Photo by Lou Bernstein
from Personal & Impersonal: 6 Aesthetic Realists [Definition
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
9. In Time
11. Pale but Piercing
12. No Tickets
13. The Moments
Between the Moments
Poetry & Education Links:
Eli Siegel's Introduction to
& Impersonal: 6 Aesthetic Realists
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
distinguishes a poetic emotion or, generally, an art emotion from
the customary kind is that while a poetic emotion is personal and
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
5. Sheldon Kranz:
there is something
primal that shows itself, in the resulting
words, as finesse. In the work of Sheldon Kranz, this primal finesse
example, Sonnet for an Enemy is a successful
sonnet in the Shakespearean form, because a battle in self is dealt
as if the writer were in the midst of it, while he was looking at it,
a hilltop observer might. The syllables fall rightly, but the source,
primary thing, is working in the syllables and the pauses between the
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.
something primal about Mr. Kranz's poem, The Blue
Coat, though its form is
clearly other than that of Sonnet
Enemy. The primal in the
world makes for the uncertain, the
unshaped, the rough--and it does likewise for the filament, the
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
forces in one, and what one owns, or seems to; as against the
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
to the flying tightness of pigeons in Pigeons and Men in Tight Blue
Suits. --How much are we for
beauty--particularly the beauty that
unconsciously disarrange the hugged routine of self--that is to be
with poetic consequence, in On
a touch of reprovable ornateness--is in Becoming Morning, but
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
Morning. The lines tremble in
measured correctness.--An occurrence
of lasting somberness is in The
Funeral, metrically well
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
selectivity and fear.
the world that enables us to see, say the
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
What seems and what is are, through the sky, in mighty inseparableness.
--The poem No Tickets is an allegory about whether we have
own demands. An allegorical locomotive may not agree with our
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.
primal, then, becomes
pointed in representative work of Sheldon
Some of the roll and tumult of poetic lines is not with us as yet;
has more motions; and yet more motions; but the grass blade in its
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
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.
"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.
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
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.
AND MEN IN TIGHT BLUE SUITS
I think the pigeons are
Although they strut by
And I think the man in the
blue suit is friendly,
Although he does not smile
And hides behind his paper.
Pigeons and men in tight
Can walk with us on shady
Sit easily at dinner with
Smoke our cigarettes and
If we only call to them,
Remembering that pigeons
in tight blue suits
Are not to be confused,
With nightingales in
Or with men who now wear
In apartments high above
from an etching by Chaim Koppelman What shall we say of
the clear light
Curving swiftly across the
skeleton of our mind,
Illuminating dusty corners,
Stirring old hopes?
And when heavy iron doors
To reveal a summer
Deep in conversation
Move quietly along red
How shall we see this?
What shall we do? 1
He sits stiffly in the
His arms bent at a careful
His eyes fixed on an
That moves as he moves.
Statue-like, he smiles,
And his teeth are white
The sun is hot on the
And he moves his head
Knowing he is cold,
Feeling the dark spot move
Wondering if he is still
She runs along the rows of
Embracing each new image
Plump and serene in the
She cannot speak,
But hugs each image to her,
Remembers a long-forgotten
And moves on quickly,
Adoring each new image
That settles itself on a
And falls pleasantly
With fingers intertwined,
They sit facing the high
Leaning lightly against
With his free hand, he
an open book;
With her free hand, she
a furry kitten;
And both tell each other
of the wall,
And praise its great
And smile and kiss,
And praise each other, and
Unaware that neither of
a shadow on the wall.
Silver-footed I come
Carrying the wings of the
in my cupped hand,
Holding them lightly,
Against the silver of my
For what is morning but
against my heart,
That in a moment will leap
Scattering its light to
The splendor of the day
For people everywhere to
FUNERAL It was a hot June day,
And a breeze made the tall
Wave in friendly welcome.
Sunlight moved across
Along grass, alive and
On the coffin were flowers,
White and pink,
And the breeze came and
With a small, scraping
And the sun was hot on the
and white flowers.
The people stood
Bent in grief,
And a dead voice clothed
And the flowers did not
The people stared into
Cold and still,
And the sun shone on the
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,
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.
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.
Women with their soft
And bodies that invite,
Can never penetrate
To the secret winter of my
Here stars and flesh
Tremble in hushed approval,
And snow falls delicately
Upon the angles of flesh
Women curving gently,
With hair blowing sweetly,
Would be wounded
Wandering among the cold
So carefully arranged;
And I must shut out
With their breath of
Until one finds me quiet
Here where the snow falls
In frozen curves.
BUT PIERCING SKY
It can seem in quiet
When the sky is a pale but
That my eyelids are quite
And I can see each object
Though my eyes are closed.
How can I explain
The light that flows
eyelids is real.
I see the half-opened
The green umbrella with
That leans rakishly
How can I explain?
The yellow flowers are
And the busy sky outside
Is just as high as skies
Those flowers, those
pale blue sky
Move me more than on
Who shall say they are not
Who shall say that seeming
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
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.
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.