From Memory

“In Memory of W. B. Yeats,” poem by W. H. Auden,

This poem has several “movements,” like a symphony. I marvel at its discursive tone — “You were silly like us” — until the last stanza, where it becomes highly stressed and rhymed. That transition, for me, is a punch in the gut, like the organ cutting loose in a cathedral.

(Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

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To a Friend

“I need to return to it at a quieter time.” Lets have this understanding, though. Never give anything I send or link you to more than a moment of your time unless you really want to. And if you don’t even give it a moment I’ll never know, and it won’t matter! Just delete it and move on! You’re still my hero. (You don’t mind if I steer clear of “heroine,” do you?) I provide links as a courtesy, “just in case,” but I don’t expect you to read all the stuff, or any of it. With all the demands on your time? Good heavens. (Glad to hear about your IT work. Didn’t know you were still consulting.)

I know you don’t need to hear any of this, but I need to say it. I’m trying to be more enunciative and transparent in revealing my expectations (to students, notably) because I think I’ve often fallen short in that respect, instead expecting people to simply know what I think or want. How could they? Conversely, I spend too much time trying to guess why people are acting as they do. Why don’t I just ask? I think real communication becomes difficult (for me) when I think I might have feelings about how they respond. I’m aware at these workshops, when I’m thrown into crowds, how fiercely I keep people at arm’s length, including those I know. I’m polite to a fault, but…Keep your distance! I know I’m considered a snob, or worse. It’s an unconstructive reflex that gravitates against success in the material world.

Back to Just so you know: I probably have spent all of four minutes on the site. Sized it up, liked the look, skimmed a few things, and got back to my task, which was to find out a little more about “Flarf poetry.” Four minutes, mind you. Like you, I thought, I need to come back here, but not now. I’m finding it hard to consume much content (online at least) because I’m so preoccupied with creating it. And my consumption is still oriented toward books and magazines, which do absorb a lot of my time. It makes me remember a sardonic comment by a well-respected poet: “It’s easier to write poetry than to read it.” There’s so much truth there. You’re not alone in needing multiple exposures to poems. All serious readers do, including poets. I look for hints and advice all the time about how to read poems. I find it useful to resist the need to paraphrase a poem, and the subsequent tendency to beat myself (or the poem) up if I can’t. The poem already “means” what it says. (Supposedly. Let’s not forget there’s plenty of shall we say unrealized poetry out there! But which is realized and which isn’t? That’s the fascinating aspect of confronting the contemporary. It’s up to you and me to figure out where there’s value and to hone our faculties for that high calling.) I have to try to perceive it on its own level, which implies not vigilance but receptivity, a heightened attentiveness. I end with that outrageously pompous and obscure comment.

(Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

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This Is Stag Country

Fay Dawne Burmeister was valedictorian the year Boog Jeeters got his lacerated kidney in the game against Horne. When Boog was born, Lonnie wanted to call him Booger. Can you feature that? Booger Jeeters. Reba wouldn’t have it, said no fruit of her womb was gonna be called Booger. She wanted to name the baby Peter after her daddy, but Lonnie said Peter Jeeters sounded like the funny papers. So Boog’s real name is Johnny Mack, but Lonnie called him Boog from day one and that name stuck.

Fay Dawne, I was saying, is too pretty for her own good, but smart. I hope she learns to cook like her momma. Hollie Jean makes the best chicken-fried frankfurters in the world. Says her secret is condensed milk and pancake mix for the batter. She also makes a mean Jello pudding with whipped cream, and puts minimarshmallows in it. Those tricks are hard to teach, you just have to have a feel for the kitchen. I hope Fay Dawne gets it. I don’t care what you say, the way to a man’s heart is not through his fly. That wears off soon enough, and what’s left is his stomach.

(Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

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Social Math — UK

Sir Alistair Chichester is in the habit of quaffing two pints of bitter at The Thane of Thoth every afternoon from 3 to 4 p.m., excepting Sundays. Each pint costs a quid tuppence. (Sir Alistair, of course, is indifferent to the pecuniary setback of his libations. He lives, after all, in Chichester Towers on the splendid interest of his ancestral bequeathment.)

Question: Suppose Sir Alistair stoops to charitable giving? He contributes what he otherwise would fritter away in defrayal of his quotidian refreshment to, let us say, Saint Mordred’s Institution for the Afflicted. How much would Sir Alistair’s contribution, accrued in the lapse of thrice a fortnight, permit Miss Primley, the headmistress of Saint Mordred’s, to squander on ready-to-wear apparel?

(Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

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Written in the 70s

mistery … (Eliot)

“In the figure of the monster from outer space, the freakish, the ugly and the predatory all converge — and provide a fantasy target for righteous bellicosity to discharge itself, and for the aesthetic enjoyment of suffering and disaster.” (Sontag)
Naïveté is not under-exposure; it is the desire to be caught underexposed; willful, perverted innocence.
“Evil is the systematic substitution of the abstract for the concrete.” Sartre
“The aim of formalism is to break up content, to *question* content.” Sontag.
I have lacked a single purpose.
Lawrence said life’s aim is not inert safety.
Singleness of purpose entails sacrifice, ordering.
Gary has ulcers. “I was looking for a solution. I gave up beer. No, I can’t

(Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)


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“Girl Distressed”

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In trying to render emotion in faces, I find it interesting how similar smiling is to weeping. The difference seems to lie in the eyes more than in the mouth.

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“For me, poetry proliferates…”

“For me, poetry proliferates and flourishes in the intellect’s blind spot. But you have to have the intellect first; you can’t skip that step. I find intelligence to be most interesting when it’s tested — not when it’s challenged, but when we restrain it from being the default mode by which we apprehend the phenomena around us.” (Christina Pugh, “On Ghosts and the Overplus,” Poetry, March 2016)

(Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

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