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.
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 Poetry." 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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