Expansive Poetry & Music Online Contemporary Reprint

Dr. Joseph S. Salemi

Dr. Joseph S. Salemi

"An Update for Dylan Thomas's Aunt," reprinted by special permission of Joseph S. Salemi, originally appeared in The Formalist in 1996.

Joseph S. Salemi is a poet who has appeared in more than 50 publications over the past twenty years. A classicist, with both Latin and Greek, he has become somewhat notorious for the mountain of prizes he's won over the last few years, notably in the Orbis and World Order of Formalist and Narrative Poets contests run by Dr. Alfred Dorn. They are all well-deserved, for he writes with a combination of superlative art and wit, as in the following, first published by The Formalist in the spring of 1996.

An Update for Dylan Thomas's Aunt

by Joseph S. Salemi

Copyright (c) 1996 by Joseph S. Salemi

		Fie on you, aunt!  I'll show you how

		To elevate your middle brow,

		And how to scale and see the sights

		From Modernist Parnassian heights.

			-- Dylan Thomas, "A Letter to

			    my Aunt Discussing the 

			    Correct Approach to Modern


	Your nephew Dylan once addressed

	To you some lines, where he expressed

	In playfully satiric bites

	His views on Modernism's blights:

	Bohemian-surrealist cant,

	Weak punctuation, rhymes aslant,

	Explicit sex, morbidity,

	A wayward lack of clarity.

	Since then, dear aunt, it's gotten worse

	For travellers in the land of verse;

	The older frauds may now be dated

	But posturing has not abated.

	Meterless emotions rage

	And sprawl across the martyred page;

	Lines are limping, slipshod, fraught

	With blunders of the badly taught;

	Diction shows a range and shade

	Suggestive of the second grade;

	No subject matter but one's life

	And how it's filled with pain and strife;

	Or else blasť contented purrs

	About one's "wholeness."  Thought defers

	To feelings of the heart and gut.

	And so we have a massive glut

	Of treacly, therapeutic slop

	And no one knows when it will stop.

	Today, although true poetry

	Has died, it walks vampirically.

	Hundreds of little journals spread

	Effusions of the living dead;

	Grants abound, and readings sprout --

	Dead within, alive without.

	Seminars and workshops hum,

	Trendy poseurs go and come.

	All this hype is dust and shadow:

	Poetry as Nosferatu.

	I'd love to hear your nephew's views

	About the pap this new age spews:

	I see him going into shock

	While listening to the current flock

	Of group-encounter escapees

	Who really think that poetry's

	A way to solve one's psychic troubles.

	Lord, he would have pricked their bubbles!

	I hear him shouting that true art

	Eats like acid to the heart,

	Leaves a poet a dry husk 

	Forgotten in approaching dusk.

	Poetry as "healing craft?"

	Dylan would have sobbed -- or laughed.


	Your nephew would have wanly smiled

	At twits who chase their "inner child."

	He would have dismissed with a stroke

	(Or treated as a puerile joke)

	Our "concrete poems" -- an apt phrase

	For rock-hard verbiage that slays

	Every attempt at grace or wit -- 

	Poetic lumps of mortared grit.

	He'd hold in a contempt sublime

	Those rankest pustules of our time:

	Poets politically correct

	Who publish nothing till they've checked

	That verses have the right addition

	Of socially approved contrition.

	Above all, the Portentous Hush

	That hangs about this verbal mush

	Would have frayed your nephew's temper.

	H shouted Vivat semper!

	To life and liquor, rowdy fun --

	Such humbug would have made him run.


	But unlike me, he'd be too civil

	To raise his voice against such drivel.

		Joseph S. Salemi, 1996

Expansive Poetry and Music Online is delighted to announce that co-editor Arthur Mortensen's Somers Rocks Press will be publishing Dr. Salemi's new chapbook in 1997. Look for it here.

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