Thursday, April 29, 2004

Poet - Definition #1 & #2

Poet: 1. A writer of poems.

Well -- that was simple! That would include just about anyone who ever wrote a poem, from a gift card message to an advertising jingle to Edna St. Vincent Millay and Robert Frost.

Poet: 2. One who is especially gifted in the perception and expression of the beautiful or lyrical.

(Lyrical having many definitions, I believe this one applies: "music-like sensuality of expression")

In my own words for my own use: A person with skills of perception and expression of beauty or song. One could say Claude Monet or Vincent van Gogh were poets with paint. Or Jackson Pollack, if you like something more modern as an example.

Having just received David Ross's poems The Jasmine Papers and read it cover to cover, I am of the opinion he was a terrific lyrical poet. He's the first two stanzas of his Night Letter:
Dear violet personal night
your sky's so mine and ours
jacarandas everywhere

shed petals
purple the ground
sweet must:

The rest of the poem soars and dips like a Verdi aria, piercing the reader with the intricate, finely calculated alliteration for which David was famous. David Ross passed away in 1994. He was notoriously argumentative. I had the pleasure of knowing him for about 20 years and never having gotten in an argument with him in all that time. I truly miss hearing his deep, sonorous voice reading his poems. You can order The Jasmine Papers from Dean Blehert.

Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu, who wrote the Tao Te Ching , reportedly said this:
When those who understand me are few, then I am of great value.
For some reason that seems so crass and commercial, assuming that you have something, some skill or wisdom worth understanding. It is somewhat at odds with L. Ron Hubbard's philosophy on holding on to wisdom:
I know no man who has any monopoly upon the wisdom of this universe. It belongs to those who can use it to help themselves and others.
(from Hubbard's article, "My Philosophy")

On the other hand, I realized that what I do (search engine optimization) requires an arcane knowledge of search engines, web design, information theory, cascading style sheets and HTML code, JavaScript, and a host of other subjects, and how they all relate together. It makes me glad that I disseminate everything I find out about my subject through my search engine optimization website. I get a lot of feedback from people who use the techniques that I discuss, and come out on top in the search engine rankings. It's gratifying--almost as gratifying as a fat check...

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Poetry Definition #5

Poem - derivation:
Old French poeme, from Latin poema, from Greek poiema, poema, "created thing," work, poem, from poiein, to make, create.
Now that makes sense! Creation is exactly what one does when making one of these.

In the preface to my book of poetry, It's Not What I Thought, I put these paragraphs:
I have read a great deal of the "modern" poetry being published, and I don't care much for it. When I read a poem, my first impulse is to try to understand it, not just to hear pretty sounds or feel some feeling. Most of the poems I've read did not make sense even though there may have been some good "fresh" images. Too often, I couldn't find ONE poem in a poetry book or quarterly that was actually comprehensible. I hope you do not have much of that trouble here.

It occurred to me at an early age that it is not enough to mirror reality in descriptions of it, or to set down impressions of the way people behave, or the look of a thing -- even if it has never been said before. That kind of pointless commentator-ism can go on endlessly.

In my view, poetry ought to pull the attention out--make someone more alive for having shared it with the poet. It should show, wherever possible, how we are at cause and leave one reminded, in some way, that we can be at cause over this world we're in, even in matters of love. We have enough messages already concerning the beautiful sadness of things, and we do not need more poets selling us on hopelessness, apathy, futility and the like. I've made an effort not to do that; whether that effort was successful I leave to you.

Creations are completely caused - there's nothing natural about them. A poem was not secreted by a tree or whelped by a dog. It did not exist. Then WHAM it was created out of nothing by the poet. Whether that took ten minutes of spewing, or ten years of patient editing. As a poet, one IS responsible for the poems one creates.

So an angry, incomprehensible poem says, what? To me, it says that its author was angry and incomprehensible... and not much else.

That's my two bits for today.

That's the end of definitions for the word "poem". Next will be "poet".


In the book The Genius of Haiku, which contains readings from R.H. Blyth, is a lovely paragraph about freedom. Blyth was a practitioner, proponent and promoter of Zen.
What is the essential? Zen is the only essential. What is inessential? All the rest, especially the emotional and intellectual rubbish that hinders our freedom. Just as
Perfect love casteth out fear,
so true Zen casts out every kind of bondage, which includes fear. Freedom is perfect, pure freedom, but Milton said of liberty,
For who loves that must first be wise and good.
Freedom means freedom from error and superstition, freedom to be good. The more freedom, the more truth; the more truth, the more freedom, -- this is a natural law everywhere demonstrated in the history of human thought. Thus the construction of dogmatic beliefs by the highest intellect reduces man to the same state of mental slavery as the crudest and most infantile superstition. The philosopher and the savage are just as distant from the truth.

I used to feel exactly that way, when studying Locke and Hume and other philosophers. The only philosophy I know of which is a workable (not perfect, but workable!) system, in which man is postulated to be basically good and seeking freedom, is Scientology. And I thank my lucky stars (said with tongue firmly in cheek) that I found it and wasn't so cynical and so depressed that I could not recognize it for what it was -- a way to the truths I had been looking for.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Poetry Definition #4

4. Any creation, object, or experience thought to embody the lyrical beauty or structural perfection characteristic of poetry.

In my own words, for my own use: "Anything created or existing or experienced that puts in physical form the level of beauty and perfection you would put into writing poetry."


The Parthenon - even in ruin it is still a poem in stone.

When I scuba'd through an immense cloud of sardines in an undersea cave, guarded by two huge tarpon, that was a poem in light and motion.

The 1976 Olympics, when little Nadya scored a 10 for her gymnastics routine, the first time a perfect score was ever awarded in an Olympic event. That was a poem of effortlessness.

Every Faberge egg I have seen pictures of is a poem of gemstones and whimsy.

Falling Water, the house by F. L. Wright, somehow doesn't quite make it as a poem of architecture, despite his many fans who would argue it does. There's something wrong with it, perhaps the lack of any warmth... (I've toured the house he made in the park in Hollywood -- it's a tourist attraction now -- I found it foreboding, too.)

(Note: Only the derivation is left of the word "poem" -- next time! Then we start on other related words. Isn't this fun!)

Hoist the Blog Flag

My old friend Stu Sjouerman of Sunbelt Software publishes the W2Knews newsletter, which I get because I like Stu's ramblings, not because I use Windows 2000. Today he sent out a quote from H. L. Mencken that I think reverberates well in today's world:
"There comes a time when every man feels the urge to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and start slitting throats."

Stu and his wife, Rebecca Weiss, make a great couple. Rebecca recently published a book called Journeys in Darkness and Light, which I read through in one sitting, staying up most of the night to do it. Rebecca is an internationally renowned applique artist (she makes museum quality work and has won many awards) as well as a good writer with a strong sense of what's right and wrong in the world. The pictures and incidents from her book haunt one long after reading it. The description of her time spent in a kibbutz in Israel, in various schools all over Europe, with her parents, neither of whom appeared to want to actually take time out of their own busy lives to raise a child--these things stick with you months after you finish the book. Her mother was Helga Henschen, a well-known Swedish artist, and her father was the playright and painter, Peter Weiss.

Friday, April 16, 2004

FDA blocked top expert's testimony
on suicide and antidpressant link

The FDA--according to its mouthpiece the NY Times--blocked one of its own top experts, Dr. Andrew D. Mosholder, from giving testimony about his findings that children given antidepressants were twice as likely to become suicidal as those given placebos.

If you have a brain and have been listening, you know that the FDA has obviously been in the pocket of the major drug companies for the last couple of decades.

Nice to see it coming out in such a fashion. Dr. Mosholder should be commended for his bravery in breaking ranks and trying to tell the truth. He is being called an "alarmist".

If there's a fire blazing, what should one do but sound the alarm!

Here's the article - you'll need to sign up for a free membership in the NY Times online in order to read it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Poem Definition #3

Definition #3: Any literary composition written with an intensity or beauty of language more characteristic of poetry than of prose: a prose poem.

Putting that in my own words for my own use: anything written with intense, condensed, beautiful language.

Well known examples:
Now those are some poems that caused something!

Bombshell at 9/11 Hearings

I rarely discuss politics--this article needs little discussion. Attorney General John Ashcroft has squarely laid the blame for the pre-9/11 wall between intelligence agencies and law enforcement on--hold onto your hats--a member of the 9/11 commission, Jamie Gorelick. Jamie Gorelick

Ms. Gorelick, #2 in President Clinton's Justice Department, wrote the 1995 memo which created the wall, and now serves on the 9/11 Commission tring to figure out how the terrorist events of that fateful day could have been allowed to happen. Ashcroft had to de-classify Gorelick's memo to bring it to the attention of the Commission -- she hadn't brought up her own role in the debacle.
This Commissioner should step down--behind that bright smile there is no conscience.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Poem - Definition #2


2. Any composition in verse rather than in prose.

Compare that to Definition 1 - it seems as though this definition widens the parameters of the word "poem" to include such things as greeting card jingles, naughty limericks, verses of the Bible and the speeches of Sir Winston Churchill.
Q: What's a "verse"?
A: Most simply, a line or section of a poem.
So by this definition, this Psalm (which was my father's favorite verse from the Bible) is a poem:
Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me
in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

And per this definition, this would also be a poem:
Nicht be finger-pokin
in der machine-vurkin.

(posted on the access cover of a Xerox machine).

Moscow Court Bans Jehovah's Witnesses

I am not a Jehovah's Witness, but I have many friends who are. To me, they are not obnoxious door-knockers who keep coming back wanting to discuss my religion, they are my neighbors, the guy who works at the local hardware store, and his wife, father and mother. They don't celebrate "normal" American holidays, which is great for me, because I usually travel on holidays and need someone to house-sit. They are not just available to house-sit, they are trustworthy and leave the house cleaner than when they came. And yes, we have had several lively discussions of their views of the Kingdom to come and no, I don't subscribe to their beliefs. But I respect their beliefs and their right to express them freely--it can't be easy to be a Jehovah's Witness.

So I was appalled today to learn this from a newsgroup:

In a disturbing setback for religious freedom in Russia, Moscow's Golovinskiy Court recently issued a decision to ban the religious activities of Jehovah's Witnesses in Moscow and to liquidate their legal entity. The Jehovah's Witnesses plan to appeal the decision, and that appeal will stop any immediate action to implement the decision.

The U.S. State Department has urged local Moscow authorities and the Russian Government to honor their commitments to respect the right of all faiths to religious freedom.

The Moscow Court's decision is plainly in violation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:

"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."

The International Foundation for Human Rights and Tolerance continues its work to ensure that every person can enjoy their basic human rights, as listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Please visit the Foundation's website to read the Declaration.

If you believe in God, a prayer would be in order, in support of the Russian Jehovah's Witnesses. If you don't believe in God but do believe in freedom of expression, then write a letter to the Golovinskiy Court and let them know you support freedom of religion and that they should too.

Poem - Definition #1

I've volunteered to put up a definition a day for a poetry list of which I am a member.

If you need to clear up any of the words in this definition, please do.

Poem: (noun)

1. A composition designed to convey a vivid and imaginative sense of experience, characterized by the use of condensed language, chosen for its sound and suggestive power as well as its meaning, and by the use of such literary techniques as structured meter, natural cadences, rhyme, or metaphor.

-- there are several more definitions which I'll do in subsquent posts. But there's plenty to chew on here in definition #1.

Putting that in my own words for my own use:

A poem is something written to get across a clearly created feeling or beingness, usually using dense, carefully chosen words that sound right and carry layers of meaning, and possibly using meter, rhyming words, and drawing comparisons that illustrate what you're trying to get across.

Off the top of my head examples of poems that get across a feeling:

Renascence by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

Once by the Pacific by Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Examples of poems that get across a beingness:

My Last Dutchess by Robert Browning (1812-1899)

Many of the hauku by Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) convey a beingness:

Winter seclusion:
Once again I will lean against
This post.


The autumn full moon:
All night long
I paced around the lake.

for example.

(More basic poetry definitions soon.)

Friday, April 02, 2004


When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.

— Albert Einstein

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Helping others blog

Yesterday I helped Angie Derouchie set up her blog. She's very active with the Church of Scientology Celebrity Center of Portland. Visit Angie's blog

Today I helped Barbara Ayash of the Concerned Businessmen's Association of America set up her blog. Visit Barb's blog here.