Poems by Sheldon Kranz

Sheldon Kranz
           Photo by Lou Bernstein


Poems from Personal & Impersonal: 6 
  Aesthetic Realists [Definition Press, NY]:

  1.  Sonnet for an Enemy
  2.  The Blue Coat
  3.  Problem in Space
  4.  Pigeons and Men in Tight Blue Suits
  5.  On Meeting Beauty
  6.  Becoming Morning
  7.  The Funeral
  8.  Rhoda
  9.  In Time
 10. Antagonism with Landscape
 11. Pale but Piercing Sky
 12. No Tickets
 13. The Moments Between the Moments


  Poetry & Education Links:


Excerpts from
Eli Siegel's Introduction to Personal & Impersonal: 6 Aesthetic Realists



1. The Ever-Living Question
The question, What is poetry?--is as alive today as ever; it is likely more alive, for it is felt increasingly that what poetry is deeply and immediately concerns what our lives are.....Do poems of all languages, times, localities have something in common? I have said--and called it elementary--that poems as happenings have a cause in common....Most persons would say that an emotion is necessary for a poem to happen. It is so....
      It is equally clear that emotions as such don't make a poem.For everyone has emotions. When you miss a bus, you have an emotion; when you're on a plane, and the plane sinkingly, suddenly does a strange thing, you have an emotion; when Miranda, sobbingly, calls you up and tells you she can't keep a date, you have an emotion; when an employer calls Raphael, the shipping clerk, into his moderate-sized office, Raphael has an emotion.
      But you and Raphael don't necessarily have poetic emotions because these things have come to you and Raphael. What we can't grant to Raphael, we can't grant to anyone. It is only personal emotion, not poetic emotion or art emotion that so far has been had.
     And so we come to Personal and Impersonal.
2. Personal and Impersonal
What distinguishes a poetic emotion or, generally, an art emotion from the customary kind is that while a poetic emotion is personal and impersonal at once, the customary kind can be seen as just personal.
     Burns suffered from love, and saw his suffering with impersonality, too. So there were poems. Many other Scotch young men in the 1770's and 1780's suffered from love, but the way they saw what happened to them was not the way Robert Burns saw what happened to him. Burns made a poetic happening out of what happened to him with Mary or Jean or Nancy. In so doing, he was impersonal, too; abstract, universal, all-things, all-persons. Clearly, if Burns' songs were just personal, they would be like Donald or Jamie or Gilbert complaining, of an evening, bitterly, in some Ayr hostelry. Donald's, Jamie's, Gilbert's complaints we can surmise; they have not come to us; Robert Burns' complaints, yearnings, contemplations, ardors have come to us; they were impersonal-and-personal; they had and have what is called form....
5. Sheldon Kranz: Primal Finesse
In poetry, there is something primal that shows itself, in the resulting words, as finesse. In the work of Sheldon Kranz, this primal finesse can be seen.
      For example, Sonnet for an Enemy is a successful sonnet in the Shakespearean form, because a battle in self is dealt with as if the writer were in the midst of it, while he was looking at it, as a hilltop observer might. The syllables fall rightly, but the source, the primary thing, is working in the syllables and the pauses between the syllables.
      Lines like:
        If individuality pursues
and:
        Who smile and chop away at what is kind,
while elegant--in the the eighteenth-century sense--convey the uproar of life, and the unseen force behind the unheard uproar.

      There is something primal about Mr. Kranz's poem, The Blue Coat, though its form is clearly other than that of Sonnet for an Enemy. The primal in the world makes for the uncertain, the seemingly unshaped, the rough--and it does likewise for the filament, the accurate web, the neat, flexible blade and petal. The Blue Coat is about where individuality finds warmth; and the poem deals well with the two contenders for the individual's warm acceptance of himself--the intimate forces in one, and what one owns, or seems to; as against the unbounded, subtly immense universe. Accuracy and music are in the lines of The Blue Coat. They are there, though otherwise than in the lines of a successful sonnet; for music in poetry comes variously, in truth.
     The hiddenness between two people is swirlingly presented in Problem in Space. The tightness in mankind is entertainingly and valuably related to the flying tightness of pigeons in Pigeons and Men in Tight Blue Suits. --How much are we for beauty--particularly the beauty that can unconsciously disarrange the hugged routine of self--that is to be seen, with poetic consequence, in On Meeting Beauty.--Ornateness, yes--and a touch of reprovable ornateness--is in Becoming Morning, but the radiance of the universe, as--somewhat in the Kantian manner--it is to be found in the, at times, dim enclosures of self, is effectively got into Becoming Morning. The lines tremble in measured correctness.--An occurrence of lasting somberness is in The Funeral, metrically well described. 
     Character can be in poetry, and the crisis of character. The poem Rhoda exemplifies this. --The breathlessness and exactitude of existence are well transmitted in In Time.
     Is there that in us desiring coldness? Antagonism with Landscape says there is. Cold is primal; it is that in this poem of Kranz, with beginning selectivity and fear. 
      It is the world that enables us to see, say the transcendental philosophers, notably the aforementioned Kant. The poet in Pale but Piercing Sky says that when the sky for him has that powerful aesthetic junction of paleness and piercingness, reluctance, limitation, superfluous snugness in him are defeated; and he sees with untrammeled willingness and effect. What seems and what is are, through the sky, in mighty inseparableness. --The poem No Tickets is an allegory about whether we have met our own demands. An allegorical locomotive may not agree with our complacency.
      Is any moment in existence interesting? That is a philosophic, poetic, immediate and primal question. It is answered, neatly and keenly, in The Moments Between the Moments.      
       The primal, then, becomes pointed in representative work of Sheldon Kranz. Some of the roll and tumult of poetic lines is not with us as yet; poetry has more motions; and yet more motions; but the grass blade in its sharpness, and the clearness of a print, along with the primal, are in the poems I have mentioned. The meaning of the fact that these are in the   poems, will linger and make for increasing critical awareness and thankfulness.

SONNET FOR AN ENEMY 

If love for love is my own winter's tale,
Then gratitude must find a willing mate, 
And search beneath the sea for one clear sail,
That fought the waves and sank beneath their weight.
If individuality pursues
My wildest flights across the barren reef,
Then love in all its pride cannot refuse
To shelter me from my own disbelief.
For I have searched the corners of my mind,
And found them filled with figures from the past,
Who smile and chop away at what is kind,
And nail their victims to a secret mast.
So each of us acts out his winter's tale,
Yet longs to find again that one clear sail.


THE BLUE COAT

"Just look at him," the mother said,
"Doesn't he look precious?"
The boy looked down and saw his coat.
He smiled. "My coat is blue," he said.
The words went deep and twisted hard;
The sun was gone; the coat was harsh;
The boy began to weep.
Deep within him lay the sun,
Hidden by the brand-new coat.
He tried to find the sun again,
But all he saw were coats of blue.
Fighting, he sank into his mother's lap,
Into her soft blue dress.


PROBLEM IN SPACE

I sit and listen
While part of me drifts among the coffee cups,
No longer wanting to look at you.
I talk and smile acutely
While--gently floating--
I look down on our quiet heads
And find the tops of heads most curious.
You would not know this,
Until tired of the conversation
And of the fading smile behind my eyes,
You float up above the table and the cups
To meet me,
And laughing, show me
How ridiculous we both look.


PIGEONS AND MEN IN TIGHT BLUE SUITS

I think the pigeons are friendly,
Although they strut by without a glance;
And I think the man in the tight blue suit is friendly,
Although he does not smile
And hides behind his paper.
Pigeons and men in tight blue suits
Can walk with us on shady streets,
Sit easily at dinner with us,
Smoke our cigarettes and wish us well,
If we only call to them,
Remembering that pigeons and men in tight blue suits
Are not to be confused, even for a moment,
With nightingales in summer gardens,
Or with men who now wear fashionable pinstriped suits
In apartments high above the city.


ON MEETING BEAUTY
   from an etching by Chaim Koppelman

What shall we say of the clear light
Curving swiftly across the gray skeleton of our mind,
Illuminating dusty corners,
Stirring old hopes?
And when heavy iron doors are swung open
To reveal a summer landscape where couples
Deep in conversation
Move quietly along red brick paths,
How shall we see this?
What shall we do?

     1
He sits stiffly in the yellow room,
His arms bent at a careful angle,
His eyes fixed on an invisible spot
That moves as he moves.
Statue-like, he smiles,
And his teeth are white and strong.
The sun is hot on the angles of his knees,
And he moves his head slowly,
Avoiding mirrors,
Knowing he is cold,
Feeling the dark spot move as he moves,
Wondering if he is still alive.

     2
She runs along the rows of benches,
Embracing each new image that arrives,
Plump and serene in the evening light.
She cannot speak,
But hugs each image to her,
Smiles tearfully,
Remembers a long-forgotten childhood name,
And moves on quickly,
Adoring each new image
That settles itself on a crowded bench
And falls pleasantly asleep.

    3
With fingers intertwined,
They sit facing the high wall,
Leaning lightly against each other for support.
With his free hand, he plays with an open book;
With her free hand, she strokes a furry kitten;
And both tell each other the story of the wall,
And praise its great height,
And smile and kiss,
And praise each other, and kiss again,
Unaware that neither of them makes a shadow on the wall.


BECOMING MORNING

Silver-footed I come through the night,
Carrying the wings of the morning in my cupped hand,
Holding them lightly, warming them
Against the silver of my breast.
For what is morning but the trembling against my heart,
That in a moment will leap into the world,
Scattering its light to reveal
The splendor of the day
For people everywhere to see.


THE FUNERAL

It was a hot June day,
And a breeze made the tall trees
Wave in friendly welcome.
Sunlight moved across white headstones,
Around mausoleums,
Along grass, alive and growing.
On the coffin were flowers,
White and pink,
And the breeze came and moved them a little
With a small, scraping sound,
And the sun was hot on the pink and white flowers.

The people stood motionless,
Bent in grief,
And a dead voice clothed in black prayed,
And the flowers did not move.
The people stared into space,
Cold and still,
And the sun shone on the grass,
And the tall trees waved,
And the breeze came again,
And the flowers moved.


RHODA

My mother could not take in enough air,
The doctor explained,
And so she died.
I walk to my office through crowded streets,
And pass people,
Busy with thoughts of the coming day,
Who are not aware of how wonderful it is
Just to breathe in and out.

I do not think my mother cared enough for air.
It was not like fine fabric or rich carpets
That you could admire and bring into your home.
Only when breathing could no longer be taken for granted,
When walking across a room
Became a high act of determination,
Did she see wonder in breathing;
And caring more for air,
She came to care more for the things air has to do with.
People and objects changed for her,
Came closer,
Became more dear;
And she grew closer to herself
As she reached out to things.

I walk to my office through sunny streets,
Thinking of my mother.
She did not care enough for truth,
Or for the beauty of mind--
Things that many moving, breathing people scoff at,
Or are uncomfortable about.
But in the two years before my mother died,
I saw that these are not matters to be clever about,
Or to be met with a dull stare of indifference.
When breathing is involved,
The true characters in the drama of self
Stir and emerge to assert themselves.
My mother never distinguished clearly
Among the characters who were herself,
But she was reconsidering and revising who she was.
And when she could no longer take in enough air,
She was more quietly real to herself
Than she had been in all the years
When the taking in of air
Was a simple, hardly-to-be-thought-of fact.
I cannot say I know who my mother was,
Or what she is,
But I think she is friendlier now to air,
And is revising still her notions
Of what it means to have to do with things.


IN TIME

Clocks ticking in time,
Have birds in them
And grass bending in wind
To meet the sixty seconds in every minute.
Clocks moving in space,
Have met the uncertain smile, the shattered lamp,
And proceeded on,
Not unaware that six o'clock
Serenely waits for seven
Now, and in time.


ANTAGONISM WITH LANDSCAPE

Women with their soft eyes
And bodies that invite,
Can never penetrate
To the secret winter of my mind.
Here stars and flesh
Tremble in hushed approval,
And snow falls delicately
Upon the angles of flesh and stars.
Women curving gently,
With hair blowing sweetly,
Would be wounded
Wandering among the cold points of starlight
So carefully arranged;
And I  must shut out summer's women
With their breath of liquid sun,
Until one finds me quiet and cold,
Here where the snow falls and falls
In frozen curves.


PALE BUT PIERCING SKY

It can seem in quiet moments,
When the sky is a pale but piercing blue,
That my eyelids are quite transparent;
And I can see each object in the room
Though my eyes are closed.
How can I  explain what seems to be?
The light that flows through my eyelids is real.
I see the half-opened door, the dusty books,
The green umbrella with its broken stays
That leans rakishly against the wall.
How can I explain?
The yellow flowers are exactly in their place,
And the busy sky outside
Is just as high as skies should be.
Those flowers, those books, that pale blue sky
Move me more than on ordinary days.
Who shall say they are not real?
Who shall say that seeming is not a part of being?


NO TICKETS

The rude voice announces
That those without tickets
Must leave the train immediately.
People quickly fumble in purses
And bring out small, bright objects
They have carefully tucked into corners.
Mementos delicately wrapped in tissue
Appear and are disregarded;
Pockets are turned inside out.
And the clear voice announces
That those without tickets 
Will kindly prepare to descend.

Some are angry and declare
They will sue the railroad
For this humiliation.
Others stare quietly down at their empty hands.
The conductor hurries along the aisle;
His eyes are sad--
They do not understand.

On the crowded  platform, the people avoid each other's gaze
And watch with puzzled, angry eyes
As the shining locomotive moves swiftly out of sight,
While the clear voice politely directs the people
To the nearest exit.


THE MOMENTS BETWEEN THE MOMENTS
   To Anne Fielding

If I say to you:
See how the neat edge of that red book
Lying on the table
Meets the air so gently;
And how that white piece of thread
Straggling unadmired across the dark polished floor
Is really what you have known
Standing in the wings
Waiting for your cue--
Then will you see
That the moments between the moments are
As full as any upon a lighted stage
Where self meets self in honest puzzlement;
And things are telling us what is real
With each tick of the clock,
Between this moment and the next,
On any humdrum day.