18  Thinking about the Moderns

I’ve repeatedly been struck by how much the contemporary world of arts owes to the Moderns.  Obviously we have more technology than they had, but their own technology thoroughly astonished (and appalled) them in their own time.  We can hardly innovate more than they did, and in most cases we continue their experiments (if with more powerful and expensive tools).  So here’s a little poem honoring the Moderns, moving desultorily–with a little influence from a very early Modern:  John Skelton.



Van Gogh came and went

a manly gent

with his heart bent

to slow,

failed sadly to go

with the flow.


Gertrude Stein

felt just fine

on whisky or wine

or shared a cigarette

with her favorite pet

from the Parisian set.


Duchamp was a chief

of each aperitif

but avoided all pomp,

had a romp

with la Gioconda

in a gondola.


T. S. proved a pest

in his Anglican nest,

found a fascist Pound

on the rebound

a tender editor

and tenderer creditor.


Wallace Stevens went far

with the image of jar,

farther still to Key West

and a blackbirdian jest

from Hemingway’s nest.

He, too, crossed the bar.


Children of the Sun

wanted just to have fun,

made a run with religion

troubled over contrition,

found a Woolf too aware

of Modern despair.


And so they all tumbled

as Great War guns rumbled

and finances stumbled,

stubbing impressions

on the Great Depression.

It died on another bloody sigh.


Not happy with that, but sometimes the point is just to try something.  Thanks, as always, for reading!