I miss the old millennials. The new ones keep checking their phones and when you ask them to clean up the mess they made spilling soup in a rarely used hallway in the restaurant where you both work they say “Okay,” and when you find the mess still there the next day and ask why they didn’t clean up the mess like they said they would, they say “I couldn’t find a mop,” and when you ask why they didn’t ask someone where a mop was they say “I didn’t know who would know,” and then check their phones.
The old millennials were much more engaging, going on and on about the end times. They went a bit far. That’s true for the whole species no matter what eschaton-immanentizing catalyst they choose to promote, and promote they do. There’s no “’I don’t have my ‘Zorp is Nigh!’ sandwich board on because I couldn’t find a paint brush,” from these millennials. They get out in the world and let it know it’s on the clock. Here’s my question: Where did they go?
This is another one of those weekends where there’s really not much need for a POETS Day. Heresy! You might say, and I’d be tempted to agree with you, but even those that don’t celebrate Christmas are the beneficiaries of an act of Congress marking the 25th of December as a federal holiday and that designation pretty well spills over to the days before and after in practice if not in fact. Even if you are at work, whoever you are supposed to be calling on or transferring funds to is probably tilting at last minute shopping or stuck in an airport because the U.S. is now apparently Hoth so it’s a wasted week. If you don’t work retail, you’ve likely already been given a pass to leave work early on Friday if you were expected to show up at all. There’s no need to adhere to the dictate Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday, but that doesn’t mean there’s no need for a bit of poetry. On the contrary, this is an excellent time to get all doe-eyed and the kind of overplayed optimistic cheerful that makes grown men cringe and wish they’d never heard the word ebullient and say, “But it’s always time for poetry!” I think that’s true. Hope you do too.
To my knowledge, there is no tradition recommending anapests when writing poetic religious narratives, but that’s where I keep coming across them. To my knowledge, they are rarely used in devotionals or similarly themed works (I say rarely because I’m holding out that just because I can’t think of a single one, there are more things in heaven and earth than I come across reading the slice of English language poetry that I prefer.) The anapest, a metric foot consisting of two unstressed followed by one stressed syllable, pops up in a lot of long form works. The Illiad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid were all written primarily using another three-syllable foot known as a dactyl, made up of a stressed followed by two unstressed syllables. The distance between stresses in either foot gives prominence the stress wouldn’t have in an iamb or trochee (two syllable feet, unstressed/stressed and stressed/unstressed respectively) and can contribute to an epic sensibility. Translations into English keep as close to the original possible. “I sing of arms and the man” is an example of keeping with the dactylic spirit if not the precise form. Stresses fall on “arms” and “man” but to make sense a throw away “I” is included. In addition to throw away syllables often anapest might be substituted for a dactyl in translation so you can know in your heart of hearts that Juvenal’s Satires are considered to be written in dactyls but can come across an essay or analysis that says they are anapestic without it ruining your world view.
POETS Day has arrived and it couldn’t have come at a more auspicious moment. About this time desperation for that final gift is settling in and you’re looking at videos and news reports of Black Friday melees and realizing that not only are those people done with Christmas shopping but their wounds have likely healed. It may be that the receiving end of a WalMart stomping pays peace of mind dividends. At the very least you could rely on mall related PTSD as an excuse to get you out of work early and jumpstart the… well…
Maybe jumpstarting the weekend isn’t for you this this time around. It’s still POETS Day and you still have to all that dissembling, obfuscating, truth fudging, and gleeful trespassing of societal norms and all the delicate pieties that preserve our hopefully durable civilization, but this time you are doing it for reasons other than increasing your opportunities for pleasure so it’s kinda selfless. No happy hours, no grassy parks to lay in, no pond swimming or light masochistic jogging. You have to get out of work so go ahead and Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday. The problem is that this POETS Day you’re gobbling up extra me time to shop for others, and that’s the worst kind of shopping there is.
Sometimes I feel bad for people who don’t speak English and are stuck calling their master lyricists words like poeta, digter, imbongi, or tusisolo that don’t form tidy acronyms encouraging their better hedonist angels. Thankfully we are blessed by the vision of William the TBA who noticed that Godwinson was busy in York dealing with family issues and figured even if Harold could get to Hastings in time, he’d have to force march his men with out any bathroom breaks. William won and French words marginalized German words. Instead of the dubious Diners In Cardiff Hate Tasting English Rarebit we get the dulcet Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday, so Happy POETS Day! Disassemble, obfuscate, fudge the truth, and gleefully trespass the norms and delicate pieties that preserve our hopefully durable civilization. Nearly all means are justified by the urge to prematurely escape the bonds of employment and settle in at a friendly neighborhood joint a few hours before even happy hour begins, lay comfortably in the grass at a local park or cemetery, take a schvitz, or God forbid, go for a light jog. It’s your weekend. Do with it as you will, but in homage to the mighty Norman acronym may I suggest setting aside a moment for a little verse? It’s a particularly good way to pass time waiting on friends who may not run as roughshod over the delicate pieties and were not as successful as you were in engineering an early exit.
In October of 1944, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien spent an evening in discussion with Roy Campbell, this week’s featured poet. Lewis was put off by Campbell’s, according to Lewis, “particular blend of Catholicism and fascism.” Tolkien, who was writing The Lord of the Rings at the time, reportedly took Campbell as inspiration for a mysterious hobbit character named Trotter who he would over time rewrite as a man, rename Strider, and reveal as Aragorn. People didn’t react mildly to Campbell. Even when they were ostensibly friends and admirers of each other’s literary abilities and fellow members of The Inklings, Lewis wrote a mean poem at him.
I can’t believe it’s POETS Day already. These interminable workdays with their drudgery and stench of responsibility really seem to be zipping by. It feels like just yesterday I was lamenting that due to the holiday there was no work to get out of or early weekend hours to be seized, but here we are and the world is back to its pre-Thanksgiving normal. It’s Friday and you’re stuck at work with visions of the fun you could be up to if only you could slip the sultry bonds of employment and embrace the ethos of the day: Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday. Disassemble, obfuscate, fudge the truth, and gleefully trespass the norms and delicate pieties that preserve our hopefully durable civilization. Nearly all means are justified by the urge to prematurely escape the confines of labor and settle in at a friendly neighborhood joint a few hours before even happy hour begins, lay comfortably in the grass at a local park, go for a swim, or God forbid, go for a light jog. It’s your weekend. Do with it as you will, but in homage to the mighty acronym may I suggest setting aside a moment for a little verse? It’s a particularly good way to pass time waiting on friends who may not run as roughshod over the delicate pieties and were not as successful as you were in engineering an early exit.
This week we feature a poem by John Berryman, or “Burremun” as some of his friends called him (he spent some time in England and came back accented.) He was among those known as the Confessional Poets – a group that included Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Bishop, and Robert Lowell – for the semi to fully autobiographical feel of many of their works. The poets were not amused by the name at all. In his book The Wounded Surgeon, Adam Kirsch writes that “Plath scorned the notion of poetry as “some kind of therapeutic public purge or excretion,’” and that Bishop “deplored the trend toward ‘more and more anguish and less and less poetry.’” Berryman, he wrote, “insisted that ‘the speaker [of a poem] can never be the actual writer,’ that there is always “an abyss between [the poet’s] person and his persona.’” Oh, well. You don’t get to pick your nickname.
POETS Day will sneak up on you if you let it. That doesn’t absolve you of your duties, of course. You still have to meet your obligations and do the day’s thing: Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday. Just know that there are those of us who understand that sometimes a mid-afternoon escape from work will not benefit from a well thought out plan. You have to summon inspiration and work with the tools you find laying about. Thankfully those who intend to weasel out of the office before official release is granted probably mastered the art of the faked illness as a kid in order to get out of school, so they’ve seen a lot of mid-morning I Love Lucy reruns. That rascally redhead taught them three very important things. First, if you want something there is no limit to the amount of humiliation you are willing to endure to get it. Second, the only thing keeping you from a career in showbusiness is that smooth-talking, spotlight-hogging husband of yours. Third, whatever the consequences of your actions, they will not be so dire as to deter you from trying something as equally ill-advised seven days later, assuming the advertisers are still on board. Focus on the benefits of risking your source of income by lying to your boss and leaving your co-workers in the lurch for a few Friday afternoon hours. Ignore your conscience. Consciences are problematic. They keep people from doing great things like sticking with their mentor to rule the galaxy side by side just because he’s mean to their kid.
Fake temporary aphasia, cake oatmeal on your arm and claim leprosy, freak out saying “How?… No… I can’t move again…” when the UPS guy or a customer you’ve never seen before comes into the office and make sure and tell anyone who will listen that you are definitely not in the witness relocation program while safely cowering under your desk. Do whatever you must to kickstart your weekend and get out of there. Roll with the bon temps. But first, take in a little verse to stir your impulsive creativity.
Welcome once again to the POETS Day prefab intro paragraph, that wonderous paragraph that heralds the day where we do our best to usher in the weekend, Henry Ford’s greatest creation, a few hours ahead of schedule by embracing the ethos of the day: Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday. Disassemble, obfuscate, fudge the truth, and gleefully trespass the norms and delicate pieties that preserve our hopefully durable civilization. Nearly all means are justified by the urge to prematurely escape the bonds of employment and settle into a friendly neighborhood joint a few hours before even happy hour begins, confound the universe by spending your reclaimed afternoon in church confessing your trespasses, lay comfortably in the grass at a local park wishing you had a BB gun to knock that smug squirrel of his branch, go to a hardware store to buy a measuring tape and measure stuff, or God forbid, go for a light jog. It’s your weekend. Do with it as you will, but in homage to the mighty acronym may I suggest setting aside a moment for a little verse? It’s a particularly good way to pass time waiting on friends who may not run as roughshod over the delicate pieties and were not as successful as you were in engineering an early exit.
George Mackay Brown was born in the town of Stromness in the Orkney Islands, and he liked it so much he decided to stay. There was a brief while when he went to study in Edinburgh but after that it was back to the islands for him and the rest of his seventy-four years. He admired the simple ways of his home and wrote often of its history, interweaving the ancient with the modern.
Welcome to POETS Day! The John Donne Edition, so prepare to Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday. By the time this post is published you still won’t have voted yet so feel free to make your workplace a haven for free speech. Who will end up holding the reins of power is on quite a few minds. People say that it’s impolite to talk about politics or religion in public, but people love to talk about politics and religion. Once they get going it’s Katie bar the door. Indulge their desires by giving the people what they want and don’t hold back. If people are reticent to speak up start assigning positions like a debating coach. “Sally, you defend congressional stock trades. Bill. Abortion. I’ve got you down for anti. Tommy, pretend to be above it all and keep saying that there’s no real difference between the parties.” Have fun with it. Maybe designate a supply closet as the penalty box. I’ll give it thirty minutes before everyone is at each other’s throats and forty-five before the walk outs begin. Follow suit. You aren’t going to get any work done in this environment. Hit the bars, grab a matinee, surf PornHub for the articles, take a walk along a creek, or otherwise indulge yourself. It’s the weekend and it comes early to those willing to seize it. But first, some metaphysical stuff.
Samuel Johnson had some harsh words for the metaphysical poets. He thought they were showoffs always trying to impress on the reader how learned they were. He’s probably right about that. He also had issues with their devotional poetry. He felt that any communication with God was by de facto divine and attempts to improve the experience by framing it poetically were attempts wasted. The divine exists above poetry. I’m not a Johnson aficionado so I have no idea whether or not he had similar issues with devotional poetry by non-metaphysical poets, but I have read a few lines of his explaining why it was okay when Milton did it. I just skimmed his Milton excuses, but it seemed to me like he was protesting too much.
Welcome to POETS Day! Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday, and you’ll surely want to oblige the acronym as this week is the special Slipped Into Curmudgeonlyness edition so get audibly frustrated with an underling’s inability to help you sign into your email, blow your top over the sadistically icy 68° thermostat setting, cough a menacing “I’m sick and I’m going to bring you all down with me” cough, call at least two people Bill even though they are not named Bill, leave a tip for the guy from the mail room but no more than a nickel; in general, be so annoying that when you declare that your patience with the people around you has reached its limit and storm out no one will follow.
Now feel free to move about the weekend, your normally kind and ebullient self, having been momentarily overtaken by a cantankerous pensioner, once more assertive and dominant. Think happy thoughts and enjoy happy hour.
William Wordsworth lived to the ripe age of eighty, but at the age of thirty-two he couldn’t have known that. The life expectancy in England’s cities then was only between twenty-five and thirty years old. Out in the county where he spent most of his years the average time from womb to tomb increased significantly to forty-one. Still, at thirty-two he wouldn’t be faulted if he felt he was getting’ up there, so he had an old man’s “Get Off of My Wafting with Natures Glory Lawn!” moment.