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Edward Field’s Choice – My Best Poems

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 “I don’t know how the hell old you are or anything about you but I am certain you got the stuff: clean, straight writing that knows (or you know) what a poem could be made of. I am much impressed… Thanks to God you’re not precious. And, somehow, I have the impression you won’t be corrupted.”  

–William Carlos Williams to Edward Field 

    

Edward Field was born in New York in 1924, grew up in Lynbrook, Long Island. He attended public schools, played cello in the Field Family Trio on the weekly radio program, “the Field Family Trio and the Romantic Melodies”. He served in the Air Force during World War II as a navigator in Flying Fortresses, went on 27 bombing missions, got shot down. He attended New York University on the G.I. Bill, majored in bull sessions in the cafeteria, dropped out and went to Europe where he started to write seriously. He has worked as a farmer, machinists, warehouseman, temporary typist, actor, and bill collector.    

His first book, “Standup Friend with Me” (Grove press, 1962) won the Lamont Award. It has been through numerous printings. He wrote the narration for the documentary film, “To Be Alive” which played at Johnson’s Wax Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair and won an Academy award. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship. His poems have appeared in many of the leading and underground magazines, as well as in numerous anthologies and textbooks. He has given poetry readings in  hundreds of colleges around the country.Once in front of a fireplace in Carlsbad California, his face glowing from the fire, happy like a small boy’s on Christmas, he told me, “I won’t mind when I die; I’ve been given so much. I have lived such a full life.”  

Edward Field is still alive and well in Greenwich Village as of this writing, Thanksgiving, 2012.  

“Interview with Edward Field — Poetry Is Spilling the Beans.” 

The following Poems Reprinted by Permission of the Author  

 
Sonny Hugg and The Porcupine

This baby porcupine squeezing into a crevice of rock
Could be hauled out into the open
Poked with a stick, and otherwise toyed with,
But cute as he was he couldn’t be kissed.  

Love rose tender in the heart of Sonny Hugg
And he dreamed impossible dreams
But all those bristles! His mind twisted and turned
To find a workable solution.  

To hug this improbable child was important to him,
the child willing or no, and who could say it wasn’t willing.
Maybe the Gillette, the garden shears…
No, without those spurs
This creature would be unlovable as a rat.  

Sonny was versaitle but this defeated him.
He faced reality. A porcupine for a lover?
Alas, he would have to settle for those creations
Not quite as darling but with bodies good for hugging.  

From STANDUP FRIEND WITH ME (Grove press, 1962)
 
   
  

The Lost Dancing  


after Cavafy  

when the drums come to your door
do not try to shut them out. 
 

When the drums come to your door
do not try to shut them out,
do not turn away and resist them,
for they have come to tell you what you need to hear,
they are your fate.
When Anthony heard them
he knew then that he had lost Egypt forever.
He did not shriek or tear his clothes
for he always knew they would come someday.
What the drums speak to you
is so inevitable you have to agree with them – nothing else could be right.
So when the drummers and dancers come to your door
your life changes,
and with no bitterness
but with a sad smile
– after all what you had you had,
you loved the way few men love –
And as someone who was worthy of such a kingdom,
join the Army of the lost, dancing,
follow the drums
and turn and wave goodbye
to the Alexandria you are losing.  

Rio de Janeiro
Carnival, 1974 
 

from A FULL HEART (Sheep Meadow Press, 1977)
  
 

   

Bride of Frankenstein
 
The Baron has decided to mate the monster,
to breed him perhaps,
in the interests of pure science, his only god
 
So he goes up into his laboratory
which he has built in the tower of the castle
to be as near the interplanetary forces as possible,
and puts together
   the prettiest monster-woman you ever saw
with a body like a pinup girl
and hardly any stitching at all
where he sewed on the head of a
   raped and murdered beauty queen.  
He sei his liquids burping, and coils blinking and buzzing,
and waits for an electric storm
   to send through the equipment
the spark vital for life.
The storm breaks over the castle
and the equipment really goes crazy
like a kitchen full of modern appliances
as the lightning juice starts oozing
   right into that pretty corpse. 

He goes to get the monster
so he will be right there when she opens her eyes
for she might fall in love with the first thing she sees
   as ducklings do.
That monster is already straining at his chains
   and slurping,
ready to go right to it:
He has been well prepared for coupling
by his pinching leering keeper who’s been saying for weeks,
“Ya going to get a little nookie, kid.”
or “How do you go for some poontang, baby?”
All the evil in him is focused on this one thing now
as he is led into her very presence.  

She awakens slowly,
she bats her eyes
she gets up out of the equipment,
and finally she stands in all her seemed glory
a monster princess with a hairdo like a fright wig,
lightning flashes in the background
like a halo and a wedding veil,
like a photographer snapping pictures of great moments.  

She stands and stares with her electric eyes,
beginning to understand that in this life too
she was just another body to be raped.  

The monster is ready to go:
He roars with joy at the sight of her,
so they let him loose and he goes right for those knockers.
And she starts screaming to break your heart
and you realize that she was just born:
In spite of her big tits she was just a baby.  

But her instincts are right –
rather death than that green slobber:
She jumps off the parapet.
And then the monster sex drive goes wild.  

Thwarted, it turns to violence,
   demonstrating sublimation crudely;
and he wrecks the lab,
   those burping acids in buzzing coils,
overturning the control panel
   so the equipment goes off like a bomb,
and the stone castle crumbles and crashes in the storm
destroying them all… perhaps.  

Perhaps somehow the Baron got out of
   the wreckage of his dreams
with his evil intact, if not his good looks,
and more wicked than ever
   went on with his thrilling career.
And perhaps even the monster lived
to roam the earth, his desire still on gratified;
and lovers out walking in shadowy and deserted places
will see his shape loom up over them, their doom –
and the children sleeping in their beds
will wake up in the dark night screening
as his hideous body grabs them.  

From VARIETY PHOTOPLAYS (Grove press, 1962)
 
 
Being Jewish
 
My mother’s family was made up of loving women.
They were, on the whole, bearers,
though Esther, the rich sister, had only one,
she was the exception.
 
Sarah, the oldest, had five with her first husband,
(that was still in Poland),
was widowed and came here
where she married a man with four of his own,
and together they had another five,
all of whom she raised, feeding them in relays,
except little Tillie who sat in the kitchen
and ate with everyone, meaning all the time,
resulting in a fat figure
that made her despair of ever finding a husband,
but miraculously she did, for God has decreed there is someone for everyone,
if you’re desperate enough
and will take what you can get.  
 
Aunt Rachel had 12, raising them in a stable.
She was married to a junk dealer
who kept horses to haul the wagons.
He was famous for his stinginess
so they lived in a shack surrounded by baled hay.
That was in America, in a slum called Bronxville
that the black people have now inherited from the Jews.
God help them.
Then, as now, plenty of kids turned out bad,
going to work for that Jewish firm, Murder, Inc.,
Or becoming junkies like one of my cousins did. 

My mother only had six
but that’s not counting… I’ll say no more
than she was always pregnant
with a fatalistic “what can you do?”
(“Plenty,” her friend Blanche replied – she was liberated.
“You don’t have to breed like a rabbit.”)
Like her mother who had a baby a year in Poland
until Grandpa left for America
giving her a rest.
There were women who kept bearing
even then, mysteriously, as from habit.  

Women were always tired in those days and no wonder,
with the broken-down bodies they had
and their guts collapsed,
for with every child they got a dragging down.
My mother finally had hers tied back up in the hospital
and at the same time they tied those over-fertile tubes
which freed her from God’s terrible curse on women.  

And not just the bearing, but the work:
the pots couldn’t be big enough for those hungry broods –
Sarah used hospital pots for hers –
and then the problem of filling the pots,
getting up at dawn to go to the fishing boats
for huge fish carcasses cheap,
buying bushels of half-spoiled vegetables for pennies,
making the butcher for bones,
and then lugging it all home on their bad legs.
They didn’t think of their looks for a minute,
and better they didn’t shapeless as that life made them.
(And yet they remained attractive to their men,
by the evidence of their repeated pregnancies.)  

They just went around wrecks, always depressed,
unable to cope, or hiding in bed
while the children screamed.
“Escape, escape, there must be escape”
was my mother’s theme song, until at last
her children escaped from her and her misery,
having wrecked her life, that endless sacrifice,
for what?  

I see the proletarian women like them on the streets,
cows with udders to the waist
lugging black oilcloth shopping bags,
the mamales, the mamacitas, the mammies,
the breeders of the world with loving eyes.
They sit around the kitchen table with full hearts
telling each other their troubles,
never enough money, the beasts their men were to them,
how Leo hit Esther in the face on the street,
the sorrow life was for a woman, a mother,
the children turning out no good,
and fed each other pieces of leftover meat from
   the ice-box
to make up a little for life’s pain
&, drank tea
and ate good bread and butter.  

From A FULL HEART (Sheep Meadow Press, 1977)
 
   
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15 Comments - (Leave a comment! »)

  • jav HD said:

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    I am truly enjoying by these.

  • Athena - USA said:

    I am disappointed in this poetry by Edward Field. While interesting, gritty, possibly some of his best work, and yes; thought provoking, I felt several of the pieces were not in the appropriate focus in relation to the rest of the magazine as a whole. I feel they would show better in a different type setting or magazine. My opinion is that they detracted from the whole as they were too graphic, and possibly negative in outlook for the wider audience I think you are attempting to appeal to. Poetry can be an incredibly wonderful medium to show perspective, and I do so enjoy GOOD poetry! And great art.

  • Elizabeth – Florida said:

    Edward Field’s is obviously a rich fellow on the inside and can write it up so you get in there with the stories he generally tells, and the points he makes in his works. I have a problem with being so sensitive to some images that they make me sick — like some of those in his Bride of Frankenstein piece. But, oh, he’s good.

  • Leah – Kentucky said:

    I read through many articles on your site. This is the one I appreciated most about the poet Edward Field. There were a few aspects of discussion in this interview that resonated with me as an individual and appreciator of the art of literature. Field’s early and immediate commentary on taking a while to overcome childhood made me laugh because I, too, have struggled with overcoming my own. Field says it took him about 35 years for him to do so. This, in my mind, makes him a quicker study of making sense out of it all than me. I appreciated the dialogue about how important it is to discover and learn who we are as an individual first, as a part of a larger community second and working on self-acceptance for who one is in face of potential, perhaps, certain judgment from others.
    Without it being written, I was able to derive the importance of finding courage, balance and focus, then artistically expressing it on the world stage for all to read, ponder, process, appreciate, or learn from. Readers, being the end user of Field’s literary art are left to interpret as they see or feel. Art is like that, it leaves interpretation and experience of the piece up to the viewer which is an individual and organic process. Through the medium of art people can experience and learn about themselves and find a better understanding of the world around them.

    Through this form of self-truth and expression, it is possible to inspire others to do the same with their lives; to follow their heart’s desire and passion. We all matter and what matters to us most may fall into living a life of purpose and contribution to others.
    I enjoyed the article because it revealed a real human struggling with real human issues and overcoming them organically. By doing so, Field stands as an inspiration to others coming after him struggling with their own identity, need for self- expression, acceptance, purpose and selfless contribution.
    Thanks for this particular article. I completely enjoyed reading it, identifying with it, and derived much pleasure from it.

  • Chelsea H said:

    I see that I am the first person to comment on this post, and this fact both pleases and saddens me. The general population is not quite as receptive to poetry as I would like it to be!

    I’ve got to say, Edward Field is a truly fascinating man! With a life like his, it’s no wonder he’s produced such interesting literature. “The Bride of Frankenstein” particularly resonates with me. Mary Shelley’s classic is my all-time favorite book, and just thinking of the monster’s loneliness and existential angst always breaks my heart.

    Thank you so very much for recognizing winners in literature!

  • Josef – Montana said:

    This is an excellent article. Though very brief, it gives enough information about Mr. Field that I feel like I could sit down and have a drink with him and be comfortable. I enjoyed his poetry immensely and I’m glad so much of it is available on this page.

  • Alex The Editor said:

    Dan,

    feel free to take your foot out of your mouth, we all make mistakes…

    First, I do have Edward Field’s permission to print his poetry. There is no basis for you making that conclusion. Shame on you.

    Second, Edward Fields philosophy of writing poetry is “Spilling the Beans”. When he writes poetry he tries to put a piece of himself on the page, to reveal something inside himself, for the reader to know. To say that his poetry has no substance, given the awards and recognition he has received for it, shows only your ignorance or lack of education.

    Third, if you want to know how he approaches life, his work, his innermost fears and thoughts, read the interview in this magazine that I conducted, that is cross-referenced in the poetry article. Open your mind and eyes before you speak! Maybe you should be a commentator on Fox News. You would fit right in.

    In summary, given the current controversy over the “Hoody murder” of a young boy, the best advice I can give you is, “Don’t Judge a Man or a Situation by His Hoody”. Or how about an oldie but goodie, “Look before You Leap”.

  • Dan – New York said:

    This article is very short and only touches on biographical info and some of his work. Such articles in my opinion are of little real value in a blog or website. They represent just a brief amount of the information and not enough to be considered valuable, either by the reader or a search engine. The article also publishes the Author’s work, most likely without permission and this makes up the bulk of the article. More should be written about his specific style and what influence his work has had on the poetry community or socially. — Thank you for your consideration, Dan La Bate

  • Aída said:

    awesome blog. i enjoyed reading your articles. this is truly a great read for me. i have bookmarked it and i am looking forward to reading new articles. cheers.http://www.sapatoonline.net

  • Sheridan – Hawaii said:

    He is an “edgy” poet and they aren’t my favorite style but I appreciate his verve.

  • Stacia Miller said:

    In response to Edward Field’s “Bride of Frankenstein”
    “Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
    To mould me Man, did I solicit thee
    From darkness to promote me?”

    This quote from Milton’s Paradise Lost is actually included in the introduction of one of the copies of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I immediately thought of it when I read the stanza:
    “She stands and stares with her electric eyes,
    beginning to understand that in this life too
    she was just another body to be raped.”
    I think the story of Frankenstein poses powerful questions regarding the complex notions in the relationship between the creator and the created. Field’s poem is a brilliant representation of the complexity of what it means to be human and addresses timeless themes of man as the agent of God.

  • Samantha -- Indiana said:

    Poetry and written art interest me in particular and because I think an article of this nature has so much to offer.

    I really like the way that the introduction is written; although it is a little simplistic, it gives the words almost a rhythmic, fast-paced feeling that reflects the poetry to follow.

    The rest of the article, of course, is a reprinting of poetry. I do wonder why ‘The Lost Dancing’ is included, since it really isn’t nearly so well done as the others, but perhaps it is because it creates variety in the collection that it is part of the overall article.

  • Taylor – Louisiana said:

    i poked around the website a bit & read a few articles-glad to see you have so much content dealing with poetry-especially liked the interview with edward field…i did notice though, the poetry in your magazine is quite aged at this point & with so many contemporary writers that are producing astounding work it would be great to give them a bit of exposure as well…the baton rouge art/writing scene is quite alive & thriving…

  • Alfred Jendrasik said:

    I am also a published poet. I love reading the works of others, hearing what they have to say, and there works give me more ideas and insight into life. I liked all of the poems, but my favorite one was the Lost Dancing. Often in our lives we have chances to take, decisions to make, and sometimes shrug off the right ones to follow. We hear only what we want to hear. We fear the inner voice, our consciences, and often do the wrong things. We take the wrong jobs, fall in love with the wrong person, and don’t listen…don’t think.
    There is a drummer within each of us, sometimes we listen and sometimes we don’t, and often fall on our faces in the parade.
    At this time of year my favorite song is the, “Little Drummer Boy,” and he did not have much to give, but he played his heart out on the drum for the newborn baby Jesus, and that is something we should all do…use our talents and gifts and never, never let go or give up.

  • Salete Dias said:

    Whenever I read a beautiful poem I always feel happier and willing to face the problems that life brings. All poets are people who have a great importance because they are responsible for making the world happier. They are special people who contribute to show the beauty that every human being has inside. Congratulations to everyone who has the gift of being a poet

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