Friday, June 15, 2018

We who have gone in search of beauty

We who have gone in search of beauty
For ourselves, or others, on the dole
Of what the muse abundantly provides
With little succor, only with demands
For more canvas, brushes, paint,
Or a mine of stones to chisel,
Rents to pay and transport to and from
The hovel you would travel to in Maine,
Or all that you must eat and feast your eyes
On books of reproductions from the past
Aligned with nothing they have taught in schools
Other than “don’t now do what was done before.”
How have you your own time measured out
To mete out beauty from a stunted time?
Just as you your measure take, it moves. 
Beauty alone is not its likeness now. 
It wrestled once already for its meaning
Immortalized for others in mute form, 
Illusioned like a perfect memory and bliss. 
Today there is no longer need of this. 
What you cannot afford to make your art,
They have in great abundance; who might part
With millions, climb far mountains, take
A class in art, and quit before you make
Of them, the slave this art has made of you. 
Brother, can you spare a dime of inspiration?
We have gone after you and found
The self-same artist on a mountaintop
And asked him what he’s doing, what he’s painting,
When it’s clear and we can see ourselves. 
We have our iPhone camera at the ready 
And only need a block of time to edit
Everything we didn’t look at while snapping up
The memories of a lifetime we will share
On Facebook. Canvas! Brushes! Stone?
We didn’t come this way to fall behind
Technology and all it’s given us to do:
Moon at every spectacle staged for show
From royal weddings to our landings
On the moon. Who would wait for Turner’s
Take on things; we have news and networks 
For such things. And all the addled paint
That Church could scumble, isn’t needed
As we have no interest in the jungle,
Nor of global warming, nor Impressionism
Gloating over light and color: we’ve got 
Money on the next big thing — a trip
To Mars! Please consider what the pottery
Says of us: a Campbell’s soup can
And a plastic vase of pop. 
The oceans gather it in eddies 
Large as Wales, and as you paint
The movies move about, narrating everything
Your ancient painters couldn’t dream about. 
So as to beauty, formal and relaxed,
You have no special dalliance with the past,
But up against the great improvements of your age 
You need to sink your sculptures into glass
Or turn your Mona Lisa into holograms. 
Bifurcate the modern from the now
And give us future art so early it is out. 
Make it hard to contemplate, a gunshot
Or an artist crucified to a bug (VW),
Or Jeff Koons’ balloon sculptures made of chrome. 
At least they still remember classic chrome!
And so to beauty we are now divorced
As we cannot marry or enforce
The rules of old to now, or to the future;
Everything’s reduced to price and profit. 
Give us new, the brand, the trademark scan,
The only one of these, the chit for wealth
Without which there’s no beauty in the bank,
No pampered yacht cruise to Capri,
Nor fashions you can wear and fling
As bundles of your waste to render shock
In others not so greedy for a frock. 
Polish these, your stones of comprehension
And mock the office, if not the sheer presumption
Of what it means to make a work of art. 
It isn’t going to be what they call art,
But something so well made you cannot do without. 
Your age is in your phone, your tv view,
Your market bringing you the bottom price
And capital distributing its gains
Unevenly but thickly over all. 
What poverty? What golden age of old?
You’re in the middle of the latter days. 
Nothing can impose itself on you,
Least beauty that might make you sad
You aren’t as lovely as Sargent’s Madame X. 
Bring on the pomp and ceremony of your life,
Forget the past, it wasn’t all that ripe. 
Effulgence wraps its languid arms about
And drags to drowning all your sorrows out. 
A problem? Take a pill, or rather
Wire yourself to this transductor
And smile it out. Beauty is only
Beauty talked about. Fame is what you need,
So get a media consultant and arouse
The sleeping giant of our networked
Consciousness. Sell when thus established
To your sponsors; everything’s a concept,
So are you. And so I bring down curtains
(What are those?) on the past
And record the speed of change at last. 
You who think that art will wait it out
Are parked at the rocket port
Waiting for a pack of mules. 
Surrender to your video display;
Even that’s too old, your DVD, no!
Your digital display! Curses, foiled again. 
The old hat, hatless, will not cure
Baldness, at least of that we’re sure. 

John Sevcik


  1. In this poem that questions old forms of art as irrelevant now, the poet slips in and out of an old-fashioned meter and rhyme scheme, as well as affecting a need to satisfy a British audience. Why would this be an effective strategy? Why not?
  2. Is the poet’s mockery out of place? Should there be a micro-aggression warning before the poem, or in the margin every time it occurs?
  3. Are your feelings hurt by this attempt at poetry? Would you read this poem a second time for meaning, or rather write a poem of your own in response?
  4. Should this even be included in a course on poetry or art? What are your feelings about how the teacher presented this material, and should he be granted tenure, or simply let go to teach in an art center somewhere else?
  5. The invisible administrators who generally have less qualifications than  they can confer on you would like a raise. Would this course material justify, in your opinion, a raise, or firings across the board?  
  6. Please submit your answers in the envelope on the side desk, return your pencils, and have one of your (micro-aggression warning:) “class-mates” return the surveys to the marketing representative at the front desk?

Friday, May 11, 2018

The starry night

Turn on the lights
And we don't see the stars!
So bright is our home. 
But that makes us forget
When we fell in love;
We were rapturous as the stars.  
And that was before
We needed reassurance of our strength:
Four corners staking out our yard
And a bright electric light
To frighten new lovers away. 
No. Turn out the lights,
And let God light our way
From every point of view
With every intensity of flickering pulse. 

John Sevcik

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Illustrated Man

From Manhood Lessons of My Youth

It was a magazine book about astronomy
For earnest amateurs — a black sky
Constellation map you could cut out,
Glue to a round cardboard 
And affix an oblate window with a sprocket pin
And turn to any sky at any time of year, 
At any time of night,
Or even in the day you'd see
What wasn't visible because the sun's
Blanketing sheet of day-sky blots out
All rivals but the moon and clouds. 
It was in there how to build a telescope,
How to grind the mirror out of a round 
Pyrex blank, against another round
Green plate-glass beveled blank
Up through the carborundum numbers
Ending at the finest emory dust;
Then on to pouring a pitch lap
And polishing with jeweler's rouge
Till it became a spherical pond of clear glass
That still needed deepening with rouge
To bend into a parabolic form —
And this was called figuring. 
That's all I thought about, because
A grown man was illustrated,
Sleeves rolled up, polishing and figuring
His telescope to be. 
Eventually I did the same as he,
Though only in 8th and 9th grades. 
I didn't realize how much the illustrated man
Was guiding me to manhood and quiet work,
Like my pal Joey's dad two houses away 
Who never spoke, but sometimes
Coming home from work would shoot
A basketball in his driveway
In a grace of repetition at the hoop. 
Men's work, I found, could be
But not manhood. Not just yet. 
Manhood was the giant whose role I played. 
My mirror in its frosty curvature
Celebrated graduation as a hazy past;
A new school, a new beginning —
The ladder up to manhood extended,
And then, when I attained first light
The summer after freshman year
My wonder at the moon's bombarded texture,
And the rings of Saturn, or the nebula of Orion hunted down,
Or M 11 and the myriad Milky Way 
Stunned me into childhood for life. 
The illustrated man had grown younger
Until we met — the amateurs of science,
Forever in the transport of those stars. 

John Sevcik