Searching for words
In the morning sun
Of another new day
Searching for words
In the morning sun
Of another new day
If a new world begins once again
As an ode to the light conceived, The cold
The dark turned away
Then I shall return
In the sunlight
~ R.M. Engelhardt
How to Speak Poetry
Take the word butterfly. To use this word it is not necessary to make the voice weigh less than an ounce or equip it with small dusty wings. It is not necessary to invent a sunny day or a field of daffodils. It is not necessary to be in love, or to be in love with butterflies. The word butterfly is not a real butterfly. There is the word and there is the butterfly. If you confuse these two items people have the right to laugh at you. Do not make so much of the word. Are you trying to suggest that you love butterflies more perfectly than anyone else, or really understand their nature? The word butterfly is merely data. It is not an opportunity for you to hover, soar, befriend flowers, symbolize beauty and frailty, or in any way impersonate a butterfly. Do not act out words. Never act out words. Never try to leave the floor when you talk about flying. Never close your eyes and jerk your head to one side when you talk about death. Do not fix your burning eyes on me when you speak about love. If you want to impress me when you speak about love put your hand in your pocket or under your dress and play with yourself. If ambition and the hunger for applause have driven you to speak about love you should learn how to do it without disgracing yourself or the material.
What is the expression which the age demands? The age demands no expression whatever. We have seen photographs of bereaved Asian mothers. We are not interested in the agony of your fumbled organs. There is nothing you can show on your face that can match the horror of this time. Do not even try. You will only hold yourself up to the scorn of those who have felt things deeply. We have seen newsreels of humans in the extremities of pain and dislocation. Everyone knows you are eating well and are even being paid to stand up there. You are playing to people who have experienced a catastrophe. This should make you very quiet. Speak the words, convey the data, step aside. Everyone knows you are in pain. You cannot tell the audience everything you know about love in every line of love you speak. Step aside and they will know what you know because you know it already. You have nothing to teach them. You are not more beautiful than they are. You are not wiser. Do not shout at them. Do not force a dry entry. That is bad sex. If you show the lines of your genitals, then deliver what you promise. And remember that people do not really want an acrobat in bed. What is our need? To be close to the natural man, to be close to the natural woman. Do not pretend that you are a beloved singer with a vast loyal audience which has followed the ups and downs of your life to this very moment. The bombs, flame-throwers, and all the shit have destroyed more than just the trees and villages. They have also destroyed the stage. Did you think that your profession would escape the general destruction? There is no more stage. There are no more footlights. You are among the people. Then be modest. Speak the words, convey the data, step aside. Be by yourself. Be in your own room. Do not put yourself on.
This is an interior landscape. It is inside. It is private. Respect the privacy of the material. These pieces were written in silence. The courage of the play is to speak them. The discipline of the play is not to violate them. Let the audience feel your love of privacy even though there is no privacy. Be good whores. The poem is not a slogan. It cannot advertise you. It cannot promote your reputation for sensitivity. You are not a stud. You are not a killer lady. All this junk about the gangsters of love. You are students of discipline. Do not act out the words. The words die when you act them out, they wither, and we are left with nothing but your ambition.
Speak the words with the exact precision with which you would check out a laundry list. Do not become emotional about the lace blouse. Do not get a hard-on when you say panties. Do not get all shivery just because of the towel. The sheets should not provoke a dreamy expression about the eyes. There is no need to weep into the handkerchief. The socks are not there to remind you of strange and distant voyages. It is just your laundry. It is just your clothes. Don’t peep through them. Just wear them.
The poem is nothing but information. It is the Constitution of the inner country. If you declaim it and blow it up with noble intentions then you are no better than the politicians whom you despise. You are just someone waving a flag and making the cheapest kind of appeal to a kind of emotional patriotism. Think of the words as science, not as art. They are a report. You are speaking before a meeting of the Explorers’ Club of the National Geographic Society. These people know all the risks of mountain climbing. They honour you by taking this for granted. If you rub their faces in it that is an insult to their hospitality. Tell them about the height of the mountain, the equipment you used, be specific about the surfaces and the time it took to scale it. Do not work the audience for gasps ans sighs. If you are worthy of gasps and sighs it will not be from your appreciation of the event but from theirs. It will be in the statistics and not the trembling of the voice or the cutting of the air with your hands. It will be in the data and the quiet organization of your presence.
Avoid the flourish. Do not be afraid to be weak. Do not be ashamed to be tired. You look good when you’re tired. You look like you could go on forever. Now come into my arms. You are the image of my beauty.
“Pity the nation whose people are sheep,
and whose shepherds mislead them.
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars, whose sages are silenced,
and whose bigots haunt the airwaves.
Pity the nation that raises not its voice,
except to praise conquerors and acclaim the bully as hero
and aims to rule the world with force and by torture.
Pity the nation that knows no other language but its own
and no other culture but its own.
Pity the nation whose breath is money
and sleeps the sleep of the too well fed.
Pity the nation — oh, pity the people who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away.
My country, tears of thee, sweet land of liberty.”
― Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Do you remember
When you had your
First kiss? Your first time?
Do you remember voting?
Now bitching, moaning
About the man you put in
I’ve seen light come
I’ve seen wars for thousands
Of years through eyes
That remain young
Like the dead you sent
I’ve seen your idea of love
Begin & end since forever where
Everything ends and
Dies and hopes and
Despairs in vain
I’ve walked among you all
Friends, lovers and fools
You geniuses’ with
All your faults, inventions and
Civilizations that have
Never been civil at all
Where no one remembers
What matters where none of you
History no one remembers the
Guilt, sorrow or pain
Where no one person, human being or nation stays
Upon the path
Where no one believes in
Anyone anymore for
More than 15 minutes
So welcome again to the age
Of the lotus eaters
Don’t bother to remember
Why bother at all
Kilroy was here
~ R.M. Engelhardt
Poet and writer R.M. Engelhardt will be the featured reader 2017 Albany
Word Fest edition of the Albany Poets Presents reading series at Restaurant Navona (89 New Scotland Avenue, Albany) on Wednesday, April 19, 2017.
Albany Poets Presents puts a spin on the typical poetry event in the local literary community by highlighting one poet every two months with an interview and Q&A session following the reading
R.M. Engelhardt is a veteran poet & writer whose work over the years has appeared in many journals & magazines including Rusty Truck, Thunder Sandwich, The Boston Literary Review, The NY Times, Full of Crow, Dry Land Lit, The Outlaw Poetry Network, Telepoem & in many others. He is one of the original co-founders’ of Albany Poets and is currently the host of the Troy Poetry Mission, a monthly open mic for poets held in Troy, NY.
“Remember: vividness, lucidity, momentum. A poem should not resemble ‘poetry’ too closely. The first impulse on reading a true poem is almost awkward. Lines should not be anticipated nor should a line be diffuse unless it conceals a jolt. Some sort of unexampled tension, not necessarily to be resolved, is characteristic of good poems. And not merely a tension purely of language but in the objects and their emotional equivalents. if a single line is to serve as a fulcrum it must be doubly sharp, hard and lucid. The whole point about a short lyric is to make the moment durable.”
Jim Harrison, from “A Natural History of Some Poems,” Just Before Dark: