One of the reasons I’ve taken so long to get to the third installment in this series: I couldn’t decide which C to choose. Both Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Gregory Corso could easily qualify as my favorite C poet (with honorable mentions going to Stephen Crane and Geoffrey Chaucer).
Another reason I’ve taken so long: I flirted with focusing on (instead of one poet) our fantastic local poetry scene (C is for Cleveland). But the more I contemplated that idea, the more convinced I became that this rich scene deserves far more than one blog. So it’ll probably turn into a future series (and since some of my favorite poets are from Cleveland, there will certainly be some overlap).
For now, let’s stick with my favorite poets whose names begin with C.
Coleridge and Corso – an English Romantic and an American Beat….
Both poets have influenced and inspired me – and the works of both have at times played important roles in my artistic and human development. But although I could ramble on for days, I’d rather let these gentlemen do the talking.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
[Coleridge explained that he wrote “Kubla Khan” after an opium-induced dream. Here it is:]
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
With walls and towers were girdled round :
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree ;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh ! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover !
A savage place ! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover !
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced :
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail :
And ‘mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean :
And ‘mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war !
Floated midway on the waves ;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice !
In a vision once I saw :
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ‘twould win me,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome ! those caves of ice !
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware ! Beware !
His flashing eyes, his floating hair !
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
[For more about the poem, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kubla_Khan]
[Corso is probably the least known of the “Beats.” He also spent three years in prison as a young man (and that’s where he got into poetry). Here are two of his pieces – “Spirit” and an excerpt from “The American Way.”]
It flows thru
the death of me
like a river
[Ah, heck… I’ll give you ALL of “The American Way.” I just don’t feel right abridging it.]
I am a great American
I am almost nationalistic about it!
I love America like a madness!
But I am afraid to return to America
I’m even afraid to go into the American Express—
They are frankensteining Christ in America
in their Sunday campaigns
They are putting the fear of Christ in America
under their tents in their Sunday campaigns
They are driving old ladies mad with Christ in America
They are televising the gift of healing and the fear of hell
in America under their tents in their Sunday
They are leaving their tents and are bringing their Christ
to the stadiums of America in their Sunday
They are asking for a full house an all get out
for their Christ in the stadiums of America
They are getting them in their Sunday and Saturday
They are asking them to come forward and fall on their
because they are all guilty and they are coming
in guilt and are falling on their knees weeping their
begging to be saved O Lord O Lord in their Monday
Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
and Sunday campaigns
It is a time in which no man is extremely wondrous
It is a time in which rock stupidity
outsteps the 5th Column as the sole enemy in America
It is a time in which ignorance is a good Ameri-cun
ignorance is excused only where it is so
it is not so in America
Man is not guilty Christ is not to be feared
I am telling you the American Way is a hideous monster
eating Christ making Him into Oreos and Dr. Pepper
the sacrament of its foul mouth
I am telling you the devil is impersonating Christ in America
America’s educators & preachers are the mental-dictators
of false intelligence they will not allow America
to be smart
they will only allow death to make America smart
Educators & communicators are the lackeys of the
They enslave the minds of the young
and the young are willing slaves (but not for long)
because who is to doubt the American Way
is not the way?
The duty of these educators is no different
than the duty of a factory foreman
Replica production make all the young think alike
dress alike believe alike do alike
Togetherness this is the American Way
The few great educators in America are weak & helpless
They abide and so uphold the American Way
Wars have seen such men they who despised things about them
but did nothing and they are the most dangerous
Dangerous because their intelligence is not denied
and so give faith to the young
who rightfully believe in their intelligence
Smoke this cigarette doctors smoke this cigarette
and doctors know
Educators know but they dare not speak their know
The victory that is man is made sad in this fix
Youth can only know the victory of being born
all else is stemmed until death be the final victory
and a merciful one at that
If America falls it will be the blame of its educators
preachers communicators alike
America today is America’s greatest threat
We are old when we are young
America is always new the world is always new
The meaning of the world is birth not death
Growth gone in the wrong direction
The true direction grows ever young
In this direction what grows grows old
A strange mistake a strange and sad mistake
for it has grown into an old thing
while all else around it is new
Rockets will not make it any younger—
And what made America decide to grow?
I do not know I can only hold it to the strangeness in man
And America has grown into the American Way—
To be young is to be ever purposeful limitless
To grow is to know limit purposelessness
Each age is a new age
How outrageous it is that something old and sad
from the pre-age incorporates each new age—
Do I say the Declaration of Independence is old?
Yes I say what was good for 1789 is not good for 1960
It was right and new to say all men were created equal
because it was a light then
But today it is tragic to say it
today it should be fact—
Man has been on earth a long time
One would think with his mania for growth
he would, by now, have outgrown such things as
constitutions manifestos codes commandments
that he could well live in the world without them
and know instinctively how to live and be
—for what is being but the facility to love?
Was not that the true goal of growth, love?
Was not that Christ?
But man is strange and grows where he will
and chalks it all up to Fate whatever be—
America rings with such strangeness
It has grown into something strange and
the American is good example of this mad growth
The boy man big baby meat
as though the womb were turned backwards
giving birth to an old man
The victory that is man does not allow man
to top off his empirical achievement with death
The Aztecs did it by yanking out young hearts
at the height of their power
The Americans are doing it by feeding their young to the
For it was not the Spaniard who killed the Aztec
but the Aztec who killed the Aztec
Rome is proof Greece is proof all history is proof
Victory does not allow degeneracy
It will not be the Communists will kill America
no but America itself—
The American Way that sad mad process
is not run by any one man or organization
It is a monster born of itself existing of its self
The men who are employed by this monster
are employed unknowingly
They reside in the higher echelons of intelligence
They are the educators the psychiatrists the ministers
the writers the politicians the communicators
the rich the entertainment world
And some follow and sing the Way because they sincerely
believe it to be good
And some believe it holy and become minutemen in it
Some are in it simply to be in
And most are in it for gold
They do not see the Way as monster
They see it as the “Good Life”
What is the Way?
The Way was born out of the American Dream a
The state of Americans today compared to the Americans
of the 18th century proves the nightmare—
Not Franklin not Jefferson who speaks for America today
but strange red-necked men of industry
and the goofs of show business
Bizarre! Frightening! The Mickey Mouse sits on the throne
and Hollywood has a vast supply—
Could grammar school youth seriously look upon
a picture of George Washington and “Herman Borst”
the famous night club comedian together at Valley
Old old and decadent gone the dignity
the American sun seems headed for the grave
O that youth might raise it anewl
The future depends solely on the young
The future is the property of the young
What the young know the future will know
What they are and do the future will be and do
What has been done must not be done again
Will the American Way allow this?
I see in every American Express
and in every army center in Europe
I see the same face the same sound of voice
the same clothes the same walk
I see mothers & fathers no
difference among them
They not only speak and walk and think alike
they have the same facel
What did this monstrous thing?
What regiments a people so?
How strange is nature’s play on America
Surely were Lincoln alive today
he could never be voted President not with his
Indeed Americans are babies all in the embrace
of Mama Way
Did not Ike, when he visited the American Embassy in
Paris a year ago, say to the staff—”Everything is fine, just drink
Coca Cola, and everything will be all right.”
This is true, and is on record
Did not American advertising call for TOGETHERNESS?
not orgiasticly like today’s call
nor as means to stem violence
This is true, and is on record.
Are not the army centers in Europe ghettos?
They are, and O how sad how lost!
The PX newsstands are filled with comic books
The army movies are always Doris Day
What makes a people huddle so?
Why can’t they be universal?
Who has smelled them so?
This is serious! I do not mock or hate this
I can only sense some mad vast conspiracy!
Helplessness is all it is!
They are caught caught in the Way—
And those who seek to get out of the Way
The Beats are good example of this
They forsake the Way’s habits
and acquire for themselves their own habits
And they become as distinct and regimented and lost
as the main flow
because the Way has many outlets
like a snake of many tentacles—
There is no getting out of the Way
The only way out is the death of the Way
And what will kill the Way but a new consciousness
Something great and new and wonderful must happen
to free man from this beast
It is a beast we can not see or even understand
For it be the condition of our minds
God how close to science fiction it all seemsl
As if some power from another planet
incorporated itself in the minds of us all
It could well bel
For as I live I swear America does not seem like America
Americans are a great people
I ask for some great and wondrous event
that will free them from the Way
and make them a glorious purposeful people once
I do not know if that event is due deserved
or even possible
I can only hold that man is the victory of life
And I hold firm to American man
I see standing on the skin of the Way
America to be as proud and victorious as St.
Michael on the neck of the fallen Lucifer—
* * *
I heartily recommend the following Coleridge and Corso books
(all available through my Amazon bookstore)
Previous A to Z poetry installments include:
A is for Apollinaire (my favorite poets from A to Z – volume 1)
B is for Baudelaire (my favorite poets from A to Z – volume 2)
For online biographies of Coleridge and Corso, check out these links: