hol⋅o⋅caust –noun 1. a great or complete devastation or destruction, esp. by fire. 2. a sacrifice completely consumed by fire; burnt offering. 3. (usually initial capital letter) the systematic mass slaughter of European Jews in Nazi concentration camps during World War II (usually prec. by the). 4. any mass slaughter or reckless destruction of life.
Somedays, poems leak out of our pens, stain the unprotected pockets of our frayed poet shirts. We even come to expect it, and feel a little off when nothing comes. We try to make something of nothing, like trying to get a few more miles out of a car with an empty fuel tank. Here's some advice from one who may have had such days himself:
In my post for April First, I alluded to the fact that it is not so simple to be a fool. Several times in the past, I've written on a theme inspired by the line from the old Shaker hymn, "tis a gift to be simple," and here I go again. For anyone who actually reads all of this stuff, I hear your collective "oh no's!" and I sympathize, but it seems to me that there is so much contained in those few words that I can explore them for a long time. Come along on this leg of the journey if you like.
I've talked, in the past, about how we use the term "simple-minded" as a slur, and the term "gifted" as a compliment, ignoring the possibility that they may be one and the same, as the song suggests. Today I'm looking at the things we think of as works of genius, and the sheer simplicity that the best of them exhibit. Now, there's a certain brilliance, of course, to observing and borrowing from nature. Someone might observe the amazing strength-to-weight ratio of the shaft of a feather, and then develop a lightweight tubing to be used in, say, a bicycle frame. You might notice the way the hexes of granite crystals or cells of honeycomb fit together, making amazing use of space and structure, and you may adapt this as a core for some very stiff and light construction panel. This is good. It is smart. But genius, I think, goes a little beyond smart borrowing.
Think about the construction of the common soccer ball. How simple - how deceptively simple - until you think of the fact that some genius had to realize that you could take a flat pentagon shape, surround it with flat hexagon shapes, and by repeating the process, you could very nearly approximate a sphere. I don't know who first did this; that's not the point. What I think IS important is the fact that this is something which I do not believe is found in nature, yet is so apparently simple that we can look at it and say "of course". "Claro."
Those of us who read, and attempt to write, become aware after a while that the true geniuses of the word write poetry and even good prose that appears so simple that we read their work and say "of course; why didn't I write that?" And we try it. And we learn that writing simple is very difficult; GOOD haiku is perhaps the most difficult of all, because of the simplicity required. And we learn that we are NOT geniuses. And we learn that we are not simple, in the way that geniuses must be. And maybe we learn that even earning those MFA degrees to display proudly behind our names will not actually change our names to Basho or Niedecker or Kooser or Harrison. Yet, if we keep trying, and if we keep it simple, we may find some moment of passable brightness.
- Ralph Murre
P.S. This is just to say, rather proudly, nothing at all about cool plums - but rather to say that a pretty simple piece of mine is to be featured tomorrow on the Poets Who Blog website - and it is cool and sweet. ~ RM
The Fool I’ve Been, as he was stepping down, met the Fool I’ll Be, who was donning the crown. “Not so fast,” said Been to Be, “you look an ordinary clown to me.”
“This is no job for a Bar Mitzvah rental – these are big shoes to fill. Why, you must be mental! You think that if you simply will wear a wig or disguise like Yentl, you can be a fool? All accidental?”
“The kind of fool that’s needed here,” continued the very aged Been, “was born before your tender year. He must have had the chance to learn. He must have had the chance to hear, so it might slip out his other ear.”
“I’m young, it’s true,” said the fool-to-be, “but if you’ll give me half a chance, I’ll be a bigger fool than thee.” So he wears the crown, and hikes up his pants, as he begins the first of his uninformed rants:
“It’s my turn now,” says the Fool I’ll Be, ”and I’ll tell you a thing or three: my head may not be amply thick, but my delivery is pretty slick, and I know something of tomfoolery.”
“I didn’t need to get elected,” he said as he kneeled before he genuflected, “I’m just outstanding in my field.” And then, as though he had reflected: “Among most fools, I am respected.”
Now I could quote the youngster nicely, word for word, but here’s the summation: as you’ve probably heard, and I’m sure you must have learned in school, there is no fool like an old fool.
Ralph Murre is the author of "Crude Red Boat" and "The Price of Gravity, both books of poetry; author and illustrator of "Psalms", a book of poetry and art, co-author, (with Sharon Auberle)of "Wind Where Music Was", a book of poems of experience, and he is editor/publisher of several books of prose, poetry, photography, and drawings from Little Eagle Press, which he founded. Ordering information for these books is available from
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