Poems by Michael
Poems about Love, Passion & Erotic Excess from
Benedikt's 1st poetry book (Wesleyan U. Press, l968). 2001 selections & revisions.
Poems At This Page
(1) Divine Love (2) The Grand Guignols of Love (3) Joy
(4) Sextette: The Great Divan (5) Before Going On (6) Events by Moonlight
& (7) A Memory: The Young Lovers
This page is part of a website with selected
poems from THE BODY and SKY, the first two poetry books by
Michael Benedikt. Besides dark love poems, THE BODY contains many other dark poems/poems of 'Black Humor'
in a Surrealist vein--and many other types of poems, too.
Other Themes/Types of Poems in THE BODY
Links to other pages at this site are given towards end of this page, at
Links to Other Pages Within This BODY-SKY Website
for Robert Bly
A lip which had once been stolid, now moving
Gradually around the side of its head
The eye dangling from a single twisted thread tied to the end of somebody's
rapidly circling finger and spinning
Around the sun, its ear,
And the brain aloft above the lake of the face--
Well above the cataract of the body--
Like a cumulus cloud enlarged before a rainstorm:
That grows gradually in the East
Driving everything apocalyptically before it: moonbeams and cattle and rainbows and
To the slanting table of the body at which five men and two women are
casually sitting down to eat
THE GRAND GUIGNOLS OF LOVE
With thanks to Louis Simpson and Milton Gilman for their suggestions on the verse
"The generosity of her love provides me
With practically all edibles.
It is like coming constantly to table.
If only we were not in our underwear, or bare," my sensualist friend proclaimed
"It would be ideal dining."
He thought he might tie his lady up, to a chair, to amuse them one day;
Once affixed, he would tickle mercilessly.
She arrived panting, and was soon
Attendant in her underthings
His hideous plan, upon a chair. Then he thought: No rope there!
"Must the executioner's victim
Supply her own weapons of destruction?" she inquired.
"It would have been thoughtful,"
He replied, as yet undaunted.
"Wait," he said. "I have thought
A marvelous entertainment:
You will dress up for a fantasy-role
And I will beat you with these chains withal
While you dangle from this ceiling by one foot."
She, imagining the benefit
Straightway consulted her tinted wardrobe.
The array of costumes was endless
Once they started upon them.
He never knew what she would be
And she, for her part, never knew.
Courtesan, faun and fireman they ranged
And down through mythologies and classes
They plunged, then surfaced and lay gasping.
Sitting late at table that night
Solemnly, yet not without an undertone
Of genuine joy, they concurred
That they were lucky to have encountered.
In a word fraught with indifference and danger
Here each had come upon the rare, "Oral" Type.
Like the captains of two explorer-ships
Perpetually ready to depart, yet without a wish to ever reach port
Nightly, hand in hand, they would sail away
With a sharpened sense of savoir faire.
And sometimes their thoughts would travel together
To lands of such gentle events
That their eyes would meet
And they would look at one another.
How can I get through that sweetly insipid innocence?
Jump through, and land in a damp swamp?
No, I'd rather go bicycling
Around it, and enjoy its nearly impenetrable sogginess
Starred with flowers so magnificently sickly
Only the most rotted self-deception regarding the value of their own virtue,
could impel them.
Another thing I like doing a lot
Is helping you across busy boulevards
With a specially enlargeable hand
Implying friendly aid at first,
Secondly a growing degree of passion;
--Then I inflate it and make it throb! I also enjoy
Watching you tremble in otherwise empty, echoing underground tunnels
How you cry out in horror when days turn even slightly cloudy
Your wonderful trembling, too, when we sit side-by-side and the clock strikes
And kayaking in mid-Atlantic, alone.
THE GREAT DIVAN: SEXTETTE
"Nous nous sommes souvent ennuyés, comme ici"--Baudelaire
And one of them, a sweet young thing, looked up
And said, though her words
Were almost lost in the general thrashing of that moment
"It's getting late, and so I must return soon to my parents' house
Which represents stability to me,"
Then plunged back, faltering only slightly, into the writhing, moonlit mass
While another, whose lorgnette
Had been thoughtlessly shattered by the Teamster from East Nanuet
Genuflected beside the great divan
But abased herself by abandoning the sextette
As the divan's owner--a legendary hostess, and an old friend of mine--
Reported to me peevishly the next afternoon, over tea and crumpets.
"Still, it was curious the way they chuckled"
She concluded, brushing crumbs from her cuffs
"When they found themselves alone there then
--Just the six of them."
BEFORE GOING ON
An entire curvature, for a change!
So many others are broken up into arcs
By the cunning construction
And also the panting
Of this face-down, prone body
Which is a world unto itself and therefore surely worthy, when pausing from passionate activity
Of our closer examination, lingering attention, and leisurely ocular study
The particular curvature along which our eyes adventure
Begins with a slight indentation
At the nape of her neck,
Goes roaming down behind her collarbone
Arching down between shoulderblades and rear of ribcage,
Sloping down further to hollow of her waistline--offering to travelers aboard this highly educational visual roller-coaster
A chance to pause amidst observations, and take a little breather.
Then whoops!--there it goes again, that same spine
Arching outwards and upwards this time, only to form a deep dividing-line
On either side of which lie twin globes, each of which when properly seen,
presents yet another fascinating world unto itself,
For study, observation and perhaps--who knows?--eventual exploration
As does the shadowy division lying between...
So, let our eyes rest for a while, even if only temporarily,
on that little stable plateau in the hollow
At the back of this lady's waist
Before going on....
EVENTS BY MOONLIGHT
Some intense event dictated a poem;
Poem and event had come closer together than ever before.
It was as if, in passing,
The event had pressed its own image against the page
And its shape had left a mark
The hand lay useless atop the desk. It smoked.
The pencil fell under the desk unsharpened and
And the moon rising over the intensely intimate little room
where the exceptionally wild party had just been held
Pressed itself very hard against the windowpane
Behind which the groups of lovers had recently been assembled
An entire landscape of possible future events of
was illuminated back there, stretching even to the very rear of that room
--A sparsely-furnished chamber with only deeply cushioned couches there,
and various mats and throw-rugs, plus pillows thrown all over the floor
But nothing could be without the moon's being
The dust of events was never shed on the paper
except under the moonlight
THE YOUNG LOVERS
The embarrassed moon turned away
It was like a door swinging
Which slammed at morning
Our ears hurt
Watching from our twin beds in the attic
But nobody ever learned
of our interest in the heavens
Shyly, our fingertips touched
As the glaring lighthouse beam
Swept across the room
And landed on our dominoes...
Illustrations at this page by graphic artist June Hildebrand. Used with Permission.
Earlier versions of "Divine Love," "The Grand Guignols of Love," "Joy,"
"The Great Divan: Sextette," "Before Going On" & "Events by Moonlight"
first appeared in THE BODY (Wesleyan University Press, l968), © l968
by Michael Benedikt. These revised versions, © 2001 by Michael Benedikt.
"The Young Lovers" first appeared in 7 POEMS (l965), a limited-edition portfolio
of prints by artist June Hildebrand,
with poetry by Benedikt. Graphics © l965 by June Hildebrand. Revision of poem © 2001 by Michael Benedikt.
Note:"The Young Lovers" was written several years before most of the poems eventually included in THE BODY.
And, a couple of years after the publication of a privately printed chapbook of short poems called CHANGES (l961).
OTHER DARK LOVE POEMS FROM THE BODY
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(Complete bio. in Who's Who in America; World; Art; Entertainment)
Selections, etc., from many of Benedikt's books now appear at various Websites
Michael Benedikt has published five collections of poetry: The Badminton at Great Barrington; or, Gustave Mahler & The Chattanooga Choo-Choo (University of Pittsburgh Press, l980), a book of tragi-comical love poems; and with Wesleyan University Press Night Cries (prose poems, l976); Mole Notes (prose poems, l971); Sky (l970); and The Body (l968). Anthologies of poetry under his editorship are: The Prose Poem: An International Anthology (Dell/Laurel, l976); and The Poetry of Surrealism (Little Brown, l974). Benedikt has also co-edited/co-translated 3 anthologies of European drama with theatre critic George E. Wellwarth, all 3 published by E.P. Dutton & Co: Modern French Theatre: The Avant-Garde, Dada, & Surrealism (l964, Faber Ltd. in UK); Post-War German Theatre (l966; Macmillan Ltd. in UK); & Modern Spanish Theatre (l969). He's also the editor of Theatre Experiment: American Plays (Doubleday, l967). Benedikt is a former Associate Editor of Art News and Art International. A former Poetry Editor of The Paris Review, his editorial selections are represented in The Paris Review Anthology (Norton, l990). He's currently Contributing Editor for American Poetry Review and The Prose Poem: An International Journal. His recent, l990's poetry appeared in such literary magazines as Agni, Iowa Review, Jerusalem Review, Lips, Michigan Quarterly Review, The New Republic, New York Quarterly, Partisan Review & The Paris Review. His work is represented in 65+ anthologies of US poetry. Grants and awards have included an NEA Fellowship, a NY State Council On The Arts Grant, and a Guggenheim Grant. Benedikt has taught Literature and Creative Writing as Visiting Professor at Bennington, Sarah Lawrence, Hampshire, and Vassar College/s, and at Boston University. He's given many poetry readings at colleges and bookstores around the USA--in l986, at invitation of US Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks, at Library of Congress. He lives in Manhattan, NYC.
E-mail at email@example.com.
Info re Background of Benedikt Websites via article at
'The Compleat Michael Benedikt--Poet Laureate of The Net'
Other Topics/Types of poems in THE BODY
Categories starred [*] are followed by notes & commentary at
Thematic Index to The Body/Sky
The Four Elements, Childhood and Youth and Growing Up, Gardens and Their Symbolic Meanings,
Time, Space, Spirituality,
Love, Philosophy[*], Business and Finance, Social Concerns,
Language and Esthetics, Film and Theatre[*], References to l960's Art & Artists & Rock Music[*],
& Poems that go to Classifiable Extremes:
(1) Poems in Unusual Forms[*]; (2) Highly Surrealistic Poems[*]
(3) Poems With Multiple Dictional Shifts[*]
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LINKS TO OTHER PAGES WITHIN THIS BODY-SKY
Page 1--Home Page: Benedikt photo & Bio
Includes recent photo & a more complete bio. than appears at this page
Page 2--Selections from THE
Selected poems from the opening sections of this unusual, sometimes Surealistic first book
by a much-published contemporary US Poet. Early poems in a range of tones--some cheery, lots dark.
Page 3-- 'Dark Love Poems' from THE BODY
This Page. Hedonists, sensualists, & romantic extremists. Warnings re What A Little Moonlight Can Do.
Page 4--'Spooky Poems for Halloween'
From THE BODY and SKY & on the very eerie side.
Award-Winning Page which may haunt you
even between Halloweens
Page 5--Thematic Index to THE BODY and SKY
Subject-Index categorizing all the poems in both books by
title & according to topic. With notes so far on the philosophy behind
both books, innovative techniques used in them, & on their connections
to multi-media works by visual artists. Includes 1960's photos from
(Above page is mainly intended as a scholarly resource on modern poetry but also has general info which may offer insight on how these two unusual first books of poems came to be written)
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SOME OTHER BENEDIKT WEBSITES
SELECTIONS FROM OTHER BENEDIKT BOOKS
Brief Prose Poems & Interview With Benedikt
From Benedikt's fourth book of poetry, NIGHT
The Badminton at Great Barrington
From Benedikt's fifth & most recent book of poetry, re a not-so-comical Valentine
The Thesaurus & Other New Verse
A recent poem about a dark side of 19th-century USA Pioneer Life
Click for Next Page of This Site-- 'Spooky Poems For Halloween'
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