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Page 204

And these are the most fearsome critics:
Oneself a year, ten years, 20 years after
the joy of creation; oneself 400 years later
(whether or not we remember it is oneself
we criticize -- and isn't it always?).

A century later is the hangover morning after,
when one is the generation that, in its great wisdom
(derived from being later), knows that any once-doted-upon
stuff is crap (and yet, it must have been more than crap
to have been imitated by so many bad poets
until it became indistinguishable from its reflections
in all those warped mirrors),

and the great lover rises from bed,
drags his bleary headache to the bathroom mirror
and grimaces at what he hopes no one else
will ever see. (I go through an old poem,
deleting half the adjectives -- like applying Visine
to red eyes.)

The early work gets the worm
in the apple of my eye.

Though sometimes, looking at my own early work,
I find a gem and wish I could have written something
that good...and I did! Or someone I once was did it,
isn't that good enough?

When I visit on-line poetry groups,
much of what I see is embryonic -- or already
miscarried. Here's one by an English teacher
who thinks it is noble and original to call a tree
"a lone sentinel." A forest, I suppose, is a mob
of sentinels. Yes, I'm a critic. Everyone's a critic.

Silence is the best (worst) critic. Should I tell her
that trees as sentinels have been done to death?
Obviously the metaphor yet lives for her,
or perhaps she's not alive yet. It is dangerous
to tangle with the undead.

Note: As I recall, a lone sentinel pine is used as an example of triteness in one of those frigid essays by Yvor Winters, probably in his In Defense of Reason. (Winters lived up to his last name. When he's right he's even harder to take than when he's wrong. But he knew some things about poetry – taught at Stanford for many years, one of the "New Critics" of the mid-20th Century, died in the 70s, I think.)

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