Greetings from Mt. Olympus Introduction

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Sep 022011
 
Oh, Little Wilfred dutifully read 
the Bible with his Mum and walked 
with verse effervescing in his head.

~~Owen in England, Daniel J. Weeks

Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltry. Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day.
~~Psalm 81

Introduction

Like a father pruning the limbs of his children, I have looked over my creations with a lenient eye. The worst verse has been relegated to the back of the book and is fit only for prurient scholars’ noses. If you wish, this last section of my collected works may simply be lopped off with a kitchen knife. But then, alas, you would lose the redoubtable “triple index,” which includes not only the Titles and First Lines of each of the poems, but the memorable cannon-shot of their final, triumphant line as well. This fixes a deficiency I feel in every big volume of verse my thumb has troubled to fiffle across.

I had long harbored a desire to collect the refuse of my muse, the afterburn of endless nights of wild inspiration, in a volume of collected poems. As the mirror disclosed a forehead growing more and more Shakespearean with the incrementing eons, the tagalong shadow of my desuetude became increasingly intolerable. Mortality would soon collect me and leave my litter of poems to a sadly disordered fate. I must act!

~~Gregg Glory 2010

Questioning Is Questing

Poetry is my Kingdom, Phylum, and Species

Western civilization is in a cul-de-sac. At the end of that cul-de-sac is a guillotine. Beside that guillotine stands the hulking executioner in his greasy black hood. Through that hood peer two red, maddened eyes. Below those eyes, as through a lazy tear, shows a long, slavering wolf-thin grin. Lightning stitches knots in the dead, leaden skies. Thunder interrupts the prayers for the dead. Doom. DOOM. DOOM.

Even so, my life is filled with primroses and wishes. I sit here—or lie, rather, languid as an American Oblamov rolled in his snoozy comforter— building my empire of words.

I’ve spent long, sad years loving people I never could come to know. Strangers whose alien minds lived other lives, pattering after petty pursuits I never really could come to understand. Now I fear that my own kindness and lack of company has led me, in an easy dream of desperation, to see Helen in every barmaid’s face.

Cold are the coals I have gathered, betrayed by a generous impulse that led me to love first and question second. Over evil rapids I have roved, slouching to the salt dissolution of the sea, who should have been climbing heavenward with Manfred—my eye upon some solitary cloud-wracked peak where every subtle shifting shape suggests a new, unborn greatness (or an old noble greatness renewed) to the seeker’s keen and lonely imagination. Instead, I have sunk my mind among warm elbows at a crowded table, seeking fellowship in banal company and dissipating what genius drifts to me in shrunken rounds of tavern talk. Few have been the companions time has tested true. I recall my Mom, downed in her home hospital bed and not the bed of her marriage, pointing at my nose with a red, imperious finger, demanding first and foremost (loved son or no) that I “tell it true.”

To that improbable pipsqueak queen, crippled yet proud as the devil in her flowered hospital gown—and to her regal charge–I keep my pledge.

I do not condemn others for my misjudgments, but, looking at the litter of years, I begin to perceive that there was something of method in my mismeasure. Questioning is questing. Leaving a question open encourages all comers to the query to have the experience of exploration; each hypothesis is happy to go unconfirmed, as long as the hypotenuse is mutually traveled by writer and reader in the coracle of a quatrain. There is something of Emerson in this energy of questioning, but none of his faith in God’s final ground, the rock of reality.

Lewis and Clark stood equally on the grass banks overlooking the Missouri. Who could say with assurance, seeing them leaning into the wind with their hands shading their eyes, which of the equal pair could see the coming settlements most clearly? Who invoked a vision, and who merely scratched a map? It is only now, with time, that I recognize that there is a necessity underpinning every river’s haphazarding. That, somehow, only a drunken Lewis who shot out his heart in dread despair could have whispered the new world aright into an impatient Jefferson’s ear.

May such dubious wisdom as my pain has gathered serve me well henceforward. May the narrowing of possibilities sharpen my focus, as when a saltine’s pinhole, brought close to the eye, removes the blur of distant things, clarifying every tiny difference and shutting out peripheral static.

In the poems that follow, however, it is the sharing of experience, the open stance of questioning without conclusion, that is most in evidence. And, in the extreme case of “Rehearsing Repetitions on the Rappahannock,” a meditative stance—at once open, aware, and inconclusive, is instantiated without the rhetorical crutch of a question mark.

My old compatriot in the arts, Lord Dermond, fondly dubbed me “the questioning poet,” and steadfastly refused to call me anything else. At the time, and still perhaps, since I myself am no settled question, I took delight in the name, seeing all things as things in flux, and enjoying the jouncing ride of the rapids, the variegation and contrast of the speeding banks. Dan Weeks, assembling a selected works of mine some years ago titled “The Death of Satan” also came to find merit in my querulous habit of mind.

It is only now, as this labor of years surrounds me on every desktop, that I am coming to feel that the best strength of my youth has been wasted elaborating a maze of quizzes instead of attempting to soar, however falteringly, into the omniscient sun. Was it a deficit of pride that had me prefer puzzles to plumage? Or some more insidious hidden desire to be touted and touched instead of respected and feared? Well, here I am again, ending each sentence with my shepherd’s crook (?) instead of the thunder god’s triumphant stab and pang! So much of our humanity is mist and mystery; so many of our hours slide by in incapable ignorance. But what makes our lives worth the sinning that created them is the moment the mirror comes clear, as if in a revelation, and every face confronts the tragedy of its character.

Miles to Go

This poem has no details 
If you won't carry water 
100 miles in your hands.

Break through the skim of ice 
In December, right behind that silent glass factory 
All one tall shadow on the Raritan.

Watch your hands shiver. 
Feel your wet cuffs the first 20 miles 
Until the sky is a shard in your palms,

And you fret about cutting your wrists 
Accidentally.

 

Why the Title?

Well, my original idea for the title was “Welcome to Mt. Olympus.” This warm, generous, applauding pat-on-the-back hand-up welcome to my potential audience reflects well my open nature: I’m a born patsy. My book of verse plays is called “A Million Shakespeares” in the same spirit. It has always been my conviction that there’s a spark of greatness in each of us—waiting only for a willing wind or closely blown kiss to fan that spark to flame. My friend and fellow-poet Dan Weeks had an instructor at Washington and Lee who was always gesturing to his class to “Join me up here on Mt. Olympus, people!” And I share that spirit of invitation and incitement. In a humorous mood, the title’s blandishment reminded me of postcards, bent and abandoned in their twirling black wire racks. And, as I frequented rock clubs in Asbury Park for several eons beyond my youth, postcards made me think of Bruce Springsteen’s famous debut album cover; a simple postcard with the words “Greetings from Asbury Park.” Inside each letter is a montage of vistas and perspectives, snipped snapshots. I certainly hope my words are so amply packed.

Finally, my mind wandered to Wallace Stevens’ (whose book I uncomprehendingly purchased with several weeks of paper-route pay as a 16- year old, and God know why) “Postcards from the Volcano”—a jewel of meditation on inter-generational sharing. Well, now you know something of how my knobbed and hobbled mind spins its dials and generates the green lightning of its associations, touching together black earth and blank sky. I hope it is just roadmap enough to encourage and ward your roads’ wandering more, well, let’s say more, rewardingly.

….. Here’s a million words. If only they were nickels, I’d be rich!

Catastrophes and Trophies

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Aug 312011
 

Preface to The Timid Leaper

Catastrophes and Trophies
Report from a Victor and Victim

This collection is actually the combination and slight rearrangement of four separate volumes of verse; almost all of these poems were written in the calendar year 200I. It’s not much to show for a year of human life–that rich mystery we are twisted into by such a resolute hand. The main emphasis of this collection (as I hope will be quite clear) is Nature. Nature and Naturalism are not quite the same thing, however, and I have always had my own disagreements with those who took too dogmatically Thoreau’s painful premise “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” The Timid Leaper sets the keynote of this mixed approach. I hope this collection achieves some grace while trying to attain such goals. It is the beauty of man’s reach exceeding his grasp. The Timid Leaper leaps, not from any discernible goal he might attain, but from some more subtle cause, some interpenetration of events that defies analysis and germinates poesy. The sub-title is “inner nature poems,” and that is to help show that the weather for humans is never merely a matter of what’s over our heads it’s what’s in our hearts as well.

A victim of depression during the composition of these verses, I noticed an inability or unwillingness to assign purpose within myself. I was lax and ready to suffer unmitigated disasters with little more than a shrug and a tear. This is really a rather hopeless state of affairs, as a number of the poems outline. I remained staunchly impressed, however, with Dame Nature’s capacity to excite the recognition of meaning within myself. As meaningless and adrift as I may have been, I could not help but notice that Nature still evoked in me the wry acknowledgement of a more masterful hand in the pictures I kept seeing both before me and within me. “No Wood to Sing Through” shows the adaptability of natural instincts and impulses. It was inspired by my observation of a catbird still thriving without its native habitat, and by my own reflection that I was seeing something meaningful even when my depression had revoked my self as any inherent source of meaning. Something was helping meaning to survive even in the brain of someone who refused the acknowledgement of meaning. Something in me wanted, at least, for meaning to survive or, more exactly, for the expression and acknowledgement of meaning to continue happening, despite my conscious wishes. This is a form of nature’s nurturing weather that is both harsh and humbling. Can’t I be meaningless if I want to? Don’t take that shred of self-definition away from me! But, opposite of Sartre perhaps, it seems that meaning remains contiguous with essence, even when that essence wishes to exile meaning. It is this co-created weather of inner and outer that is charted in this volume of verses.

Full of wily wit and a bastard’s bravado, The Sword Inside was the first burn and purge preparing a place for a new self to take up residence. I had to be rid of old hopes that I had harbored too long. Hopes are the white lilies of the soul, and when their time is past, they fester as fast. There were reconciliations to be made here as well, and rueful acknowledgement followed hard upon the heels of aptly rapid self-wit. Well-rooted weeds and lingering things were burned out, or hacked at with a saber. Some villainy of habit and temperament had to be acknowledged and integrated, a black sheep returned to the fold. Such traceries of whim explored and displayed in The Sword Inside were the iron rungs I used to clamber back from the void.

The section entitled “The Soft Assault” stands apart for its being the documentation of a very severe personal storm and so shows the purely human side of the weather. Nature purists and vegans of nature poetry may safely skip this section if they do not want their nature poetry too irredeemably mixed up with the human roots of that poetry in the poet. This section is the fever chart of one of love’s bitterest victims. The natural phenomenon of the “inner weather” gives these poems their place in this collection. My retreat into nature, and nature’s “soft pursuant touch” of my capacity to keep seeing meaning no matter what, are a direct result of the catastrophes alluded to within these poems.

Indeed, it was nature’s “soft, pursuant touch,” that I could not shake off, and that led me back to myself as more than a recording barometer of outside events. Nature creates great art, but she uses dirty fingers. Soon enough, I was actively pursuing designs and meanings of my own in the material that Nature had fauceted upon me. I was ready to assign parts to clouds and prompt the trees with dialog. When this hubris expressed itself too heavy-handedly, the poems themselves rebelled and those poems have been expelled from this collection as a complete botch. But, as I now think significant, I was saved. And more than saved, I had become a victor from being a victim. Out of my personal catastrophe, I have extracted this volume of verses, which will serve as well as anything for a trophy.

Gregg Glory
[Gregg G. Brown]

Venom and Agony

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Aug 212011
 

Innumerable inchoate feelings all seeking expression and definition contemporaneously are here encoded for the reader. But with myself, and with that art which I most highly value, understanding precedes expression if what is made is to be art at all. In these poems I was caught in a curiously Edenic mode. I was surrounded and imbued with a richness of griefs, and still had not one syllable to name them. I had all the full feeling a human art could cry to posses and none of the sensibility through which to express it. The chaos of my grief had borne its lapidary apple, but I had yet to eat of it and understand. Cynicism is the crassest shortcut between a full heart and an empty mind-empty but well-ordered. It is no coincidence that minimalism is the reigning contribution of the latter half of the 20th century to expression’s vocabulary. It is comprehension without being comprehensive; it comprehends through vital exclusion; it is a supreme form of denial and, as such, never makes a positive, uncynical stand, and can never be ‘proven’ wrong. Invulnerable and vapid, its objects glare in diminished insistence. Ashamedly, I must say that this twerpy type of cynicism makes its debut in lines of what follows here as well. Mostly in the toothless conclusions of the poems there is the oversimplification of a scab, and not the long-thumbed memory of a scar. Perhaps the elision of a decade will help to sort my inner chaos into outer order; perhaps selective forgetting and cowardly crowding-out of old memories with new heartaches will perform the aesthetic grunt-work that poetry demands and that my sensibility exhorts. But oh how my heart cannot wait the decade out! Ruptured, not enraptured, I ululate before my auditors-more full of sighs than songs.

Gregg G. Brown

Nov 2, 2004

 

Introduction to Sipping Beer in the Shadow of God

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Aug 172011
 

Poetry is like a Dear John letter or your baby’s first word–more is being said than you can understand all at once. Thus it was on my early Spring vacation to a furiously, fragrantly blossoming California, and especially during my visit to famed Yosemite–I was beautifully confused. In Yosemite the strange experience of grandeur is evoked, perhaps for the first time, and this new territory takes some time to be mapped and civilized into the acknowledged borders of our being.

In Yosemite, you can see God’s thumbprint on His creation, the signature of an artist who has otherwise removed himself from his work. But in Yosemite, His grandeur is too manifest, too manly, too vividly veridically vibrant, to remain unacknowledged. And while I was on vacation, sipping beer in the shadow of God, as it were, I began to have a feeling for the identity behind the whorls of that triumphant thumbprint.

I walked from whorl to whorl while Spring broke from the earth in blossom after blossom.

Epigraphs for Chaos and Stars

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Aug 122011
 

“The prettiest are always further!” she said at last, with a sigh at the obstinacy of the rushes in growing so far off, as, with flushed cheeks and dripping hair and hands, she scrambled back into her place, and began to arrange her new-found treasures.
–Through the Looking-Glass

“As to poetry, you know,” said Humpty Dumpty, stretching out one of his great hands, “I can repeat poetry as well as other folk, if it comes to that–” “Oh, it needn’t come to that!”
–Through the Looking-Glass

Pig’s Ears

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Aug 112011
 

The gift of speech

Sentiment is the key. If the reader can be thrown strongly enough in a certain direction, or into a certain mood, then that feeling can create a connective web or atmosphere that holds the whole poem together: the web transformed into a nexus of human-centered meanings.

As with Wordsworth or Coleridge’s conversation poems, the reader is hip-checked by direct statements of strong feeling in the direction of the mood in which the poem will actually function as a poem and not merely a collection of statements. It is a wrestler’s work and no mistake. It is not the aesthetician’s golden ladder of words, nor imagination’s grand view, nor the jeweler’s precise chiseling of a potential diamond. It is a gross and direct appeal to the self-pitying piggy heart of common humanity that gives such poetry the emotive energy to soar. It’s the last weeks of an intense political campaign where rhetoric and competition have roiled winner and loser in a single vat. It is five seconds to go on the fifty yard line. Desperation, excitement, and commitment are all called up from the slop bucket of survivor’s guilt of evolution which has hazarded us this far.

But how to achieve this peanut-cracking rhetorical gore and gong-show ga-ga excitement in the current age, when rhetoric, speechifying, and fine sentiments have been frowned from the field of human communication? Only in television ads, charity appeals, and the Sunday sub-culture of evangelical shtick are such techniques still commonly employed.

Unless I was going to print my poetry on the side of a collection tin underneath the photo of an abused puppy, I was S.O.L. I thought to myself, How would Gomer Pyle propose to his lady-love and manage to be heard as more chivalrous than cartoonish? A proposal of marriage is a domestic moment of high drama in our reproductive lives, with a long shadow of consequences that hang from the act, casting back from the future a certain darkness or atmosphere upon the proposal’s moment. So, in imagination, I put myself into Gomer’s size twelve army boots and bent down on one knee. And shazzam! I saw Polly Pureheart a-blinkin’ down at me–so unbearably lovely in the moonlight near the babbling cr’k. And as much as I wanted to marry that Pureheart, and cherish and care for her, and hold her in my clumsy arms under the sighing weeping willow tree . . . . I, I, well, I just couldn’t say anything at all. I had been struck dumb by the immensity of the moment, and the intensity of my own feelings. The fear of rejection and the vulnerability of showing my truest soul were there as well, like a lump of flour in my throat. Yet, for all that, my intentions were clear to her, and Polly in her pity looked down with love in her eyes, and a simple, life-altering “Yes” on her lips. I was blessed.

What I took from this hillbilly vision was that clear intention–or direct statement of strong feeling– followed by silence, or a break from the intensity of that intention or feeling, can moisten the wry eye of the reticent reader, and cattle-prod a passive Polly into action. I wondered, with my personal penchant for potent possibilities and alternative scenarios, if a rhetorical question, sincere in the motivating gears of its feelings, could work as well as a bald blurt of hurt or happiness to create this space of silence in a poem– and which would then invite the reader to lean in and leer– not as a vampire umpire calling strikes– but as one of the dusty boys in pin-stripes ready to get dirty and knock some mud off of his cleats. I’ve tried this approach in the following poems too. (How’d I do?)

A question, such as

	How can we talk about love when everything's wrong?

creates a silence of need and self-doubt projecting from the speaker. If the reader has ever felt a similar doubt or moment of confused longing, then, I figured, a space of receptive silence and co-creation will occur. The poem just may succeed its way into meaning.

A direct statement of strong feeling, like

	It's going to take a very great person
	To just stand there and love me.

creates a similar silent space. The adjoining observations about a menacing sky, an aggressive squirrel, and some quietly patient horses all give that sentiment its fertile dung in which to blossom. Exacerbating or contradicting–both–can call that statement into greater relief. The squirrel and horses have nothing directly to do with the feeling the speaker is bludgeoned by– and yet, in the explosive silence of embarrassed eavesdropping the criminal reader has been plunged into– these props take onto themselves all the concomitant feelings that the words of the poem refuse to provide. They are the willow tree and moonlight to Gomer’s gulping proposal, his brown eyes swimming with unsayable sentiments that must still–somehow–be understood if he, and, downstream, the species is to survive.

Will you take my hand?


GREGG GLORY
Feb. 14th, 2009
Jun 282011
 
Gregg Glory (Gregg G. Brown)

Gregg Glory (Gregg G. Brown)

Gregg Glory [ Gregg G. Brown ] has devoted his life to poetry since happening across a haiku by Moritake, to wit:


      Leaves
      float back up to the branch--
      Ah!  butterflies.

He runs the micro-publishing house BLAST PRESS, which has published over two dozen authors in the past 25 years. Named in honor of the wild Vorticist venture by Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis, BLAST PRESS is forward-looking and very opinionated.

He still composes poems on his departed father’s clipboard, which he’s had since High School.

Published in: BlueLINE, Exquisite Corpse, Blunderbuss, Monmouth Review, Asbury Park Press (60K circulation).

Co-Host of the long-running River Read reading series in Red Bank, which features NJ and national poets.

Associate Editor of the literary magazine This Broken Shore.

Founder and CEO of BLAST PRESS, a literary mirco-publisher that has published over a hundred poetry and literary titles over the last quarter century.

Two-time Asbury Park Poet Laureate awarded by the Asbury Music Awards.

BLAST PRESS is always looking for chapbook-length single-author poetry book submissions (30-70 pages).

My Amazon Author page: http://amazon.com/author/gregglory/

BLAST PRESS
324B Matawan Avenue
Cliffwood, NJ 07721
(732) 970-8409
gregglory@aol.com