Selected Poems from
SKY by Michael Benedikt
(Wesleyan University Press, l970)
Poems appear in 21st Century updates
[ Last Modified 3/3/05 ]
Here so far: Passing Through Troy --poetry about urban environments & their influence on individuals living in them. With Note on poem.
Money--poetry about battle of cash & happiness(exceept) . Domestic advice in Naming The Baby. & some modern Psalms (I & IV).
Poetry about plants--a magic garden in
Tuberoses. More haunted
Whisper To Roses
Eerie blast from the British political past in Clement Attlee. A spring cold brings Spring fever & also visions of Spring revels in Prayers
New: Opening section of a paen of praise to Jane Fonda, starting in the daring later l960's cult classic Barbarella.
Forthcoming: Other Sky poems. This page will contain selections from all four sections of SKY.
This page also has a brief Benedikt bio & Links To The 5 Other Pages Of This Site. Body-Sky Searchbox info here
A Note on Sky: Allthough
The Body (1968) is an 'earthly' book but with a certain Surreal
which perhaps enables it to shake off the term 'earthy,' many Body poems tend to tug at earthly moorings.
The poems of Sky (1970) almost all tend to soar in some way--whether or not they refer to anything aerial.
Sky smiles too--but it's a collection of verse with a Platonistic basis & poetry with modern Romantic, Visionary intentions.
Alternate book jacket design by artist Charles Frazier. Sky book jacket as published, appears at Thematic Index page of site.
Some other Sky-poems in revised versions
recently posted or which we plan to post at this page in '05
New Clement Attlee, Springtime Prayers, Jane Fonda in Barbarella Forthcoming Definitive Things, On The Lawn, Modest Undressings
Top of Page
PASSING THROUGH TROY
Get the sensitive children of America out of Troy, New York! Awnings hang
slackly before doorways in that city,
And sooner than usual every young Sweetie feels the skin wrinkle
and soft eyes grow smudged as glass on the Town Hall clock.
As for the young Gentlemen of Troy
It seems that all they do is sit on curbstones and spit on Greyhound busses, like the one Im riding on,
back to New York City.
O cities of the universe
You are not improving anybody much
Except maybe, in some few of you, in the sections that are ritziest
And what child can afford to live in them after 20; or return to them, unless really rolling in it,
after perhaps age 40.
Fifth Avenue I love you--but when will I live on you again? Seven more years must be waited.
By the time I can cross 67th street once more, and once again enter Central Park Zoo conveniently
No doubt my favorite raccoon will be dead.
In the playgrounds of Troy, New York
They have no monkey bars, but things like Lincoln Logs in cast iron
When they grow a garden in Troy, New York, it isn't cultivated, it's invented.
Each leaf is a tiny can or a small nail file
The City Fathers probably think that the arrangement of gas tanks, barbed-wire topped fences,
and offensive oil-drums that surround the town, and constitute the suburb through which we are now passing
Is some kind of an arboretum.
That's just about enough about you now, Troy, New York
But sensitive children of the universe (and of Troy, New York)
I make this suggestion: that the ugliness of Troy, New York, may be transcended
But move out to schools & academic communities located in the countryside on the East Coast for example
and become architects in more beautiful surroundings
And then come back, and for all people
Build more ritzy districts
So that the mind of man may hum with unearthly earthly beauty,
which after all is only the beauty of materials
May you begin with the specific:
The creation & maintenance of cities we can stand to stay in--
All the way from Troy New York to places in Georgia, like Athens.
Top Top of 'Passing Through Troy'
Author's Note '04 On 'Passing Through Troy': We're of course influenced by the environments in which we live. Younger people--who are perhaps more impressionable & sensitive in some ways than older people--perhaps especially. So 'Passing through Troy' --a poem about an unfortunate urban environment with sidelong looks in verse at architecture & city planning--focuses on young people trapped in a sorry place at a certain point in time (1968), due to relative lack of mobility. We've little doubt that Troy NY, since last we passed through it way back then--riding on a Greyhound bus from NYC to Bennington college in Vermont & our first teaching job--has become a charm spot. And still more certainly, our vision was probably limited back then by what was visible on the roads taken by the bus. In any event, above are the impressions of a modern wandering troubadour, a poet & scholar, drafted as he passed through a decidedly unhandsome urban landscape--with sympathy for those exposed to it & wishing like heck that some other US cities seen both before & since then, were also a whole lot prettier. Many poems in Sky have similar themes--a certain Beauty being what we were looking for, then as now. Top
Funny money. It giggles as it goes. Whenever we're about to spend
some, just as we reach into our pockets, it goes Ho Ho!
Inklings may come to us that it's attempting to soothe us at the
expense of the truth, for after all, even to money that giggles there is an end
But we go along with its masquerade, since we want to do what makes it happiest.
Yes!--we want bills of both large and small denominations to fluttcr
with laughter in our hands
We want dimples on the faces of all currencies, coins to be smiling as they are shipped into slots
Every vending machine to be regarded as a cornucopia of jokes and mirth,
mankind receiving a smile with every gumball, candy bar,
soft drink, pocket comb, foot vibration, cigarette. etc.
We want merriment residing in change-purses and pockets,
Piggy banks squealing to be broken.
When we walk into a bank we want to hear tittering from the tellers cages
Muffled chuckles from safe deposit vaults
High hilarity from all the halls
And the whole littered with packets of newly minted bills and rolls of
pennies and silver, all throwing themselves around on the floor, guffawing...
[ To Be Cont'd ]
Top Top of 'Money'
NAMING THE BABY
Everything is used up, everything is used up, everything is consumed by
Thirsty and hungry History, there is no such thing any more as the
oasis of the baby
And it seems we are prevented from starting anything anew or afresh.
Why else dear friends is it so difficult to name this baby today,
to identify this human leaf of Eden, which we pray one day may arise,
to join the tree of men
--Why else are all children born wrinkled?
Byron will write many poems, then sink in the sea
Harrison is overly fond of tweed
Vladimir and Otto will compose electronic music
Jean-Luc will make movies
Oswald will shoot the president
Nikitas head is a knob
Rudolph has a red nose, or a concentration camp
Adolf will have an inscrutable fondness for Bavaria
Arthur enjoys round tables
Cedric will smother his uncle
Harvey thinks hes a rabbit
Felix will have a little high-pitched voice and show a marked
preference for milk
Albert will promulgate the theory of relativity
While Phineas will purchase the circus
Estes will appear on television, heading a committee to investigate crime
Cliff will hurt his head by falling off some rocks
While Geronimo will also always be jumping off of or out of things with a cry
Phil will develop an excessive fondness for fried finches
Pablo will spend all day up in his room, thinking and painting
Rembrandt will always be borrowing money
You'll never catch Babe at home since he'll always be out in the lots
with a bat and a ball
Clark will fall in love with somebody named 'Lois'
Percy Bysshe will always strike some people as extreme
W.B. will write great verses, which suffer initially from soft surfaces
W.H. will write great verses, which suffer initially from hard surfaces
T.S. will write great verse but stop writing them too soon
Mick will wear tight trousers and walk around whispering
Donovan will dunk doughnuts and get drunk
Franklin will have a four term Presidency, and then a cerebral hermorrhage
While Peter, Paul, and Mary will walk around all day
eating immaculately conceived candy bars
Errol will always err
While Michael will accomplish much with regard to expanding our
ideas of poetic form & structure, & with regard to broadening our ideas
about the different kinds of diction which can be used in verse, ranging from high to low,
despite criticism from the poetically old-fashioned,
backward-looking, dumb & entrenched
No no don't ask me about possible names for this baby
All I can suggest is that we call him Time--for one thing is certain,
surely time must be born again.
Top Top of 'Naming The Baby'
PSALMS I & IV FROM FOUR PSALMS
Nothing can be fitted into the past, once its over. Once its
over, it's over & done with. No future act can be
committed there, or somehow inserted there afterwards
much less for openers.
& Not only that, but to re-create itself, the future has to wait around until more of the present arrives.
Similarly, although actions which take place in the future can repeat those which take place in the past,
they can't take place there
But rather must remain prospective, rather than retrospective.
While the past & future are busy neatly situating themselves in their time-frames & in the scheme of time
What's the present supposed to do in the meantime?--sit around playing solitaire, or fiddlesticks,
or else perhaps just lie around on a huge chaise lounge, yawning? Or perhaps pass the time by counting
grains of sand in an hourglass?
How was the world ruled when it was mere Chaos, before Creation? How will it be
governed after Completion? Surely not in a manner more boringly orderly than that.
Nothing works. The wave the general gave to say "forward, brave
boys!--up and at 'em"
catches in the wind, carries him back to the beachhead.
A frilly valentine you sent to a lace-loving lady gets delivered to her dog,
who eats it, without reading it.
An octopus you ordered from the South Seas arrives without any arms; and 3 weeks later,
its little suction cups arrive in separate crate. You throw the crate out
concluding perhaps--after a single, perhaps somewhat overly hasty glance into it--that what's in there
Is simply all the buttons you've lost from your shirts since age 12.
You even imagine that perhaps someone who's been watching you
has prankishly returned them to you just to taunt you
Knowing full well that lately you've given up wearing detailed, restricting clothing,
& have switched over to wearing loose blouses or else long flowing burnooses.
Nothing works. Minds keep manufacturing amounts deemed irrelevant.
The world awaits the invention of the conceptual wheel.
Top Top of 'Psalms'
The Conceptual Wheel
is also the title of a song cycle by distinguished US
composer Meyer Kupferman.
Song texts are 3 poems from Body and Sky.
Tuberoses wound around my ankles
Spears of green in ears
I stand like some stone garden statue,
a moss-covered multiple plant-holder or a figure covered by vines,
here by a running stream.
Lilac fashions pervade
Around these damp shoes, which do not parade.
These hands with which I reach out to you
have green growing beneath their fingernails
So that either greeting me once or knowing me well
Is like taking a walk in the woods.
Here, Little Red Riding Hood rushes into an old cobblers shack,
smiling, her bonnet thrown back
And over her arm a big basket of buns.
Silently, the forest murmurs approval.
Not far off, in a clearing, the Three Little Pigs are busy
Rebuilding a broken city.
Elves tap with tiny hammers.
Magic & The "Musicians of Bremen," are present.
Top Top of 'Tuberoses'
GO--& WHISPER TO ROSES
"Go, & Whisper to Roses"--old song
The Morning Glory outside my window was planted so late in August by my
Sweetie & me
That it only had one flower, which bloomed in early October
just before the first frost killed it.
We called it "Evening Tragedy"
While dabbing incessantly at our eyes with our handkerchiefs
we listened to the flow of tears running down our cheeks & onto our breasts
and eventually as far down as our socks & shoe-tops
As we recalled tales of how Great Oaks have sobbed when cars collide with them in Redwood Forest,
of how large liana vines have been frustrated en route to their destinations, interrupted by a small boy's foot
Stories of moss that moans like Jews, trampled beneath picnic tables & wailing
Of branches squeaking & breaking after people who think that they own the Earth
& everything on it, come to swing on them
--Tales too of jolly woodchoppers' axes ringing out in the morning,
followed by trees howling as they come crashing down
Together with rumors of cries arising from petunia-patches gone dry,
Legends of beanfields weeping beneath the strong sun in Spain,
histories of grief among undamp cotyledons
As well as the everlasting shrieks of weeds.
(I can see their stringy bodies stacked up in yards, preparatory to later burial or burning)
Talk to a plant next time you see it and a plant will say something nice back to you
My Sweetie was propagating a snake-plant and a fern, but she loved the
snake-plant most and said
"Hi there" to it every morning, so it put out a flower in return--lovely,
even though it was of course ugly, waxy, hairy and funny-looking.
My Sweetie swears that she can even hear sounds of protest
from plants uprooted, whether deliberately or by else accident,
& Which she reports come forth with such force from California during earthquakes
As to be readily confusable to her keen ear, with readings on seismographs
So go--and whisper to roses.
Top Top of 'Go--& Whisper To Roses'
Except for me, almost nobody remembers Clement Attlee.
The winds of change and cold snows too, have flowed all over his features and figure,
and now all we can see is a
Sherlock Holmes cap and a large pair of earmuffs.
Occasionally, a bear comes by and finds a boot to bite.
Oh, wake up Clement Attlee, another inch of time
and not only will no one admit to being so old as to be able to remember you,
but nobody will actually be able to be found who's honestly ever heard of you!
Clement, Clement!--Hi ho, first post-war English Labourite
and somewhat Socialist Prime Minister--hi ho, hoo-hoo.
The other day, in a moviehouse (after all these years shall I really start
to call it cinema)
100 people chuckled
when a venerable French general with large weights affixed to his eyelids
claimed that once, in his teens, he'd been a member of the Underground Resistance.
Upstairs, 12 students from nursery school are discussing The New Global World New Order.
At a party I finally meet God! He's with a student. He's embarrassed, he grimaces a lot
Elsewhere, an entire graduating class at Oxford, is entering a mosque.
In bed--place from which all creation is sent forth--I feel a shiny bald
with a bristly walrus moustache upon my pillow
And under the coverlet, sense that suddenly I'm wearing checquered knickers
& carrying a walking stick.
Cautiously, a frayed black monocle-cord starts to make its way
back across my cheek...
Top Top of 'Clement Attlee'
O Innocent days of illness and attending to oneself
After getting through a long, hard winter & then
coming down with a really bad Springtime cold
O Diverse daily routines of care and hourly devotions to the body
at whose shrine we regularly pray
O Warm sweaters we incessantly wear, to keep
seasonal chills & aches & pains away!
Still the mind looks on with a long, long face and a terribly cross
yearning as usual to be playful.
Restlessly, The Spirit weeps tears like a lover ignored or bereft,
or like some formidable mistress greedy for a gift.
Like an outsider, it sits in the corner, biding its time
All during long daily litanies of Coricidin, Cheracol, and Vick's Vapo-Rub
Awaiting its Easter
When at long last Pleasure will once again will be resurrected.
And you await me too Love, there at the edge of distant meadows of delight,
with your love like an irresponsible, childish pastime
Cherishing nothing. I too await our day of resurrection,
body & soul & thoroughly
& You, the Easter Bunny
Top Top of 'Springtime Prayers'
FOR JANE (& ROGER) BUT CERTAINLY NOT FOR HENRY
Above: Section of a rare
Barbarella movie-poster. Web Premiere of this relatively early Jane
Fonda image. Most of poem, below.
Note: Our revision of this particular Sky-poem retains its original 1968 perspectives. Although "For Jane (& Roger)..."casts light
on some events later on in the amazing life of daring Jane Fonda, we continue to like this poem as a later 1960's movie-fan pop-culture period piece
replete with the semi-old-fashioned moviehouse lobby popcorn machine which appears at close of this excerpt
Jane Fonda starring in Barbarella I have a secret message for you,
a secret public message for you.
I single out the Jane of Barbarella because there have been many other Janes
and many other films in which youve appeared or starred
even in the course of your short Hollywood film career so far
--Already, youve been cast and shot in many other ways, Jane.
However, the way you appear in this film is different, Jane.
In this film you appear--eek!--semi-nude most of the time.
& What with all the transparent clothing & peek-a-boo fashion you wear in this relatively daring new Hollywood film
Everybody's saying that it's the degree of nudity in Barbarella which
makes it so exciting
--Everybody that is except for the people who enjoy the weird science-fiction costumes
you wear and there are quite a few of them, I mean
there are quite a few of both weird sci-fi costumes and people who seem to
find the film remarkable because of them. For example,
the 3 fashion-design-savvy gay friends with whom I first went to see this film...
--But that's unusual, let's just say that: The Majority Enjoy The Semi-Nudity.
No, no, that's where they are theyre wrong--like most public truth
That too, is a truth which is far too general; there too, there's a misapprehension to be corrected:
Its not the degree of nudity in Barbarella compared to other Hollywood films which distinguishes it,
any more than its the clothing which you threw aside which distinguishes you.
--After all, some day all clothing may go out of fashion, some day society may
throw it aside entirely; there could come a time when nudity too, could go out of style;
some day nudity both onscreen & offscreen may become so ordinary
that everybody will go around mistaking it for just one more form of fashion;
Some day the world may even begin to think of skin
as just one more maddeningly intimate form of underwear...
Jane, Jane, this is my secret message for you
Jane, Jane, this is my secret public message for you (and also for your husband Roger Vadim,
who happens to be the director of this film and who happened previously to be the husband
& Director of Brigitte Bardot, whom I also didn't mind too much)
Here in the lobby of this moviehouse having just seen you in Barbarella for the 3rd time in just 2 weeks,
Writing upon this crumpled scrap of paper
& Standing next to an already slightly faded movie-poster while using the glass on one side of a popcorn machine as my desk...
[ To Be Cont'd ]
Top Top of 'For Jane Fonda / Barbarella'
Brief Benedikt Bio.
Complete bio. appears in Who's Who in America + Who's Who in World + Who's Who in Entertainment, etc.
Selections from Benedikt's other poetry books appear at listings at end-of-page at Other Benedikt Websites:
Contemporary US Poet Michael Benedikt's publications in print media include 5 collections of poetry: The Badminton at Great Barrington; or Gustave Mahler & The Chattanooga Choo-Choo (University of Pittsburgh Press, l980)--a sequence of poems about the joys & sorrows of love; & with Wesleyan University Press: Night Cries (prose poems, l976); Mole Notes (prose poems, l971); Sky (l970); and The Body (l968). His work appears in ca. 70 anthologies of US poetry. Relatively recent poetry in Agni, Iowa Review, Jerusalem Review, Lips, Michigan Quarterly Review, The New Republic, New York Quarterly, Partisan Review, The Paris Review & Washington Square.
Anthologies of poetry in translation under Benedikt's editorship are The Prose Poem: An International Anthology (Dell/Laurel, l976); and The Poetry of Surrealism (Little, Brown & Co., l974). He's also co-Editor & co-Translator, with theatre critic George E. Wellwarth, of 3 anthos. of 20th-Century European plays: Modern French Theatre: The Avant-Garde, Dada, & Surrealism (E.P. Dutton, l964); Post-War German Theatre (Dutton, l967); and Modern Spanish Theatre (Dutton, l969). He's the editor of Theatre Experiment: American Plays (Doubleday, l967). Benedikt is a former Associate Ed. 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).
Benedikt taught Literature & Creative Writing as Visiting Prof. at Bennington, Sarah Lawrence, Vassar, Hampshire College and Boston University. Grants and Awards for poems published in print media have included a Guggenheim Grant, a NY State Council On The Arts (Creative Artists Public Service) Grant; and an National Endowment Fellowship. Readings at many colleges and universities around the USA, & in l986 he gave a videotaped 'retrospective' reading at invitation of Library of Congress. Poet is a long-time resident of Upper West Side Manhattan, & a graduate of NYU's Washington Square College & Columbia University. More recent readings at several Barnes & Noble 'Superstores' in the NY Metro area. E-mail: email@example.com
Benedikt, circa 1970
PAGES OF THIS BODY-SKY Website
Page 1--Home Page
Has a more detailed Bio. than appears here . Also 1968 & 1998 photos of Benedikt.
Page 2--Selections from THE BODY
With Selected Poems from much-anthologized first book by a contemporary US Poet. Subjects in The Body (l968) range from droll to dark. Body parts cavort & Surrealist 'Black Humor' abounds. Quoth a reviewer writing in 1969 in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse--in which periodical many poems from Body first appeared: 'Benedikt's poems are a highly serious form of play.' Titles of the many 1960's-era & other literary magazines in which Body and Sky poems were initially published, are given at this site's closing page (p. 6--Thematic Index).
Page 3--'Dark Love Poems' from THE BODY
Dark page from The Body for College-Level & Above only, please. Page also has 1, thus far uncollected, 1963 Poem.
Page 4--S p o o k y P o e m s Fo r H a l l o w e e n & A l l Y e a r R o u n d
Particularly eerie poems, mostly from The Body. Award-Winning Halloween-&-Horror Page includes large-font versions of "The Helper" & "Mr. Rainman." Includes 1 poem from Sky.
Page 5--Selections from SKY
This page, with 21st Cent. updates of Selected Verse from Benedikt's 2nd poetry book. Most Sky poems have long lines extending into strophes & verging on prose poetry--a genre which dispenses with the line-break altogether. Titles of the many 1960's literary magazines in which poems from both Body and Sky were first published, are given at this site's closing page (p. 6--Thematic Index). Note: After Sky (l970), Benedikt wrote prose poems exclusively for several years. Those prose poems are collected in Mole Notes (1971); and Night Cries (l976). URLs of sites with selected prose poems here
Page 6--Thematic Index to THE BODY and SKY
Index of Topics of poems in both The Body and Sky. Has thumbnail graphics of original book jackets. This college-level teacher & student modern poetry resource lists & classifies by subject-matter, all poems in both books. Notes & Commentary on some thematic categories give an overview of these two first books. So far, Notes offer perspectives on the close relationship of both books to the visual arts (Surrealism, Pop Art, Minimalist Art, 1960's 'Happenings" etc.); & on poetic techniques used in both books, some innovative. Notesalso focus on the philosophy behind both books--Sky especially. Thematic Index may be helpful as teaching aid for classes & courses in later 20th Century Poetry & Contemporary Poetry, & also Graduate students writing Modern Poetry theses & Undergraduate students writing Modern Poetry term-papers. General Readers may also enjoy Notes & Commentary. New: Info on emphemera published prior to The Body (1968) & Sky (1970), including chapbook Changes (1961). Illustrated with photos selected from Benedikt's extensive 1960's Literary & Art Archive.
Searchbox. Search all 6 pages of this site from near top of Thematic Index Page
Top of this Page Top of Links to Other Pages of this Body/Sky Site
OTHER BENEDIKT WEBSITES
SITES WITH SELECTIONS FROM HIS OTHER PUBLISHED POETRY BOOKS
After completing THE BODY (l968) and SKY
(l970), Benedikt wrote Prose Poems exclusively until l976.
They appear in MOLE NOTES (l971) and NIGHT CRIES (l976).
Selections from N.C. are online at:
Brief Prose Poems
Prose Poems & Microfictions
A couple of MOLE NOTES are online
Theater, Film, & TV Poems
And there's another from MOLE at--of all
places--a music-enhanced Xmas
'Xmas On Bay State Road' & Other Poems
Selections from author's 5th book of poetry
The Badminton at Great Barrington
The Thesaurus & Other New Verse
Links to Other Pages Within This BODY-SKY Website
Next Page of This Site--'Thematic Index: The Body & Sky'
BODY-SKY Home Page Selections from THE BODY
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