The Charlotte News

Thursday, December 2, 1937


Site Ed. Note: Even if, as she did, the dear little Empress, whose little tanka poem is the first subject of "Two Poems", lived to be 97, dying in relative comfort in 2000, we vote for Cash’s poem, even if its author did die in 1941 at age 41, as being far the better than that of the little Empress—who professed, in the end, her and her husband’s complete innocence in the business of Japanese aggression, ultimately starting World War II in the Pacific theater.

Perhaps the little Empress was simply being honest in her self-assuagement, her self-empressement, or perhaps she was simply, inescapably, cast in her traditional role of blind fealty to her husband and homeland, perhaps so too was he.

But that still, in our book, does not, as it never does, excuse purblind stupidity and ignorance; and both Hirohito and his loyal wife, most sacred poetry to excuse war crimes of the purblind notwithstanding, were guilty at least of the crime of purblind ignorance and of burying their heads in the sand, dodging reality, as their country warred on all the surrounding territory; not an honorable thing to do when a little plain-speak from the high-exalted majestic throne (or was all the splendiferous, courtly elegance in chiffon and fan merely just the trapping grace of the Charlie McCarthy doll variety to afford comic relief to the merchants of blood-envy?) at the right moment to their country’s purblind notions of empire and perverse honor in death, even if it meant risking their own precious, spoiled little necks, even if accomplished in martyrdom, might have saved the lives of millions.

Yet, they chose the most honorable path of silent acquiescence, heads bowed honorably--to the honorable captains of murder and rapine, to honor the good life, to dodge, and then to claim the most honorable closed-ear hearing of no evil, speaking same, seeing less, compromising with sin—sacred poetry, in rudimentary time, casting their lot with a kind of maiden, most unsacred, of runic Rhine.

Moreover, the little Empress’s poetry is awful. Not just our opinion. It just is not just.

But, there are some in this country today who might read that little bit of "poetry", so-called, in their purblind fealty to the sovereign, and think it most honorable and sanctimoniously sweet—in hindsight. To die for sovereign, most honorable, most good.

But we respond that, as Cash put forth in his responsive poem, there is nothing honorable in giving life for the sovereign, so that the sovereign may decapitate its enemies, may eat its enemies for dinner, may invade and assault its enemies for only the crime of being, and of possessing something which the sovereign wishes to have as its ownempire, sweet empire dreams. There is nothing honorable in that, stupid little Emperor and Empress, hiding in the sand, not listening to the shells whispering the explosion to come, most sweetly from your sand’s granularity turned from pearls.

As an aside, we learned once from Cash’s sister, who was most kind to talk to us before her passing away in 1987, that Cash used to refer consistently to his dread of the "cold, cold grave". But, as he did not die for the sake of the sovereign, as set forth in the honorable first poem, but rather honored the poetry of the second stanza, his own, we suspect, he tasted not the cold, cold grave, or even its ashen quantity held, but rather of something more sublime, patient understanding, little Empress.

Anyway, here’s our third poem, seventy years later, to add to it:

Glassy-eyed sand-squib, in your quill’s pace,
You give effrontery to the other’s glib race,
And though this may rhyme, to rue your eglantine,
Your sun-masked sin, despite your lace,
Did not eclipse the face of your insanemen’s pen.

We were curious to take a look at what had transpired with St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwerie Episcopal Church in the seventy years since the retirement of Reverend Guthrie, of which the editorial of yesterday made remark. We see by its webpage that it has acquired the status of an art school of a sort, in the home of country and western music, Greenwich Village, replete with a Poetry Project--which is all well and good, we suppose. We were reminded, however, in faintly perusing some of its product for a few minutes--that is, until our head began to endure rather than enjoy--of the sometime utterly vacuous quality exhibited from so much of what passes these days for "poetry", seemingly always now the product of committees of self-proclaimed "poets", rather than anything representative of the individual face of individualism, as poetry, to be properly poetry, is—and has always been so, by definition. Group-think does not replace it, however much wishful thinking to the contrary the committee of "poets" may wish it so by providing the false standard by which all is judged to be "poetry" or not within their standardless array.

We have commented on this absurdity before, and so won’t dwell on it here again to any extent. But it is not poetry, that which we see so often, of which we speak, that which regularly tries to pass itself off as such. It is prose, usually pretentious prose, sounding as if written by halfwits, merely divided into phrases and particles and provided italics, a title, and packaged then neatly as a "poem", perhaps with little frilly flowers drawn around its silvered edges.

We don’t mean to knock its authors or its authorship, for it might be conveying of a splendid prose thought or so; yet, it is not poetry. That is our gripe.

Call it something else: proesy. There.

We think that the devolution comes for their being poetasters in the first instance, thus being encouraged to give up rhyme for prose, yet still clinging to the fantastical notion that they are poets, and thus so pose.

No, they are proets, as they know not how to speak beneath the rose.


A finger arose from the stark mystery of the grave in bravery making its way to the lips of gravity in gray wanting, past the dins of thieves in equated majesty before they ever came of age in their rage of trystery.

We just made that up in about thirty seconds: it makes absolutely no sense; it is not poetry. It is nonsense. Even if it sounds at first somehow gravely indelible.

But, take another minute:

The Grave Grey Finger, #9

A finger arose from the stark mystery
of the grave
In bravery,
Making its way to the lips of gravity;
In gray (mourning of the Number 9 Station)
Wanting, past the dins
Of thieves
In equated majesty
Before they ever came of age.
In their Rage.
Of Trystery.

Now, then, you see. We’ve created a "poem" from out our utter nonsense; still nonsense, however, not a poem. Oh, you can interpret it as a poem, no doubt, and, from it, find deeply hidden meanings within it, even gravely sinister ones, mockish notions involving stray fingers, anti-social gibes at the gybery. (Give it some music; it's a song. But it's still no poem outside the song.) If it acquires meaning, that is resultant from you reflecting as a mirror on the otherwise meaningless verbiage of the strung together instant-poem, rather proem, not because, intrinsically, that which we provided for you induced deliberately, or even accidentally, that reflection; for we put no reflection into it from which you might derive any. Whatever reflection there is to it comes only to us after we have gone through it. Maybe in that reflection, it becomes our automat poem, the fast-burger poem, the "have it your way" poem of our instant-age. But, though thusly tilled by the perceiver into some meaning, still it remains nothing more than meaningless verbiage, we insist, at its creative inception, not a poem.

Not to say that, with a little work, the words above might not be transformed into a poem; but, as is, it is gibberish, off the wall. Meaningless. Something fit only for nihilists, standing, kissing the blank wall, seeking oblivion, not understanding.

We don’t mean to pick on any individual; it is just that which we happened first to see when we came to the Poetry Project, or more properly, a critique ascribing meaning desperately to meaningless verbiage calling itself a "poem". There is no "subjective" quality, as the critique suggested the poem insisted, within a house such that the house has a consciousness. That very type of mistaken thinking is what leads us to such irrational notions as a society, that we can do whatever we arrogantly wish to do, including conversion of religious states and centuries-old divisions within those states within the Arab world into western-thinking democracies to afford some hep-cat’s version of world peace instantly, just as if something cooked up in the microwave.

Hogwash. The house, of which we have built one, and so of the matter ought have some rudimentary understanding, has no consciousness. The house is comprised of bricks and mortar, sticks and stones, nails and joinery, realized from a design and conception, sometimes of one, or more properly, that which is the product and sum of one, more often of many, sometimes of cookie cutters. But, while the designer may impart to the perceiver, in that design and functional realization, a consciousness, through that interconnection, the house being the medium by which the interconnection occurs, the house itself is as dumb as a fence post in the still moonlit evening. It is inanimate, even if the wood wooed just so to comprise it once bore fruit of the living tree and through its grain ran the waters of the streams of time immemorial, over the clay comprising its brick the many dinosaurs trod, glass comprising its windows, the many ocean tides rode in boundless waves through the ages, even so, of itself, it remains inanimate, without a soul. Its soul is only imparted by its bearer and occupant, its designer and creator, its skillful hands giving birth to the creator’s design--all those comprise its soul. It may possess the spirits of those who formed it thusly, who have occupied it thusly; but the house itself has no soul.

Just as the dolls or building sets with which one used to play as a child. They may have memories attached to them, by means of one’s own human interaction with them, but they, of themselves, are merely pieces of material woven into an image, created by someone’s articulation of a concept formed within a mind, analogizing to some animate or inanimate form presented on a greater scale in the world--individual, familial, communal, cultural.

Please, thus, adopt to some form of rational conduct, before we all blow ourselves to kingdom come. The house itself has no soul—neither did the buildings, for goodness sakes.

It starts with that absurd "poetry", you know. Learn to think first; then try poetry, Mr. or Ms. Poetaster. Poetry is not, we posit, merely free-thinking prose, which, by our standards of latter twentieth century mockism, translates into little more than broken irrational half-thoughts of a half-life, more usually than not. Again, fine and dandy to express one’s self in proesy. Tell the whole world of your proesy. But it is not poetry. And, for our money, without rhyme, poetry has no reason.

Evocation merely of the age in which we live, the cynic carps back at us. Why be so caustically critical of the self-expressive poet of the age? they may snip again. We like these proets, they say. It is the age against which we must rail, not the poet of it. Why quibble? A proet is the same as a poet.

But then we must respond: who then is to say that the "poetry" thus being produced is not merely the synthesis of the age, but rather the aider and abettor, even in some instances, the creator, of the age’s synthesis? Should not poetry rise above its age in which it is written, and thus, by that very process, acquire its elevation to that which we would describe as poetry.

We were reading last evening Mr. Mencken’s modernized, utilitarian version of the Declaration of Independence, as contained within his American Language. We recommend it. Yous bound to get a grin from it, unless yous bes, like, you know, not hep, like a nobody from Polukaville, without even no ceegar to yous name, without even no poetry in yous brain. And, it, to us, is yet another form of poetry.

Two Poems

Empress [Kuninomiya] Nagako, wife of that child of the sun who sits upon the heaven-bounded throne of Nippon, wrote a poem yesterday. She wrote it in the difficult and archaic Uta form, which is known to only a very few great scholars, and which is limited to thirty-two Japanese syllables. What she said, being translated, was:

Take sweet seeming sleep
In the name of the sovereign,
Then spirits of the brave
Who sacrificed for the homeland.

Reading that, we are moved, ourselves, to think up a little poem. If we knew the difficult Uta form, we'd try to cast it in that, but not being Japanese pundits, the best we can do is American free verse. It goes like this:

It is dark in the grave,
And to have died for the glory
Of the homeland does not make
it light,
We had rather have seen the
cherry trees
Bloom next year under Fujiyama.

Elmer's Empyreal Elixir*

If it were as simple as Senator Elmer Thomas of Oklahoma thinks it is to make everybody prosperous, life of the politicians would be one long rosy dream. Senator Thomas has a nostrum that is good for whatever ails agriculture, manufacture, finance, foreign commerce and retail trade. It is money--cheap money. Does the pulse of business slow down? A shot of cheap money. Does governmental revenue fall off? Cheap money. Do the cotton farmers heave to and produce a cotton crop beyond all need and marketability? Well,

"The farm problem is a price problem. The same economic law that applies to cotton, corn and wheat applies to money. When money is plentiful, prices are high: when money is scarce, prices are cheap."

Okay. But what we can't get through our head is how the cotton farmer would be better off than he is if the price of cotton were made to go up--and everything else with it. If the farmer got 20 cents for his cotton and had to pay $600 for his mules and $275 for his plows and $1.25 for his work shirts, in the end his 20-cent cotton would buy no more goods and services than his 6-cent cotton is going to buy. It would, to be sure, make it easier to pay debts which were fixed in terms of the old 50-cent dollar, but experience has shown that with cotton at 20 cents the farmer does not pay debts; he makes them.

Toys Go American

Toys are on parade in the show windows again. And this year they are more than ever fascinating. A doll used to be simply a doll. But nowadays they are all done in the image of this or that popular personality, real or fictional: Little girls and grown-up girls this season can have, in addition to the now aging Shirley Temple doll, a Charlie McCarthy doll, and, latest of all, a Princess Elizabeth doll--a golden-haired replica of the little daughter of George VI, in a dress of blue silk and a stone-studded coronet of silver.

For boys, little and big, there are a marvelous electric train with a flexible track that can be tied in knots if they'd like (and they would), a television rifle that will hit a target without firing any projectile, bio-chemistry experimental outfits, and literally hundreds of kinds of building sets. The building sets, indeed, overwhelmingly lead the field among toys for the male.

German toys are still around, but the greater part of our playthings are now made in America, partly for the reason that Nurnberg, old capital of Toyland, thinks it has more important business in its new role as one of Hitler's chief troop training depots. But in America, war toys are almost banned. You can still find a tin soldier if you are bound to have him, but you'll have to look for him.

Test Case*

That's a nice little argument the County authorities and the Community Chest have cooked up between them--as to who shall be responsible for the care of the unemployed employables in Mecklenburg during the next year. The County contends that its budget is already taken up, to the last penny, and the Chest argues the same, for its own, and adds that anyhow such cases were not at all contemplated in the prospectus it put forward in the late campaign.

Well, we are not going to try to resolve the argument for them. Nevertheless, we guess that somehow the money is going to be found by the one or the other, or by both together. For these employable people, insofar as they really cannot find work, must of course be taken care of. And the problem is squarely up to the local authorities and agencies. It was the chief, and we think just, charge against WPA, which used to take care of such cases en masse, that it was a wasteful way of doing what the localities ought to do and could do more economically and with discrimination.

The present case is therefore a sort of test case, for Mecklenburg, of the whole local-rather-than-Federal method of unemployment relief. It will cost us, locally, some $15,000, at the least. And now that the discussion has become extremely practical, stated in terms of tax bills or Community Chest donations, are we, at bottom, for local relief?

Speaking for ourselves, and with liability limited to $15,000, we can answer aye; though if the cost should come to $100,000 we confess we'd have to do some tall soul-searching and maybe some squirming.

The Missing "Hancock"*

Frank Hancock, at present Representative in Congress from the Fifth North Carolina and candidate for Bob Reynolds' Senate seat, has always prided himself on letting legislation come to a vote regardless of its merits or demerits. That is, Mr. Hancock's impatience with parliamentary tricks and devices to sidetrack controversy over bills has led him in the past to vote or to sign petitions to bring such bills to the floor, at least. Once there, he might vote against them: but he was in favor of bringing them there. We remember some occurrence of the sort about a birth control bill, back when birth control was taboo...

Wherefore it is mildly astonishing to find that the only two North Carolina Representatives who signed petitions to bring the muchly disputed wage and hour bill to the floor of the House are Bulwinkle and Umstead. The missing Hancock signature, Frank's rather than John's, is hard to explain in the light of its proprietor's characteristic disdain of committee dodges. The only explanations we can think of are that he is afraid that his signing might be misunderstood, or that he is holding out in order to trade for favorable votes on the farm bill.

Site Ed. Note: This editorial may not have been by Cash. Its less than enthusiastic endorsement of Al Smith appears in stark contrast to his Cleveland Press editorials of fall, 1928, solidly favoring Smith’s candidacy over Herbert Hoover. Perhaps, the earlier editorials were more the product of youthful iconoclasm, tempered now by a more sophisticated 37-year old mind and personality, one which had endured the harshness of the Depression years.

Perhaps he was merely responding to his new position at The News with some degree of stealthy caution as to just how far the conservative ownership might let him go.

In any event, the editorial actually winds up endorsing the position of Smith in backhand fashion. So maybe, in reality, it evidences not that much change in the nine intervening years after all.

Al's Gift*

Old Al Smith, of the raddio voice, is not strictly one of our favorite characters in the American scene. His opinions are generally too tight and dogmatic, for one thing. And for another, he has shown too much personal spleen to be received as an impartial critic. Yet that the Fulton Fish Market boy who got up to running for the Presidency had--and has--a kind of tough-minded realism which explains his rise and which in itself is entirely admirable, is manifest.

Yesterday he said in New York that three things were wrong with our country at the moment:

1--The complete lack of interest on the part of the ordinary citizen in the operation of his government.

2--People don't know they are paying taxes.

3--Capital will never begin to come out of hiding and go to work, human nature being what it is, so long as a man has to bet $100 to win $10 at roulette.

If you think you can top that analysis, or controvert it, sail in.

They Without Sin*

If national labor control set-up was a strictly rational one, the news that Henry Ford's automobile company has been cited before the NLRB would be good news. Surely here's a situation which, under any view of the matter, requires clearing up. If Mr. Ford's company has "threatened and intimidated its employees, forced them to sign statements that they were satisfied with working conditions, circulated anti-union propaganda, etc."--then Mr. Ford ought to be made to desist. For, rightly or wrongly, all these things are crimes under the Wagner Act, and Mr. Ford's bigness and power should in nowise exempt him from the application of the law.

On the other hand, if the majority of Ford employees really don't want unions, if they are actually satisfied with pay and hours and working conditions, if the union movement in the Ford plants is only the effort of a minority to blackjack the majority into accepting the union, and to coerce Mr. Ford, by wrecking employment and production--why, then, that minority obviously ought to be made to desist.

But, alas, there is no chance that it will work out so reasonably, with things as they are. By the record, the NLRB is likely to assume Mr. Ford's guilt from the beginning, and is practically certain not to find that the unionizers have done any wrong in any iota, regardless of the evidence. And even if that miracle might come about, it could still do nothing. For in the Wagner Act there is not one word about unfair practices and coercion on the part of unions. Employers alone are assumed to be capable of such behavior.

Site Ed. Note: The rest of the page is here. Whoever thought up that idea in Greensboro with regard to paying the hush money to our politicians, as with those of France, we are sorry to report seventy years later, that, somewhere along the line, maybe around fifty years ago, they started into it and never stopped; maybe it had already started under Harding and the latter boys just followed suit from there; maybe under Boss Tweed. In any event, they did a real swell job of it. The Niyonians took your glib comment a little too seriously, Greensboro, and ran with it. Some of them still do run.

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