Sunday 9 November 2014

The Penistic Advantage

Okay, Brian and Stan.

If neither of you certified insanists, bolstered by non-existent credentials other than an invitation by some descript editor to vulture down
upon those who dare to artistically create,
want to talk about this awful poetry, then it’s gotta be me.

I’ll go first.  Because we’ve got less than two months left, and we seem to be hung up on Poems by Arthur Henry Ward Jr. 

Yes, it’s a shameful piece of work, and the polite thing would be to just move on.  But a deal’s a deal, and Reading Richard Rohmer means blogging them all.  We knew the risks when we stared, and I, for one, haven’t forgotten what inspired us in the first place:

the venom of green
jealousy that which shekels motivates the artistic
eunuchs dedicated to the death of the talented.

Who is Arthur Henry Ward Jr.?
Let’s say you didn’t know “AHW Jr.” was a pseudonym for a paperback writer, a political hack, and the most decorated military man in Canada.  What would you think?  If I sent you a link to these things, and your only clue was: “This person is sort of famous, but not for poetry.”

I know my first guess:

School shooter.

Arthur Henry Ward is seriously pissed off.  Poem #1: Critics.  Poem #2: Smokers.  Poem #8: Women.  Poem #10: Politicians.  He’s also had it up to here with phonies, television, nuclear war and trade unions.  He even gives us a poem (“Patience”) about losing his.  Arthur Henry Ward is a fuming virgin crank.

And he writes like a twelve-year-old.

What’s the difference between a poem and an angry diary entry?  A poem has arbitrary line breaks.  Also, in a poem, whenever you get to something you know two other words for, use all three.

That way people know you won’t be silenced, censored, cowed.

But, thanks to Brian, we know that Arthur Henry Ward (the name even sounds like a spree killer) is really Richard Rohmer.  The then 56-year-old best-selling author of How to Write a Best Seller.

So it’s illuminating to encounter his – no better word for them -- “issues” in verse.


First of all, Richard Rohmer doesn’t like taking shit from critics.  They’re just jealous, they don’t know anything, and they’re only in it for the money, cash, dollars.  So, in “Critic” these “certified insanists” are blinded by “green-eyed greed” and usually (but not always) not

thinking at all except
about his money and the next review

Brian, you run with insanists: Does literary criticism pay better than I think? Was I wrong to go into oil exploration and contract law?  Critics love the long green.  And that’s why they oughta be locked up… in the bathroom? (I think I’m reading that right.) And

prohibited from stirring either his body or his
witches brew of non-splendid, money-grubbing prose

Critics get theirs again in the poem “Private Person” – shekels-motivated artistic eunuchs, I think you know who you are – and in “Visionary”:

selective editorial synthesis masquerading as valid, shining
truth, cruel, cutting to the bone

Presumably, these are the guys getting between the author and the dream we all dream of.  (No, not "boy vs. girl in the World Series of Love.")

distant beacons of unreachable desires wealth,
recognition, promotion, conquest, emulation,
appointment, honor, employment, independence

You know, like what Richard Rohmer... uh... I mean Arthur Ward deserves.

It’s hard to say who is allowed to comment on Richard Rohmer’s work.  But if you can’t say something nice you should obviously keep it to yourself.


Months ago, when we were reading Triad, Stanley noticed that Rohmer presents the novel’s big idea -- America, Russia and China should run to the world – as a good thing, without any supporting evidence.  Arthur Henry Ward’s on board, though, in “Visionary,” dreaming of 

…the coming together of the
political leaders of all the nations of the world
to surrender their sovereignty in whole or in
part to a weaponless Universal Government

That sounds kind of “big government” to me, but I’ve lived in America for a long time.  And it’s hard to reconcile with Ward’s other poems, where he complains about

socialism swamped
nations dedicated to redistributing wealth


the bloating
blinding-spending public employee masses

and the government Canada already has…

spending far beyond the financial resources
it collects


the stench… of trade unions

What do you think now, Stan?  How can Rohmer and Ward hate government and pine for more government?  Would taxes have gone down if the United States had merged with the Soviet Union and the Peoples Republic of China in 1985?  Would trade unions have had more power or less?  Is it possible that Rohmer/Ward hasn’t thought this all through?


In How to Write a Best Seller, Richard Rohmer advises his students to use sex scenes sparingly.  The reader probably expects at least one, but yeech.  Don’t do any more than you have to.  In his own work, Rohmer tends to keep it down to about one three-line incident per blockbuster, and it’s probably just as well, judging by Arthur Henry Ward.

Because, thanks to Poems, I now know the phrases “penistic advantage,” “countless predecessor copulators,” “the intended inserter,” and “whether willingly or unwillingly… open mindedly but close leggedly.”  Wish I didn’t.

1 comment:

  1. Chris - this is a great post.

    One quick comment then I''ll retreat to writing my own post: Why the pseudonym? If you reallllly wanted to get things off your chest (i.e. make public things that bug Richard Rohmer) - wouldn't you want the world to know it's you? Otherwise, you're not trading in your status as a Best Seller - sales are being lost throwing it out there as Arthur Henry Ward, Jr!

    Or does he/did he think these were universal sentiments, ones written with such elan and style that they'd find an audience anyway?

    Does he think this is poetry that can stand on its own - that people would read and appreciate it regardless of who wrote it?

    Could anyone be that delusional?

    "Oh, I didn't realise that you wrote poetry - I didn't realise you wrote such bloody awful poetry" - The Smiths