The ocean’s in motion, but is the poetry?

& In a recent issue of The New Yorker there’s a scary report from Miami Beach, where, in some places, you no longer need to go to the shore to get to the ocean. It’s coming to you. You can now just step out the front door of your modest apartment or your multi-million manse into a puddle of water that’s sometimes as high as the wheels of your fancy new Mercedes. Or so Elizabeth Kolbert reports.

You ought to read her story, especially if you’re a fan of Stephen King. Parts of South Florida are like a soaked sponge. Step on your carefully manicured lawn and it bubbles. But this Log isn’t about the result global warming, which is really the subject of this Kolbert’s Repour.

This item is about The New Yorker, the only magazine that I read. Many things to say about The New Yorker, too, but it’s Saturday, and I don’t do science on Saturdays. Today’s subjects: Poetry and cartoons.

Andy Rooney, in a lovely little letter to a Ms. Worth, ‘fessed up that although he liked the old bards’ stuff — especially the kind that rhymed — he didn’t understand most modern poems. “I still read some poetry in Harper’s, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker, just to make sure I still don’t like it.”

Rooney reasoned that his aversion to the new stuff “could be a lack of taste or a lack of intellect.” But, he wondered, “am I not a person of average intelligence who should be able to comprehend a poem? Why don’t I?”

I’ve wondered the same. Each time I read the latest weekly offerings from the editor ensconsed in the magazine’s poetry nook at No. 1 World Trade Center, I think of Rooney’s remembrance of the line from Carl Sandburg, who knew of what he spoke: “Poetry is a spot halfway between where you listen and where you wonder what it was you heard.” (Rather like the last time you sat down to listen to Donald Trump.)

I could give you a hundred examples of that poetic point of wonder, simply by flipping to almost any line of verse in my pile of recent New Yorkers. I’ll rely on just one example, from this poem of Robert Pinsky’s, which you’ll find a couple of pages beyond the conclusion of Ms. Kolbert’s repour on the watery Siege of Miami. I’d gotten a few lines into Pinsky’s poem about Greek choruses of dragonfly robots when I came to what is definitely a Sandburg Spot. The line, beyond which I no longer cared to wonder what I heard, was this:

“In varying unison and diapason they will dance the forgotten.”

It was more than enough modern poetry to reassure me that I still don’t like it. And, I don’t mind saying so. Andy’s dead, and so is Carl. Somebody must carry on.

As for the second subject, cartoons: They’re not poetry, but I usually get them. I haven’t charted my guffaws, but I’d say that I usually chuckle at 80 percent of the offerings from The New Yorker’s cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff. But not those in this week’s issue. Most of them I didn’t get.  Perhaps my lack of taste or a lack of intellect. Or, perhaps, Mankoff’s off on holiday and the poetry editor’s filling in? (I didn’t read this week’s poetry. One should avoid over-indulging in self-abuse.)

& I always like The New Yorker’s cartoon contest, in which one of their oh-so-demented cartoonists draw a picture, and we’re then asked to suggest a caption. I’ve entered twice, and received not a smidgen of approving diapason (yeah, I had to look it up, too). I didn’t even rate an honorable mention.

This was my first attempt:


My non-prize-winning line was “We do not come to bury him, but to praise his Caesar salad.”

The winner’s was  “Will you all please bow your heads for the reading of the menu.

And my second attempt:


But that’s my line. It wasn’t printed.

The winner’s, I’ve just learned, was

Looks like you boys could use some water.

You are entitled to refrain from guffawing. There will be no questions regarding your taste or your intellect.

Wondering how much longer the ocean will be a thousand miles west, I’m outta here.



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