Monday, March 17, 2014


Poetry Today: Trends and Traditions 9

Compiled and Critiqued by Anthony Servante






Welcome, dear readers, to the ninth edition of Poetry Today.  With us, we have some regular contributors as well as some new wordsmiths. They are: Michael H. Hanson, Kim Acrylic, Vincenzo Bilof, John Boden, Tery Molina, Charlie Sheen, and a nod to Eden Ahbez. So, let's take a look at what's new in the field of poetry. 

We begin with Michael H. Hanson.






The Biography: 

Michael H. Hanson created the ongoing SHA'DAA shared-world anthology series which is now being published by Moondream Press, an imprint of Copper Dog Publishing LLC (currently consisting of "SHA'DAA: TALES OF THE APOCALYPSE", "SHA'DAA: LAST CALL", "SHA'DAA: PAWNS," and the soon to be published "SHA'DAA: FACETS).

He has two collections of mainstream poetry in print ("AUTUMN BLUSH" published by YaYe Books and "JUBILANT WHISPERS" published by Diminuendo Press) and is presently compiling his third poetic anthology, "LUMINOUS LULLABIES", and an illustrated collection of poems for children, "THE GREAT SOAP REBELLION".

In 2014, Michael will be overseeing the writing and publishing of the new shared-world, anthology "SHA'DAA: INKED" and the stand-alone science fiction shared world book, NOT TO YIELD.

In 2013, his short story "Failure to Comply" was published in Perseid Press's "WHAT SCARES THE BOOGEYMAN" anthology, his short story "Truth Will Conquer" was published in Gabrielle Faust's "HIGH STAKES" Vampire Anthology, his short story "The ITTT" was published in Janet Morris's Heroes in Hell (HIH) anthology volume, "DREAMERS IN HELL" Michael had stories in the last two HIH volumes, "LAWYERS IN HELL" and "ROGUES IN HELL." His short story "The Traveling Luminous Museum" will be published in Perseid Press's "TERROR BY GASLIGHT" anthology Edited by John Manning.

Michael is also the Founder of the international writers club, THE FICTIONEERS, a non-profit organization created in 2007 to encourage the writing of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, and the creative interaction of fledgling writers with more experienced professionals. THE FICTIONEERS, whose current roster is made up of over 132 authors world-wide, is loosely modeled after those fun children's clubs of mid-20th Century radio fame (Captain Midnight, Little Orphan Annie, etc.).

Michael is a Staff Editor at The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.



The Poems:

Lost Dogs Of The Finger Lakes by Michael H. Hanson

All my life I have bathed in loneliness

like a decadent, lethargic Roman

scrubbing the blood of violent conquest

off of my weathered, and stained, and scarred soul,

a cleansing and safe purification

separating me from scary masses

and all too jarring and tactile handshakes

and frank unnerving intimacies of

piercing face to face communication.

I have dried my naked hopes in towels

of indifference and wash cloths of fear,

allowing the light of isolation

so empowering and overwhelming

to knead and massage and comfort my heart,

an under-used and oft-neglected thing

that still aches to pump hope's formaldehyde

throughout my failing necrotic psyche

preserving this semblance of mortal life,

this jarred and pickled exhibit that pens

rudimentary and banal poems,

unfit for any human consumption,

the merest refuse of much grander meals

and the guttural mumblings of defeat...



"Inner Arsonist" - painting by Helenka

****


He Gave Her Apples by Michael H. Hanson

Sometimes she dreams of her father,

wise and aging when she was young,

sporting a long lovely white beard

by the time she had reached high school.



Tall like an ash tree with pale leaves,

shoulders and arms like thick oak trunks,

pressed against them she felt so safe

when threatened by all of life’s storms.



He never wavered in his love,

so deeply rooted in belief,

cradling her when tears rained down,

comforting her with an apple.



“Sodality” – painting by artist Roya Bijan



The Critiques:

In Lost Dogs Of The Finger Lakes, Mike Hanson cloaks the modern pains of life in the garment of poetic metaphor; here, it is the Roman-esque trappings of decadence and hedonism. The poem opens right off with the comparative form: "All my life I have bathed in loneliness/like a decadent, lethargic Roman/
scrubbing the blood of violent conquest/off of my weathered, and stained, and scarred soul". Daily existence for the narrator is lonely and filled with bad memories ("scarred soul"). But these feelings are buried deep, where they appear to be unreachable, as the narrator covers them with decadence, lethargy, violent conquest (possibly one-night stands or bad relationships), and massages.

It is a well-sustained metaphor, reminiscent of the 16th Century English poets, such as John Donne ("Death Be Not Proud" comes to mind), but Mike in his usual modern spin on the format by self-referencing himself within his own poetry: "my failing necrotic psyche/preserving this semblance of mortal life,/this jarred and pickled exhibit that pens/rudimentary and banal poems". He switches the metaphor from classic to modern in an effort to point out to the reader his own fragile "failings" as a decadent romantic, accepting "the guttural mumblings of defeat" by writing the poem at hand.

Of course, Mike wants us to know that he is talking about the painting, "Inner Arsonist" by Helenka, but here he (perhaps inadvertently) projects himself into the work of art via his poem ("transference", if I remember my Psychology 101). In either case, a very honest poem by Hanson who only uses the paintings as springboards for his own epiphanies and our reading pleasure. It's not for nothing that I call Michael H. Hanson the poet with words for eyes.

In He Gave Her Apples, Mike stays true to the painting “Sodality” by artist Roya Bijan. Notice that he avoids the use of first person altogether here, and thus there is no epiphanal shift. He maintains the storyline he creates for the painting, describing the two characters in the painting in three stanzas (Mike usually follows three stanzas with a couplet--here he closes the poem on the third stanza). The reason is clear why the poem must end here: He solved the mystery of the "apple". It would be at this point where Mike could have alluded to himself and made the painting and poem about himself; he chose not to, which may not be unwise, but merely allowing this work to be selfless. Sometimes, however, I enjoy seeing Mike's epiphanal shifts, as they add modernism to the 16th Century poetic form, which he so cleverly updates. Though, in this case, the poem retains its place in the past. I suppose he can't take a chance with every poem, but this critic and poetry reader can hope, can't he?

********

Kim Acrylic






The Biography:

Kim Acrylic, from Seattle Washington is a Poet/ Recording Artist/indie Music Journalist, who dedicated her life to poetry at age 15. Since then she has worked for several online music and poetry magazines and has been published in several anthologies including Little Episode's first volume of poetry "Back In 5 Minutes" She also collaborated post-death with Andy Warhol for the New Britain Museum Of Modern Art by writing a poem inspired by his painting of Manray for the book "Visions, Voices, and verses" As of to date Kim has two CDs out "Fan Fare Melt Down" and "Techno Eyes.She continues to collaborate to this day with artists all over the world.

MY FACEBOOK PAGE LINKS: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kim-Acrylic/72624288127 





The Poems:



"Bleed your sweat"

Irrational love affairs cheat on my loyalty.

I wither and fade with the forsaken in Lolita fashion.

Stupor of bliss eats the passion at its regurgitation.

Fight back tears made of infertile semen made for nothingness.

Hurt, positive affirmations, crumble into ashes at the putrid sea-side .

For at what length shall I be blighted?

Stigmata of love and folklore you morph into still life Kodak moments.

Many hollowed out night spent by the pensive, unfortunate atmospheres.

Second hand sex drips and dries from beds made of off-white bone.

Futile kisses displayed on my fractured smile, and ringed eyes

Psychic stomach butterflies impregnate my intuition of beasts and trolling men.

Will I bleed your sweat?


****


"love me hard"

Muse of a thousand words I will succumb.

At frenzy with freedom yet painfully numb.

Calloused fear, peeling away at my thin skin.

Ill fitted sleep keeps the pills a sin.

Preyed on the innocence of hostility.

Your disrepair is my humility.

Torn, Tattered, and frayed,

I search your eyes for a cure from being afraid.

Sad eyes, pouty lips, A smile for you.

Love me hard to change my moods blue hue

Beauty and sorrow, I will never let go of this.

Ending a dream and forgetting you,will I be missed?

Cosmic coincidences dance in the foreground,

Swaying with the beat to the magic of the underground.

Cry,laugh,love, and sigh...



The Critiques:

Bleed your sweat by Kim depicts an illusory love, as if Salvador Dali had painted the images of the poem. I always enjoy reading Acrylic's works because they reach that higher level of surrealism not unlike watching the movie Eraserhead for the first time. Note how she personifies "Irrational love" as a cheating boyfriend who takes advantage of her loyalty to him (or to love itself--works both ways). She describes herself as a "Lolita" victim, a body used for meaningless sex ("Stupor of bliss"). But keep in mind that everyone died at the end of the book Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, all because of irrational sex.

Her "hollowed out night[s]" her sacrifices to make this "love" work, but to no avail. She already know the answer to her predicament, for she begs the question: "For at what length shall I be blighted?" The answer: She shall be blighted by "Kodak moments", false images and memories that don't reflect the true feelings that accompany those moments, like a happy family photograph that masks the spousal abuse that occurred minutes before the picture was taken. But although Kim wallows in the despair of spending such wasted love on "beasts and trolling men", she has yet to commit to ending such affairs in her future, for she ends the poem with the question: "Will I bleed your sweat?" Here the image of lovemaking, sweat, meets the image of suffering, bleed. By leaving the question unanswered, even the reader must question her commitment to breaking this vicious cycle of "irrational love". 

Perhaps that's the point. Perhaps this is the question she asks herself ad infinitum, bad lover after bad. For those of us who have been here, we sympathize, but for those of us who have broken the cycle, we ask: Whatcha waiting for? For the reader to reach this point and feel the frustration of the poet is testament to the power of Kim Acrylic's poetry. 

In "love me hard", Kim salutes the "Muse", that hellish inspiration that makes writer after writer suffer to create art. F. Paul Wilson calls it "that dreaded epiphany", the moment when an idea itself creates a bigger idea, and you know there's nothing you can do about it because the bigger idea is also a better idea than the one you came up with. Usually I would pass on such a popular idea for a poem (and many a short story), but Kim's approach is clever: The Muse, like a lost puppy, has "Sad eyes, pouty lips". Very cute image and poem, and I'm glad she got that off her chest. Now let's get back to the warped love metaphors. 

********


Vincenzo Bilof





The Biography:

From Detroit, Michigan, Vincenzo Bilof has been called "The Metallica of Poetry" and "The Shakespeare of Gore". He likes to think Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and Charles Baudelaire would be proud of his work. It's possible the ghosts of Roberto Bolano and Syd Barrett are playing chess at his dining table. Vincenzo is the co-conspirator behind the "Anti-Poetry" poetry movement.

A member of the Horror Writers Association, Vincenzo is the author of the Zombie Ascension series and "Nightmare of the Dead". His latest book happens to include aliens; "Gravity Comics Massacre", available from Bizarro Pulp Press. A novel written as a collection of poems, "The Horror Show" is another one of his nonsensical works.

When he's not chasing his kids around the house or watching bad horror films, he reads and reviews horror fiction, though his tastes are more literary. Forthcoming projects include "Japanese Werewolf Apocalypse", and "Vampire Strippers from Saturn". You can check out his blog here: http://vincenzobilof.blogspot.com/ He asks that readers of his work are aged 18+.

Gonzo is his favorite Muppet.



The Poems:


Contemporary Murder

Angel holographic memory
my sins, cliché required for catharsis
dead prophet speak to me at the top of the pyramid
dead prophet lost in dunes
coal composed, iron inspired
crystalline wings spotted with raven feces
gremlin smudges airplane meltdown
on my knees, someone else’s prayer

  
**** 


We Can Be Couches Together

This counselor I spoke to, she said
oh, flabbergasted, my throat itches
she said, oh, that’s okay, everything is personal

concrete colored slacks
a working jaw, mechanics defined by degrees

see that wall, war veteran? your name
can weaponize xanax and wellbutrin
this hurts, see, and words she said
human yes, flaws, makes us human
tapping foot, tap, tap, tap
where did you get those shoes

“I like your statue of Icarus,” I said.
She looked over her shoulder,
pen scribbling hieroglyphics, Rosetta crucifixiton
“Will I get better?” I asked, regarding human
flaws, so yes, so

scribble scrabble toys on the shelves
“For the kids,” I point to a plastic ball
oh, beautiful, she said, oh, next appointment

we can talk
“I was just wondering.”
the pen can race against self-inflicted homicide
“I can’t make it that day.”
Flourish, exeunt all.



The Critiques:

I am currently reading Necropolis Now: Zombie Ascension by Vincenzo Bilof, and as I read his poetry now, I know what I miss in the reading of his novel: The language of unspoken words, where screams can be heard between the lines. Vincenzo is one of the poets out there today who I see being read in the classrooms of tomorrow. But his strength is in the economy of language. Note Contemporary Murder. Eight lines, and one devastating construct. Each line echoes a religious symbol, save for the seventh: "gremlin smudges airplane meltdown". Why is this so important? Let's look at each symbol and how it mounts a ironically circular argument for God in Heaven.

The first line alludes to an "angel", but transposed against a "hologram" (faith versus science). The second line talks of "sins" paired with "cliche". He mocks the ritual of atonement for sins without the "catharsis" of absolvement. This irony sets up lines three and four where the "prophet" is compared to money, namely the eye on the pyramid on the back of American bills. The Catholic church loves its collection plate, though Bilof could be referring to any organized religion. Lines five and six play "inspiration" and "wings", two echoes of the "angel" from the first line, sabotaging their importance by covering them with "raven feces" (the blackness of the bird contrasted with the white wings of the angel). And it is here in flight that the "airplane meltdown" transpires. Simply, a plane is about to crash. Then that wicked seventh line that blames the pending crash not on the hand of God, but on the hand of a "gremlin". Very clever.

And then Vincenzo returns the last line of the poem to a religious allusion: "prayer". As the plane goes down, this religious narrator is "on his knees", at the mercy of "someone else's prayer", for his own is tainted by the incongruities of lines one through six. He cast so much doubt on faith, that his own prayers have no strength behind him, no religious conviction. And then the plane broke down. It'd be very funny, if it weren't so sarcastically sad.

In We Can Be Couches Together, Bilof uses a construct of stanzas varying in length to delve into the concept of psychiatric evaluation as business venture, rather than humanitarian pursuit. The patient is a "war veteran", a conceit for wounded social beings, everyday people with problems bigger than solutions (think people in debt with low-paying jobs). The "counselor" is portrayed as an extension of the pharmaceutical industry: "your name/can weaponize xanax and wellbutrin/this hurts, see, and words she said/human yes, flaws, makes us human". Follow the Catch-22 of therapeutic logic that Bilof employs: we are human, thus flawed, so drugs can attack ("weaponize") our flaws, and return us to a normal human state, which is flawed, so we need drugs, and so on. Clever vicious circle our poet has woven. But he doesn't stop there.

The counselor "scribbling hieroglyphics" writes her diagnosis beyond normal language. While the patient seeks simple answers, "Will I get better?" the patient asks, to which the doctor replies "next appointment". It is the infamous evasion of a straight answer: You will get well tomorrow. And as the next appointment turns into the next and the next, tomorrow never comes. Sadly, the doctor's pen (the scribblings, or rather, the unending and ineffective therapy) rushes to forestall and even prevent the patient's suicide ("self-inflicted homicide"), the patient breaks the cycle, signaling his surrender to the inefficient care of his therapist, for the patient declares that "I can't make it that day" for the next appointment. This is the poetic denouement; the patient has succumbed to ending his life.

Bilof shows how the patient and the therapist (two couches) are similar in their predicaments; both are helpless but rely on each other to be helped. This is testament to the ineffectual therapy that we rely on and trust to help us deal with our problems (life's flaws). Ironically, the poet here captures one of the sad vicious circles of the blind leading the blind, whether socially or therapeutically.
******** 

  
John Boden






The Biography:

John Boden lives a stones throw from Three mile Island. He works as a baker by day and divides the remainder of his time between spending time with his wife and sons, being an editor for Shock Totem magazine and writing his own things. His stories have appeared in 52 STITCHES, METAZEN magazine, WEIRDYEAR, BLACK INK HORROR, the John Skipp edited PSYCHOS anthology and O LITTLE TOWN OF DEATHLEHEM, a charity anthology of holiday horror stories. He also wrote the prose/poem/fiction nightmare packaged as a "children's book that is not for children", DOMINOES. He has bad ass muttonchops and likes mashed potatoes.



The Poems:


"Harmonious Cannibalism"

We starve and stumble

to the altars

made of twigs and mud

offering our eyes

our lives and

those of our children

same machinery

different cogs and gears

what is done

is done

this blood on my hands

a love filled rorschach

scabbed with good intentions

misguided and suffocating

black plastic and lilacs

bubble wrap and roses

gifts long dead and

stinking in gold lined boxes

and bags of red foil

like the red

under my fingernails

the best gift ever

I will eat you myself before

sharing you with the world.

****

"Stale"

My tongue is black

a carapace

it wriggles

and dies

a thousand times a day

revived when I whisper

a name like yours

the blood in my veins

feels like ants

the thoughts in my mind

feel like ants

holding you in my arms

feels like ants

this delicate balance

this awkward fondle

this eternal

salvation

this is stale



The Critiques:

In Harmonious Cannibalism, John Boden writes a striking poem with a focus on man's procreation as self-destructive progress. He begins his metaphor with starvation as our need to seed the next generation rather than feed this generation, our own, here and now. He alludes to the "church" and its decree that we go forth and multiply: "the altars/made of twigs and mud"..."those of our children/same machinery/different cogs and gears". Just as our parents had us to perpetuate the "machinery", they sacrificed themselves to raise kids, and, in turn, the kids grow to have children, sacrificing themselves as well. One generation starves to create the next starving generation. It's a cross between the poor fatalism found in author like Albert Camus and Victorian apologists who painted the children as victims of the Industrial Age.

Boden does not offer solutions, as Dickens did in his novels; rather, he simply seeks to remind us of the life that adults lose to give life to their children. The progression and sacrifice for the sake of the nuclear family is this "cannibalistic" ritual that Boden refers to in the final lines: "I will eat you myself before/sharing you with the world." If your child will not reproduce, he, in essence, is cannibalizing the next generation, and if that is the case, one should live his own life rather than have children. And although it is a grim metaphor, one should live for oneself rather for the species, one should accomplish what we expect our children to accomplish. Then the "machinery" is at our mercy, rather than the other way around.

"Stale" by Boden extends the metaphor of "love" as the mechanism that makes us slave to the "machinery" of procreation. "Stale", by its own definition, implies that which has become ineffective by repetition. Here Boden describes our going through the motions of "love", rather than surrendering fully to the emotion and its unpredictable journey. As timeless as love is as a prerequisite for making a family, it has become predictable because it is a tool for society to procreate itself. If anything, Stale works as an anti-love poem, the very opposite of Shakespeare's sonnets. Boden cries out in his final lines for man to let love flourish without the chains of procreation: "this eternal/salvation/this is stale". We salvage society, but love between lovers has indeed become "stale". 

********



Tery Molina






The Biography:

Tery Molina, from Coral Springs, Florida is a person who has a passion for music/poetry/art. Playing music and writing lyric for family and friends and playing in bands in high school, In college she received a scholarship to the music conservatory at Miami community college for her skilled work on the Cello and did several concerts. At 10 she wrote a kids book and continues to write and would like to write another kids book in the future. She has also written a few poems in her life and continues to write.



The Poems:



Angel

For months I have been adrift at sea, the smell of the ocean that once appeased me now disturbs my sleep. I find myself up on deck feeling forlorn and frail. The wind blowing slightly nipping then cooling my face. On the horizon I see the sun peek furtively as the waves dance, folding and frothing to the wind. My thoughts from deep within surface as does the sun. I feel the warmth upon my face. Weary of this long journey my mind begins to feel heavy, I struggle to make it to a once new but now tattered old deck chair, and attempt to seek comfort on its narrow surface.

As I close my eyes I pray that soon I will come upon dry land. My eyes bare the circular motion, so familiar to me, that will embark me into a comforting land of dreams. As I lie there quietly the ocean whispers softly caressing and filling my ears, as the sailboat slightly rocks causing the waves to break against the hull. Further do I drift into sleep. Alas I feel at peace, at one with the universe, surely there must be a smile on my face even though no one is there to witness it. I shift to get more comfortable when I feel a warm tingling that surrounds me. Imaged or real I know not, but it intensifies.

Oh my there in the distance, I see the most beautiful creature the heavens could possibly conjure up. Upon my face I feel her golden hair falling slightly touching, she moves her head and her hair teases me. I can't help but wonder from where this extraordinary lady has come. Then as if to hear my thoughts she lens down and whispers to me." I am here, fear not again for I have come to guide you and I will never again leave you side" Such a piece comes over me as I have never felt before.


****


Rage

Rage runs rampant and far.
As it encumbers our soul,
it keeps itself unknown.

Is love and understanding
the healer of the damage
left there in the soul?

Piercing the very fibers
of this vast universe.
Is it possible that
there, is no cure
for this unworthy host?

Please help me find
the cure before we are ablaze.
Put love where rage is, in our hearts.
Love and understanding is the Power
that pieces the soul, back together.

Give me the strength to combat
those who refuse to understand
or heed your simple rules.

Let their eyes be opened wide
and enlighten, because
if they are not, they will
be unaware when the
universe comes calling.

Left behind----destroyed!
Or left behind
To taste the wrath!

Please help them learn
the ways and the laws
of existence, with the universe.



The Critiques:

Angel by Tery Molina is a prose piece masquerading as poetry. This practice harkens back to the writers such as William Wordsworth in English and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in America. The focus is on Nature as the "cloak of God". It was more lecture than lyric. In the opening stanza/paragraph, Molina includes the "sea", the "wind", and the "sun", and its effect on her. This type of poetry is termed "Romantic", not in the romance sense but in the religious sense (the cloak of God, remember). In this sense, the feeling of "awe" at the sight of Nature produced this poetry, so the Romantics believed that by describing their own reaction to the awesomeness of Nature, they were capturing a moment of glory shared with God.

The second stanza/paragraph turns to prayer for "land". Molina describes this hope as an intense feeling. Here her description parallels the definition of Romantic "awe": "Imaged or real I know not, but it intensifies". (I'm not sure, but I think Tery meant "Imagined" rather than "Imaged" [sic]). With this feeling of awe, Tery writes an image of beauty in the third stanza/paragraph and concludes that "Such a piece comes over me as I have never felt before". (Again, I believe Tery meant "peace" rather than "piece" [sic]).

In Rage, Molina takes life to task in comparison with the soul. The body serves as a vessel for the spirit, but it suffers that "rage" which comes with an imperfect body ("host"). She questions the imbalance of a life of "combat" with the ailments of life as the soul struggles to be free. She looks to the heavens for answers to her rage. But she finds that she must accept her situation in life. She learns to listen and asks the reader to listen as well and not to succumb to the rage of life's cruel turns; she writes, "Let their eyes be opened wide/and enlighten, because/if they are not, they will/be unaware when the/universe comes calling". Although Rage does not have the Romantic leanings of Angel, Tery Molina reveals more of a modern sentiment that seeks faith in these times of trial. 

********



Charlie Sheen




The Biography:

Carlos Irwin Estévez (born September 3, 1965), best known by his stage name Charlie Sheen, is an American actor. He has appeared in films such as Platoon (1986),The Wraith (1986), Wall Street (1987), Major League (1989), Hot Shots! (1991), Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993), Scary Movie 3 (2003), and Scary Movie 4 (2006). On television, Sheen is known for his roles on Spin City, Two and a Half Men, and Anger Management. His poetry reflects the tumultuous lifestyle he leads.


The Poems:


A Thoughtless Soul
By Charlie Sheen

As he pulled his head,
From the drool stained pillow,
His eyes blood red,
His oxygen shallow.

Feet on carpet,
That pain to fight,
These are the effects,
Of another night.

A night of drink,
A night of hate,
A night as dark,
As last nights date.

A look to the mirror,
No face of youth,
Self inflicted carnage,
A cracked and hollow tooth.

This punishment a vile choice,
So worthless, yet so bold.
Carving lines of disrespect,
This young lad growing old.

Yet masking truth and hiding pain,
Will surely take it's toll,
Will he unto others, or to himself,
Remain a thoughtless soul?


****


I.D. Blues 
By Charlie Sheen

"Excuse me, aren't you...?"
"Hey, you look just like..."
"Oh my God, that's..."
"Sorry to interrupt your dinner, but aren't you..."
"Look, I never do this, but, my wife thinks you're..."
"My friend is so convinced that you're..."
"I'm so embarrassed, but, aren't you...?"
"I know you must be tired of this, but..."
"WAIT!!"
All eyes held in stare, all mouths locked open in shock, as he pulled the latex Charlie Sheen mask from his head, revealing the rotted skull of President Lincoln.



The Critiques:


In A Thoughtless Soul, Charlie Sheen turns a hangover into a reflective moment and epiphany. It is morning and after a night of drinking, Sheen stares at the mirror and considers the passing of time, the regrets of his youthful indiscretions, the lives his follies has affected. He describes "the mask" of pretense, his inability to face change and aging. Several times he mentions "passing youth" as if it simply appeared one day rather than over a series of years, years of drinking and avoiding agedness. But rather than offer solutions or promise to improve his position in life, perhaps treat people more kindly or accept the wear and tear that comes with age, Sheen instead poses a question to himself: "Will he unto others, or to himself,/Remain a thoughtless soul?" And although it is cheating to consider the broken promises well documented in the tabloids, they are difficult to ignore. We know the answer to his question. The number of poets who refused to participate in this column today reflects that he has remained a thoughtless soul? But the tabloids aside, it is worth considering that Charlie Sheen does capture his regrets in the written word. He is not hiding behind the words; he is capturing a perfect moment where he is caught between two decisions, and he truly does not know which choice he will make today. For many other poets, we write of the decision that we made; he writes of the purgatory of constantly being trapped between the reality in the mirror and the youthful indiscretions in his heart. 

In I.D. Blues, Charlie Sheen discusses a moment that he must relive many times--that of being interrupted by fans while he is busy eating at a restaurant. He uses several phrases common to disruptive fans, from "Excuse me, but aren't you..." to  "I know you must be tired of this, but...". He has a twofold answer: one, acknowledge the fan politely or ignore them. However, in the poem, he finds an alternate response that sarcastically challenges the uncertainty of the fans recognition of the actor: "Aren't you Charlie Sheen?" Rather an a simple yes or no, he would rip off his mask, revealing the "rotted skull" of Abraham Lincoln. Here Sheen pulls a page from his imagination. He does not tell the fan to piss off, but in the poem, he can address the response that evades him because deep down he is a "thoughtful soul" after all. 

********


Eden Ahbez




The Biography:

"George Alexander Aberle, known as Eden Ahbez was an American songwriter and recording artist of the 1940s to 1960s, whose lifestyle in California was influential on the hippie movement. Ahbez composed the song "Nature Boy," which became a No. 1 hit for eight weeks in 1948 for Nat "King" Cole and has since become a pop and jazz standard. Living a bucolic life from at least the 1940s, he traveled in sandals and wore shoulder-length hair and beard, and white robes. He camped out below the first L in the Hollywood Sign above Los Angeles and studied Oriental mysticism. He slept outdoors with his family and ate vegetables, fruits, and nuts. He claimed to live on three dollars per week." (Source: Wiki)



The Poem:


Nature Boy by Eden Ahbez

There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far
Very far, over land and sea

A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he

And then one day, a magic day
He passed my way, and while we spoke
Of many things, fools and kings
This he said to me

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return"

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return"


The Critique:

Odd that we discussed the Romantics earlier because Eden Ahbez in Nature Boy is talking about Jesus Christ. "Strange and enchanted" refer to uniqueness of the Son of God. "Shy and sad of eye" refers to message for man and his disappointment with how man has received the message. Always wary (shy) about how the next person will receive him, he sadly delivers his word to those who do listen, such as our narrator. For him, it was a "magic" day to receive the word of this wise man. They "spoke/Of many things, fools and kings. Note how he includes all mankind with this simple line, for he is really addressing all men between the highest and lowest. But his ultimate message is agape, which is to "love and be loved in return". Selfless love is the opposite of selfish love or egoism; it is love to give without want. The line repeats twice, for the message is important.

A word about the song. It has been recorded by Nat King Cole, David Bowie, Johnny Cash, and a host of other world famous singers. I chose the David Bowie with Massive Attack version rather than the Nat King Cole version because I believe it captures the spirit of the poem/lyrics. I don't want to stray too far from the poetry, but I recommend your reading further about Eden Ahbez, who ushered in the Hip Movement of the 1960s. 



The Song:  


Nature Boy 
interpreted by
David Bowie and Massive Attack
*********

That concludes our readings for today. I hope to begin immediately on the next poetry column. If things go as planned you should have two poetry columns this month. We try to publish the Poetry Today in the last week of each month. Apologies for the delay. If you are interested in submitting poetry for the April issue, send your submissions to servanteofdarkness@gmail.com.





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