The Age of Folly: a Poem in 25 Titles

[I pulled 25 books off my shelves, at random, and scribbled down their titles, then tried to make a poem with them. With the exception of a few little tweaks (dropping a couple of ‘and’s and ‘the’s), the titles remain intact.]

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The Prelude:
Strange Rebel,
The Red Car
The Deluge
The Swerve
The Siren
The Bend of the World

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The Odyssey:
First Circle
Doctor
And Devils,
Myth and Mythmaking
The Beautiful
Damned
(The 13-Gun Salute)
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Ideas of Heaven:
Enchantment
Corrections
Magical Thinking
First Light

 

 

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The Starter Screenplay:
Untold Stories
Absent Voices
The Party’s Over

 

 

 

 

©Melinda Rooney, 2017

Authors: Guy Murchie, Lewis Lapham, Jonathan Franzen, Christian Caryl, Mike Lofgren, Joan Didion, William Wordsworth, Henry A. Murray, Giuseppe de Lampedusa, Alan Bennett, Rochelle Altman, Dylan Thomas, Patrick O’Brian, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Guy Kawasaki, Charles Baxter, Joan Silber, Marcy Dermansky, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, , Adam Levenberg, Jacob Bacharach, Alan Tooze, Stephen Greenblatt, Homer

Artist Recycles Old Hubcaps Into Stunning Animal Sculptures — FLOW ART STATION

Artist Recycles Old Hubcaps Into Stunning Animal Sculptures More info: hubcapcreature / Facebook Those car enthusiasts out there are always looking for a way to integrate their love of everything automobile related into art, so for those who have been wracking their brains trying to figure out a way to put more car-themed decorations into […]

via Artist Recycles Old Hubcaps Into Stunning Animal Sculptures — FLOW ART STATION

A Variation on 22 First Lines

 

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[the poem consists of the first lines of 22 books; each line is footnoted. If any of these lines leap out at you , run out and get the book(s). And if you’re ever in Galway, get over to Charlie Byrne’s (http://charliebyrne.com/). Gratitude, admiration, and apologies to each of the authors quoted here. Italicized lines are my own. ]

Scanning Books at Charlie Byrne’s

i.
Wonderfully, it was the boy-[i]
The cancer-ridden only son of a dangerous driver who has thoughts about turning herself into a man[ii]
-
Who saw the gods leave,
Wicking away like water off a skillet.

They departed on the day of the strange tide.[iii]
The plane was nearly empty.

Disease is a fundamental aspect of the human condition.[iv]
‘I’ve been knitting voraciously since I was seventeen.’[v]
He said this to a lover once.
‘I think it is what cured me.’

The premise that there is basic human wisdom that can help to solve the world’s problems: [vi]
It’s what he has replaced Them with
This boy now man
A book: 12 years in the writing
49 years in the making.[vii]
At first glance, it looks very similar to its predecessor[viii]
Pages thin,
Transparent,
You can read the next one through the last.

He drives across Ireland,
A gentle rain, as light as breath,
That soaks him to the skin.
Surely They’re here somewhere;
Hiding is not the same as escape,
Except for when it is.

He settles for the cows.
Blind with highway hypnosis
He has pulled onto a muddy verge, stepped out, watches.
His glasses fog.

Cows have no need of gods, he thinks
They have no need of stories
For them, the present is sufficient
It’s never been for him.

One protests in the rain, the others are silent, damp, standing, pacing, lying down
Tails swishing
Rain in their eyes
Audible chewing
A waft of manure

Women in the river, singing.[ix]

Some that once were here are gone now
Others have yet to arrive
Tucked against their mothers’ flanks
Wondering why they’ve come

If cows wonder.

They don’t, he decides.
They merely are.

Unaccustomed to driving on the left,
He’d clipped a couple curbs
Little Left, Big Right
He couldn’t get too nervous, couldn’t think about how nervous
Or it would be all over.
Critical thinking is something we all do, but we are not necessarily aware of it.[x]

Bó.
In Irish, this is what they’re called.
He makes a point of tackling the language
Of every place he’s ever been.
(A highly inflected and idiomatic language, Irish presents a great challenge for learners.)[xi]

I might be the villain of this story, he thinks. Even now, it’s hard to tell.[xii]

ii.
Words come first, a grid of squares, a puzzle on the plane:
ACROSS:
1. Fastenings
2. Krishna __________
3. Trouble
4. Dickens name[xiii]

Voices next,
In Ireland
People here temporarily,
For different reasons,
Fuzzy with jetlag.
The lives touch across time for a moment
,
Make a little knot of noise
Then go their separate ways
A handful of people
(the palm of God; He doesn’t care what you believe)

And finally, lives, some little moments that will someday go in stories:

Three days shy of her 15th birthday, Alison Pope paused at the top of the stairs.[xiv]

In the early 90s (it might have been 1992, but it’s hard to remember when you’re having a good time) I joined a rock-and-roll band composed mostly of writers.[xv]

Dear Franklin,
You know, I try to be polite.[xvi]

Some that once were here are gone now
Others have yet to arrive:

On the evening of March 27, 1969,
My father was in Leningrad,
In pursuit of his advanced engineering degree.[xvii]

Nine days after Mama disappeared I heard she was throwing down with Shelton Potter.[xviii]

When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.[xix]

Do not set foot in my office.[xx]

I told you last night that I might be gone sometime, and you said, Where, and I said, To be with the Good Lord, and you said, Why, and I said, Because I’m old, and you said, I don’t think you’re old.[xxi]

Both before he came here
And after he departs
Each of them has seen, will see
What he is seeing now.

Human life, so bound up in stories
That we are thoroughly desensitized to their weird and witchy power.[xxii]

Order’s inescapable
Big Right
Little Left
Is that the form they’ve taken now, the fickle, absent Gods?
Perhaps they’ve been here all along
In cancers,
Cures
On planes
In puzzles
The hand-lift waves of passing drivers

The gods are maybe ours to conjure
Sure and the stories are ours to tell
Hanging here, in veils of mist
Before and yet to come

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@Melinda Rooney, 2017, with acknowledgement to copyrights of quoted authors

[i] Ireland, Frank Delaney

[ii] Ithaca, Alan McMonagle

[iii] The Sea, John Banville

[iv] Mania, A Short History of Bipolar Disorder, David Healy

[v] Alterknit Stitch Dictionary, Andrea Rangel

[vi] Shambhala, The Sacred Path of the Warrior, Chögyam Trungpa

[vii] Absent Voices, Rochelle Altman

[viii] The Pamphlet Debate: On the Union Between Great Britain and Ireland, W. J. McCormack

[ix] Arcadia, Lauren Groff

[x] The Art of Deception, Nicholas Capaldi

[xi] Irish Grammar, Nollaig Mac Congáil

[xii] The Borrower, Rebecca Makkai

[xiii] New York Times Sunday Crossword Omnibus, Vol. 2, Ed. Will Weng

[xiv] Tenth of December, George Saunders

[xv]On Writing, Stephen King

[xvi] We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver

[xvii] The Book of My Lives, Aleksandar Hemon

[xviii]Sweetgirl, Travis Mulhauser

[xix]The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

[xx] Black Swan Green, David Mitchell

[xxi] Gilead, Marilynne Robinson

[xxii] The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, Jonathan Gottschall

 

Autofill Ends The Affair

The autofill text-message game goes like this.
Begin a text using only one initial typed word (for example ‘Hello’), then hit the space bar. Then complete the phrase with as many of the three autofill helper words that appear above the iPhone keyboard as will give you a complete sentence. Write as many sentences as you like, beginning each with an initial typed word, then autofilling.

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Hello there you
How are you feeling
I’m sorry I didn’t get to see you today
I hope you are okay

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I have to say
Something about the way you get to have what you want
Is not a good thing

The fact is
I have a little time for a good day
You can do that for me and I’ll be okay

The fact is
I am a good person to you
And I love that I am able to give you a good life

But
My god
I hope you are most definitely not okay
I’m sorry
But you don’t know what I want

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Women should be able to make their own choices
Men have the most important things and they don’t know how to feel about it

Women are not going to be there for you
Men are not going to be there for you
Friends and family members have been there for about two days
But they don’t know what you want

Wives are not going to make you happy
Husbands are not going to make a big difference.
Children, of course, are the only reasonable ones
Babies make sure you do what they want
But they don’t know what you want.

I’m still trying to get it out there.
I’m still trying not to get it out there.
Lying is not a good thing, but
Truth is the only reason why I’m still here.
Lying is not going to make a big difference
Truth will make sure that you are not going to make a big mistake

There is nothing to say about that.
The fact that I’m still trying is just a thing that makes me sad

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Speaking about how I was really trying to be a good person
Is the only thing I want

Promises are not the only thing that you can make.

Mistakes are easy too
A great way to get the right person.
Look at you and me
Look how well you can make decisions about how things will be

Pain can make you smile but it doesn’t make you happy.

So I’m not going to see you tomorrow
I’m not going to see you
Everything is okay
But I’m not going to see you again

I hope you have a great time with your family
I’m not going to be a bad thing for you
You can be my friend
Only if you don’t have a reason to believe that I love you anymore.

Life has not always been good for me but I’m still trying to figure it out.
Men who can make me feel like a good person are the only reason why I love.
But sadness is a way to be a good person, a reason why I love:
Sad that
You are the only one who can be your own friend
Sad that
Sex was the only thing that could make us feel better
Sad that
You are able to hurt the only person that can make you feel

I’m sorry but it was just a bad idea
Loved the game but it’s not going to work
Wishing you all the greatest things
Wishing for the most amazing things to come to you

I hope you get to see the other side of your life.

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©Melinda Rooney, 2017

Canto 34

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Reposted: my first Anthology submission (actually, I asked my former student if I could use it, and she said yes). Tori’s Canto 34 is the response to my assignment (set out below) to my freshman Western Heritage class at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin in the Spring of 2016.

[NOTE: the New Yorker cartoon below appeared several months after Tori composed her Canto.]

The Assignment

WRITE YOUR OWN INFERNO CANTO, WITH YOURSELF IN DANTE’S SHOES: AUTHOR, CHARACTER, HERO. DO WHAT DANTE DID. DRAW ON

  1. ‘THE REAL WORLD’ (PEOPLE, PLACES)
  2. PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: FAMILY, FRIENDS, GEOGRAPHIC LOCATION, KEY LIFE EVENTS. HOW ARE YOU LIKE DANTE?
  3. IMAGINATION
  4. PREVIOUS ‘ARTISTIC’ INFLUENCES—MOVIES, BOOKS, TV SHOWS, VIDEO GAMES
  5. YOUR OWN TALENT!
  6. THOUGHTS AND IDEAS WE’VE DISCUSSED IN CLASS
  7. THE ESTABLISHED LITERARY FORM OF AN ‘ALLEGORY’

Think about how Dante pulled off this amazing piece, as we broke down its qualities and characteristics when we were studying the text, and focus on implementing them in your canto:

the sense of ‘epic scale’
the vividly rendered ‘sinner’
the clarity and variety of the immediate close-up details
CONTRAPASSI: symbolic punishments befitting the sin
the dramatic quality of human conversations
sections of Christian doctrine
the shifting emotional tone (humor, terror, disgust, anger, fear)
the constant sense of movement up and down and around
the developing awareness in the Pilgrim-Narrator (that would be YOU) who has to make emotional and conceptual sense of it all.

 

The Canto
‘Canto 34’

Tori Jadczak 

Downward still, we travelled, my guide so fixed to his path
that we nearly missed the split in the rock, so clearly discarded from the main trail,that I wondered if its intent was to remain so perfectly hidden.

I pointed there, finger outstretched,
to the putrid lichens that devoured the stone where it parted,
so sharp and spiteful I would fear to near it if not for intrigue,

my guide halting where he stood and looking back
as a child caught ignoring the wishes of his mother
when he otherwise meant to avoid them.

“What foul matter lies beyond, that hides behind these overgrown spires of stone,
that you would pass by as we have not yet done before?
Were we not to visit the entirety of hell?”

To this he replied, his mouth in as tight a line as ever I had seen it,
“I would not have dared to journey there unless you so desired,
but as your hand reaches, so there we will venture.

But as we diverge to a path only meant to be travelled by those who deserve it,
make strong your heart and your ears for a deafening thunder,
for surely what awaits us was not meant to be heard by living flesh.”

With trepidation, I followed his steps through the narrow path in the jagged stone,
sharp and pointed rocky teeth shadowing the air
that brushed us as we passed between,

distantly bringing tidings of the canyon ahead with echoes
that brought dark tidings for the stretch ahead
and rang off slick rock and skin alike.

As we descended further, the din grew to a stew of sound so thick and frenzied
a single source I fought to recognize just as a man seeks his friend in a crowded street,
but to no avail, the squealing thunder deep and grating all at once.

Eager to see what manner of beasts could unleash such a sound,
I rushed to the final ledge,my guide behind me, reluctant to lead,
he stood a cold comfort at my back.

And there they loped toward us with frightful gaiety,
creatures of such nature that at first I thought my eyes deceived,
in guise of children laughing as they skipped,
so merrily that it would seem they had forgotten
hell itself was to be their eternal home, then,
as gleeful as they were in the deafening mire.

My master, aghast, threw up his arm in front of us as they approached,
though the only heed it seemed they paid him
was to brandish instruments within their delicate hands, colorful kazoos.

“Come no closer, wretches. We are sent by One with power greater than your own,
for this, my charge, must witness the poor souls who dwell here
and remember them well. Your meddling will not go unsuffered.”

At the front of the band, with golden hair and a smile
so unsettling that no such gruesome things I had witnessed thus far
had yet sent fear’s cold hand to grip me quite as quickly,

a young boy laughed shrill enough to pierce the thunderous veil
of the raucous onslaught around us
and in response the others mimicked his cries.

Through gleaming teeth he did exclaim, with mockery
and enthusiasm that spoke the opposite intent of his words,
“Wait a minute…who are you?”

The children did not move, and indeed seemed curious
despite their leering grins and voiced mutterings, which to my surprise
I heard the deep voices of adults slip past their youthful lips.

What horrors were these, then, who wore the skins of playful children?
Pity seized my breast for them, these wretched beasts,
who jabbered with ill-suited tongues and jumped in excitement where they stood.

“Master, what are these creatures, who seem so youthful,
and carry such strange instruments? Pray, tell me where we are,
for I had not thought to encounter such a place in our descent.”

And as he sought to answer me, they began to buzz in unison,
a cacophony of frightful and unsynchronized melodies
upon the kazoos they held, the noise saturating the air as a thick veil over our ears.

All around us they began to dance, trumpeting their horrid symphony
until their leader gave a sign, at which they dropped to all fours
dragging their knees against the ground as forward they crept.

“I’m a big, tired cow,” the leader laughed, and he began a note
so low and deep it echoed through the canyon above the din below,
the other joining in, advancing with an abhorrent lowing
of which the Minotaur himself would be jealous to conjure,
and our young pursuers chased us deeper towards the souls that writhed below,
in such a fashion, sounding as a dozen bulls from their kazoos.

Their leader relented while the others continued on, and grasping at my arm unbidden
he dragged me through the lamenting souls, beset by similar horrors,
of such a sort the deafening thunder was no longer a mystery to me.

Performed by such malevolent children, each soul was set to torment
by some variety of provoking sound in horrid concert,
some with kazoo renditions of “Careless Whisper,”
others still with serenades of “Hot Cross Buns” on the recorder,
played by groups of children each just a bit off time with the other,
all as skilled as any unpracticed musician and his first instrument.

I began to lose sight of my guide, I called but could not hear him
through what encompassed me, and wailing
faintness touched my head, amidst such rancor, I feared I’d lost him.

Until the masses began to clear, the horrid child guided me
towards a great monument at the canyon’s center,
where my guide awaited me, disheveled from the crowd.

The sinister imp on my arm released me to dance around the pillar
and giggling he joined the other children atop it,
freeing me at long last as I stumbled.

Atop his pedestal, an ominous creature sat chained,
so fearsome to look at that I averted my eyes, for such a soul I had not yet seen,
in every circle I had yet journeyed through, this was the most wretched.

His pallor belonged to that of an orange, which forgotten
had been left to sit at the bottom of a crate for a great many weeks,
only sparing his squinting eyes to be colorless sockets.

Loose across his face, his skin hung as slack as his jaw,
flapping about, words from his lips were lost to the noise around him,
his head bobbing as if seaborne in a storm, his eyebrows desperate oarsmen.

His torment was the loudest yet, a great section of brass about him,
tubas and trumpets all, each blown by several children each in long, thundering bellows,
which whipped his loosely flowing updo to every side just as a bird that struggles in flight.

“Silence! I beseech you, delinquent pests!” My master roared,
“So that we may speak to the one whom you torture, quiet your tumultuous gale,
and you may soon again return once we are finished.”

As they grew quiet, the soul’s attention turned, and my fearsome guide commanded,
“Tell us your name, O sinner, my companion may yet carry your name
back to the realm of the living, for you cannot go there.”

To my amazement, he paused in his speech before he answered,
“Who am I? You want to know who I am? Well, that’s a good question.
People call me many things, you know, but my people call me Trump.”

To which I urged my master, “If he can continue on, should he tell us
which sins have been committed to bring him here,
what merits such a symphony, I would like to know.”

And my guide replied, “It shall be so. Please, then,
recount to us the accord through which you have obtained your suffering,
troubled spirit, that we may find reason to pity you.”

Eyebrows raising and lowering as if to fly from his brow, he replied,
“Am I suffering? Good question. Well I think it’s fair to say that some people are suffering
and that I am one of them. Suffering is the foundation upon which this great
institution was built and if I were to be suffering I would know it. I have people
who know about suffering, and let me tell you, there are a lot of experts on this who
agree with me, that I am suffering. You know, those other guys,
they don’t know about suffering like I do.
I have stocks in suffering, and you know what?

I really do a lot of deals in suffering. Huge deals. So yes,I think you could say
that I do a lot with suffering and that I know about suffering. We can make suffering great
again.”

And without a word, my good guide led me away on his own,
the deep brazen notes roaring again as we turned our backs,
to drown that loose tongued soul’s words as he yet spewed them.

Incredulous, I followed without word, for what could be said?
The speech had been so surely given, and yet I found
that nothing of value had been spoken to us.

My master, as we departed back to our intended path, asked me,
“Tell me now, what sins do you now think the souls here commit to
befit such torture, now that you have witnessed it?”

My reply was swift, “Souls who speak without purpose, or for the purpose of speech itself,
possess an incontinence as wicked as those in circles before us;
their tongues are as foul as the serpent’s was in Eden.”

And so back to that fateful road we climbed, ascending once again,
to follow its trail to yet fouler depths, the raucous concert
fading far behind to smother the rampant tongues of the souls we left behind.

©2016 Tori Jadczak

Tori Jadczak attends Carthage College and is majoring in Biology. In her free time she writes, draws, and plots to crush the patriarchy. 

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Cartoon by Paul Noth, The New Yorker

Page 52

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Page 52
25 Books
Sentence 5

Renunciation is realizing that nostalgia for life’s vicious cycle is full of shit:
the waving grass, intermingling with a rich profusion of wild flowers, the most beautiful sight I had ever gazed upon;
our own dark environment, where our only companion is the smell of our own sweat.

(One option beyond these two seems to be the attempt to organize and defend the new sphere of civil society not as mediation but as an end in itself.)

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And yet
And still
If it had ever become ‘necessary’
(I can find no other word)
to strengthen the central supporting column without too much enlarging it or adding to its weight,
no better formation than this spiral could be conceived,
and an almost exact parallel to it occurs
in the air-tubes or tracheae of insects
and the water-tubes of plants.

Although a prisoner’s internal experience
(the smell of his own sweat, her own dark environment)
may be close to
or identical with
that of another person suffering severe pain
from burns
or a stroke
or cancer
or phantom limb,
it is, unlike this other person’s, simultaneously being externalized:
waving, intermingling,  a rich profusion.

Ignorant what to do, he is stupefied;
he neither lets go the reins, nor is he able to retain them
(life’s vicious cycle: full of shit)
nor does he know the names of the horses.

She forgets that she is talking to listening children; she lives with the fairy folk,
or the kings
and queens
and beautiful ladies, whose adventures she narrates,
modern propaganda,
a consistent, enduring effort to create or shape events
to influence the relations of the public to an enterprise,
idea,
or group.

Father Arnall’s low and gentle voice:
I wanted to amass information against the enemy we were capturing on the battlefield.
In the fire of the visiting sun their faces shone like the faces of children lit by a golden lamp,
The most beautiful sight I had ever gazed upon.
They began as useful and practical goddesses who cared for springs and wells and cured disease and foretold the future.

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Archaeological excavations of sites thousands of years old have revealed bodies that show signs of medical attention:
broken limbs that have been set,
dislocations replaced,
wounds treated successfully.

Relief is not complete cure, and may proceed from different causes:
a few preparatory experiments,
a panegyric upon modern chemistry
useful and practical goddesses.
These colors,
produced when thin slices of material are placed between two polarizing plates,
have been used to investigate the structures of many natural objects
including crystals,
rocks,
and hailstones,
battlefields and wells.

Nature is abundant, but Grace is not abounding.
The book says so.
It is the best of those of your poems that you have let me read.

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All that I could do was to wait until the tide was at the highest,
keeping the raft
with my oar
like an anchor
to hold the side of it
fast to the shore,
near a flat piece of ground,
which I expected the water would flow over;
and so it did.

Eviction can be contagious that way.
So I have to watch it–be its eyes.

Renunciation, Nostalgia
Organize, Defend
A consistent, enduring effort
Is it about faith or is it about grief?

Well, you’re the detective, aren’t you?

[with gratitude to the original authors, from whom I beg indulgence for the theft and for the occasional tweak for scan and sense]

©Melinda Rooney, 2017