New and Selected Poems

New and Selected Poems

by Charles North


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New and Selected Poems by Charles North

Poetry. James Schuyler wrote of Charles North's poetry: His joy in words, and the things words adumbrate, is infectious: we catch a contagion of enlightenment. To me, he is the most stimulating poet of his generation. Over the years since North's first published work, LINEUPS (1972), fellow poets and critics have concurred that North's poetry is one of beautiful availability, that is interested in (as the poet puts it) Playing off expectations, in both small and large ways. This book includes work from all of North's major publications—LINEUPS, ELIZABETHAN & NOVA SCOTIAN MUSIC, SIX BUILDINGS, LEAP YEAR: POEMS 1968-1978, and THE YEAR OF THE OLIVE OIL—as well as new poetry.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781557132659
Publisher: Sun & Moon Press
Publication date: 03/01/1999
Series: Sun and Moon Classics Series
Pages: 184
Product dimensions: 5.01(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.55(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Now that I am seeing myself as a totally different person
whose interests are like a street covered with slush
and whose every word rings like the ear of a spaniel

night joins with its various egos, its tubeless containers
of islands being joined by the notion of paradise
and I am swept up in what it means to be drained, or

a little less like those pastels that hung around
sopping up every loose glove of moisture where the bay
wasn't defined by its shoreline. Yet that air and that sun

did us both good and the thieving bluejays were enjoyable
as dots on boards, beside rabbits, sparrows, and herrings
numerous trails each of which wound into the other's thicket

where it got new earths and new strengths, and flashed on the
screen, sparkling like corn as the sun went down each dusk.


Open poetry died with Whitman.
Closed poetry died with Yeats.
Natural poetry was born and died with Lorca
And Clare, also with France's Jean de Meung.
The feeling of being caught (and held)
Is reproduced in the sonneteers of the English Renaissance,
With the exception of one very great poet whose work opens.
Cars, lights, and love belong to Catullus
And to the Chinese, and to the death of symbolism
In Henry Vanghan, naturalism's decay
In Stephen Crane, the growth andmoribundity
Of obsessive sex a la the works of Ponge and MacPherson
And in Basho, Li Po, and Fitzgerald (and Khayam).
Mannerism in Emerson, consumption in Leopardi,
Sleep and poetry in Sappho, Nash, Swift,
Gibran and Coleridge; decadence,
Humor, platonism, hysteria, line endings, skald,
And the quality of unearthly, though unhysterical, beauty
In John Skelton and Anne Bradstreet; Francois
De Malherbe and Vosnesensky, what qualities are dead
In you that will have their rebirth here?


Sine qua non of bed wetting
Sire of too-close recall, conquering mastiff

The one that got away, of obloquy,
Compressor of doubt into a herd of gold

Genius of the herdsman, sex of the idiot,
Rheingold of disaster, litigant of hardened arteries

Spearhead of the most devastating alliances
The widow of despair (widow's peak of kindness)

And cleanliness, that hair trigger
Speech, once it is judged halcyon, hair space

The covenant kindles, slice of life
In the homophonous descent towards cover,

That flaws the vandal and brings the liaison to grief
By tilting the atoms of its attachment,

There, among the revivalism finery, beyond the fertile
Awe that makes an axiom of opacity, and beyond

Distraction peals in the lymph of gazes, glazed
Gender pudding that gavels the fall-out, as

In Buck Rogers; Rhenish; Hebrew euphony that
Startles; Chartism of Icarus, towards that copper reticle

Trifling with hate, havoc's cognate, to certainty,
Junta that films its dog days, bright tiger eye


As color is to the eye of the beholder
A wave theory that begets particles

To be implied as color
Those particles increase

The saturation of their surroundings
A house pulled from a river, showered

With white stars; the blue
Is one of the fits of its variance

And steeped in enjoying this favored position
Among the atmosphere's health signs

It (the blue) explodes in the colors of their first
Epoch-making concordance, possibly the first in history

Recognizing that an epoch-making quality is the clue
To its history by making all others dwindle

Human beings are smaller in the afternoon.
So each line is a metaphor reaching

Into the hotel room, in the book of your success I wish you.
I think you are a genius when it comes to color!


What will see us through, a certain calm
Born of the willingness to be not cowed
The begonia idea of the universe
And because life is so short
A way of being unfaithful like the tide
Minus its characteristic awareness.

Moving is the world and all its creatures
Known by the things that surround it
Love, money, titles, the periphrastic way
Of being other than we are not
Throughout the long afternoon of language
Attractive though dead, such calm falling

And issuing in a well-meant spiel
Involving money as a metaphor: Money is
The only metaphor and because life is short
A gross keyboard of light and sometimes strength
As well to be aware of its fickleness
As stab it in the back with gentleness.


When you consider how Europe flashes by
like a vowel, and in obsolete whispers
or in uttering in a whisper, talking or saying
privately or secretly and having a curved
outside or form especially like the Joan of Arc
of a flame, or characterized by full spontaneous
movement not in a circle, not cramped or limited
but free & vigorous in motion as an integer—
then anything within the sphere of a number
globe or ring, a group such as positions
or any course ending where it began, is as
complete as you are, and ends where you began,
loosely or simultaneously reprieved (like air)
or the space below, which is perfect, less rare


I like very much the notion that I will
Appear in another life. I like
The notion of another life with its cares
Its concerts, its flamboyances
Its caresses, its nouns and its words
Which will take the place of nouns.


Now the body is the body's flower
And the head revolves in a whirl
Of false judgment, the breath
Of a camel cast inside a date

Those fingers knead a furtive cake
The cost of labor which was life
Is passed down in the form of heat
Which we resemble in letting it out

Meanwhile the crow of responsibility
Is perfected, as in the pastoral:
Nothing grows out of nothing
Into a spidery realism


Across "the sensuality of shade" shadows move in parenthetical
If color seems to be the reflection in its most vivid form
Of the world already past, there is great variety in the way we
     take its effects
The journalism of deepest and most enduring feelings.
The fact that an artist has created the illusion of depth
And that it is significant of the way we understand depth

Creates a limitless depth. (The attention shifts reproducingly.)
Of the past thirty centuries: whether from above or below
Or near or far its original may be useful but is in no sense a
Built up from a unique sample. A good
Example is the necessity of influencing the past
By the journalism of deepest and most enduring feelings

The present, the past and the future, the relations of the arts
To food, hunger and sex, prints, knotty clouds (as organized in
To combine what is otherwise a soft blending of those totally
Other values resonance, shadow and conception. To achieve
Demands peacefulness, forget those totally other values.
A timeless introduction! Where a transition engulfs extremes

All contrasts glowingly with the history of limitless depth
Dominating the relationship of the arts to food, hunger and sex,
The so called habilements of our wit. "I am a melancholy
With gymnastics." Plodding warmth echoes and to escape
     whether from above or below
Requires a Mnemosyne beyond nature's although it does not seem
To relate to specific pasts and seems to originate in a real

Interest in describing what is immediately before us
The opposite is hunger, food and sex, the distribution of wealth
And we are bearers of fog like the Villa Capra. There is an
Of notes flapping to be restored, the glowingly different
In training ushering in a journalism of the deepest and most
     enduring feelings
And whether from above or below (or near or far) the example

Of the arts, a garden built up from a unique sample, though to
     achieve peace
A monumental peacefulness overlooked on first view but
As opposed to the nicety of the regular schedule of our feelings
Which, like the past thirty centuries, reproduced
Depends on this polished vagueness
The fact that an artist has created the illusion of depth.

Table of Contents

Poem ("Now that I am seeing myself ...")13
To the Book14
Air and Angels15
Poem: North Light17
Elizabethan & Nova Scotian Music18
Poem ("When you consider how Europe ...")19
Madrigal: Another Life20
The Pastoral21
Villa Capra's Sestina22
Some Versions of Reeds24
Japanese Woman Beside the Water31
A Few Facts About Me32
"Naming Colors"34
from SIX BUILDINGS (1977)
The Brooklynese Capital39
From the French42
Eye Reflecting the Gold of Fall43
Six Buildings47
A Winter'sTale53
Two Pathetic Songs54
Scenes from Montale56
Elegiacal Study ("Fragrant in or near ...")60
For Dorothy Wordsworth62
Little Poem in July63
from LEAP YEAR: POEMS 1968-1978 (1978)
Leap Year67
Vehicle & Wavering Colour68
Elegiacal Study ("A new fiber ...")69
A Note on David Schubert73
from LINEUPS (1972) and LINEUPS II (1989)
Parts of the Body79
British Poets82
Mystery Writers91
Herbs & Spices92
DH Series II94
Sunrise with Sea Monster99
Little Cape Cod Landscape100
The Year of the Olive Oil101
The Postcard Element in Winter104
Two Architectural Poems105
Prometheus at Fenway107
Tinker to Evers to Randomness111
A Note to Tony Towle (After WS)112
A Note on Labor Day114
Looking at the Brighter Night124
View From a High Ledge125
For a Cowper Paperweight126
Poem for Trevor Winkfield128
Late Prelude137
On the Road139
People and Buildings140
Fourteen Poems141
Baseball as a Fact of Life144
What is Said to the Poet153
French Notebook Threatened By Writing154
The Dawn155
Cloud Studies160
Shooting for Line168
Aug.-Dec. For Jimmy Schuyler179
Urban Landscape189
Building Sixteens190

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