Thursday, August 27, 2009 19 Comments


1. Kennedy

Kennedy! The last brother
Plunges, orca-sleek
To the black sea - elected
To heaven, straight out
Of the Senate. Well:
All glory is a wonder,
All greatness is glorious,
All mighty things are great.
Any passing duke
Commands black cloth -
Whatever we recall
Of the man inside his suit.
And fan and hater agree:
Kennedy is not Kennedy.
Kennedy is the show:
Writer and producer,
Best boy and grip,
Each millionth polyp
Within the great reef,
That armored creature -
The family machine,
Our political design
In perfect Florentine.
Canst thou draw out
Leviathan, with a hook?
Or his tongue, with a line
That thou lettest down?
Think not of Cromwell's end;
Hope not to hang the dead,
Not actor nor his show.
All mighty things are great.
And greatness seldom slain,
And death is no disaster;
Any decent whale-tick
Finds its subsequent whale.
Behemoth lives. Lay thy hand,
Recall the battle, do no more.

II. Cromwell

Beside, amongst the polyps -
Things are not so great.
Your Richard is not your Oliver.
Crudely, the production
Has lost its lead. There
Are no more Kennedys,
There will be none. The work
Of course goes on: each
President now is Kennedy,
As Kennedy that man
With cigarette holder;
And behind him a million
Eager innocent larvae,
All swimming to the stale.
This soap long since found
Its formula. It cannot change.
Nor has it any shortage
Of shark for its remoras.
But - but, the magic?
Alas, progressives, for
You too greatness passes.
Science has not perfected
The permanent Kennedy.
Lucifer gets old and dies;
His ring is hacked in half,
For Abaddon and Dis;
Ground in time to paint
On flocks of gilded imps.
Your future, polyps: gibbering.
Puerile, impotent gibbering,
Infinitely predictable,
Boring as a wooden board.
The magic does not return.
Youth is a one-time thing,
Ages age like men. Deal.

III. Chernenko

So greatness passing,
This Kennedy world,
Safer from all enemy
Than ever before, is losing
Mere colors in its ink.
Think of Brazil! Glory
Of a new forest city,
A capital in pure concrete,
Ordered and progressive,
Both free and free of rats.
What is it now? Slum,
Ruled by ferocious thieves.
I exaggerate. Slightly.
Polyps, your grandfathers
Were kings; your fathers
Spanned the sea; you spin
Soft rock in the cellar
Of a continent. Less fun.
Where are the postcards,
Machine, of that new world
You made of the Third?
What was it meant to be,
And what did it become?
Or at home? Polyps,
Where is Detroit? Is it
Somewhere in your reef?
Could we maybe get it back?
The future was won. Yet
Weirdly, it turned gray,
Emitting serious stench.
Reed begat Chernenko,
Croly produced Pelosi,
Alinsky made Hillary.
The pattern here is sure.
Our dreamers, plumed,
Coached in rich cars
Of past prey, sleep,
Stretched thin by power,
On power's goose bed,
Dream in monochrome
Or not at all. The herd,
Below, shuffles and wilts;
Few but the worst still breed.
Observe our Kennedy world!
Not immortal, but far too near.
Still tomorrow exists,
O gardeners of weeds -
Somehow, where or when.
Its message is as follows:
Thank you for your efforts.
They were nobly conceived,
For the most part honest,
And not without some style.
Today, we film in color.
Our gardens are in order,
Our roses bud, our children
Learn. You need not approve.


Anonymous Louis Zukofsky said...


August 27, 2009 at 1:44 AM  
Anonymous Carl said...

I thought MM was a royalist. Does he just hate liberal monarchs?

August 27, 2009 at 3:38 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

The end is the finest MM-voiced poem so far.

And bravo for a poem without convolutions or confusion.

August 27, 2009 at 4:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know there are haters here, but MM's poetry is oddly compelling to me, for a reason that I cannot quite put my finger on.

August 27, 2009 at 6:50 AM  
Anonymous Zdeno said...

I'm always a little disappointed to get verse instead of "meat", but I enjoyed this quite a bit. Can anyone put together a light reading plan for a poetry neophyte? A "best of" list would be great, as well as any info on different forms, styles etc.

Some of my favourite couplets:

Think not of Cromwell's end;
Hope not to hang the dead,


Alas, progressives, for
You too greatness passes

* * *

UR readers might enjoy this post by Scott Sumner:

Sumner is a helluva a smart guy and a great economist (as great as they come these days, anyway). Here's on line that caught my eye:

"So even within China character matters a lot. You may wonder if I should be relying on a paper published by the Chinese government. The answer is yes. As with any paper you must filter out biases, but when you do so the China Daily is just as informative as any American paper, and far more entertaining."

He also discusses the importance of the "Zeitgeist" rather than elected officials in impacting policy. Here's a comment I left on his blog:

Interesting post.

I agree that it is the shifting zeitgeist, rather than the year to year fortunes of various political parties that actually affects policy. Over the past 200 or so years of American history, political parties have come and gone, but the political centre has been tacking leftward the whole time. Who cares if the D's or R's win any given election, if the "Right" is defined down every generation from Harding, to Reagan, to McCain? The minuscule fluctuations around the political centre that result from elections and politics are just noise - the zeitgeist is the signal, and that's where the true power can be found

But now we have an important question to answer: What is this mysterious Z-force? It seems to wield absolute power over the policies that govern us. Maybe it's just the noble march of reason and truth, steadily advancing through the ages. That theory would certainly make sense to a leftist. Everyone else ought to be a little suspicious though.



August 27, 2009 at 10:20 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Diego Gambetta has a great new word: kakistocracy, or government by the worst.

zdeno, I don't see your comment at Sumner's post.

August 27, 2009 at 4:26 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...


Don't know if this is threadjacking but I will try:

If you want to be especially lazy (but will buy a book) simply start off with the collection

Sounds Good

it's a great intro to various forms and styles.

Or google & read the following, in order. You can quit whenever you want to, as I'm going to list them from "milk to meat" as it were.

"Blackberrying" by Sylvia Plath
"She Walks in Beauty" by George Gordon, Lord Byron
"Red Red Rose" by Robert Burns
"Since Feeling is First" by e.e. cummings
"Tame Cat" by Ezra Pound
"Sonnet 130" by William Shakespeare
"What Lips My Lips Have Kissed" by Edna St. Vincent Millay
"My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke
"La Belle Dame Sans Merci" by John Keats
"The Lady of Shalott" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
"Sestina: Altaforte" by Ezra Pound
"Ulysses" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
"Warming Her Pearls" by Carol Anne Duffy
"The Colonel" by Carolyn Forche
"The Hollow Men" by T.S. Eliot
"Gretel in Darkness" by Louise Gluck
"The Emperor of Ice Cream" by Wallace Stevens
"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot
"In a Station of the Metro" by Ezra Pound
"Mending Wall" by Robert Frost
"The Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe
"Fever 103" by Sylvia Plath
"Annabel Lee" by Edgar Allen Poe
"The Journey of the Magi" by T.S. Eliot
"Home Burial" by Robert Frost
"Lycidas" by John Milton
"Usura" (Canto LXV) by Ezra Pound
"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
"East Coker" by T.S. Eliot

If you get through all of these, tell me what you like and I can further direct your reading.


August 27, 2009 at 8:43 PM  
Anonymous Chalerys said...


"Can anyone put together a light reading plan for a poetry neophyte?"

Joyce Kilmer is very good. Highly recommended for both neophytes and experienced poetry lovers.

August 27, 2009 at 11:07 PM  
Anonymous josh said...

What about a neophyte who also wants to learn *about* poetry. Can you recommend any BS free, or at least low BS, poetry criticism or history of poetry?

August 28, 2009 at 6:37 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...


That's a taller order.

Prosody is easy, just go to my blog and follow the "Basic English Prosody" link -- but I think, as you say, you're more interested in history & criticism.

Bloom is a fairly good place to start. The Anxiety of Influence is a good introduction to the "masters."

Eliot's Tradition and the Individual Talent is also good.

Wik's poetry sections are relatively BS free.

Can you be more specific? Do you want to know about schools & movements or writing theory or critical theory?

August 28, 2009 at 7:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Barfield's Poetic Diction.

August 28, 2009 at 7:55 AM  
Anonymous josh said...


Thanks for the prosidy article. This is exactly what I always wanted my English teachers to explain growing up, whenever they instructed us to "write a poem about nature". I remember some talk of iambic pentameter having five "beats" or some such as well as the definitions of assonance and consonance, but this is really what I was looking for back then. Thank you.


It's on Google! Thanks.

August 28, 2009 at 12:05 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...


You're quite welcome.
Any time you want to talk poetry, let me know.


August 28, 2009 at 1:34 PM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

A little appropriate poetry for the occasion.

August 29, 2009 at 7:32 AM  
Anonymous blue anonymous said...

I recommend Frost's "Cow in Apple Time." Shelley's "To a Skylark."

However, for me the pinnacle of english poetry is the King James Version of the Book of Job, which I am afraid takes a few hours to read and is obscure and boring at times. (Granted, my attention span is fairly weak.) I find most of the rest of the bible pretty boring, frankly, but Job is just about the greatest written work in history.

August 29, 2009 at 9:48 AM  
Anonymous blue anonymous said...

Actually, I forgot, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs ain't bad at all.

August 29, 2009 at 9:50 AM  
Anonymous blue anonymous said...

By the way, anyone who likes the bible or the ancient world might get a charge out of this excellent documentary. (It's tolerably short on progressive propaganda.)

August 29, 2009 at 9:55 AM  
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September 15, 2009 at 7:31 AM  
Anonymous Breeder of 4 said...

"Few but the worst still breed."


October 30, 2010 at 8:44 PM  

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