The Poetry Of YouthPosted: November 28, 2018
I wrote in an earlier piece that my first motivation for writing poetry was to please a girlfriend. What is more apt, more romantically human, than writing and reciting poetry?
I was fifteen and completely smitten. My amour and I belonged to a group of friends who fancied ourselves as Beatniks, avant garde, fringe elements. Oh, how daring, these suburban kids flirting with dangerous radicals and writers! We weren’t political. We were curious and flying as close to the flame of modern art as we dared.
Our god was e.e. cummings. A close second was Charles Bukowski. Cummings was the defiant rebel and iconoclast. Bukowski was just plain foul, profane and we loved his flouting of middle class lifestyles. The two poets could not be more different. In the classroom we studied T.S.Eliot. We studied Robert Frost. Whee!
Then cummings came along and we were swept up in his lyricism and humor.
since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world
my blood approves
and kisses are a better fate
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says
we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph
and death i think is no parenthesis
This is one of his classics, one of his best known poems. In it he exhorts us to pure experience, to FEEL life, not to think about it. That appeals and will always appeal to the young. Bukowski is a different matter.
the flesh covers the bone
and they put a mind
in there and
sometimes a soul,
and the women break
vases against the walls
and the men drink too
and nobody finds the
crawling in and out
the bone and the
for more than
there’s no chance
we are all trapped
by a singular
nobody ever finds
the city dumps fill
the junkyards fill
the madhouses fill
the hospitals fill
the graveyards fill
Bukowski was more the nihilist, far more transgressive of social norms. He didn’t give a shit! By the way, if you haven’t seen the movie “Barfly”, do so. It is based on the life of Bukowski. It’s a hoot.
I don’t know many high school kids these days, so I have no insight towards their poetic tastes. They have hip-hop. They have the internet. I have no doubt that kids today are as adventurous, rebellious and weird as they have always been. It would be a good research project.
As always with these essays I close with a poem of my own. I’ll keep it brief. It has nothing to do with the subject.
Between my pillow and the back of my head
in the space where the stubble of my balding scalp
meets the soft fabric of my cotton dream ship
Shall I wake and know this to be a dream?
Dancers dressed in furs and leather
wearing antlers and tusks
tracing circles and hopping
from one leg to the other
drums and rattles, sticks with bells shaking
Magical Dancers in a dream
but my eyes are open, my mind lucid.
This is no longer a dream.. Are these dancers merely
the fleas left behind by the cat as he warmed my pillow?
Surely not! Surely not! But if they are, then I salute you,
fleas, for taking on strange identities
in a world where nothing is quite real
where fleas are shamans, ancient survivors
magicians of blood and skin.
If I turn on my side, what will I see? Fleas vanishing into the cat’s fur
or shamans celebrating the oncoming wave of another dream?
A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good. His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. Photos in these columns are by Arthur Rosch.
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