Having read Generally Speaking just before the Poems of Arthur Henry Ward, Jr., I was curious about just why the Richard Rohmer portrayed in the autobiography would feel compelled to not only write poetry but to pull whatever strings and use his connections to actually publish it. Not once in the autobiography does he mention staying up late at night as a youth, reading Keats by candlelight. Nothing in the book gives any clue that writing poetry would be of any interest to him.
And so having read it, naively expecting something that mirrored Canada's war poets (given Rohmer's military background) - earnest efforts at creating verse one half patriotic and the other trying to convey Rohmer's feelings about his service. Instead, what I got was, was ....
Good lord, how to describe this free form nonsense? Rohmer's idea of poetry seems to be that it exists to allow one to vent about whatever issues he has - critics, smokers, read Chris's post for a better explication - using this drunk-on-words style of free-association, clumsy adjectives and sometimes painful neologisms ("insanist", "missingly","smokee" - the latter being one who breathes second-hand smoke). As Tommy Lee Jones put it in The Fugitive, "What - a - mess".
But what drove Canada's most decorated veteran to write and publish this stuff? Did he really hate critics that much that he needed to create a poem that eviscerated them to a level that would have you believe they are likely the most evil people to ever walk the face of the earth? Is Arthur Janov your main inspiration? This is a poem where he equates himself with Tchaikovsky, Picasso and Hemingway (and for the record - this is the author of Ultimatum saying this). Stanza after stanza heaping scorn on critics, he consigns them all to the lavatory in the final lines - ending with "I go now to my own lavatory purgatory to brood and brew". I cannot and will not think any further what he means by "brew".
His approach seems to consist of taking poetic conventions and bending them to his need to rant. For an example, in Smoker, we get treated to a lesson in alliteration. Following summing up of smokers as "polluters", we get "parasitical", "particles", "permeating", "penetrating", "puffs", "particularly", "privacy", "pasty", "prime", "puffer", "pungent", "pulsating". In Plumber, a more advanced lesson: "slicing slander", "destructive denigration" and (my favorite) "escalating expansionist geometric growth". Someone was paying attention in high school English.
Rohmer's idea of poetry form is that is should first and foremost show off your vocabulary and your ability to twist words. Time after time we get not one but two words, joined by a slash, that seem to be there to show that a good poet always has two words for every situation available. Some examples:
I could go on, but you get the point.
I'll sidestep any discussion about sex or politics, because Chris's post handles it so well, but I do want to end by addressing Brian's question "who is Arthur Henry Ward, Jr.?". Some clues:
"I am a critic!"
"Visionary I am"
"I am an aura"
"Woman I have been"
"I am a private person"
"Politician am I"
"A plumber am I".