Meet Herbert Morris, A Poet And An Enigma

Discussion in 'Evolution of Language' started by Joe Riley, Oct 7, 2018.

  1. Joe Riley

    Joe Riley Veteran Member
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    While looking through my Lincoln files, this morning, I found a poem "Lincoln's Hat" written by Herbert Morris. I wanted to see what he looked like, but have been unable to find a picture of him. I'd like you to meet him....and if you can, find a photo of him.;)



    "Poet Herbert Morris (1928–2001) was educated at Brooklyn College. He published six collections of poetry during his lifetime: Nine Iridescent Figures on a Vase (1978), Peru (1983), Afghanistan (1984), Dream Palace (1986), The Little Voices of the Pears (1989), and What Was Lost (2000)."

    "His blank verse poetry uses extended dramatic monologue or meditation and is both expansive and dense. Poet Anthony Hecht noted that Morris wrote “with the precise qualifications of Henry James, and conveys the muted but implicit drama of Edward Hopper.” Morris was the recipient of both a Lannan Literary Fellowship for Poetry and a Lannan Literary Award for Poetry. He died in 2001."

    Ultimate poem by Herbert Morris

     
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  2. Joe Riley

    Joe Riley Veteran Member
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  3. Nancy Hart

    Nancy Hart Very Well-Known Member
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    A reply by Steve Rubenstein, to this blog claims he is the nephew of Mr. Morris. Rubenstein has an online bookstore. Maybe you could ask him for a photo.
     
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  4. Joe Riley

    Joe Riley Veteran Member
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    Under All This Noise: On Reclusion, Writing, and Social Media
    Peter Orner

    I take solace in the example of writers who, in spite of all trends, have gone another direction. On my desk, right now,I have a book of poetry by a man named Herbert Morris. Aside from his six books, the fact that he attended Brooklyn College, and the date of his birth (1928) and death (2001), almost nothing, as far as I can tell, is publicly known about him. The man clearly wanted it this way.

    It took me three dictionaries to track down the word ekphrases. A gorgeous word, it means a concentrated description of an object, often artwork. Apt as it applies to Morris whose poems are all about paying attention – truly seeing.

    I may have found my recluse, minus any fame, in this dark stranger. I only have his poems, not his personality, but they are exactly what I need. For me it takes great concentration to read What Was Lost, and thus, I slow way, way down as I follow the tangled, meandering thoughts of his intensely lonely characters. Morris may be a poet, but he is also, to my mind, among the most hypnotic fiction writers in contemporary literature. I fall into a Morris poem the way I do into a Sebald novel. It is a whole immersion into the intensity of a moment.

    On the jacket of What Was Lost, his last book, published in 2000, there is no author photo, no biographical information, and no acknowledgements. Richard Howard deepens the mystery with a quote: “Always the dark stranger at Poetry’s feast of lights, Herbert Morris has returned to haunt the banquet with these fifteen notional ekphrases, surely the most generous creations American culture has produced since Morris’s own Little Voices of the Pears.”

    Morris writes of other people, sometimes well-known people, such as Henry James or James Joyce, in moments of profound isolation. One utterly breathtaking poem “History, Weather, Loss, the Children, Georgia” is about a photograph taken of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt as they sit in a car before a group of schoolchildren. The photo was snapped just before the children began to serenade the president. The poem begins slowly, exquisitely, as Morris constructs the scene through the smallest of details about the children. They’ve been rehearsing all week for this occasion. Their mouths are poised, frozen forever in little O’s. Even the threads of their clothes receive attention. As does the hand printed banner, Welcome Mister President. Only toward the very last lines does the poem zero in on Franklin and Eleanor themselves. These two icons may be long dead, as is this haunted moment in Warm Springs, Georgia in 1938. And yet, and this is where the poem aches, Franklin and Eleanor are not historical props but rather two vulnerable human beings sitting together — apart — in the back of an open car. The poem delicately, yet vehemently, chastises Franklin for “his wholly crucial failure” to do something pretty simple and that’s touch
     
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  5. Joe Riley

    Joe Riley Veteran Member
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  6. Joe Riley

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  7. Joe Riley

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  8. Joe Riley

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    Herbert Morris

    How to Improve Your Personality

    When, in June, you are driven to those suburbs where the dark is just beginning to fall, the air burdened with roses, where the wind suggests only the echoings of absence, where, through the years, trees have arranged themselves at the sides of the road in avenues
    where whisper after whisper takes you deeper into the landscape of your destination; when they usher you into the great house, the car left in the driveway, the lawn crossed, after the wait, the brief wait, in the dark, someone coming some distance to the door;
    when you follow into the panelled study, find them picking at watermelon slices at a round table, curtains not yet drawn, lamps not yet lit, darkness now deeply falling; after the introductions have been made, after each of three daughters, wearing swimsuits,
    blonde hair, white teeth, fierce suntans, practicing into the darkness how to be cheerleaders, into suburban darkness and beyond, how to improve their personalities, enters, where the dusk takes the turn to evening, enters, one more beautiful than another;
    when their father has asked them if they feel cold in their costumes, darkness falling, falling, and their grandfather promised a new car to the eldest, next year, at graduation, and when their aunt proposes tours of Europe as her gift to them on their eighteenth birthdays,


    you seat yourself, when asked to, at their table, permit yourself, at last, to be seduced, even perhaps assist in the seduction, exchange flirtatious glances with the one who looks at you with every word she speaks, each blonde, white- toothed, fierce suntanned word she speaks.
    Their father draws a curtain, lights a lamp. Their mother passes watermelon slices. And you, you feel the darkness closing in. When, in June, you are driven to those suburbs where the girls practice how to be cheerleaders into early June darkness and beyond,
    over and over let the cool night air ride their long legs, sweep their backs, take their arms, rehearse, time after time, the perfect stance, gestures one senses sum an education, the grammer of the wrist, the ankle's syntax, over and over beat, inflection, tone;
    when the talk at the table turns to cars, to tours of Europe, to accommodations, darkness all the while falling, closing in, there is nothing, it seems, you find to say, nothing you can offer of cars, of tours, least of all, perhaps, of accommodations,
    prepared to wait the dark out, and beyond, without a curtain drawn, without a lamp lit, needing to work on what must be improved, ready to hear your wrists and ankles sing, ready to have your life break into flame, ready, even, to speak, if somewhere pressed to,
    speak of the tours conducted through the mind of those who wait, of those who cannot wait because they do not know what they should wait for, of those who will not see Peru again, though one need not yet quite define Peru, say what it may be to be late, too late,



    come, at last, to the strangeness closing in, whether it be darkness or education, embark on longing as though it were music, implying what can only be implied, the matter of the air burdened with roses, the grammar of the wrist, the ankle's syntax.
    They look to you, you know, for more than this, this silence in the dimness of June suburbs, this weight of darkness slowly closing in. Better, perhaps, to join them in the sweet grass where the lawn slopes off gently past the house into the dark of evenings still unfathomed,
    evenings for which, as yet, no name exists, the smell of roses burdening the air, the avenues to what is possible lined on both sides with trees sending up rumors, with the wind right, enough to deafen you, whisper by whisper, wave by leaf-drenched wave;
    over and over practice the right stance, if not the perfect, rage with wrists and ankles until, imagine, bone begins to sing, one by one learn the cars, pronounce the tours, time after time rehearse accommodations, the long, slow, arduous coming to terms;
    night to night work on personality, know what to say at evening, in the suburbs, something all the while falling, closing in, the watermelon slices deftly served, a curtain drawn, a lamp lit, you in darkness seduced by darkness, saying nothing, nothing.
     
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  9. Nancy Hart

    Nancy Hart Very Well-Known Member
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    This could be a Bob Dylan song.
    .
     
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  10. Joe Riley

    Joe Riley Veteran Member
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    Ha, Ha, Ha! Don't think twice......it's alright! :cool::confused:o_O
     
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  11. Nancy Hart

    Nancy Hart Very Well-Known Member
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    I meant it. It's got one of Dylan's main themes---he doesn't fit in. It's got the ramble. It's missing the hard edge and his typical ending.

    "...Ahh princess on a steeple and all the pretty people. They're all drinking, thinking that they've got it made. Exchanging all precious gifts...." - Like a Rolling Stone

    Just my first impression. I admit I know nothing about poetry. :(
     
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