I can't just hand these people real poetry --
as if handing them their heads. They don't know
what they don't know. What they are willing to hear
from another is lavish praise, and only general praise
at that. Anything more is overwhelming.
Long ago I wrote the following:
Other Silences, Other Voices
Walking through the park,
I pass with embarrassment
a ragged man who talks loudly
to no one I can see.
Is that the way I sound
to passing angels
who hear my thoughts?
And in what stillness dwells
one who can hear
the incoherent babbling
Perhaps to some my visions would be angelic
(or diabolic) -- overwhelming. If they saw
their own work through my eyes, they would
wither, die, never become their own worst angels.
But there are those whose most casual glance
would char and blacken my brightest page,
and I keep becoming them, tier upon tier,
Cherub to my own archness, Seraph to my Cherub
(Aye, there's the rub), but no end of orders,
never an absolute font of all,
sans seraph. Absolutes are just not my type.
Note: The first stanza refers to people like the poet mentioned
in the last poem, who proudly presents poems replete with textbook
triteness. The point here is that there are apparently no end of
levels of excellence, so that, no matter how angelic I may seem
to "lesser" poets, there are always orders of angels above
me who will find me inane (and you may belong to one of those orders).
Nothing new about that idea the old "Great Chain of
Being", where Pope says that, as apes are to us, so we are
to angels. My next point is that I keep becoming angel to my own
ape: I look at my old poems and see their faults (as described earlier),
Seraph to my own Cherub (Cherubs are supposed to be one order lower
than Seraphs), which takes me back to my Seraph/serif pun (and probably
I'm one of thousands who've made that pun), which leads to other
puns. The last chain of puns begins with "my archness",
referring both to a quality of my poems (often) and to the Archangel,
one step down from Cherub. Then we have the shift from Cherub (CheRUB)
to "the rub". Then we have "absolute font of all",
suggesting both a type font (sans serif?) and a fountain or spring,
a source point for all, thus an absolute above all angels (knows
all the angles). And the last word ("type") refers back
to fonts of type.
The Age of Reason poets who presented the Great Chain of Being
thought of us as fated, without appeal, to our place on that Chain,
a concept alien to this poem, where changes are as rapid as shifts
in rank in a small army gone to war.