Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ARS POETICA: OR: WHO LIVES IN THE IVORY TOWER?, by THOMAS MCGRATH



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ARS POETICA: OR: WHO LIVES IN THE IVORY TOWER?, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Perhaps you'd like a marching song for the embattled proletariat ...
Last Line: Your feet are muddy, you son-of-a-bitch, get out of our ivory tower
Subject(s): Motion Pictures; Poetry & Poets; South Sea Islands; Movies; Cinema


Perhaps you'd like a marching song for the embattled prolet-
Ariat, or a realistic novel, the hopeful poet
Said, or a slice of actual life with the hot red heart's blood running,
The simple tale of a working stiff, but better than Jack London?

Nobody wants your roundelay, nobody wants your sestina,
Said the housewife, we want Hedy Lamarr and Gable at the cinema,
Get out of my technicolor dream with your tragic view and your verses;
Down with iambic pentameter and hurray for Louella Parsons.

Of course you're free to write as you please, the liberal editor answered,
But take the red flags out of your poem -- we mustn't offend the censor --
And change this stanza to mean the reverse, and you must tone down this passage;
Thank God for the freedom of the press and a poem with a message!

Life is lousy enough without you should put it into a sonnet,
Said the man in the street, so keep it out of the novel, the poem, the drama;
Give us a paean of murder and rape, or the lay of a willing maiden,
And to hell with the Bard of Avalon and to hell with Eliot Auden.

Recite the damn things all day long, get drunk on smoke come Sunday,
I respect your profession as much as my own, but it don't pay off when you're
hungry;
You'll have to carry the banner instead -- said the hobo in the jungle --
If you want to eat; and don't forget: it's my bridge you're sleeping under.

Oh it's down with art and down with life and give us another reefer --
They all said -- give us a South Sea isle, where light my love lies dreaming;
And who is that poet come in off the streets with a look unleal and lour?
Your feet are muddy, you son-of-a-bitch, get out of our ivory tower.


Used with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA
98368-0271, www.cc.press.org




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