Saturday, March 15, 2014

Huuklyeand Cinquor on Poets Coming Clean with their Craft

I thought if I washed out my mouth with lots 
Of soap and water, my speech 
Would henceforth spume forth 
A fountainhead 

Of pure verse shining 
And smelling like a million bucks— 
But all that came out of it reeked 
Of a foul, wishy-washy tongue that was all 

Fucked up and too utterly bankrupt 
To strive towards any semblance of upkeep. 

Moderator’s comment: Huuk certainly knows his way around the poetic blogosphere— who would have thought he’d latch on to a catchy phrase from Conrad DiDiodato’s comment on a post over at ursprache and work it into a telling commentary on the modern poet’s coming to terms with his/her language predicament—whatever that may be.


In the event the ursprache link is broken, here’s Conrad’s comment on a Seferis quote (“Unimaginable how much patience is needed to see the simplest things. How much patience I need to write a single verse.”):

Borrowing phraseology from C.S.Lewis, I'd say you can start by wanting to write good verse (for which much patience is required) and in the end you may get Poetry; however, beginning with the "soap and water" of much contemporary poetry will get you nothing at all. Of that you can be certain


  1. Ah, Cinquor, my good man,

    I see now I should have said beginning with the "soap and water" of much contemporary poetry will get you nothing but a foul, wishy-washy tongue".

  2. Σύγχρονη αμερικανική ποίηση κάνει ένα εξαιρετικό στοματικό διάλυμα.

  3. Don't break my tongue,
    my wishy-washy tongue...


    (Appipollyloggies to Billy Ray Cyrus, as my droog Alex would say....)

  4. I'm sure Cinquor will drool at the mouth if and when he chances upon these delicious comments. (BTW, Tom endorses American contemporary poetry as being an excellent mouthwash.)

  5. Let's just hope the effusion doesn't spread to adjacent orifices, at least.

    For example, the ear-drool of someone with a tin ear -- potentially lethal.

  6. Conrad pins it on 'patience' ... I wld say that it is... impatience... that is contemporary poets's/poetry's "sin" .... just maybe it was impatience that got them booted out of paradise .... such as it is imagined ?

  7. "The Butterfly"

    I remember one morning when I discovered a cocoon in the back of a tree just as a butterfly was making a hole in its case and preparing to come out. I waited awhile, but it was too long appearing and I was impatient. I bent over it and breathed on it to warm it. I warmed it as quickly as I could and the miracle began to happen before my eyes, faster than life. The case opened; the butterfly started slowly crawling out, and I shall never forget my horror when I saw how its wings were folded back and crumpled; the wretched butterfly tried with its whole trembling body to unfold them. Bending over it, I tried to help it with my breath, in vain.

    It needed to be hatched out patiently and the unfolding of the wings should be a gradual process in the sun. Now it was too late. My breath had forced the butterfly to appear all crumpled, before its time. It struggled desperately and, a few seconds later, died in the palm of my hand.

    That little body is, I do believe, the greatest weight I have on my conscience. For I realize today that it is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature. We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the eternal rhythm.

    --Nikos Kazantzakis from Zorba the Greek


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