Supreme Court Nominee POEM: Ostensible Merit, Garland

Ostensible Merit, Garland

Senate Republicans bemoan
We can’t Ford
No delay
We just
Long to confirm
As weave past attest
Merit
Garland

This poem is my owed to Senate Republicans’ stellar hypocrisy, in this case regarding confirming Supreme Court nominees. They entirely delayed and fully denied the Merrick Garland nomination of the previous administration. Yet, they are hellbent on ramrodding their Brett Kavanaugh nomination through, all while a credible allegation of sexual assault goes without nonpartisan investigation. Mean wile, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the accuser, is vilified and must cope with multiple death threats. Less that sympathetic, more like pathetic, Senate Republicans claim ostensible merit and they are craven that garland across that abridge too far.

For the record, I took poetic license with the slant rhyme and pun of Merrick/merit. Also, I will from now on refer to Brett Kavanaugh as Bart O’Kavanaugh, the character that portrayed him in his character witness’ memoir: Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk, by Mark Judge. Judge Kavanaugh’s profoundly poor judgment of his fellow Judge and alleged fellow sexual assaulter as a character witness may very well be disqualifying in itself.  Brett’s prep school buddy unabashedly portrayed his view of women by this quote on his high school yearbook page: “Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs.”  The past matters. The present madders too.

Owed to Knot Rhyming

The ability to rhyme
Is not my paradigm
I brandish cacophonies
To unleash new homeys
Word
And soul full plurality
Welcoming that which can knot
Be beat

My poetry is offbeat.  That is not to say that it doesn’t have rhyme or alliteration, or rhyme and reason.  I brandish cacophonies to unleash unexpected cognitive dissonances that may provide momentary shortcuts and brief openings to our hearts.  Since the longest distance in the universe is from our heads to our hearts, there is great utility in such brain bypasses opening up the possibilities of new heart operations or inducing strokes of genius beyond calculation.  Cutting through such a knot is the metaphor used in the ancient Greek myth of King Gordius who set out a challenge to untie an incredible knot, promising great power to whoever could do it.  Many tried and failed, including the best and brightest.  Then, one man took out his sword and sliced the knot open with one stroke of genius.  The conventional wisdom of applying ever more clever brain power and ever more nimble hands missed the simple solution of using a wholly different tool.  Our heart is a holy different tool than our brains and hands.  As an organ of sense perception the heart can discern truths beyond sheer intelligence or brute power.  You knead knot believe this.  Though the heart may just prove a cut above the wrest…

 

POEM: My Indian Name

After my vision quest
My shaman told me
From now on
My Indian name would be
“Rhymes with orange”
Only having never
Seen an orange

This short poem can be viewed as one of my more whimsical poems, or perhaps not.  The poem begins with an epic undertaking, that of a vision quest.  A vision quest is an anthropological term used to denote “(especially among some North American Indians) the ritual seeking of personal communication with the spirit world through visions that are induced by fasting, prayer, and other measures during a time of isolation: typically undertaken by an adolescent male.”  Whether the poem descends into the depth of absurdity or ascends into the mysterious heights of the spirit world depends on your perspective.  My perspective positions itself on the thin line between the seemingly absurd and meaning itself.  While my poems dance about this magnificently thin line, I quite consistently fall on the side of meaning.  The venture of poetry itself may be aptly characterized as trying to use words to bring about an experience of reality that is beyond words.  The secret twist is in the Indian name chosen by the wise shaman, “Rhymes with orange.”  This moniker would be recognized by most poets and most anyone schooled in rhyme.  The commonplace meaning of this moniker is that there is no appropriate word to fill the shoes of such an attempted rhyme.  Exactly!  To drive the point home is the juxtaposition of the reality of “Only having never/Seen an orange.  The point of whether this reality is that of the shaman or the vision quester is intentional left vague, because the answer is “yes.”  Not only is there the elusive task of trying to find a rhyme for orange, but the poet, even using any existing universe of words (including “orange”), must select words that can never fully capture or exhaust the depth of the underlying reality one is expounding upon!  To risk getting impossibly lost in the paradox, the poet expounds on that which either has not been fully seen or cannot be fully seen (or at least communicated).  The poet’s job can never be finished.  This results in some not bothering with such a Sisyphean task, confronting newly discovered absurdities endlessly.  Others recognize the wide open field available for willing workers, mining the never-exhausted world of meaning.  Your choice is your.  My choice is mine.

POEM: Poetic License

One day I went to get my poetic license
I drove them crazy with their test
at the DMV
Perhaps next time I’ll try NASA

This poem reminds me of the scene in the movie, “Dead Poets Society,” where the teacher at an exclusive boy’s prep school, on the first day of class begins:

The teacher, Mr. Keating (played by Robin Williams) sits at his desk at the front of the classroom and opens up one of his books.

KEATING
Gentlemen, open your text to page
twenty-one of the introduction. Mr.
Perry, will you read the opening
paragraph of the preface, entitled
“Understanding Poetry”?

NEIL
Understanding Poetry, by Dr. J. Evans
Pritchard, Ph.D. To fully understand
poetry, we must first be fluent with
its meter, rhyme, and figures of speech.
Then ask two questions: One, how artfully
has the objective of the poem been
rendered, and two, how important is that
objective. Question one rates the poem’s
perfection, question two rates its
importance. And once these questions have
been answered, determining a poem’s
greatest becomes a relatively simple
matter.

Keating gets up from his desk and prepares to draw on the chalk board.

NEIL
If the poem’s score for perfection is
plotted along the horizontal of a graph,
and its importance is plotted on the
vertical, then calculating the total
area of the poem yields the measure of
its greatness.

Keating draws a corresponding graph on the board and the students
dutifully copy it down.

NEIL
A sonnet by Byron may score high on the
vertical, but only average on the
horizontal. A Shakespearean sonnet, on
the other hand, would score high both
horizontally and vertically, yielding a
massive total area, thereby revealing the
poem to be truly great. As you proceed
through the poetry in this book, practice
this rating method. As your ability to
evaluate poems in this matter grows, so
will – so will your enjoyment and
understanding of poetry.

Neil sets the book down and takes off his glasses. The student sitting
across from him is discretely trying to eat. Keating turns away from
the chalkboard with a smile.

KEATING
Excrement. That’s what I think of Mr. J.
Evans Pritchard. We’re not laying pipe,
we’re talking about poetry.

Mr. Keating then proceeds to instruct the students to tear the whole introductory chapter out of the book.  This peaks the interest of some of the students (and a little horror in others).

Of course, the heart of my poem pivots on the dual meaning and paradox of getting a “poetic license.”  A license is typically some form of certification or accreditation indicating that the applicant (they don’t just pass out licenses!) has successfully demonstrated adherence to prescribed rules based on the conventional wisdom of the era.  In contrast, “poetic license” refers to the freedom a poet takes in order create an artistic expression.

I view poetry as first art, and second science.  Now, to be fair, a fluency in linguistics can greatly aid one’s expression.  Nonetheless, if you put random words on a piece of paper and meditated upon them, strangely poetic relationships, phrases and themes would likely emerge (in the mind of someone).  In fact, this is one method to my madness.  Usually a poem is first born of a phrase or two that strikes me out of the ether of my life.  Then with a general theme, I associate related words, phrases and concepts.  Mining the infinite juxtapositions of puns, alliterations, metaphors and irony, characterizes my basic style of writing.  In my longer poems, I typically develop parallel narratives that are in tension, sometimes paradoxical.  Often there are several different ways to read a set of words or phrases, depending on punctuation and where one begins and/or ends the phrase/sentence.  This is why I often avoid punctuation and put short phrases or single words on a separate line.  This allows the reader to more freely experience the dance of associations and multiple meanings.  While my own basic point of view usually emerges with some clarity, sometimes by simply ending on a particular note, I definitely see truth as living in the neighborhood of paradox, and the struggle for and the balance of these tensions is at the heart of most of my poetry.  Poetry is less “laying pipe,” than flooding the reader with images and ideas, thoughts and feelings, that expand our consciousness and enrich our experience.  Of course, you are free to live by your own rules… 

“PUNS NOT GUNS” Manifesto by Top Pun

“PUNS NOT GUNS” Manifesto

“Some claim that puns are the lowest form of comedy. Dan, rather, says, “Guns are the lowest form of community.” Choose your weepin’! I prefer to hit ’em in the groan. Though puns and untrained minds can produce a “Not see,” puns and arms go hand in hand when used as a righting instrument. Mixing puns with peacework puts you in the dis’armament business; and though rhyme doesn’t pay, the prophets are good. With puns, and sharing a little peace of mine, we can realize that one side fits all. In truth, it’s guns that have too “meanings” for the price of won. Sometimes it takes everything we’ve got to see the blight (as they say, “sinner takes all”). While some may feel it’s an impossible play on wars (a mortality play for sure), all it takes is a sick sense (no relation to paranormal parents). Let’s have some serious fun (a free for all). Justice is no yoke. Think good that the pun is mightier than the sword!”

I wrote this manifesto early on in my career as Top Pun.  I have been a terrible punster as long as I can remember, and I have been interested in a wide range of social justice issues since I was a young adult.  I remember that my parents, recognizing my propensity towards puns, gave me a dictionary of puns as a present one year for my birthday.  In this pun dictionary, it was stated that there are an infinite number of puns.  At first, and actually for a very long time, I thought that this could not be possible.  Now, after cementing my vocation as the best punster for peace in the English-speaking world, I have little difficulty recognizing that there aren’t infinite number of puns.  I am a little surprised that this “Puns Not Guns” manifesto has held up so well for me over the years. I think that maybe I’m onto something with this punning thing.

As you can tell from the manifesto, much of my early inspiration comes from involvement in the peace movement.  Nonviolence seems to be the thread that ties together all of the many issues that I’m interested in.  Of course, perhaps conveniently, I define nonviolence very broadly (that’s non-broadly if you’re a woman).  Actually, while my first foray into nonviolence was in the late 70s when my mom took me to a peace conference at our church, Central United Methodist Church in Detroit.  This is the most salient event that I can identify as far as my consciousness raising around peace issues.  Back to the whole issue of nonviolence, I defined world hunger and extreme poverty as violence.  World hunger has continued to be the defining issue for me in relation to the world.  The interface between great affluence and extreme poverty has always challenged and perplexed me.  It is very difficult for me to reconcile these cruel and destructive differences in a world with so much.  The fact that such issues are deep and central to me really comes as no surprise.  In fact, I was literally born into it.  I was born in Haiti while my parents were serving as medical missionaries with the Mennonite Central Committee.  My father was a physician at the time, and my mother was a nurse at the time.  Mennonites have a tradition of encouraging their young folks after high school or college to perform some service to others.  Also, while I have been a lifelong United Methodist, I come from a very long line of Mennonites.  This Mennonite influence has been very strong, with predictable outcomes, in the sense, that peace and justice and simple living are powerful themes in my life.  Little did I realize early in my life that I was a good candidate for being a hippie.  My parents never really spoke that much about their experiences in Haiti, and when they did speak of their experiences in Haiti, they spoke rather nonchalantly.  Perhaps paradoxically, this more casual exceptions of what is hardly typical service, instilled in me that such commitment and service should be normal; and for me it was normal.

View Top Pun’s PUNS DESIGNS