Bob Dylan Wins the Nobel Prize for Literature

Forever Young


From CNN today: Book Critic Jay Parini on “Why Bob Dylan Deserves the Nobel Prize” WORTH READING

Bob Dylan Lyrical Genius

Album: Blonde on Blonde [1966]

All lyrics are property and copyright of their respective owners and are provided for educational purposes only. is a not-for-profit project.

Tracks 14
01 Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
02 Pledging My Time
03 Visions of Johanna
04 One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)
05 I Want You
06 Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again
07 Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
08 Just Like a Woman
09 Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)
10 Temporary Like Achilles
11 Absolutely Sweet Marie
12 4th Time Around
13 Obviously 5 Believers
14 Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands

all Bob Dylan lyrics

Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
Well, they’ll stone ya when you’re trying to be so good,
They’ll stone ya just a-like they said they would.
They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to go home.
Then they’ll stone ya when you’re there all alone.
But I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.Well, they’ll stone ya when you’re walkin’ ‘long the street.
They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to keep your seat.
They’ll stone ya when you’re walkin’ on the floor.
They’ll stone ya when you’re walkin’ to the door.
But I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.They’ll stone ya when you’re at the breakfast table.
They’ll stone ya when you are young and able.
They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to make a buck.
They’ll stone ya and then they’ll say, good luck.
Tell ya what, I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.Well, they’ll stone you and say that it’s the end.
Then they’ll stone you and then they’ll come back again.
They’ll stone you when you’re riding in your car.
They’ll stone you when you’re playing your guitar.
Yes, but I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.Well, they’ll stone you when you walk all alone.
They’ll stone you when you are walking home.
They’ll stone you and then say you are brave.
They’ll stone you when you are set down in your grave.
But I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.back to top

Pledging My Time
Well, early in the mornin’
’til late at night,
I got a poison headache,
But I feel all right.
I’m pledging my time to you,
Hopin’ you’ll come through, too.Well, the hobo jumped up,
He came down natur’lly.
After he stole my baby,
Then he wanted to steal me.
But I’m pledging my time to you,
Hopin’ you’ll come through, too.Won’t you come with me, baby?
I’ll take you where you wanna go.
And if it don’t work out,
You’ll be the first to know.
I’m pledging my time to you,
Hopin’ you’ll come through, too.Well, the room is so stuffy,
I can hardly breathe.
Ev’rybody’s gone but me and you
And I can’t be the last to leave.
I’m pledging my time to you,
Hopin’ you’ll come through, too.Well, they sent for the ambulance
And one was sent.
Somebody got lucky
But it was an accident.
Now I’m pledging my time to you,
Hopin’ you’ll come through, too.back to top

Visions of Johanna
Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re tryin’ to be so quiet?
We sit here stranded, though we’re all doin’ our best to deny it
And louise holds a handful of rain, temptin’ you to defy it
Lights flicker from the opposite loft
In this room the heat pipes just cough
The country music station plays soft
But there’s nothing, really nothing to turn off
Just louise and her lover so entwined
And these visions of johanna that conquer my mindIn the empty lot where the ladies play blindman’s bluff with the key chain
And the all-night girls they whisper of escapades out on the d train
We can hear the night watchman click his flashlight
Ask himself if it’s him or them that’s really insane
Louise, she’s all right, she’s just near
She’s delicate and seems like the mirror
But she just makes it all too concise and too clear
That johanna’s not here
The ghost of ‘lectricity howls in the bones of her face
Where these visions of johanna have now taken my placeNow, little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously
He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerously
And when bringing her name up
He speaks of a farewell kiss to me
He’s sure got a lotta gall to be so useless and all
Muttering small talk at the wall while I’m in the hall
How can I explain?
Oh, it’s so hard to get on
And these visions of johanna, they kept me up past the dawnInside the museums, infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But mona lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles
See the primitive wallflower freeze
When the jelly-faced women all sneeze
Hear the one with the mustache say, jeeze
I can’t find my knees
Oh, jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule
But these visions of johanna, they make it all seem so cruelThe peddler now speaks to the countess who’s pretending to care for him
Sayin’, name me someone that’s not a parasite and I’ll go out and say a prayer for him
But like louise always says
Ya can’t look at much, can ya man?
As she, herself, prepares for him
And madonna, she still has not showed
We see this empty cage now corrode
Where her cape of the stage once had flowed
The fiddler, he now steps to the road
He writes ev’rything’s been returned which was owed
On the back of the fish truck that loads
While my conscience explodes
The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain
And these visions of johanna are now all that remainback to top

One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)
I didn’t mean to treat you so bad
You shouldn’t take it so personal
I didn’t mean to make you so sad
You just happened to be there, that’s all
When I saw you say goodbye to your friends and smile
I thought that it was well understood
That you’d be comin’ back in a little while
I didn’t know that you were sayin’ goodbye for good.But sooner or later one of us must know
But you just did what you’re supposed to do
Sooner or later one of us must know
That I really did try to get close to you.I couldn’t see what you could show me
Your scarf had kept your mouth well hid
I couldn’t see how you could know me
But you said you knew me and I believed you did
When you whispered in my ear
And asked me if I was leavin’ with you or her
I didn’t realize just what I did hear
I didn’t realize how young you were.But sooner or later one of us must know
But you just doing what you’re supposed to do
Sooner or later one of us must know
That I really did try to get close to you.I couldn’t see when it started snowin’
Your voice was all that I heard
I couldn’t see where we were goin’
But you said you knew and I took your word
And then you told me later as I apologized
That you were just kiddin’ me, you weren’t really from the farm
And I told you, as you clawed out my eyes
That I never really meant to do you any harm.But sooner or later one of us must know
But you just did what you’re supposed to do
Sooner or later one of us must know
That I really did try to get close to you.back to top

I Want You
The guilty undertaker sighs,
The lonesome organ grinder cries,
The silver saxophones say I should refuse you.
The cracked bells and washed-out horns
Blow into my face with scorn,
But it’s not that way,
I wasn’t born to lose you.
I want you, I want you,
I want you so bad,
Honey, I want you.The drunken politician leaps
Upon the street where mothers weep
And the saviors who are fast asleep,
They wait for you.
And I wait for them to interrupt
Me drinkin’ from my broken cup
And ask me to
Open up the gate for you.
I want you, I want you,
I want you so bad,
Honey, I want you.Now all my fathers, they’ve gone down
True love they’ve been without it.
But all their daughters put me down
’cause I don’t think about it.Well, I return to the queen of spades
And talk with my chambermaid.
She knows that I’m not afraid
To look at her.
She is good to me
And there’s nothing she doesn’t see.
She knows where I’d like to be
But it doesn’t matter.
I want you, I want you,
I want you so bad,
Honey, I want you.Now your dancing child with his chinese suit,
He spoke to me, I took his flute.
No, I wasn’t very cute to him,
Was i?
But I did it, though, because he lied
Because he took you for a ride
And because time was on his side
And because I . . .
I want you, I want you,
I want you so bad,
Honey, I want you.back to top

Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again
Oh, the ragman draws circles
Up and down the block.
I’d ask him what the matter was
But I know that he don’t talk.
And the ladies treat me kindly
And furnish me with tape,
But deep inside my heart
I know I can’t escape.
Oh, mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of mobile
With the memphis blues again.Well, shakespeare, he’s in the alley
With his pointed shoes and his bells,
Speaking to some french girl,
Who says she knows me well.
And I would send a message
To find out if she’s talked,
But the post office has been stolen
And the mailbox is locked.
Oh, mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of mobile
With the memphis blues again.Mona tried to tell me
To stay away from the train line.
She said that all the railroad men
Just drink up your blood like wine.
An’ I said, oh, I didn’t know that,
But then again, there’s only one I’ve met
An’ he just smoked my eyelids
An’ punched my cigarette.
Oh, mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of mobile
With the memphis blues again.Grandpa died last week
And now he’s buried in the rocks,
But everybody still talks about
How badly they were shocked.
But me, I expected it to happen,
I knew he’d lost control
When he built a fire on main street
And shot it full of holes.
Oh, mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of mobile
With the memphis blues again.Now the senator came down here
Showing ev’ryone his gun,
Handing out free tickets
To the wedding of his son.
An’ me, I nearly got busted
An’ wouldn’t it be my luck
To get caught without a ticket
And be discovered beneath a truck.
Oh, mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of mobile
With the memphis blues again.Now the preacher looked so baffled
When I asked him why he dressed
With twenty pounds of headlines
Stapled to his chest.
But he cursed me when I proved it to him,
Then I whispered, not even you can hide.
You see, you’re just like me,
I hope you’re satisfied.
Oh, mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of mobile
With the memphis blues again.

Now the rainman gave me two cures,
Then he said, jump right in.
The one was texas medicine,
The other was just railroad gin.
An’ like a fool I mixed them
An’ it strangled up my mind,
An’ now people just get uglier
An’ I have no sense of time.
Oh, mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of mobile
With the memphis blues again.

When ruthie says come see her
In her honky-tonk lagoon,
Where I can watch her waltz for free
‘neath her panamanian moon.
An’ I say, aw come on now,
You must know about my debutante.
An’ she says, your debutante just knows what you need
But I know what you want.
Oh, mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of mobile
With the memphis blues again.

Now the bricks lay on grand street
Where the neon madmen climb.
They all fall there so perfectly,
It all seems so well timed.
An’ here I sit so patiently
Waiting to find out what price
You have to pay to get out of
Going through all these things twice.
Oh, mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of mobile
With the memphis blues again.back to top

Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
Well, I see you got your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Yes, I see you got your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Well, you must tell me, baby
How your head feels under somethin’ like that
Under your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hatWell, you look so pretty in it
Honey, can I jump on it sometime?
Yes, I just wanna see
If it’s really that expensive kind
You know it balances on your head
Just like a mattress balances
On a bottle of wine
Your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hatWell, if you wanna see the sun rise
Honey, I know where
We’ll go out and see it sometime
We’ll both just sit there and stare
Me with my belt
Wrapped around my head
And you just sittin’ there
In your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hatWell, I asked the doctor if I could see you
It’s bad for your health, he said
Yes, I disobeyed his orders
I came to see you
But I found him there instead
You know, I don’t mind him cheatin’ on me
But I sure wish he’d take that off his head
Your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hatWell, I see you got a new boyfriend
You know, I never seen him before
Well, I saw him
Makin’ love to you
You forgot to close the garage door
You might think he loves you for your money
But I know what he really loves you for
It’s your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hatback to top

Just Like a Woman
Nobody feels any pain
Tonight as I stand inside the rain
Ev’rybody knows
That baby’s got new clothes
But lately I see her ribbons and her bows
Have fallen from her curls.
She takes just like a woman, yes, she does
She makes love just like a woman, yes, she does
And she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl.Queen mary, she’s my friend
Yes, I believe I’ll go see her again
Nobody has to guess
Hat baby can’t be blessed
Till she sees finally that she’s like all the rest
With her fog, her amphetamine and her pearls.
She takes just like a woman, yes, she does
She makes love just like a woman, yes, she does
And she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl.It was raining from the first
And I was dying there of thirst
So I came in here
And your long-time curse hurts
But what’s worse
Is this pain in here
I can’t stay in here
Ain’t it clear that? br>
I just can’t fit
Yes, I believe it’s time for us to quit
When we meet again
Introduced as friends
Please don’t let on that you knew me when
I was hungry and it was your world.
Ah, you fake just like a woman, yes, you do
You make love just like a woman, yes, you do
Then you ache just like a woman
But you break just like a little girl.back to top

Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)
You say you love me
And you’re thinkin’ of me
But you know you could be wrong
You say you told me
That you wanna hold me
But you know you’re not that strong
I just can’t do what I done before
I just can’t beg you any more
I’m gonna let your pass
And I’ll go last
Then time will tell just who has fell
And who’s been left behind
When you go your way and I go mine.You say you disturb me
And you don’t deserve me
But you know sometimes you lie
You say you’re shakin’
And you’re always achin’
But you know how hard you try
Sometimes it gets so hard to care
It can’t be this way ev’rywhere
And I’m gonna let you pass
Yes, and I’ll go last
Then time will tell who has fell
And who’s been left behind
When you go your way and I go mine.The judge, he holds a grudge
He’s gonna call on you
But he’s badly built
And he walks on stilts
Watch out he don’t fall on you.You say you’re sorry
For tellin’ stories
That you know I believe are true
You say ya got some
Other kinda lover
And yes, I belive you do
You say my kisses are not like his
But this time I’m not gonna tell you why that is
I’m just gonna let you pass
Yes, and I’ll go last
Then time will tell who has fell
And who’s been left behind
When you go your way and I go mine.back to top

Temporary Like Achilles
Standing on your window, honey,
Yes, I’ve been here before.
Feeling so harmless,
I’m looking at your second door.
How come you don’t send me no regards?
You know I want your lovin’,
Honey, why are you so hard?Kneeling ‘neath your ceiling,
Yes, I guess I’ll be here for a while.
I’m tryin’ to read your portrait, but,
I’m helpless, like a rich man’s child.
How come you send someone out to have me barred?
You know I want your lovin’,
Honey, why are you so hard?Like a poor fool in his prime,
Yes, I know you can hear me walk,
But is your heart made out of stone, or is it lime,
Or is it just solid rock?Well, I rush into your hallway,
Lean against your velvet door.
I watch upon your scorpion
Who crawls across your circus floor.
Just what do you think you have to guard?
You know I want your lovin’, honey, but you’re so hard.Achilles is in your alleyway,
He don’t want me here,
He does brag.
He’s pointing to the sky
And he’s hungry, like a man in drag.
How come you get someone like him to be your guard?
You know I want your lovin’,
Honey. but you’re so hard.back to top

Absolutely Sweet Marie
Well, your railroad gate, you know I just can’t jump it
Sometimes it gets so hard, you see
I’m just sitting here beating on my trumpet
With all these promises you left for me
But where are you tonight, sweet marie?Well, I waited for you when I was half sick
Yes, I waited for you when you hated me
Well, I waited for you inside of the frozen traffic
When you knew I had some other place to be
Now, where are you tonight, sweet marie?Well, anybody can be just like me, obviously
But then, now again, not too many can be like you, fortunately.Well, six white horses that you did promise
Were fin’lly delivered down to the penitentiary
But to live outside the law, you must be honest
I know you always say that you agree
But where are you tonight, sweet marie?Well, I don’t know how it happened
But the river-boat captain, he knows my fate
But ev’rybody else, even yourself
They’re just gonna have to wait.Well, I got the fever down in my pockets
The persian drunkard, he follows me
Yes, I can take him to your house but I can’t unlock it
You see, you forgot to leave me with the key
Oh, where are you tonight, sweet marie?

Now, I been in jail when all my mail showed
That a man can’t give his address out to bad company
And now I stand here lookin’ at your yellow railroad
In the ruins of your balcony
Wond’ring where you are tonight, sweet marie.back to top

4th Time Around
When she said,
Don’t waste your words, they’re just lies,
I cried she was deaf.
And she worked on my face until breaking my eyes,
Then said, what else you got left?
It was then that I got up to leave
But she said, don’t forget,
Everybody must give something back
For something they get.I stood there and hummed,
I tapped on her drum and asked her how come.
And she buttoned her boot,
And straightened her suit,
Then she said, don’t get cute.
So I forced my hands in my pockets
And felt with my thumbs,
And gallantly handed her
My very last piece of gum.She threw me outside,
I stood in the dirt where ev’ryone walked.
And after finding i’d
Forgotten my shirt,
I went back and knocked.
I waited in the hallway, she went to get it,
And I tried to make sense
Out of that picture of you in your wheelchair
That leaned up against . . .Her jamaican rum
And when she did come, I asked her for some.
She said, no, dear.
I said, your words aren’t clear,
You’d better spit out your gum.
She screamed till her face got so red
Then she fell on the floor,
And I covered her up and then
Thought I’d go look through her drawer.And, when I was through
I filled up my shoe
And brought it to you.
And you, you took me in,
You loved me then
You didn’t waste time.
And i, I never took much,
I never asked for your crutch.
Now don’t ask for mine.back to top

Obviously 5 Believers
Early in the mornin’
Early in the mornin’
I’m callin’ you to
I’m callin’ you to
Please come home
Yes, I guess I could make it without you
If I just didn’t feel so all aloneDon’t let me down
Don’t let me down
I won’t let you down
I won’t let you down
No I won’t
You know I can if you can, honey
But, honey, please don’tI got my black dog barkin’
Black dog barkin’
Yes it is now
Yes it is now
Outside my yard
Yes, I could tell you what he means
If I just didn’t have to try so hardYour mama’s workin’
Your mama’s moanin’
She’s cryin’ you know
She’s tryin’ you know
You better go now
Well, I’d tell you what she wants
But I just don’t know howFifteen jugglers
Fifteen jugglers
Five believers
Five believers
All dressed like men
Tell yo’ mama not to worry because
They’re just my friendsEarly in the mornin’
Early in the mornin’
I’m callin’ you to
I’m callin’ you to
Please come home
Yes, I could make it without you
If I just did not feel so all aloneback to top

Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands
With your mercury mouth in the missionary times,
And your eyes like smoke and your prayers like rhymes,
And your silver cross, and your voice like chimes,
Oh, who among them do they think could bury you?
With your pockets well protected at last,
And your streetcar visions which you place on the grass,
And your flesh like silk, and your face like glass,
Who among them do they think could carry you?
Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
My warehouse eyes, my arabian drums,
Should I leave them by your gate,
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?With your sheets like metal and your belt like lace,
And your deck of cards missing the jack and the ace,
And your basement clothes and your hollow face,
Who among them can think he could outguess you?
With your silhouette when the sunlight dims
Into your eyes where the moonlight swims,
And your match-book songs and your gypsy hymns,
Who among them would try to impress you?
Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
My warehouse eyes, my arabian drums,
Should I leave them by your gate,
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?The kings of tyrus with their convict list
Are waiting in line for their geranium kiss,
And you wouldn’t know it would happen like this,
But who among them really wants just to kiss you?
With your childhood flames on your midnight rug,
And your spanish manners and your mother’s drugs,
And your cowboy mouth and your curfew plugs,
Who among them do you think could resist you?
Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
My warehouse eyes, my arabian drums,
Should I leave them by your gate,
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?Oh, the farmers and the businessmen, they all did decide
To show you the dead angels that they used to hide.
But why did they pick you to sympathize with their side?
Oh, how could they ever mistake you?
They wished you’d accepted the blame for the farm,
But with the sea at your feet and the phony false alarm,
And with the child of a hoodlum wrapped up in your arms,
How could they ever, ever persuade you?
Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
My warehouse eyes, my arabian drums,
Should I leave them by your gate,
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?With your sheet-metal memory of cannery row,
And your magazine-husband who one day just had to go,
And your gentleness now, which you just can’t help but show,
Who among them do you think would employ you?
Now you stand with your thief, you’re on his parole
With your holy medallion which your fingertips fold,
And your saintlike face and your ghostlike soul,
Oh, who among them do you think could destroy you
Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
My warehouse eyes, my arabian drums,
Should I leave them by your gate,
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?




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Mark Twain for President – 1879

A Presidential Candidate
twain mark-twain-mark-twain-9192207-1109-1377
I have pretty much made up my mind to run for President.
What the country wants is a candidate who cannot be injured
by investigation of his past history, so that the enemies of the
party will be unable to rake up anything against him that
nobody ever heard of before. If you know the worst about
a candidate, to begin with, every attempt to spring things
on him will be checkmated. Now I am going to enter the
field with an open record.
I am going to own up in advance to all the wickedness I have done, and if any Congressional committee is disposed to prowl around my biography in the
hope of discovering any dark and deadly deed that I have
secreted, why—let it prowl.
In the first place, I admit that I treed a rheumatic grand­father of mine in the winter of 1850. He was old and inexpert in climbing trees, but with the heartless brutality that is
characteristic of me, I ran him out of the front door in his night­
shirt at the point of a shotgun, and caused him to bowl up a
maple tree, where he remained all night, while I emptied shot
into his legs. I did this because he snored. I will do it again if I
ever have another grandfather. I am as inhuman now as I was
in 1850.
I candidly acknowledge that I ran away at the battle
of Gettysburg. My friends have tried to smooth over this fact
by asserting that I did so for the purpose of imitating Washington,
who went into the woods at Valley Forge for the
purpose of saying his prayers. It was a miserable subterfuge.
I struck out in a straight line for the Tropic of Cancer because
I was scared. I wanted my country saved, but I preferred to
have somebody else save it. I entertain that preference yet. If
the bubble reputation can be obtained only at the cannon’s
mouth, I am willing to go there for it, provided the cannon
is empty. If it is loaded, my immortal and inflexible purpose
is to get over the fence and go home. My invariable practice
in war has been to bring out of every fight two-­thirds more
men than when I went in. This seems to me to be Napoleonic
in its grandeur.
My financial views are of the most decided character, but
they are not likely, perhaps, to increase my popularity with
the advocates of inflation. I do not insist upon the special
supremacy of rag money or hard money. The great fundamental principle
of my life is to take any kind I can get.
The rumor that I buried a dead aunt under my grapevine
was correct. The vine needed fertilizing, my aunt had to
be buried, and I dedicated her to this high purpose. Does

that unfit me for the Presidency? The Constitution of our  country does not say so.

No other citizen was ever considered unworthy of this office because he enriched his grapevines with his dead relatives. Why should I be selected as the first victim of an absurd prejudice?

I admit also that I am not a friend of the poor man. I regard
the poor man, in his present condition, as so much wasted
raw material. Cut up and properly canned, he might be
made useful to fatten the natives of the cannibal islands and
to improve our export trade with that region. I shall recommend legislation upon the subject in my first message. My campaign cry will be: “Desiccate the poor workingman; stuff him into sausages.”
These are about the worst parts of my record. On them I
come before the country. If my country don’t want me, I will
go back again. But I recommend myself as a safe man—a man
who starts from the basis of total depravity and proposes to
be fiendish to the last.
The above screed was lifted reverently and verbatim from the multi-volume definitive text of THE COMPLETE WORKS OF MARK TWAIN published by The Library of America.
This link is very enlightening. Garfield won the  electoral college, but less than 2000 in the popular vote separated him from Hancock.  We are still struggling with many of the same issues.





Posted in American Literature, American Literature, Literary Lions, Literature, Mark Twain, Politics, Rants, writers, writing | 8 Comments

Ben Lerner’s ‘The Hatred of Poetry’ Revels in Paradox

Heads up, Poets. This review in Flavorwire (6/9/16) of Ben Lerner’s recent book-length essay on the disappointments and shortcomings of poetry is worth reading.

Says reviewer Jonathan Sturgeon, “The Hatred of Poetry is an important essay because it doubles as a self-conscious ars poetica from a major American writer, one who is not uncommonly cast in an Adamic light. (Few other writers are compared to Whitman by major critics, or hailed as “the future.”).”

Hmmm. I don’t know if all that’s hot air or not.  Check back in a hundred years or so.  But the points Lerner makes in his book about the process of writing poetry as experienced by the poet–the dynamic interplay of the poet’s mind, imagination and emotions–ring a bell.

If you have ever experienced that vague unease and sense of inadequacy that often afflicts poets after they have given a poem their best shot and revised it half to death, and then suddenly feel deflated, all the wind gone out of their sails, you will instantly get what Lerner is after here.  Marianne Moore‘s oft quoted poem “Poetry” that begins, “I, too, dislike it,” is the launching pad for this bottle rocket reverie on the false hopes for transcendence that beguile poets in the full flush of early inspiration. The ideas are nothing new but worth re-examining.

Here is an excerpt:


Poetry arises from the desire to get beyond the finite and the historical — the human world of violence and difference — and to reach the transcendent or divine. You’re moved to write a poem, you feel called upon to sing, because of that transcendent impulse. But as soon as you move from that impulse to the actual poem, the song of the infinite is compromised by the finitude of its terms. In a dream your verses can defeat time, your words can shake off the history of their usage, you can represent what can’t be represented (e.g. the creation of representation itself), but when you wake, when you rejoin your friends around the fire, you’re back in the human world with its inflexible laws and logic.

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Abhorrent Grammar Mistakes #1

scool marmThis is a public service announcement and (maybe) the first in an erratic series of fusillades fired in the direction of blithely ignorant practitioners of faulty grammar. Not that it’ll make any difference, but 1) this exercise will make me feel better and 2) at least I can say I made an effort.

These offenses are not in any order of criminality, but will appear as they offend my ears.

Abhorrent Grammar Mistakes #1


Exhibit #1 “Between you and I”


Because “between” is a preposition and so requires personal pronouns that follow it (as part of a “prepositional phrase”) to be in the objective case.

“I” is in the nominative case.

good grammar

As we all know, though some of us have forgotten, personal pronouns have three cases.  Ahem.  Nominative, objective, and possessive. There is a ton of simple easy to remember information about this (“about” is yet another preposition!) available online, so I won’t belabor this or bore you any further than to suggest you avoid embarrassing yourself and others who know better by uttering the above travesty against our mother tongue and always say instead . . .


Exhibit #2 “Between you and me”

“Me” (ahem) is in the grammatically correct case (in this case), the objective case.

Now, many will object that it “doesn’t sound right,” but that will only betray the kind of company they have been keeping.  Today “between you and I” is widely and incorrectly used, yet those who know the difference are still the people who make a difference, so watch out.

Between you and me, it’s important.

punctuation saves lives






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Too Many Books?


One of my favorite literary websites is LitHub. It’s smart, clever and full of important, insightful book news, very often news you can use.  The editors at LitHub aggregate current interesting pieces from other important sites as well as create their own original bookish journalism, criticism and writing advice.

I want to share a recent piece from the site that is heartrending for any book lover: an essay on the difficulty of reducing the size of one’s personal library.  We’ve all been there, stymied by the threat of books completely overwhelming our very living space.  Such a situation always requires painful decisions and soul searching.  Our love for books has become out-sized, perhaps even an addiction or a type of hoarding. Oh my. So periodically we have  tortured days of reckoning in our book rich lives.

On the Heartbreaking Difficulty of Getting Rid of Books

Summer Brennan Attempts Marie Kondo’s Approach to Tidying Up Her Library

Like a lot of avid readers, I enjoyed Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up but bristled when it came to the section about books. The gist of her now-famous method is this: go through all your possessions by category, touch everything, keep only that which “sparks joy,” and watch as your world is transformed. It seems simple enough, but Kondo gives minimalism the hard sell when it comes to books, urging readers to ditch as many of them as they can. You may think that a book sparks joy, she argues, but you’re probably wrong and should get rid of it, especially if you haven’t read it yet.

Paring down one’s wardrobe is one thing, but what kind of degenerate only wants to own 30 books (or fewer) at a time on purpose? What sort of psychopath rips out pages from their favorite books and throws away the rest so they can, as Kondo puts it, “keep only the words they like?”

For those of us for whom even the word “book” sparks joy, this constitutes a serious disconnect. Still, as the weather gets warmer, many readers will tackle their spring cleaning with The Life-Changing Magic in hand.

I wondered, can Kondo’s Spartan methods be adapted for someone who feels about books the way the National Rifle Association feels about guns, invoking the phrase “cold dead hands”? I decided to give it a try.

Following her instructions, I herded all of my books into one room and put them on the floor. There were more than 500, ranging from books I’d been given as a small child to advance review copies of novels I’d received within the last week. Somehow they did not appear as numerous as one would expect. They looked vulnerable and exposed when stacked up in this way, out of context, like when the TSA zips open your suitcase at the airport. But that is the point of the KonMari method—to force us to see our possessions under the fluorescent light of disorientation.

Oh, I thought, scanning tattered paperbacks and long-forgotten class-assigned texts.

Oh. …. [Read the rest here]

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A Votive Light for Nabokov



Ambushed, waylaid, ravished by an unexpected encounter tonight with Pale Fire, Nabokov’s powerful daemonic masterpiece. An oddity of a novel told in four cantos, 999 lines of seductive, sensuous verse.  A virtuoso piece, a showcase for the author’s extraordinary talent and intellectual fire power; a linguistic fireworks display built upon the slightest pretext for a novel. Literary satire, insider wit.  Published in 1962, it is on most lists of the 100 most important works of literature of the 20th Century.  Vladimir Nabokov, Russian emigre, sheer genius. Poetic mountebank, myth-maker, verbal  alchemist, spellbinding caster of spells, synesthete, lepidopterist, chess expert.

Takes your breath away. Monarch_butterfly 2


I was the shadow of the waxwing slain

By the false azure in the windowpane;

I was the smudge of ashen fluff–and I

Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky . . .

. . .

Uncurtaining the night, I’d let dark glass

Hang all the furniture above the grass . . .

Retake the falling snow: each drifting flake

Shapeless and slow, unsteady and opaque,

A dull dark white against the day’s pale white

And abstract larches in the neutral light.

And then the gradual and dual blue

As night unites the viewer and the view . . . .

I’m just at a loss for words in such company.  Hardly fair one person should be so richly gifted. Are we sure he was actually human and not a smirking Parnassus sojourner in disguise having a little prankster fun with us?

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Whitman, Democracy’s Bard

Walt Whitman popped into my thoughts unannounced yesterday as I was listening to a nasty political discussion on NPR. Honestly, it’s hard to avoid the contentious, angry political noise in the air these days that’s camouflaged as debate and dialogue. People everywhere are irate and sounding off, often obnoxiously.


Granted, politics have always been rough, tough and bruising, and in this country, if you know history, you know there never was a golden age of political pablum or balmy rectitude when we were better, “nicer” people in choosing our elected officials.  It’s amazing how consistently rife with personal insult, libel, defamation and even threats of physical harm (think assassination) all of our presidential campaigns have been.  And candidates’ family members, including most of all wives, have always been fair game for pillory. Cf. Old Hickory, Andrew Jackson’s wife, viciously maligned on the basis of a mere rumor that she was a divorcee’.

Ho hum.  The more things change …vitriol

And yet when we recall Whitman’s joyful celebratory poetry, his shameless praise and pride in the American people, their apparent innate goodness, and the as yet untested Idea of America as a democracy vastly rich in values and an honest belief in liberty and justice for all, we are transported to a more innocent, kindlier era quite unlike the moral wasteland of our selfish, self-centered, asphalt present.

the beautiful dreams of a beautifully innocent people . . .

Whitman’s expansive, incantatory and hugely optimistic Leaves of Grass was first published (self-published, actually) in 1855. It subsequently was heavily revised and enlarged upon many times and became Whitman’s lifework, ringing the depth and breadth of the beautiful dreams of a beautifully innocent people.  Today it stands as a powerful witness and testimony of a better time and place, America’s Eden.

Though yet to make a big splash as a nation in international affairs, America at the time was young and full of itself.  The nation took seriously the ideals codified in the Constitution and drew strength and social cohesion from this shared credo.  Its people were  astounded daily by new discoveries on the as yet unexplored western frontier and the seemingly endless bounty of our natural resources.

What a time and place to be alive.  The newspapers, magazines, personal letters and diaries of the day attest to a zest, a joie de vivre, in the air for the simple thrills, chills and joys of living. An unquestioned rock solid faith in the future fueled a steely universal respect for effort, sacrifice and the work ethic. The sky was the limit; upward mobility everywhere in evidence. Human decency was reckoned an essential quality in everyone’s character and attainable; common courtesy was, well, common, a given and expected.  Good manners mattered. Progress had yet to become a dirty word and our natural abundance seemed inexhaustible, infinite.

We were equipped for and capable of anything, we believed. And all eyes were on us in our unapologetic brashness.  The rest of the civilized world was watching us with a raised eyebrow and a jaded jaundiced eye, expecting what history predicted (if past is indeed prologue), a fall from grace.  Never had Democracy been attempted on a scale so grand by a country so grandly endowed. The myth became our reality. We embraced it as scriptural truth.  We were confident of our ability to make most things right, both for our own people and, by example, for rest of The World.


Alexis de Toqueville, Democracy in America, 1835

No other American poet than Walt Whitman has so ably and consistently given voice to the heady optimistic public spirit prevalent in the  United States in the Nineteenth Century.  We were bold, boastful, proud and hell-bent on making equal opportunity for all a reality.

Oh, the good old days. Today Whitman’s eloquent magnum opus whispers accusations of national malfeasance from memory’s rafters and roof beams; from the shadows of our subsequent common past, for our sins of omission and commission, of our grasping, greedy, me-first failures to realize the promises we made to ourselves and to rest of The (big bad) World.


An obsessive-compulsive, meticulous cataloger and compiler, Whitman was encyclopedic in his efforts to capture and render in his poetry the enormous bounty of the country and the energy and verve of the American people. A sweet sampling follows …


I Hear America Singing

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,

Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.


Source: Selected Poems (1991)

Below, note the crucial difference between Whitman’s sense of “self” and our contemporary  lapse into the hubris of “Me-ism.”  The “self”  that Whitman refers to  corresponds to all “selves,” not separate lives, superior or inferior. It is a unifying idiom/concept, not a separation of one from others.  “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”

That is, it is no “selfie.”  The very practice and attitude behind it would have scandalized the Nineteenth Century American mind.

“The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag . . .”

from Song of Myself (1892 version)

By Walt Whitman

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,

I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,

Hoping to cease not till death.

Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,

Nature without check with original energy.

Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,

The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.

The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the distillation, it is odorless,
It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,

I am mad for it to be in contact with me.

The smoke of my own breath,
Echoes, ripples, buzz’d whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and vine,
My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing of blood and air through my lungs,
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and dark-color’d sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,
The sound of the belch’d words of my voice loos’d to the eddies of the wind,
A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields and hill-sides,

The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising from bed and meeting the sun.

Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? have you reckon’d the earth much?
Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?

Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,

You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self. . . . .

[Click to read the rest of Song of Myself ]

For all his tireless inspired work, Whitman received little critical acclaim (other than the prescient endorsement of Ralph Waldo Emerson in a letter which he came to treasure) and scanty public appreciation in his lifetime, which was an archetype for the miserable lack of appreciation and dismal financial fate of most of our major literary figures of that era (Poe, Melville, Dickinson, etc.). In fact, Whitman’s Leaves of Grass was reviled in certain quarters as pornographic (Emily Dickinson said in a letter that she heard he was “indecent”) and such misunderstandings of his poetry more than once got him fired from positions he very much needed to survive.

Even so, it’s clear from his verse that he had a wonderful life and, wherever he was in his constant traipsing back and forth over the unspoiled continent, even on a battlefield strewn with corpses of young American men during  the darkest bloodiest days of our Civil War, he always fully explored and embraced  the sundry nuances and delectations of his circumstances,  savoring both good and bad, and immortalizing for anyone who might care that vanished golden moment of our history.

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