Posts filed under “Poetry”


How bright the morning was, how clear the air,
   How green the leaves, how sweetly sang the birds,
How soft the breeze as through the flowers fair
   It hummed (because it didn’t know the words),
How blue the sky, how perfect was the day
In early spring, it is (no doubt) superfluous to say.

It was the time of year when doughty knights
   Begin their doughty deeds of doughtiness;
They leave for foreign parts to see the sights
   (But more to kill the natives, I confess)—
At least most do, but some among the rest
Stay nearer home to earn their fame upon some parlous quest.

And so four knights set out upon their way
   To find the horrid monster that was said
To dwell within the forest, so that they
   Could kill the thing and, bringing back its head,
Earn for each one of them immortal fame.
Perhaps each one could hire a bard to celebrate his name.

Sir Gervold was the first (by alphabet),
   A bold and merry youth whose heart was true.
’Twas said that this young knight had never met
   An enemy whom he could not subdue.
Now that I think of it, if I recall,
I’m pretty sure he’d never met an enemy at all.

Sir Leo next, who had a lion’s heart,
   And who in boldness would to no one yield—
The more so for that, by heraldric art,
   The lion’s heart was graven on his shield.
To bear it on his shield he thought was best:
A lion’s heart would probably not fit inside his chest.

Sir Quintus next, confusing though it seems,
   Came third—a man of famously good cheer:
A face to haunt a courtly lady’s dreams,
   And breath to haunt her nightmares for a year.
And I can give the reason if you ask:
His famously good cheer was carried with him in a flask.

And bringing up the rear, Sir Sinderic,
   Whose lady did his heart to courage stir:
Whenever there was danger, he was quick
   To seize the chance to run away from her.
Away from her, toward the fight he ran:
Thus love, as we are told, can make a knight a better man.

Four knights, therefore, upon a forest trail
   Walked out, all ignorant of fear or dread.
Each vowed to heaven that he would not fail
   To be the one to seize the monster’s head—
Though each, in private, thought it might be best
To leave the actual killing of the beast up to the rest.

They walked along until the leafy green
   Began to yield to charred and smoking black,
And naught but desolation could be seen
   To left, to right, and down the forest track.
“I think,” Sir Quintus said with wavering cheer,
“I think that maybe something might perhaps have happened here.”

“Perhaps,” Sir Gervold said, “there’s been a fire.”
   “Perhaps there has,” Sir Sinderic concurred.
“I’ve heard,” Sir Leo said, “that in its ire
   The beast breathes flame,” and trembled with each word.
“Well,” said Sir Quintus, gulping, “I should think
This might demand some courage,” and he took another drink.

The trail wound down between the blackened trees
   Until it ended at a cave or den
Round which the knights (now rather ill at ease)
   Saw carcasses and bones of beasts and men.
Sir Leo, showing signs of some distress,
Suggested, “Do you think we might be at the wrong address?”

But lo! The monster stirs! A rumbling roar
   Comes rolling from the cave, and then the stink
Of sulfur; and at that the doughty four
   Less doughty feel; their hearts begin to shrink,
Their teeth to chatter, and their knees to quake.
Then comes a bellow loud enough to make the mountains shake.

And then—O horrible to tell!—the beast
   Appears, a dreadful dragon belching flame.
Its head alone was sixteen feet at least;
   Its claws like sabers, and its teeth the same;
Its eyes at least a foot across, no less:
It turned them on the knights and growled one single word out: “Yes?”

The doughty knights did not retreat—oh no!
   To keep each other’s spirits up, they tried
To push each other to the fore. And so
   Sir Gervold, wobbly-kneed and open-eyed,
And not as firm a pusher as the rest,
Before the dragon stood, and to the beast these words addressed:

“We are, good sir, a band of doughty knights,
   Who, um, that is, you know, are on a quest:
For, having heard that there’s a beast who blights
   This forest, well, we swore we wouldn’t rest
Till we had slain the monster. So, you see,
We thought we’d ask—um, do you know where such a beast might be?”

The dragon’s eyes took in the knights, and saw
   That they were something rather like canned meat;
It thought, “The cans would linger in my craw;
   They’d be more trouble than they’re worth to eat.”
It lifted up its talon, not to slay,
But just to point, and told the knights, “I think it went that way.”

“Thank you, kind sir,” the knights all said, or words
   To that effect, and quickly left the thing.
And soon the trees were green again, and birds
   Once more above the knights began to sing.
How glad the knights were to be on their way
It is, I’m pretty confident, superfluous to say.


We embrace the wind, the sky, the earth, the flowers, the rocks, the water, the stars.

We embrace trees occasionally, when no one is looking.

We do not embrace thistles, because ouch.

We disdain cosmopolitan elitisms and rural anti-intellectualism.

We disdain rural elitisms and cosmopolitan anti-intellectualism.

Unlike upper-middle-class white suburbanites, we disdain facile stereotypes.

We disdain Brussels sprouts.

We disdain remunerative labor.

We disdain disdainfulness as being too disdainful.

We sing the downtrodden, the poor, the obscure, our beloved sisters and brothers who are not quite as good as we are.

We sing the forgotten musty corners of Stowe Township.

We sing with words, but not with music, because we are Poets.

We believe that Poetry is too often neglected even in literate circles.

We believe that this is the fault of the System and that guy who runs the bookstore on Craig Street.

We believe that Poetry must be part of the great struggle against the System.

We believe that Poetry must be part of the great struggle against that guy who runs the bookstore on Craig Street.

We believe that a Poem can make a real difference in our lives.

We believe that a Poem can make a real difference in the lives of people who are too stupid to be Poets themselves.

We believe that a Poem is meant to be read.

We believe in Readers.

Someday we hope to meet one.


There were twelve of us picked to go into the woods,
To go fight with the beast and come back with the goods:
Twelve good men and brave who would do or would die,
And not one of them braver than I!

And eleven showed up on that morning in spring,
Sworn to bring back the stuff if we got past the thing.
And we clasped hands together with fire in each eye,
And not one of them braver than I!

And we heard the old-timer explain where the beast
Had dismembered brave knights—eighty-seven at least—
And ten of us rose with a fierce battle cry,
And not one of them braver than I!

And nine of us rode down the dark forest trail
While around us a fearsome hot wind blew a gale.
And we never quailed once, though the monster was nigh,
And not one of them braver than I!

And then we were there! See the monster before us,
With howls, shrieks, and roars like the whole demon chorus!
When that huge bulk arose, and it darkened the sky,
There were eight of them braver than I.


I spoke to the Waffle. The Waffle said no.
    She said it was not in the cards.
She thinks that we oughtn’t to carry on so.
She says there are places one never must go.
She says there is knowledge one never must know.
    Our pots would be smashed into shards,
                To shards,
    Our pots would be smashed into shards.

I spoke to the Pancake. The Pancake said yes.
    He thinks we should give it a try.
He says there are things that one never could guess:
That we ought to have more and not settle for less;
That you can’t break an egg without making a mess
    And sausages do not apply,
    And sausages do not apply.

I spoke to the Kettle. The Kettle said, “Why?
    Why must you be constantly grey?
Not hot and not cold, and not forward or shy,
And not bright and not dark, and not wet and not dry?
For it once was the dawn, but the evening is nigh,
    And now we have wasted the day,
                The day,
    And now we have wasted the day.”


By Irving Vanderblock-Wheedle.

I celebrate and sing some other guy,
Some guy who is doubtless just as good as I am, but not quite.
Some guy who has the same molecules, the same atoms,
The same subatomic particles,
But not quite as much poetic sense
Because he is not a Poet.

At all times I am surrounded by other people,
And I am filled with admiration
For the endless countless myriads of other guys
Who are almost as good as I am.

A child said Why are there so many people?
And how could I answer?
I do not know calculus.
I guess it must be because there were people before them,
And they had children.
I guess it must be because of the procreant urge of the world,
Which was just about the finest euphemism I could come up with
On a moment’s notice.

And lo! every single one of them is an Other,
Because every single one of them is not I.
I am not the Other,
But sometimes the Other is the Other,
And sometimes it ain’t.

A street-sweeper leans on his broom,
A Buddhist priest mutters a prayer,
A school-board member misspells “curriculum,”
A waiter drops a tray full of glasses,
An engineer designs a new flashlight that will be sold at the dollar store for $1.

And they are all the Not-I.
But I also am the Not-They.
They look at me and say, “Not I.”
All day they look at me.
All day they are saying, “Not I.”
I think I shall go mad.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself.
I am a little out of sorts.


Dr. Boli has on more than one occasion pointed his readers toward bad poetry. He would like to make amends now by giving you an epic poem based on the life of Daniel Boone—and one published while the late Mr. Boone was still alive. It takes a completist view of its subject, as you may see from the argument to Book I:

Immediately subsequent to the transformation of Chaos into order, and previous to the creation of light, the Angels who superintend terrestrial affairs assume their stations…

As you might expect from a tale of Daniel Boone, the backwoods action never lets up—starting with the very first sentence, which we reproduce here:

When first their dark and yet untravel’d rounds
Through the inane expanse of pristine Night,
The planetary conglobations roll’d;
Before the great eternal’s sacred eye,
Upon the gloom of the sidereal orbs,
Their pure-beam’d, time-enduring splendors flash’d;
Ere on Attraction’s mystic centre pois’d
By the Almighty’s sun creating hand,
The blazing ball that lights our solar sphere,
From the ecliptic-zone his radiance pour’d;
When from their chrystal palaces in Heaven’s
Unmeasure’d heights of bright and cloudless day,
Th’Angelic Spirits view’d Creation’s God,
Along th’unresisting void of space,*
In numberless succession, rolling worlds;
From their celestial ranks they bade descend,
To rule the vast machinery of the globes,
Supernal hosts with holy power endued.

*A mistake by the printer; the rhythm requires “the unresisting,” not “th’unresisting.”

Yes, sir! Nothing whiles away the dullness of a long winter night in the Shenandoah Valley like a rip-roaring tale of adventure. Here is The Adventures of Daniel Boone, by Daniel Bryan.

Dr. Boli is now looking for an excuse—any excuse—to use the phrase “planetary conglobations” in a sentence.


Don’t you love haiku?
You just need three short verses.
It’s a cinch to do.

Why rant on and spew
An epic? You know terse is
What folks want from you.

No one wants what’s new:
Exactly the reverse is
Obviously true.

You know what to do:
Count beats and churn out verses.
Don’t you love haiku?


Eighth Anniversary

ANNIVERSARY WEEK.—In honor of the forthcoming eighth anniver­sary of his Celebrated Magazine on the World-Wide Web, Dr. Boli is reprinting some of the most notable articles, stories, poems, and advertisements of the past eight years.

Elissa was the lass’s name, and she was young and pretty.
Her older sister Janet thought it really was a pity
That young Elissa seemed to gather all the male attention.
Now, Janet loved her sister, so she thought she ought to mention
The awful peril she would face if she defied convention.
So, one day, feeling bolder,
She sat her down and told her:

Alas, alas, Elissa!
A lass elicits lust
From men who want to kiss her.
Such men you cannot trust!
The world would never miss her
If she should bite the dust:
So if a man should dis her,
A girl does what she must.

Now, men will tell you, sister, that their hearts are full of honor.
A woman who believes such tales is certainly a goner!
The way of all romantic dalliance leads unto perdition.
To live a life that’s free from men should be your fond ambition.
And if your own heart puts you in a pliable condition,
Then just take up a hobby,
Or play Chopin on your Knabe.

Alas, alas, Elissa!
A lass elicits lust
From men who want to kiss her.
Such men you cannot trust!
The world would never miss her
If she should bite the dust:
So if a man should dis her,
A girl does what she must.

So bolt your doors and shut your windows. Fasten every shutter.
And, if you have to, grease the drainspouts up and down with butter.
And if men corner you some evening when the moon is ripe,
You tell them you can’t lend an ear to their romantic tripe;
But just in case you can’t escape, you carry a lead pipe,
And let them know their flirting
Will only leave them hurting.

Alas, alas, Elissa!
A lass elicits lust
From men who want to kiss her.
Such men you cannot trust!
The world would never miss her
If she should bite the dust:
So if a man should dis her,
A girl does what she must.


Dr. Boli makes no claims for yesterday or tomorrow; but this is the worst poetry you will read today, because after it you will have no more appetite for poetry for at least another twenty-four hours.

The Souvenir; or, Satan at Large is an anti-Democratic tirade put into allegorical verse by a resident of Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1885. Although there is no author credited on the title page (which is dated 1887), the copyright page claims an 1885 copyright in the name of George W. Corey, who (from scattered references in books of Western travels, &c.) seems to have been one of the leading citizens of Cheyenne, which nevertheless somehow escaped being known as the Athens of the West for its thriving literary culture.

A look at the “Prelude,” which takes up only two pages, gives us such a wealth of failed rhymes that we are tempted to go no further. “Artful” is rhymed with “startle,” “pelf” with “wealth,” “earth” with “forth,” “mankind” with “whirlwinds,” “plans” with “schemes,” “station” with “politician”—to pass over many other examples.

The fun continues on every page—“hate” rhymes with “spite,” “spears” with “war”, and so on—so that we begin to wonder whether Mr. Corey’s understanding of rhyme came exclusively from political broadsides.

Aside from rhyming, our poet’s greatest difficulty seems to be in getting anywhere from anywhere else. He spends whole pages stuck in the mud, spinning in circles as he tries to reach the next idea.

“In sacred history we must search
For proof of much of Satan’s work;
Where those inspir’d by power divine
Were shown the things from earliest time.
Thus St. John the Revelator
Face to face with his Creator,
Talked of heaven, earth and hell
And the beings that in them dwell;
And saw things earthly and divine
Of past, present and future time.”

Well, it has taken us a while to arrive at the idea that St. John the Divine saw the past, present, and future, hasn’t it? But wait! There’s more! We continue with the next line:

“This old prophet, this great divine,
Who lived way back in ancient time,
While he was on the isle of Patmos
Saw grand views of heaven’s greatness;
In visions strange, weird and sublime
View’d the long vista of all past time.”

For those who gave up several lines ago, the idea our poet struggles mightily to express is that the book of Revelation tells us what happened to Satan in the distant past.

All political satire is doomed to irrelevance when the political map changes. In 1885, the Democratic Party was the party of states’ rights, the Solid South, and the Ku Klux Klan—two out of three of which are now identified with the Republicans. (It would be not only slanderous but also incorrect to identify either current party with the Ku Klux Klan, which, on our usual principle of exposing bigots to derision, can only be identified with the Funny Hats Party.) Nevertheless, some political satires achieve immortality by means of virtues that reach beyond the mere issues of the day to touch on something universal. Jonathan Swift and W. S. Gilbert satirized the politics of their day, but they pulled back the curtain of temporary political alliances to expose the universal human motivations that power politics. And Mr. George W. Corey has also reached beyond the particular to the universal. In The Souvenir; or, Satan at Large, he has given us an encyclopedia of every mistake a poet ought to avoid.