Saturday, July 06, 2013

Chicago Poet - JJ Tindall: Wallace Stevens Without The Insurance Plan and Ezra Pound With All of His Marbles


My pal, Chicago poet JJ Tindall smoking a corn-cob pipe ( dang!).  My mistake reciting his brilliant poetry to a worthy audience.

Poetry is math. 

R-CALCULUS     by Jonathan Holden of Kansas

               "The child is the father of the man." 

                        -- W. W. Wordsworth

     Back then, "Calculus"

     was a scary college word,

     and yet we studied it

     from the back seat, we studied   

     the rates at which

     the roadside trees went striding  

Sound and Sense kids!  Poetry ain't poetry without  'em.  Poetry is math -  Math for the guys who cannot make their way through Algebra.  The lyre and the slide-rule were very often the tools for clever kids sent to the Lyceum and hang around with the smart guys in order to pick up  useful applications for living the examined life.
Every culture has poets, bards, shops, shapers, singers and bar-flies caging a few wet ones for the price of a song.  Some people will argue ( wrongly, of course) that any culture is equal to the other.  That is nice and very WTTW and all but about as wrong as Ald. Proco Joe Moreno on a full breakfast.  Shakespeare is superior to Charles Bukowski, the late-Lil Jo Jo, and anything by Katha Polite.

Poets must pass the finger test - e.g. dactylic hexameter if you wish to go Epic. Six feet of DAK tills - A long syllable followed by two short syllables ( Dumb-Diddy) The Greek word dactyl has two meanings 'finger/toe -thus, a metric foot. English is spoken in

 Iambs; thus iambic pentameter Ta Tum/Ta tum/Ta Tum/Ta Tum /Ta tum - five feet to the measure.  Are you bored shitless by now? It is timing, beat, measure matching mood and meaning. That's the math.

Try this by Seamus Heaney 

Between my finger and my thumb   
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound   
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:   
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds   
Bends low, comes up twenty years away   
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills   
Where he was digging.

Seamus Heaney is the real deal.  In the last century (20th -remember that one?) there were three truly outstanding American poets - TS Eliot, Ezra Pound and Wallace Stevens.  TS Eliot was pretentious creep: a St. Louis Hoosier affecting the speech of the British upper classes who had his brilliant and talented wife slapped in the looney bin. Great poet, but a louse that regular guys would love to slap around. He passes the finger test for meter and the one fipped by people of goodwill in direction of cads, bounders and creeps.

Ezra Pound was a sho nuff Hoosier from Indiana who so immersed himself in his art that the art took over - Pound did radio broadcasts for Mussolini, because he liked the trappings of fascism -columns, daggers, legions & etc.  William Butler Yeats was no different from Pound and avoided a trip to hotel silly only because Eire was neutral in WWII and he happened to die in 1939. But like Pound, Yeats, to quote Pope Pius XII, was "as crazy as a shit-house rat."

Our third poet, in my estimation, was best of the lot. Wallace Stevens demands your fullest attention as a man and as a poet.  I'd hang out with him at Beachwood Inn, Chip Inn, Home Run Inn, or Stash's Never Inn any day.  He was one of the top Hartford Insurance Salesmen and practiced his art outside of the public eye.  Stevens' family only learned of his fame as a poet after his death.  By all accounts, Wallace Stevens was not only a brilliant poet, but a great guy.

Here's Chicago's Wallace Stevens without an Insurance spiel and Ezra Pound with his marbles carefully maintained.  JJ. Tindall folks!

Chicagoetry: A Wren in a Wreath
By J.J. Tindall
A Wren in a Wreath
So: there's this ghoul
in my soul,
a wren in my wreath.
In a heart full of holes
lurks a golem of grief.
A compendium of flaws,
a contraption of of fate, he.
He's not everything,
he's just a part of me.
Of course, I have forged
a life mask with a modicum
of charm and finesse
(God! To get through the day!)
and crowned my fell heart
with a laureate's wreath
for endurance under duress.
Like us all, I swirl
with embattled selves.
Within croaks a ghoul
with an elephant's memory
for bleak humiliation
and roiling defeat.
I've christened him
the wren in my wreath.
He commands a gallows
of heartworn dreams, caretakes
a graveyard of botched ambition.
He embodies my Elephant Man:
swollen skull of cracked, grey leather,
hair-sprouting warts, drooling lips,
a vocabulary of phlegm-wracked slurs.
Yep: like a drunk
just a shot away.
I don't like him
but I must love him.
Because he's there.
Stress, fatigue
and crude draughts of relief
enable the guy
with the elephant grief.
Garlanded elephant
with a wren mahout
straddling his blades
and whipping his flank.
OK: not one wren
but a chime of wrens
like a murder of crows
with a case of the bends.
He's there, my wren,
my wrench in the works.
This Eve of All Hallows
I'll drag my life mask to the gallows
and for this night
I'll let the wren reign.
Yep: I'll purge the wrath
and savor compassion
for all ravens, rooks and knaves.
This night shall go judgment
to the grave.
To dawn
and the Day of All Saints
I bequeath
my shabby heart, my wren,
my wreath.
J.J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He welcomes your comments. Chicagoetry is an exclusive Beachwood collection-in-progress.

JJ Tindal has the great good sense to imbibe Pierian Beers at Beachwood Inn with American Journalist and Pintsman Steve Rhodes.

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