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KillgoreTrout On June - 1 - 2011


A world without poetry and poets would be like a world without music and musicians. For me, such a world would be intolerable. I also have no doubt that would be seen as such by most everybody else in this world of ours.
One of the highest aspirations of humanity is to create, to make something that never existed before, something that will withstand the test of time and poetry is a great way to achieve such an aspiration.

It is not really practical to attempt to separate the poet from the poem, but I would like to relay some thoughts on poetry and then move on to thoughts on the poet.

Poetry is form created by the soul. It is a juggling and laying out of objects in the natural world, words of the spirit and experience of life and of living. It is the use of symbols placed just so, in such delicate order to speak of the visions perceived by the individual to the whole. It is the deepest and most beautiful of forms in which we relate our worlds and experiences to one another. To set on high the uncommon and most common concerns of the heart. It’s aim is truth, truth as it is realized by the poet. And like the old saying goes, truth is beauty and beauty is truth. Poetry can uphold any human emotion, any human thought, any human experience to the cleansing light of the spirit. Poetry can enlighten, amuse, relate and define. It can satirize, analyse, sing and illicit a unity among us. It puts all human relation in the poet’s perspective.

And now some thoughts on the poet. Within the poet is an empty space. A space that demands to be filled and the poem is that filling. And once that space is filled, the poet exorcises and lays out that newly filled space for the world to see.
As Ralph W. Emerson has said so eloquently; “The poet is a sayer, a namer and represents beauty. He is a sovereign and stands on the center. For the world is not painted, or adorned but is from the beginning beautiful; and God has not made just some beautiful things, but beauty is the creator of the universe. Therefore the poet is not any permissive potentate, but is emperor in his own right. Criticism is infested with an air of materialism which assumes that manual skill and activity is the first merit of all persons.”
Poets are natural sayers that are sent into the world to the end of expression. The doers never quite understand the sayers and even less, approve of them.
Emerson relates what a certain poet described for him (Emerson doesn’t give the name of the poet);

“Genius is the activity that repairs the decay of things, whether wholly or partly of material and finite kind. Nature, through all her kingdoms insures herself. Nobody cares for the planting of the lowly fungus; so she shakes down from the gills of one mushroom countless spores, any of which transmits billions of spores tomorrow or the next day. The new mushroom of the hour has a chance which the old one did not. This bit of seed is thrown into a new place, not subject to the accident that destroyed the parent only a few yards away. Nature makes a person and having brought that person to a ripe age she will not run the risk of losing this wonder to the whims of a breeze, but detaches from that person a new self, the kind that may be safe from accidents to which the parents were exposed.
So when the soul of the poet has come to ripeness of thought Nature detaches it and sends away from the poet his/her poems or “songs.”

I will not place myself among the greats such as Homer or Aeschylus, or Frost or Dickinson, but I was asked recently by someone here if I ever had a feeling of a prior existence or some remembrance of the past that I could not account for. So I will offer a poem that I had written about a girl that I met:

A Gust of Remembrance

I was graced by he hello

Her innocent acceptance of me

Her thought evoking appreciation

Of my words so desperately penned.

She was a chilling gust of remembrance

A gentle soul of great demand

With the touch of angels in her hand.

A twist of fate to compliment acquaintance.

She possessed a beauty with an almost vengeance,

Knowing her for days too few

Centuries passed and ages flew

She was a chilling gust of remembrance. will write again on the nature of poetry and poets, including the thoughts of those that are more eloquent than I am. But I would like to invite all here to post some of your own poems, or your favorite poems by other poets.

Written by KillgoreTrout

Once a wander, working vagabond, fellow traveler on this 3rd stone from the sun. Hurtling through space and time. Lover of books (especially the classics), all kinds of books from novels, poetry, essay collections, fiction and nonfiction and a big Kurt Vonnegut fan. I am a secular humanist and technically an atheist.....Taoist.

88 Responses so far.

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  1. whatsthatsound says:

    This poem just started out as wordplay, but as I continued with it I felt like I was describing a believable, though unsavory, character. And admittedly, I see some of myself in him.


    He gets his bona fides from Cuba Libres
    as he watches treacly sunsets along esplanades
    of sleepy Caribbean resort towns

    by still budding local girls he is guiltily beguiled
    rum forgotten name of his own daughter of similar vintage
    (a name SHE chose, not him)

    reveling in their cinnamon skin, he fantasizes
    that they make the sign of the cross as soon as he leaves the room
    and wishes for his own conversion

    as overflowing here as apple asses and pear breasts
    is incense, and loving judging figurines
    he is incensed by his own vanilla upbringing
    leaving him no one from whom to seek forgiveness
    for a life of sin

    except himself

    Like many a traveler, he saves his epiphanies
    for homebound flights, the landing of which
    he’s always ambivalent toward
    still wearing shorts anointed by the senorita’s oils
    he gazes out at a grand city of clouds

    alabaster ziggurats too perfect not to be
    inhabited by exquisite beings;
    shamans and priestesses who would drown on the surface

    He longs to fling himself from the crude missile
    that invades their perfect world as boorishly
    as he invades his tanned child madonnas

    he would throw himself before these Holy Ones
    renouncing his world and offering himself
    for absolution, or rejection

    they would welcome him into their pure metropolis
    or, repelled by his carnality, would scatter
    leaving him to CRASH, splinter splatter
    somewhere between Mexico and Nirvana

    either scenario, he feels
    would be preferable to Monday morning’s Bay Bridge

    of futility

  2. foodchain says:

    KT let me add ee cummings “since feeling is first”. I won’t copy it because i’m sure everyone knows it, but in my early years, everyone was what degrees what career, what 5 year plan, 10 year plan, what would your epitaph be? I could only think—- since feeling is first..,.,,

    • KillgoreTrout says:

      Funny you should mention cummings. He is one of my favorite poets and was the source of inspiration for my earlier poems.

      • foodchain says:

        KT, I know so many who love ee because he was iconoclastic, and that was fun (my English teacher wouldn’t buy the no caps and no punctuation) but his images were beyond the angst of the young. But aren’t we thankful for him to start us?

  3. foodchain says:

    KT, what a treat! Your line: Within the poet is a blank space that needs filling…..that is a treasure of a thought. my son left the suburbs for CHina-- southwest--because there was no ( not good on iPad keyboard)
    “real” experience to be found— he thought. He has written and been ( modestly) published. I think he chooses to not fill his spot with what others think important, but prefers to leave the spot open until he finds the right experience. Boy, do I envy him. —great stuff!

    • funksands says:

      Funny you should mention China. For some reason I’ve started to get into Classical Chinese poetry. Du Fu is one of my favorites:

      Facing Snow

      Battle cry many new ghosts
      Worry and grieve alone old man
      Disorder cloud low dusk
      Rapid snow dance return wind
      Gourd ladle discard cup without green
      Stove remain fire like red
      Many place news broken
      Worry sit straight book empty After the battle, many new ghosts cry,
      The solitary old man worries and grieves.
      Ragged clouds are low amid the dusk,
      Snow dances quickly in the whirling wind.
      The ladle’s cast aside, the cup not green,
      The stove still looks as if a fiery red.
      To many places, communications are broken,
      I sit, but cannot read my books for grief.

      (755) Du Fu

    • KillgoreTrout says:

      FC, I would love to go to China. Especially rural China. Your son sounds like a pretty sharp young man. I love his rejection of mediocrity. I hope his “space,” gets filled with wonderful experiences.

      • foodchain says:

        KT, I miss him greatly but adore what he is doing. He’d love to have you visit. Great place called the “Bookworm” in Chengdu. Literary festivals, poetry slams, Abigail Washington did an album with kids, adults expressing sounds from their earthquake a few years back. Great opportunities there that are reserved for the elite here. Sort of like a frontier, pioneering. As a female, I still hope to be that forward!

    • KillgoreTrout says:

      Ah, great performance by Hopper. A real classic. He actually was making up the words as that scene went along. There was no written script for that scene.

  4. ADONAI says:

    I refuse to write anymore poetry until I find something that rhymes with orange.

    I know poems don’t have to rhyme but the rhythmic method is what I’m comfortable with.

    • foodchain says:

      Adonai please forgive me but…..aren’t. Glad I didn’t say banana? ido have some better thought toco tribute; just short on time .

    • jkkFL says:

      ADONAI- what rhymes with:

      angst, -s /ˈ-æŋkst(s)/[10]
      breadth, -s /ˈ-ɛdθ(s)/
      bulb, -s, -ed /ˈ-ʌlb(z/d)/[11]
      cusp, -s, -ed /ˈ-ʌsp(s/t)/
      depth, -s /ˈ-ɛpθ(s)/
      eighth, -s /ˈ-eɪtθ(s)/[12]
      eth, -s /ˈ-ɛð(z)/[13]
      fifth, -s, -ed /ˈ-ɪfθ(s/t)/
      glimpsed /ˈ-ɪmpst/
      gulf, -s, -ed /ˈ-ʌlf(s/t)/
      heighth, -s /ˈ-aɪtθ(s)/[16]
      karsts /ˈ-ɑrsts/[17]
      kirsch /ˈ-ɪərʃ/
      mulcts /ˈ-ʌlkts/[18]
      ninth, -s /ˈ-aɪnθ(s)/
      oblige, -ed /ˈ-aɪdʒ(d)/
      sculpts, /ˈ-ʌlpts/
      sixth, -s /ˈ-ɪksθ(s)/
      twelfth, -s /ˈ-ɛlfθ(s)/
      whilst /ˈ-aɪlst/

    • Buddy McCue says:

      I’ve always liked this one:

      Roses are red;
      Violets aren’t orange.

      Some poems rhyme.
      This one does not.

      • KillgoreTrout says:

        I like it Buddy. I’m not big on rhyming poetry. I do think it is good to use sparingly, but too much rhyme sounds contrived to me.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Here ya go--now you can write a poem about ferns!

      The only word in the 20-volume historical Oxford English Dictionary that rhymes with orange is sporange, a very rare alternative form of sporangium (a botanical term for a part of a fern or similar plant).

      Or, you could win at Scrabble.

    • texliberal says:

      DAMN, wish you hadn’t said that, now I’ll be trying to think of one all evening

  5. Chernynkaya says:

    Here’s a weird one I found from that class I mentioned. The lesson was called ‘the dreaded association exercise’ and you can tell why. I like this, anyway:

    “Sitting It Out”

    I can’t take the heat. I hate to sweat.
    Of course, there’s shampoo,
    but it’s not the same as open moors.
    It’s noisy and I feel terrible
    about the ozone layer. I whine.

    In Bangkok, it was so hot and humid I couldn’t see,
    the muscles were dripping into my eyes,
    burning them with stir fry.
    The whole city was a tough aerobics class.

    I used to imagine that in these hot maps,
    the constitutions born there were used to it,
    not as hot for them somehow. But it is.
    They just move to the tempo
    of the temperature, maybe in the way that
    a griddle pours according to the weather.
    Maybe the viscosity of our blood changes.

    I got slow. My body felt so heavy -- a savanna.
    I could understand why Valkyries
    thought that hot-place people were lazy:
    They’d never tried to build showrooms
    in 100-plus degrees.

    It is amazing that human beings
    only survive in a very narrow spigot.
    A razors’ edge of a few universities
    and we publish or perish.
    We are really delicate.

    And I am fragile among the stew.
    I dislike discomfort, must be talc-ed
    and air-conditioned.
    I don’t want to strain, can’t take the heat,
    can’t take the boil and bubble.
    Can’t take the pain, can’t take the fear.
    No sweat. No tears -- they’re too thirsty and burning.

    Last year the news reported
    a severe Carmen Miranda in India.
    The streets got so hot that the beggar children’s
    feet were scorched. That’s damnation heat.
    Why should they take the scald and not me?
    I can’t bear to think of it.

    So in Bangkok, I sat in the aquariums
    of over-cooled lobbies whose windows were
    dripping with Mint Julips like the inside
    of a terrarium. I couldn’t see out. Cosseted
    like an undeserving prom dress.
    Those who could take the heat
    loved out there.

    • whatsthatsound says:

      I love it! Today I just talked to a Thai lady and she said that she can’t stand DRY heat in the summer. As long as it’s sopping wet, she can deal with just about any temperature. Funny how one acclimatizes, or doesn’t. I’m from Columbus, and I never once got used to the dripping moist summers of the Midwest.

      • KillgoreTrout says:

        For sure wts. I live in Columbus now, and just have to have AC during the summer months. The best climate I’ve ever experienced was Southern California. As long as you stayed within five miles of the ocean. But even the desert was comfortable compared to more humid climes. At least in the desert, your sweat evaporates quickly and doesn’t cling to your skin.

        • whatsthatsound says:

          KT, do you live anywhere near Grandview? My brother runs a film discussion group there on an occasional basis, and I think you might enjoy it, and enjoy meeting him as well. A pretty interesting bunch usually assembles for it, and they go out for beers afterwards.

          • KillgoreTrout says:

            wts, Actually I live in Reynoldsburg, but I say Columbus because it is more recognizable. But i consider a part of Columbus, really.
            I don’t own a car, so I would have a bit of a transportation problem going to Grandview. I would love film discussions, though. Thanks for your kind offer.

    • jkkFL says:

      You certainly nailed heat in the tropics!!
      Awesome~ as usual..

      *edit: You rock, Cher!!

    • KillgoreTrout says:

      Excellent cher. That is really good.

  6. whatsthatsound says:

    Great post, KT.
    I love your poem.
    I like your overall piece too, although I don’t agree with the sentence, “It is the deepest and most beautiful of forms in which we relate our worlds and experiences to one another.”
    I don’t generally like it when people elevate one form of art over another -- usually putting music at the top of the heap. Art, and artists, have to deal with enough in terms of feeling validated for doing what they do: creating, expressing. No need to make a hierarchy when peoples’ souls are longing to express.

    • Buddy McCue says:

      I agree with that.

      Béla Bartók put it well when he said, “Competitions are for horses, not artists.”

    • KillgoreTrout says:

      wts, you are absolutely correct. My favoritism got the best of me in that sentence. I love creation and those who create. I hope I haven’t slighted you or your wonderful artwork. I really do enjoy your work.

      • whatsthatsound says:

        No worries, wts. I didn’t feel slighted at all. I think favoritism is acceptable, of course, just not ranking. It was interesting that Frank Lloyd Wright considered architecture to be the most elevated of the visual arts. Why even go there? Would anyone be shocked that an architect, of all people, felt that way? :)

  7. KillgoreTrout says:

    Thank you Kalima or Bito, or both of you for helping me post this article. I must learn how to do this properly, so as not to add more to your work loads.

  8. Chernynkaya says:

    KT-- Thank you for this interlude. And especially, thank you for sharing your lovely and poignant poem!

    I love poetry, but it was only in the last ten years or so that I ever read any. It was right after my mom’s passing that my best friend would come to my house and bring books of her favorite poems and read some to me. That’s all she did for days, and it was so soothing.

    Later, I took a great class in writing poetry for years (although of course OI will never be a good poet). It was wonderful and the other people in the class were amazing. Inspiring.

    I recently got a new computer and in the process of transferring files, I found this old piece I wrote.

    “For The Birds”

    All day long
    I hear the thumping of birds
    flying into my office window.
    They think it’s the sky.

    I hear a thud behind me,
    turn, then catch sight
    of a bird falling away.
    It’s upsetting.

    The phones with electronic rings,
    a fax machine beep,
    and computer tunes are
    interspersed with the thumps.

    It’s a decent job –
    a living if not a life,
    only fifteen minutes from home
    and they pay for parking.
    I like to make my lunches.

    I reach under my skirt
    to smooth my blouse
    in the ladies room mirror,
    listen to the girls speaking
    Spanish in their stalls.
    I have chosen my clothes carefully.

    At my desk I forward e-mail
    jokes, sneak a game of solitaire
    and listen to voice mail.
    My lover has left a message.
    My boss is calling my name.

    There is a paper jam in the printer
    and there are small, round marks
    of oily dust on my window.
    I want to post a sign:
    “This is not the sky.”

  9. Buddy McCue says:

    KT -- I don’t know much about poetry, but I do like your “Gust of Rememberance.”

    My favorite poem is by Stephen Crane. It’s the only one I’ve ever memorized:

    “In the desert I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
    Who, squatting upon the ground,
    Held his heart in his hands, and ate of it.

    I said: “Is it good, friend?”
    “It is bitter-bitter,” he answered, “But I like it
    Because it is bitter, and because it is my heart.”

    • KillgoreTrout says:

      Thanks Buddy. I think a person doesn’t have to be a scholar or “expert,” in poetry in order to enjoy it. If you like a poem then it is enough, the poem has succeeded.
      I like the sentiment in Crane’s poem. I certainly understand such a sentiment.

  10. JackRusselTerrier says:

    Endless Wars
    by JRT, 5/30/11 Memorial Day

    Said the little girl at her grandfathe­r’s grave…
    I never met you Grandpa. I have only heard stories.
    You fought in a great war. You earned your glory.
    Daddy told me, you were his hero.
    You shot down Japanese zeros.

    Said the girl at her father’s grave…
    I will miss you Daddy. I can’t stop crying.
    Why did you have to go and take up flying?
    You died in the jungle. In a far away place.
    Life won’t be the same without you. There is an empty space.

    Said the wife at her husband’s grave…
    You fought for your country and gave your life.
    You’re gone now. It cuts like a knife.
    I will raise our two sons and make you proud.
    If they become half the man you were, they will stand out from the crowd.

    Said the mother at her eldest son’s grave…
    They put you on a plane and took you away.
    You were my ray of sunshine. Now the sky is grey.
    You were so much like your father. So brave and kind.
    It was just like you, paying danger no mind.

    Said the mother at her youngest son’s grave…
    This flag won’t do, nor the excuse they gave.
    The war will be over soon, so we were told.
    You were my baby, fierce and bold.
    But endless war took you from my fold.

    • whatsthatsound says:

      JRT, that really says it all. War does more than kill; it assaults the soul.
      And it accuses mankind of being a very low species.

    • KillgoreTrout says:

      JRT, thank you for sharing your poem. Painting a picture of loss is not an easy thing. But your poem does exactly that. Well done.

      • jkkFL says:

        And the generational progression is fascinating!

        • KillgoreTrout says:

          Yes jkk, that is an unfortunate fact of wars. Sadly many people answer the call to duty because that is what their fathers did and have a sense of obligation to do the same. That is a great and noble thing in a just war. It becomes unfortunate in an unjust war, such as Vietnam. But I can respect the motivation.

          • jkkFL says:

            But it does become part of the family..sadly.

            • KillgoreTrout says:

              Yeah, it’s a hard thing to understand when war is too easily entered. I don’t think we’ve had a just war since WWII. If one could ever call a war just.

    • Buddy McCue says:

      JRT -- Good poem. It’s terribly sad, but I guess that’s the point.

      • JackRusselTerrier says:

        Thank you Buddy. I was trying to show the progression of thoughts of a woman who has suffered from continual loss of military family members.

        At first, she has a child’s understanding about what war is, glorious. Her fathers loss is more personal and confusing for her. It also shows how young men sometimes follow in their father’s footsteps. “Why did you have to take up flying?” His father was a pilot too. She married a military man, just like her father.

        She raised her sons to grow up just like her husband. They suffered the same fate. Her eldest son died saving another soldier. Older sons can sometimes be protectors. “You were so much like your father. So brave and kind.
        It was just like you, paying danger no mind.”

        Her youngest admired his brother and joined the military.
        By the end…this woman has a completely different understanding about war. It is NOT glorious.

        I’m not sure if my scenario got across to everyone. I am explaining the poem because poetry is a interpretive experience. I usually don’t do this. I usually just ask people, “I could explain it, but what does it mean to YOU?”

        This was a very emotional poem to write. I tried to put myself in this woman’s shoes. I stood beside these graves in my mind. I could smell the flowers and see the wind blowing through the trees. I held the two boy’s hands at the funeral. I wept and grieved. I still do.

        • foodchain says:

          JRT, well, you got me too, snif. But it’s important to understand. It’s what makes us bigger, fuller.

          • jkkFL says:

            fc- I was in the back of the room- you did not just ‘snif’..

            • foodchain says:

              jkk, oh crap, snif is a dog social networking thing!! Laughing , laughing, laughing. Who though I’d need to spell check snif. Got the smile back jkk!

            • foodchain says:

              Jkk, yeah. it wasn’t the big weep but……some of this is my unresolved current stuff-- son moved to Asia, two great dogs, one helluva cat AND my Mom passing-- and two brother In laws all passing in 2 yes time. I’m still hurdling this bunch! Probably a three beer story 😉

  11. jkkFL says:

    Awesome KT! I sure hope you keep posting yours- Perhaps a Poet’s Corner would be in order.
    My sister is a writer, and a poet- this is her kids’ Mother’s Day gift to her:
    What is Love:

    (if it stalls- make sure HD is off.)

    • KillgoreTrout says:

      Thank you jkk. And thank you very much for sharing this video and the wonderful poem within it. What a great idea. I love the fact of various people adding their voices to the various passages. A truly nice gift.

      • jkkFL says:

        Those are her children, their spouses and her grandchildren. She still cries when she watches it :)
        The young man in the glasses is her youngest son who filmed and edited it.

        • KillgoreTrout says:

          I’d like to share one more. I wrote this for my daughter that I hadn’t seen in a long time.

          “Ten Thousand Sunsets”

          Ten thousand sunsets I have lived

          And thousands more with hope’s good grace

          Although I have taken the opportunity

          To view in awe

          Almost each and every wondrous



          Of the sun

          Without exception all have failed

          To match the presence of you.

          • foodchain says:

            Kt, I hope you have shared this with your daughter, or that you will. I can’t think of a more profound gift.

            • KillgoreTrout says:

              FC, I most surely did. It is her favorite. I share nearly all my poems with her. She is a good source for feedback.

          • Chernynkaya says:

            Kilgore--that is so moving and what a love poem! (Be still my heart.)

          • jkkFL says:

            Someone could send it to me and I would follow him around for a lifetime!
            Beautiful, KT!

            • jkkFL says:

              @KT- Maya does her thing, you do yours.

              Ten Thousand Sunsets is totally awesome!
              I like your other poetry- but I sure do wish someone would write a poem like That for me!!

              We’re a smallish Planet, (but at least we’re Still a Planet..poor Pluto, I still feel bad about him!!) so it’s not a Huge Responsibility..
              You’ll be fine! 😉

            • KillgoreTrout says:

              Geez jkk, I am honored, but such a title is sort of scary. I will gladly post more, but I don’t feel that I am Poet Laureate material. Especially among the ranks of someone like Maya Angelou!

            • jkkFL says:

              @KT- now please, can you accept that you are our Poet Laureate- and write more! 😉

              Whenever I need inspiration, I don’t write, I read-
              Maya Angelou- she is my favorite source for soul food!

            • KillgoreTrout says:

              Thanks jkk, I really appreciate it.

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