August 1999 Café Society's Poetry News Update
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Klaus Gerken
Klaus Gerken was born in Cuxhaven, Germany, in 1949. Came to Canada age 9, 1958. First published work, Dynasty 1968. Since then over 100 titles, Poems, Plays and Novels. Many available at Editor and Founder of Ygdrasil, A Journal of the Poetic Arts (1993). Residence: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Poetry L & T:When did you first begin to write poetry, Klaus, and why?
Klaus Gerken: "Why" cannot be determined, and "when", I would like to say: I first learned to write poetry in my mother's womb. I strongly believe being a poet cannot be learned, it is instinctive. What can be learned, however, is the craft of shaping a better poem from its earliest conception. As to the physical reality of when I wrote my first poem, it would be back in 65 after listening to Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs for the first time. Before that I wrote a book on palaeontology with exquisite drawing of dinosaurs and fossils. The artist was always a strong component of my psyche. Fine arts is what I was educated in, and poetry always was a "sideline" to that activity. When the poetry took over is hard to say. I recall sitting in English class in high school and writing long epic poems rather than doing the assigned lessons. I recall in art class writing poems along with the drawings. I recall reading Browning, Rimbaud and Nietzsche and falling under the spell of being more than "just" a human being, but a "voyeur", a "seer", a "shaman", someone outside the norms of society, but still part of that social order, albeit on the fringe. I strongly believe the human race has a social order much like the ants or bees, and that our role in this social order is genetically motivated. Leaders, workers, artists: all of this is instinctive and necessary for a healthy society to evolve. We may begin as one or the other, but we eventually evolve into what we must become.
Poetry L & T:What gave you the idea to start that first issue of Ygdrasil, back in May 1993, Klaus?
Klaus Gerken:This is a long story. I will try and make it brief. In 1991 I became involved with several poetry conferences hosted by Inez Herrison through local and networked Bulletin Boards (This was pre-Internet). And becoming the host of one of these I immediately attracted poetry which was quality rather than the mediocre garbage that clogs up most Internet poetry newsgroups. Some of this poetry (needless to say) was anything but mild. One of these poets (who was to become Ygdrasil's first production editor) was Igal Koshevoy. His strong experimental language become too much for the "mangers" of this network and they decided in their most demented wisdom to ban both Ygal and myself. After that, I first received a phone call from Paul Lauda who offered to create the first Centipede Network, and I immediately started Ygdrasil to continue publishing the poets who had appeared on the now defunct poetry conference. To everyone's surprise the Centipede Network was carried by 25 countries and became very popular. Ygdrasil was disseminated through this network and a multitude of private BBS's. In 95 Ygal Koshevoy created the first Ygdrasil Internet page, and when he left in November 96 to further his academic persuits, I, and Pedro Sena created the new Internet pages.
Poetry L & T:How did you meet your fellow editors?
Klaus Gerken:Ygal, Pedro and Georges are the old guard from the BBS years. Martin Zurla contributed all of his prose writings; Rita Stilli and Moshe Benarroch, both supreme poets in their countries and languages, contributed to and furthered the distribution of Ygdrasil to other countries. Dr. Collings has used Ygdrasil in his literature classes at Pepperdine University.
Poetry L & T:I notice that the newsgroup you mention in the July Ygdrasil - alt.centipede, was created by you (and your co-editors) at the same time as Ygdrasil. Was it difficult starting up a new newsgroup?
Klaus Gerken:It took a lot of time, effort and money, since in those early days we had to phone long distance to establish the network. I think Pedro Sena took about a year to re-establish the forum as a newsgroup. He also currently maintains the alt.ygdrasil and newsgroups.
Poetry L & T:I enjoyed the featured poems by Dr. Michael R. Collings Phd. He goes beyond the music of words, which his poetry has, and the physical appearance of natural things, to explore the core of their structure, right down to the molecules, in a uniquely visionary way. Is he a scientist, in anything such as cosmology or geology?
Klaus Gerken:He teaches literature at Pepperdine University. His poetry collections have been featured in Ydgrasil for a number of years.
Poetry L & T:Who is your favourite well-known classic or modern poet?
Klaus Gerken:Modern poet: Vladimir Holan, the Czechoslovakian poet who spent the 60's under house arrest and wrote 'A Night With Hamlet', one of the finest, most introspective poems of the century. John Berryman also, has to be counted as one of my favourites. Obviously I have been touched by many poets: Browning especially; Rimbaud in my late teens; unfortunately Ezra Pound at some early stage (which I had to unlearn); but then also, classical writers like Martial, Hoace, Sappho. These writers come to mind first and foremost. There are obviously many others, and I could write a lengthy essay on what they represent and how they influenced me.
Poetry L & T:Are there any events in your life, or great poetic works, which have influenced your poetry?
Klaus Gerken:IEvery moment in my life has influenced my poetry. Obviously there are those events which impact more than others. I wrote "The Blacked-Out Mirror" when I met the woman who has been with me, off and on, over 20 years; "Ladies" when my father was dying of cancer; "The Affliction" when my mother died. None but the first reflect the situation at first reading, but the more I re-read them the more I understand my own mental vulnerability at those times. Of course there are also the love poems, the sequences of involvement where love, loneliness and loss collide. As to "great poetic works", I believe everything I read or experience has an effect on what I write. A poet must be fully saturated in life. One breathes life, one perspires poetry.
Poetry L & T:Which poetry collections would you recommend to young poets as essential reading?
Klaus Gerken: Now having spoken of Ezra Pound as an influence I had to extract myself from, I now must also recommend his and Marcella Span's excellent anthology "From Confucius to Cummings". The Bollington Series XII "The Limits of Art" edited by Huntinton Cairns is Bible. I would also recommend (although not an anthology) the complete poems of Martial (preferably in Latin)--although not great in the literary sense, it is a breathtaking example of poetic examination of a society.
Poetry L & T:Do you feel that there is anything in the news/magazine media or popular song culture that is a poor influence for young writers?
Klaus Gerken:Easy writing. Poetry, while still inspiration, is perfected by craft. Too many young would-be poets confuse easy writing with poetry. Poetry is not putting your thoughts or emotions to paper. It is condensing thought into clear precise sentences. Sentences that challenge the boundaries of language. One of the main problems is that free verse is confused with dribbling thought on parchment. It is all too often forgotten that to be a poet still means to have a foundation of classical literary forms. One builds on the past, one does not destroy it.
Poetry L & T:What qualities do you look for in the work of a potential new poetry writer for Ygdrasil?
Klaus Gerken:Originality. Honesty. Certainty. Originality because one does not want imitations, but a poet's true voice. Honesty, because a poem should tell the truth. Certainty, because a poet must believe in him or herself. Without these qualities one cannot be a poet. A dilettante perhaps, but not a poet.
Poetry L & T:What would be your definition of what an accomplished poet offers to the world?
Klaus Gerken:Conciseness of thought. If poets do one thing, they extend the meaning of language, and through that society's thinking and consciousness evolves beyond what is the present. What a poet offers is the future. Without poetry thought would stagnate. Nothing would evolve.
Poetry L & T:Finally, Klaus, do you have any advice for poets who have yet to be published?
Klaus Gerken:Take your time. What is important is not whether you get published, but the quality and sincerity of what you write. Too many poetry magazines publish only surface. Settle for nothing less than quality, whether in your own writing or in others.
Poetry L & T:Thank you for the interview, Klaus.


    © Klaus J. Gerken 1979

   Waiting's no fun...neither wanting
   something that perfects itself without you being there...
   anyway...right or wrong...even those eternal happy lovers
   must gather the toys of remembrance from under mouldy bedsheets
   once in awhile.  The music stifles imbecility...
   even the mood can never be all preconceived...
   the shape of her breasts or tuft of hair that matters most
   (but matters really not at all) through perfect grace...that is
   feeling that can rarely be held so much at bay...
   (even wild horses couldn't drag the troops away).
   Insanity never recalls to mention it.
   The hollow dreamboat of desire
   always needs a master at the helm....
   such is the only truth that gives us those emotions...
   and if anger or pain or hate or fear
   creep out of the casket
   those who hold it open are too struck
   by the beauty of this false eternity
   to ever contemplate their own security.

   The scream is always heard
   in fact, that is the only music that does not
   escape us. It is always that tone that we most remember
   from our innocence...

   Even the heaviness of Lear must recall absurdity.
   The old man like a recluse in a cave...
   perhaps the rain would drench the cape of our indifference
   lashed against the trembling of a much refused desire...
   so much is abuse
   that when we stand before that only miracle
   its reasoning escapes our sanity
   locks up the key behind the door of simple fright...
   and then the night...the aloneness of togetherness
   the passionate embrace
   which like a broken razor blade
   one's much too frightened to use right
   because the wound might be just deep enough
   that scars result from nothing there at all.
   But is it nothing? - Is it a refusal to acknowledge the refusal 
   a dream?
   Even madmen dream...but madmen
   also sleep at night.

   If you think you spend the night alone, you are very wrong.
   Each single moment of your past endeavours is always at odds
        with the present
   insurgence of a loneliness - something no one wants,
   yet pays to have. And why not?
   It's a table set for two, but still unstained.
   It's a candle burned much to the ground of your desire.
   It's a book with pages uncut, read by x-ray eyes.
   That is how one's loneliness uses one,
   not like freedom of a cause,
   but like the poison of an asp
   you've let be comforter.
   But really, it's a relationship you've understood,
   mindlessly, perhaps, but still so well,
   that nothing can deter your mourning for a jesters skull.
   Perhaps the meaning's always dear. Perhaps not more
        dear for the fences
   that it springs upon us unawares.
   The few words that no one understands are always those
   that need that understanding - and what of art?
   Why reason for a suffering? a curse that punches through
   without quite the willingness, quite the curiosity to explore
   And what of love? of, well, Ophelia and Helen? the mindless
   (never clear cut) that shadows each of us
   and all of them?

   Well, so much for suffering...And how about the image?
   What do we see, hear, smell, taste?
   What is the embitterment of the universal agon? God?
   I wouldn't have presumed...(poison's always better than bad

   Poet! the image is incertitude!
   How to accept the fact that a relationship
   needs the faltering as a farmer needs
   the fences to mould and crack and fall apart.
   Relationship, poet, that is mending!
   not much good if nothing bends.

   They say a tiger in a cage leads a longer life than those who
        have their
   freedom to's trying to escape that matters most
        not incarceration.
   And, poet, this relationship, it's like as if
   you are waiting ripe corn before you've even planted the seed.
   That's the surest way to trample on the root of man.
   That's the certain way virginity remains the virgin,
   that blood will challenge blood
   and afterlife will never be a simple reason
   to forget or to recall the milestone of refusal
   you think you've brought on to yourself.
   It's never that, but it always is
   throughout creation, do you think a chance was never missed?

   Even the unkindest cut of all is less an abrasion of reality,
        even falsified reality,
   in which we tightly sleep like needles in a pin cushion.

   Needless to say, the prisoner escapes, he always does.
   Society is never any better off for the loss of a few religious
   an idyll refrains from itself simply when the rites,
   those rites are never powerful enough
   to overcome even the simplest example
   of existentialism. It may not have been perfect in its conception

   Rays of freedom proliferate. The fog that gathers
   our eternity, as when with forceps the doctor
   forces the child refusing to be born
   (tied off at two ends - cut between)
   into the primal scream!
   If we were fed by this: passion of
   Ophelia - lilies on a stagnant pond,
   we might smell of want, but walls are still the same,
   shutting out what they proliferate,
   relegate to those fantastic nuisances
   that are never frozen by conception. It's a game
   that children often play amongst their elders.
   It's a universe of accepted definitions, ill defined yet
        very definite...
   Legally there is no voice. The voice one makes
   must be less than what acceptance writes with pointless awe...

   Even now, the critics sanctify the music on the radio.
   It's part of everything. If we hide away all our sacrifices,
   stealing glimpses of what might have been, we will run
   headstrong into a wall put there by ourselves.
   In our dreams we tear them down - perhaps,
   perhaps we still need them in reality,
   like the killing of an ant never matters much to us
   until we are ourselves an ant giving substance
        to obeisance.
   Like god laughs with thunder in his eyes and a dragon in her
   Of this insane laughter, can we ever find a cure?
   Perhaps...well, perhaps everything and nothing all at once, for
   all embraces silence
                       and the void.

   But we can never be sure.
   Must certainty always be such an obscure disease?
   Neither doctor, nor nurse can help with that.
   The poet dreams inviolate amusements...
   and if the bed of truth doesn't creak tonight it's because
        the floor has melted
   to a perfect joke to tell a friend.
   They say that a praying mantis eats it's mate.
   When we return to that can the shadows of love ever be obscene
   And Hamlet would tell those naughty tales that will make a virgin
        blush red rose...
   But neither, in due course, needs explanation.
   Hamlet wasn't mad, but he was a fool.
   Yorik was the wisest of the lot. Yorik with his skull
   that Holan doesn't dare to mention.
   Well...perhaps he does...after all, it's the thought that counts:
   the simplicity of each emotion.  Even Helen's skull
   was hardly identifiable after so many years in Hades
   (It wasn't even the most beautiful of the lot..
   but they forget to tell us that...they take pity on the myth

   Sadness forces us to re-direct our energy into an ecstatic
   no less for the mask we wear and take off at a masquerade -
   no less for the inflated raft to escape to a deserted place
   nearer to society than freedom is alone...
   And so Oedipus Rex violated this insane perfection...
   he couldn't have helped it - after all, the blind leading the
   get somewhere...
   It is only we, the sighted, who are blind...
   but that is nothing new...
   like sex with too sweet cream lost in the afternoon,
   one is always at one's own indiscretion.
   Subordinates always, (in fact, it's their right) snicker...
   but to take notice of the abyss when the dark conceals the fate
   of three white doves...
   that is another story, challenged by the history of
   volatile emotions. In fact, the too few who agree,
   do not so much agree, but vanquish with the whips of hate
   a forceful union based on principle - like the ceremony of a
   who reaches out, not for understanding, but to understand -
   No wonder the heart of the world weighs heavy on the soul of
   The castrated do not pull away, but they attack -
   even the rivers laugh at them:
   for what cannot drown must drown in air -
   and it is more or less a photograph that leads the thought
   back to those ideals that never where.

   They wanted to be martyrs but didn't want to go that far...
   It's like old underwear, after a while the body accepts its own
        filth -
   no one cares anymore - and the garbage heap becomes
   another Oxyrhynchus - another archaeologist’s dream -
   of course the have good noses - they're like bloodhounds on the
   a piece of ash in the greatest part of a debate -
   a debacle of modest pride priced above the sky -
   and isn't much of any passion just the same? for instance,
   to play at waiting we must masturbate without the
   satisfaction of a scented holocaust - we're not so far removed
   that we cannot see the empty mirror that reflects our sex -
   we recall each single moment in a perfect harmony,
   like bobcats on a picket fence - which brings us back to
   what was won through Helen's rape...
   I doubt that we could ever find the curtain drawn aside,
   and poor old Homer "Blind as a bat", but bats have finer
   sonar than the right of way beneath the stars -
   Bats are hardly blind, they just see a whole lot better...

   When a child cries and the ravagement of death is near
   the open door to empty corridors and sutured calling cards
   isn't then that the game must always be all out for everything
   and even nothing that has so much to give beyond the triple rose  
      is quite the hangman's game...
   Even Robspierre had little to say in the way of sympathy...
   Once the point is made the image of retreat looms near -
   very like the darts of melted time
   across Da Vinci's forehead:
   eagle eyes that penetrate a mole's darkness.
   Again Lear creeps in, sheepskin touching naked flesh -
   It is not much the rain that matters anyway,
   it's who you're with and what you do - Even solitude
   must need its comforted
   just to notice that the execution doesn't always come at dawn -
   Time's pre-eminence doesn't always follow human need.
   The foibles of the innocent are not at all concerned with this...
   their duty is to refusal - their duty is towards a blade of grass,
   an ear of corn, an unturned page, a dream come true.
   They are never prisoners, either of themselves or others -
   How could they be? - Such situations arise for those
   who accept the vision of their duty (which controls all nature)
   with the breath of purity -

   So, Casanova came out of the shadows and spoke very freely that   
      he even
   very much surprised himself:
   "Well, anyway, it filters the air - everything that is not a
   mask must be violated - is that it?
   damn you - if you think that I, I this I,
   this flesh, this feeling, can't also feel disgust and violence...
   well then, tear that mask apart - I'd rather there was violence,
   a show of emotion than falsehood -
   and even when you admire all your 'conquests'
   a sexual imbalance results which places you far below what any
   man should be -
   If you do not feel anything, what's the use of living then?
   If it's a cocoon you want, then jump into the bathtub filled with
      lard -

   Anyway, don't hurt others more emotional than you - a cocoon is
      for those
   who want to be alone - for those who hate themselves
   so much that they force a false reality upon themselves
   and thinks that that could be the only truth - Your falsehood
   is an abomination - shape up, man, or get out of it -"

   In this way Casanova went back to what he was.
   He made no excuses -
   I have never heard anyone talk like that, but it must be said.
   In truth, he was talking to himself, his own mirror image, his
   own shadow (call it conscience, if you will, it doesn't matter what),
   he was forcing himself to feel those emotions
   he could never comprehend before - Even love was never part
   of his vocabulary.
   He became a librarian just to read those pornographic novels
   he once thought he had as life.
   He had come to realize that everything he had
   faded away because of it.
   He always blamed it on others...he didn't see himself...
   the mirror always was deceptive.

   But it didn't last...and I don't think it ever was
   himself that spoke. Perhaps I spoke; perhaps even Silence...

   - - - - - - - - - -

   You see how it is? No one cares about the poison,
   until they themselves are forced to put the cup there for themselves
   to drink from... by that time they have lost those insights
   that they wanted so to fathom -.
   Needless to say, like a roasted pig, they didn't get
   to see their finest hour. Their ideals were far too
   obstinate. And even if they've escaped the butcher's block,
   what have they won? What gained?
   Do they know themselves any better? Well, perhaps...
   But still, it's the walls; especially at night,
   quite alone a night, that each must be
   confronted with - there's no star to guide them anymore,
   and a storm is brewing from the west...

   How does a man stake his claim on another human being?
   Does one ever stake a claim, or does one just manipulate?
   Was the rape of Helen justified, or was Paris mad?
   Love is such a curious emotion; it's like balancing on a
   tight rope with a noose around your neck -
   The slightest intervention, even by the wind...
   the wind that brings the words...that even shakes
      the universe.

   .   .   .   .   .

   To gain a foothold...
   to gain a moment of precise fidelity,
   and for two days now you have brought together
   thunder from above and water from below:
   there is conflict in your life.
   What frozen corpses are there yet to be buried?

   You have learned much, all too fast and all too cruel:
   perhaps it's time to assimilate whatever offerings
   you have brought upon yourself.

   Gain a foothold, poet...

   Even Hamlet had cause to retreat -
   cause to vanquish himself from the influence of her who
   forced his recognition.
   But life is filled with consequences that we set in motion
   and cannot control.
   Thought before action never is that easy:
   to come to grips with yourself is even worse -
   it's easy to crush a blade of grass because we do
   not analyze the situation - but that still
   does not excuse the act.

   Poet, to regain yourself, to have what you want,
   to be certain of your actions...
   "Aye, there's the rub!" Hamlet out from behind the curtains,
   like a bold and overzealous Claudius.
   What else could he say? He had a fine writer of speeches
   to put those words in his mouth...

   You are still alone. There is no sympathy
   from any quarter of the world
   that you have known from insignificance.

   - - - - - - -

   And the wine is not blood. And what we believe is
   not all that really is. And you should know by now
   that "fields of ruin" never vanish with the mystic night
   of would-have-been...

   Alas now, the poet speaks, "A wedding in black
   can never be a mask - like a poet's only salvation
   is the wine he has no need to drink - It is the emptiness
   of an emotion felt too much - It is the emotion of a
   loss that is not yet a loss at all -
   And it is not true that beginnings are the hardest -
   it's the following through - the coming to grips with the
   reality of the situation that poisons all our hopes and even our
       deepest dreams -
   Perforce to say, that there is nothing worse than doubt that will
   metamorphosize to fear before your awe-struck eyes...
   That consumes the whole of everything...What's left? What is
       really left
   without a voice to guide one? without a hunchback for protection?
   without a secret love and the spiciness of an intrigue?
   what is left when fear robs you blind? when madness twists your mind
   and contorts your face with the image of a false religion?
   And what do you notice, here before you, here before this
   audience of empty chairs
   and swinging coat hangers that lovers never have a need to
   and this I, this bleeding poet opening his veins upon the sand of
   shaking hands with lost illusions, with the music of a pride
       castrated long ago...
   and of course this violence, this nether realm of those emotions
   locked away behind a painted door upon the wall...even we can
       enter here
   leaving behind the black mirror of an ancient disposition we hang
       on to
   because we cannot see the other side...

   Yes, and what about that love? what about the way we manipulate
   through hate... yes, and even that is not uncertain in all of us.
       We hold
   just too many ill defined conceptions... and the greatest is the
   of that desperate silence... love, so ill expressed, that we lose
   a feeling of sincerity... Yes, and even I, I cannot be trusted in
       the game of love!
   Do you understand? I will covet my neighbour's wife if given half
       the chance,
   because I am still the minotaur...What pride if left? The pride
       of destroying another human being
   for the trust they showed? Is that what all of love should be
   So see them there, why do I bother? a wall would be a better
   And is anyone ever so naive as not to see the battered walls of
   resound with a furious ingratitude...?

   Perhaps I shouldn't speak at all... Lear may yet have told the
   by hiding in a cave... But it's the Space Age now and all we care
   is a hollow sexuality. About the truth... I see nothing in
   Nothing wrong that is... Why hide yourself away with dour
   when the air has very few poison darts...? And those there are
   we dodge them every day... Yes, and it is also hard to make up
       one's mind...
   very hard indeed, concerning those events that change one's life
   in a very direct and difficult way. One never 'plans' these
       episodes -
   but one does, one might be blind to them at the time of their
   but that stage is all too real...

   It was a dark day, a day of rain
   she spoke about the acquisition of student loans
   of course I wasn't all that interested in the topic
   I came only because she was alone
   I came only to see her
   She told me later that she was very frightened of me that day
   She got dressed up and wanted me to take her out
   We were just about to go when it began to rain again
   She was incredibly beautiful
   with her newly cut dark hair which she couldn't get to shape the
   she wanted
   to the nervous energy and
   how she told me that I looked exactly like her husband
   and that oh if I only did not look so much like him
   The restaurant was dark with red table cloths and music which was
       too loud
   I only drank a beer
   The conversation swayed from all to all
   To how we waste our energies and friends their mental
   I said that as a poet I must nurture all neuroses
   She laughed and repeated the phrase
   Turned it over with her tongue
   I waited for a single sign I had not found it
   until that moment where she said If only you did not
   so much look like him, if only...
   Through the rain going back to the apartment
   Will you invite me up again?
   I fell in love with her
   And yes, there are lies in love
   and yes, too, there is deception
   and the next time that I saw her
   not too many days from then
   he was there, and she was walking around in her nightgown
   showing off her charms
   and she sent him out to get some milk and told me how afraid she
   that night alone with me
   and how everything seemed suddenly all right
   and how I took that as a light to follow through the darkness
      of the path that I had cut
   through this the jungle of a poet's dreams
   and that how I was in love with her
   and that, yes, there are those lies in love
   and also deception

   and how we were all later on
   after there no longer were any secrets
   and he acted so childish to her and that I
   jumped on him with It's time now to grow up
   and how shocked he was
   and how he looked at me and then at her
   he left for a moment and she told me how much
   she was in agreement and had wanted to say those things
   to him herself
   and that he treated her so cruelly... not cruelly in a physical
   but cruelly in a mental aberration of insensitivity
   and how that day I wanted her
   and how I couldn't stand her there with him
   and how I left I had to leave
   I didn't want to leave
   but what was there to do I who loved her so
   I who followed every lie
   I who shook deception's hand

   And then how she phoned me
   and that I told her all the truth
   Is there anything she asked
   What do you think
   Yes there is
   I want to see you
   Yes you
   Only you
   Make time
   and how deception smiled black eyed in the wilderness
   And how I was there I who held life in such sanctity
   I giver of the word Seeker of the truth
   I was there to murder all for her
   To sacrifice everything for her embrace
   for the sent of her holding me so captivated
   there at the edge of the precipice

   So much dawned on me that night
   so much dawned
   and if we live again
   if we live again
   what chances do we take
   what choices do we hold
   and what throw freely to the wind
   what feelings sacrifice for those we sanctify
   and how I loved her well with lies
   how I promised to do everything for her
   how I was and am the blinded minotaur
   charging at his own image in the black mirror smeared with his
   own blood
   smeared by his own fear and jealousy and hate
   and what image does he see there behind his shoulder
   the image of deception
   and he tried to turn away
   turn his back away
   no matter what he turns toward his destiny...

   - - - - -

   Well, I see the audience is stunned - better to be stunned than
   have no
   reaction at all... that's what I always say. Nicht Wahr?..."


   The poet, hunched over leaves the stage in sorrow and to an
       almost silent applause
   from his conscience... he doesn't even hear that. It is still
   her he sees. One cannot remain in love forever; nor out of it...
       how much more does he have to
   deny himself to make that one effort that will not be
   fraught with fear? -

   So the poet came back. This time he wore the mask of Paggliacci.
   He wanted tears painted on so real that he couldn't wipe them off
   He wanted a lot of things that simply were denied him... he
   wanted to go
       after them,
   but somehow held himself back. His melancholy knocked him down
   and the
       difficulty of love
   propped him up again with hasty promises and new found hopes
   by genetic chains in stagnant cesspools - but the poet like an
       must always
   breathe the air of survival, even if he falters - he must taste
       consequences of every fruit,
   even that which comes from poison vines - otherwise how can he
       himself a poet?
   how indeed describe the world without ever having been a part of
   the poet always meets his fate head on - not always granted for
       the better,
   but he has a knack of knowing when he must retreat - not give up
       - for retreat
   is only part of harmony - as is waiting - Listen, here the poet

  "I don't like what's happening, these emotions I have never
       wanted to feel.
   I don't want them now - I would rather hide away again, but know
       it's too close -
   one's feet in mud and cannot run away - waiting is the perfect
   opportunity, now that further action would only complicate the
       matter -
   I will wait - what have I to lose? - no matter which way I turn
   I run headlong into fate..."
   . . . . . . .
   Nothing ever comes to an end
   it all melts back into the beginning
   just as a knife sharpened is dependant
   on the blunting of the blade
   to make a living
   we blunt a relationship
   to build it up again
   Whether we do it on purpose
   or it just happens
   that is hard to say
   Nature's laws are very wide
   and difficult and we are like
   her children attempting and integral calculus
   with grade one mathematics
   It just can't be done
   or perhaps it can
   but have just not found the way
   to go about it

   And the poet believed himself to be above it all
   he believed that he could beat the odds
   but the odds are what?
   he's like Icarus, waxen wings and all
   he's like the bull that sees the red cape but doesn't see the
       behind it
   he sees the object of his desire
   he doesn't see the wall surrounding her
   and he doesn't scale the wall or even attempt to come through the
       front door
   he attempts to ram it down

   Poet! nurture your discretion!
   there are very few who survive this way
   and even if they do one has only frightened the object of desire
   by a show of such blind violence...

   Wait, poet... Wait with feet in mud and the ocean lapping at your
      if you have to,
   but wait...
   no matter how difficult... It is the path that you have chosen
   and you'll get there
   but sometimes you can only go so far
   and have to wait for the obstacle to clear itself
   sometimes you have to wait for her to come to you
   and waiting that is difficult
   teaches you a lot more things
   than rushing blindly forth can ever do
   If icarus had taken his flight slowly
   his wings would not have melted and at least
   he would again have safely
   come back down to earth
   Have patience poet, with your heart aflame
   and your mind untamed... waiting after all
   might yet be the only truthful way to gain...




Dear Poets,

This issue features an interview with poet Klaus Gerken, who edits the online poetry journal Ygdrasil, along with fellow editors Ygal Koshevoy, Dr. Michael R. Collings, Pedro Sena, Rita Still and Moshe Bennaroch.

The themed poetry section, "Backtalk", features a poetry duet by Mop and Jerry Jenkins, a poem by Jan Sand and the welcome return of The Potato of Terror.

The theme for this month's poetry section is "Backtalk", suggested by gabriel1 (Keith Hendricks). "Backtalk" is a theme that has been interpreted in a broad variety of ways, by the contributors.

Other news: I have a new CD rom of poetry on release, called Pinky's Little Book of Shadows. It was great fun to make and contains video recitals, audio recitals and 41 pages of poems presented as musical web pages, with 3-D animated lettering by Australian artist Graham Ramsay, also some midi music files by me, and old music classics (credits on preface page). There are also animations, art scans, songs and two musical wavs made using the music program Rave Ejay, with kind permission of John Silvera at FastTrak. Anyone wishing to know more - email me for a reply with a link to the new Artist Profile Press Inc. website about it.

Any comments on this issue or back issues can be emailed to me and with permission, may be used on the letters page.

Best Regards,


I asked some poets to come up with poems on this theme, and the results brought some fun, light-hearted interpretations...

NOTE: This first example, with Mop and Jerry, is about a poetic term that was coined on the newsgroup alt.arts.poetry.comments - a "HASP". Here is the official definition of a HASP:
"The term HASP ("Heart-And-Soul-Poem"), as used in AAPC, has come to mean an overly sentimental poem, heavy on emotion but poorly thought out and filled with overused phrases. It exemplifies the assertion that "poetry comes straight from the heart/from the very soul"; the shibboleth of the 'poem-is-raw-emotional-blurt' approach to the poetic craft. Such poetry is frequently filled with extravagantly self-pitying phrases, like the peeping of a mopey chicken, or passages that can be found readily in a run-of-the-mill greeting card or a pulp-fiction romance novel, or sustained triviality of thought or banality of theme.
It's generally taken to mean a poem lacking in depth, artifice or skill."

has been writing poetry since 1993. He is a member of the Academy of American Poets and the Science Fiction Poetry Association, where his poetry has been nominated for the Association's Rhysling Award. His poetry has won numerous awards in individual and chapbook competitions, and has appeared in printed publications and anthologies such as The Formalist, The Lyric, Mobius, Echoes, Harp-Strings, Amelia, Cicada, The Piedmont Literary Review, Mail Call Journal, Poetry Monthly (U.K.), The Devil's Millhopper, The Fractal, Dark Planet, Pirate Writings, and Star*Line. His online publication credits include work in Octavo, Eclectica, Pyrowords, Avalon, Poetic Express, and Deep South.

His chapbooks include AVIAN, Helionaut, Hamadryad's Passage, Candle, Monks' Wine, Our Own Loving Kind, and Confluence (in collaboration with Rosa Clement).

He is a former Marine Corps officer with 26 years of service, including service in Vietnam. He recently retired from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, where he was Assistant Vice-President for Information Technology. He is a Sysop of the Poetry Forum on CompuServe, where he is the editor of the Compuserve Poetry Anthology.

I won't write a HASP for you

I will not write you a HASP, no matter what you do
Though every word I try to write has a go at you
I cannot tell you a lie, I want to try right now
But to be given that award, ain't no way no how.

I won't write of bleeding souls or tears in the rain
Nor crucify self esteem for someone, oh so vain
My knee won't bend nor try to be anything but straight
and if I have upset you, well hey, tough, that's fate.

You can call me if you want but I don't really care
I don't have the time to try and teach you how to share
If you want to try and be as silent as the stone
Well honey you are welcome but do it on your own.

Perhaps one day when you have learnt to act more than three
Then I can write a fitting verse about you and me
Until that day oh dearest one, I won't say a word
nor write another HASP for you no matter how absurd.

You bust my little heart in two
and now I lie in tears
and squall and sob. I'd even throw
a temper tantrum, dear.

I gave my naked soul to you.
It's lying on my pillow.
Bareass as a nestling crow
are all my peccadilloes.

I weep, I wail, I sulk and mope
but you don't care for me.
I blubber here without no hope
for all eternity.

I'll hold my breath till I turn blue.
O, you'll be sorry then.
I wrot this litl HASP for you.
But I won't writ none agin.

Once again you silly man you've made me feel real bad,
Why is it everything you say makes me feel this mad?
Maybe I should pity you for your defective genes
That simply cannot let men say what it is they mean.

You say you wept and wailed well, if that were only true
It's only from the pins I stuck in this doll of you
Don't get me wrong its nice to see a man that likes to beg
But men in love often act like dogs against a leg.

Now what you gave I rather nicely left on you attached
But should you try to write a HASP you will be outmatched
As a man a heart is something worn upon a sleeve
Unless of course your simple heart packs her bags to leave.

O you have mopped the floor with me
an hung me out to dry
a-flappin' like a faded sheet.
I ax the heavens why.

My soul goes flutterin' to your door
a-beggin to be let in.
You say you don't love me no more
but you was my heroine.

I loved you more than a double Mac
with a bag of chili fries
But you left me an you wont look back
but you're in for a supprise.

Cause I'm a-gonna study a spell
in a fancy poet school
an learn to write a vilanel.
I aint nobody's fule.

Your words have cut me to the quick
and stung me like an asp.
You left me lonely an heartsick
- but I still wont writ no HASP.

Yore fren

J, HASPman

Oh you sweet and darling child, there lies the simple truth
You think of buns but talk of love in your naive youth.
chilli fries will be the only hot things in your life
When next you dare to compare a burger with a wife

Now I've mopped the floor with you and hung you out to dry
Perhaps my child it's because your spelling makes me cry
Now I see your grinning though you claim it is through tears
Judging by your spelling you will be in school for years

When your graduation comes you'll show me me what you wrote
A musical tapestry with less discordant notes
Then I hope that you have learned what does and doesn't work
HASP's my friend would only serve to make you look a berk

You ditnt lik my poem
an you ditnt like my verse
an you ditnt like the funny way I spel
an you giglt when I tole you
that rejection hurt my soul. You
ditnt even look at my new vilanel.

Well the worm is now a turnin
an I'm done with my heart burnin
an the far of love is growin mighty col'..
As for them "discordant notes"
an them other things you wrote,
why you cut me to the marrow of my soul.

So I'm fixin now to leave you
though I know that it wont greeve you,
an I've lernt a lesson an I've lernt it well:
that the pen it aint so mighty
writin flighty Aphrodite
an the road to love takes detours into Hell.

When we meet, if we should meet,
down some everlasting street
in whatever future lives we must endure,
let's remember what we've spoken.
Poets' hearts are quickly broken,
and a HASP is just a hinge upon a door.

was born in Wales in 1971. She has been writing poetry since the young age of eight and has been published in various magazines and anthologies.

Recent Publications include 'Woman's Lot' in Poetry Now Wales.

Napalm Moon in Gravity: Issue 26, A Journal of Online writing.

Mother, Respectable and Repossession in Wired Hearts.

Morfydd was recently awarded 1st place with Mother in a Poet of the month competition (March 99) run by Claire's Corner.

Often to be found at alt.arts.poetry.comments all her postings can be found in Dejanews under the name Mop or Morfydd.

Morfydd's current day job is in the capacity of Marketing Director for the UK based Internet Portal Site run by 'Go-get Networks', a UK based internet company.

Although this takes up much of her time, Morfydd still finds time to devote a lot of effort to writing her poetry. Her website is called The Cauldron - click her name under her photo to go to the site and read her poems and regular interviews with AAPC poets.

"OWL" illustration
by Jan Sand

JAN SAND, poet and illustrator from New York, is a regular contributor to Poetry Life & Times. and the newsgroup alt.arts.poetry.comments. A great deal of his work is about animals, or science fiction.

To see more of Jan's poem and illustrations, visit the November '98 issue of Poetry Life & Times, and scroll down past the Editor's Letter.

© Jan Sand

When I walk the street,
The birds that I meet
Go tweet.
I frequently tweet back at them
Which, to a bird, may seem absurd.
For, in a word, it's rarely neat
To compete with birdy words.
I should, I suppose, merely smile
And twitch my nose, bow from the waist
And curl my toes to demonstrate
I merely wanted to relate.

When I walk the street
The cats I meet
They slip under cars to make it clear
When I am near
I generate a certain fear.
I may meow or emit a gentle purr
And, to the cat, it may occur
I am not an angry dog, but then
I think it must prefer
To beware of strange men
And not reply to my appeals.
With odd humanity,
It makes no deals.

When I walk the street
The dogs I meet
Stare back at me.
When I greet
Their doubtful looks
With a bark or pant or two,
Their owners are not sympathetic
To my canine shaped aesthetic.
They pull the leashes quick and rough
Which makes the dogs jump back and "wuff".

When I walk the street
The squirrels I meet
Sit upon their small behinds
And wonder with their tiny minds
And cock their heads and twitch their tails
And hold their paws before their chests
In attitudes of mute requests.
I offer them some bread, a nut,
Which they may find congenial, but,
No matter how I chirp or squeak
Not a word will they speak.
They say not what they think of me,
Merely chew silently.

So, confrontations on the street
With the creatures that I meet
Are rarely fruitful or two sided.
Not much gossip is confided.
But, you never know. It's worth
All attempts on this Earth
To converse with all the tribes
And maximize the social vibes.

[email protected]

The Potato of Terror (self-portrait)

THE POTATO OF TERROR is an oddity on alt.arts.poetry comments and the Internet. Its work has appeared in Avalon, Curiouser and Curiouser as a featured website, and back issues of Poetry Life & Times. Its website, in 1998, won the THREE-TOED ELVIS DUCK AWARD for weirdness, from Curiouser and Curiouser. There are no photographs of P.O.T., only potato animations on the website.
© The Potato of Terror, 30/7/99

I'm totally, conversley, diametrically opposed
to anyone asserting what is foolishly supposed
in completely, truly, utterly and indubitably
pointless contradiction of opinions held by me.

I shall walk in through the out door any time that I may please
or wear pinstripes with polka dots and skate pads on my knees
and people may point out this is intrinsically insane
but I shall simply disagree and do it all again.

To those who give a swift retort, I shall give three more
and tangle them with reasoning that straps them to the floor
and they may beg to differ, while still I disagree
for I am simply perfectly unanimous with me.

[email protected]

Hi Sara....

I brought your Poetry Discussion and fun poetry page up and enjoyed it very much . I loved the one about the U.S. regulations in the Fish Poem. That was GREAT.

Oregonian Carol USA

Back Issues of POETRY LIFE & TIMES:

September 1998

October 1998

November 1998

December 1998

January 1999

February 1999

March 1999

April 1999

May 1999

June 1999

July 1999

Mail me on: [email protected] with any poems, comments for the letters page, news about your poetry site, or forthcoming poetry events.

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