say more?




Re: Meetings with the famous
Posted by: drpeternsz (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 07, 2005 02:34AM

So many people seem unable to assimilate the tewntieth century and its gifts.

Peter


Re: Meetings with the famous
Posted by: drpeternsz (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 07, 2005 02:36AM

I prefer art of a very wide range of kinds and origins. the closed mind is content, I suppose, but the human spirit is somehow restless, seeking more than contentment.

Peter


Re: Meetings with the famous
Posted by: drpeternsz (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 07, 2005 02:38AM

my taste for art began with 'starry night' when it visited the Boston Museum of Fines Arts. There is more to be done. Thanx John.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/12/2005 05:31AM by drpeternsz.


Re: Meetings with the famous
Posted by: Desi (Moderator)
Date: October 07, 2005 06:26AM

As I said, I'm not a fan of modern art, so it's a kind of hard to defend, but I think to deny it as a form of art in its entirety is going too far. Of course, there is no way you can compare Mondriaan's art with Rembrandt's art (which I find too depressing to be beautiful by they way).

The problem is that with the rise of mass-media every work of art became accessible to everyone. Thus, everything had already been done, and an artist ended up being compared to another by the critics and public alike. No wonder that they went out to search for something new. And as a lot has been done, new means by now more and more bizarre and in my opinion meaningless. But well, are we waiting for yet another classical painting?

I believe that this goes further than art. Similarly, it is very hard for young people nowadays to really care about politics. They no longer have the feeling they can change the world, because whatever you can come up with, it has already been tried and failed outright (communism for example) or is working but is not perfect (capitalism). The media has its goods points, but it is very hard for people to compete with everyone else!



Re: Meetings with the famous
Posted by: Vic Jefferies (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 07, 2005 09:16PM

The problem is that with the rise of mass media, "the Emperor's new clothes," syndrome became a pandemic!

Hence you have people: walking around either almost naked or wearing ridiculously impractical fashions; agreeing that the most appallingly violent pornographic movies produced for no other reason than to make money are "great entertainment;" unintelligible cacophonies being declared "important musical statements;" 'stars' being created out of people bereft of the slightest hint of talent; drama; literature; poetry; sculpture all dependent on being recognised or publicised by the media for legitimacy and acknowdgement.

A true work of art in whatever field stands on its merits and will be recognised for what it is without relying on the talents of a press secretary or publicist.

Throught the excesses of the media we have all been dumbed down to the point where we vote for the politicians it (the media) wants us to, we buy what we are told (if you doubt this open the kitchen or better still laundry cupboard and you will find that you have the most heavily advertised products there) and our taste in all things including art in its many forms is dictated by the media.

We have reached the point where we dismiss what is not publicised by the media.

What has been served up as art and culture over the last fifty years is for the most part appalling and designed to appeal to the majority because that is where the money is.



Re: Meetings with the famous
Posted by: Desi (Moderator)
Date: October 08, 2005 04:20AM

"A true work of art in whatever field stands on its merits and will be recognised for what it is without relying on the talents of a press secretary or publicist."

tell that to all those poor and now very famous artists, that didn't earn a penny before they died!

But on the whole I agree with what you are saying. The media has too much power to be in the hands of few.

"Throught the excesses of the media we have all been dumbed down to the point where we vote for the politicians it (the media) wants us to,"

Do you live in the US? Things are not as bad here in Europe. The media in France and the Netherlands anyway (I don't know about the rest first-hand) are trying very hard to be neutral, and are as far is humanly possible.


Re: Meetings with the famous
Posted by: Vic Jefferies (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 08, 2005 09:24PM

Desi,

I live in Australia, the birth place of the media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who has probably done more to dumb down the world's media than any other person in history!

I find it difficult to imagine a neutral media, because the media with few exceptions, is about making money. The profit motive is always the bottom line.

In relation to those artists who became famous after their death, was their eventual fame a result of their artistic achievment or because the media suddenly decided to support their work? I still ponder if some of the art of some of these posthumous genius'is as wonderful as we are told it is. Were the people of the time and their contemporaries so ill informed so as not to be able to recognise their genius? Or did they need the benefit of publicity?


Re: Meetings with the famous
Posted by: drpeternsz (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 10, 2005 03:25AM

I think human beings, as Freud suggested, live in a world that is complex enough so that every behavior, every consequence, has more than one cause. Economics, spirituality and sexuality seem always to be three of them in any given situation, but there are more.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/10/2005 03:27AM by drpeternsz.


Re: Meetings with the famous
Posted by: drpeternsz (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 10, 2005 03:29AM

By the way kids, the meeting I described with Ginsberg was mythological (even though I have met him) and the one with Sanders was fictionalized (even though it was based on an actual meeting). Poetry requires imagination!


Re: Meetings with the famous
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 10, 2005 05:24PM

Moston Museum of Fines Arts

Is that anywhere near the Crazy Guggenheim?


Re: Meetings with the famous
Posted by: Marian-NYC (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 10, 2005 07:05PM

Well, I love that Simpson poem, CHOCOLATES.
I like the way the SILENCES contrast with each other. There's the awkward silence as the master fidgets and people fail to say anything of interest. Then the surprised silence when he asks about chocolate. And then the reverent silence while they contemplate "chocolates filled with liqueur."

I say CHOCOLATES is a poem because the lines of it are happily echoing in my head -- not just the anecdote it tells. (Maybe I'm wrong... maybe it's a SONG LYRIC!)

Simpson seems to imply that CHOCOLATE is poetry -- esp. when filled with liqueur. I can't argue with that!


Re: Meetings with the famous
Posted by: IanB (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 11, 2005 08:21AM

Thanks for those illuminating comments, Marian-NYC. You have added to my enjoyment of the poem by pointing out aspects I hadn't noticed before - not consciously anyway. Once articulated, of course, they seem obvious!

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/11/2005 08:22AM by IanB.




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