Dave Bonta

(Easter. Lord’s day). In the morning towards my father’s, and by the way heard Mr. Jacomb, at Ludgate, upon these words, “Christ loved you and therefore let us love one another,” and made a lazy sermon, like a Presbyterian. Then to my father’s and dined there, and Dr. Fairbrother (lately come to town) with us. After dinner I went to the Temple and there heard Dr. Griffith, a good sermon for the day; so with Mr. Moore (whom I met there) to my Lord’s, and there he shewed me a copy of my Lord Chancellor’s patent for Earl, and I read the preamble, which is very short, modest, and good.
Here my Lord saw us and spoke to me about getting Mr. Moore to come and govern his house while he goes to sea, which I promised him to do and did afterwards speak to Mr. Moore, and he is willing.
Then hearing that Mr. Barnwell was come, with some of my Lord’s little children, yesterday to town, to see the Coronacion, I went and found them at the Goat, at Charing Cross, and there I went and drank with them a good while, whom I found in very good health and very merry. Then to my father’s, and after supper seemed willing to go home, and my wife seeming to be so too I went away in a discontent, but she, poor wretch, followed me as far in the rain and dark as Fleet Bridge to fetch me back again, and so I did, and lay with her to-night, which I have not done these eight or ten days before.

The Way is like a patent to govern sea
or a barn with children
or a goat merry in the rain.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 14 April 1661.

To Whitehall by water from Towre-wharf, where we could not pass the ordinary way, because they were mending of the great stone steps against the Coronacion. With Sir W. Pen, then to my Lord’s, and thence with Capt. Cuttance and Capt. Clark to drink our morning draught together, and before we could get back again my Lord was gone out. So to Whitehall again and, met with my Lord above with the Duke; and after a little talk with him, I went to the Banquethouse, and there saw the King heal, the first time that ever I saw him do it; which he did with great gravity, and it seemed to me to be an ugly office and a simple one. That done to my Lord’s and dined there, and so by water with parson Turner towards London, and upon my telling of him of Mr. Moore to be a fit man to do his business with Bishop Wren, about which he was going, he went back out of my boat into another to Whitehall, and so I forwards home and there by and by took coach with Sir W. Pen and Captain Terne and went to the buriall of Captain Robert Blake, at Wapping, and there had each of us a ring, but it being dirty, we would not go to church with them, but with our coach we returned home, and there staid a little, and then he and I alone to the Dolphin (Sir W. Batten being this day gone with his wife to Walthamstow to keep Easter), and there had a supper by ourselves, we both being very hungry, and staying there late drinking I became very sleepy, and so we went home and I to bed.

We could not mend
the great stone.
I saw the king heal it
with simple water
and go to the burial of dirt.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 13 April 1661.

National Poetry Month 2014 posterCharles Bernstein was right: National Poetry Month is a failure. How do I know this? Because neither All Things Considered nor the New York Times, in their main stories on this year’s Pulitzers, bothered to mention the winner for poetry (3 Sections, by Vijay Seshadri from Graywolf Press). Both did of course mention who won for fiction. The Times article also mentioned the nonfiction and drama winners, while Neda Ulaby’s story on ATC included a bit about the winner for music — and modern classical music is surely a less popular art form even than modern poetry. Nor is this the first time that NPR has done this; I remember noticing the same omission last year.

I can only conclude that people in the news rooms of the newspaper of record and National Public Radio have decided that poetry just isn’t newsworthy — even when one of the two or three most significant American poetry book prizes is awarded right in the middle of April. Raising the profile of poetry is the central goal of National Poetry Month, which the Academy of American Poets has been relentlessly flogging for years, with the support of other major organizations such as the American Poetry Foundation, the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Association, and the National Council of Teachers of English.

Neither the New York Times nor National Public Radio seem especially hostile to poetry, either — that’s part of what makes this omission so telling. They each cover poets and poetry from time to time, I suppose as a way of trying to inflate their cultural capital. But they don’t cover it when it matters.

cowboy poetryThere is one poetry-related initiative in April that seems to have caught on a little, and that’s NaPoWriMo (which didn’t exist when Bernstein wrote his screed in 1999). The thing about that is that it’s actually very international, plus it began as an answer to NaNoWriMo, so its connection to National Poetry Month in the US seems tenuous at best. Also, I’m not sure that getting more people to write poetry necessarily leads to more people reading poetry. Poets are often some of the worst readers of poetry, in fact. So while I’m glad that NaPoWriMo has proved to have such traction and staying power, I’m not sure that it furthers the National Poetry Month goal of promoting the appreciation of poetry among general readers.

Bernstein concluded his essay with this suggestion, which I think makes more sense than ever:

As an alternative to National Poetry Month, I propose that we have an International Anti-Poetry month. As part of the activities, all verse in public places will be covered over—from the Statue of Liberty to the friezes on many of our government buildings. Poetry will be removed from radio and TV (just as it is during the other eleven months of the year). Parents will be asked not to read Mother Goose and other rimes to their children but only … fiction. Religious institutions will have to forego reading verse passages from the liturgy and only prose translations of the Bible will recited, with hymns strictly banned. Ministers in the Black churches will be kindly requested to stop preaching. Cats will be closed for the month by order of the Anti-Poetry Commission. Poetry readings will be replaced by self-help lectures. Love letters will have to be written only in expository paragraphs. Baseball will have to start its spring training in May. No vocal music will be played on the radio or sung in the concert halls. Children will have to stop playing all slapping and counting and singing games and stick to board games and football.

Up among my workmen, and about 7 o’clock comes my wife to see me and my brother John with her, who I am glad to see, but I sent them away because of going to the office, and there dined with Sir W. Batten, all fish dinner, it being Good Friday.
Then home and looking over my workmen, and then into the City and saw in what forwardness all things are for the Coronacion, which will be very magnificent. Then back again home and to my chamber, to set down in my diary all my late journey, which I do with great pleasure; and while I am now writing comes one with a tickett to invite me to Captain Robert Blake’s buriall, for whose death I am very sorry, and do much wonder at it, he being a little while since a very likely man to live as any I knew. Since my going out of town, there is one Alexander Rosse taken and sent to the Counter by Sir Thomas Allen, for counterfeiting my hand to a ticket, and we this day at the office have given order to Mr. Smith to prosecute him. To bed.

I am the way
and the fish
in Good Friday,
the work and the war,
magnificent in
my journey to death
like a counterfeit day.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 12 April 1661.

At 2 o’clock, with very great mirth, we went to our lodging and to bed, and lay till 7, and then called up by Sir W. Batten, so I arose and we did some business, and then came Captn. Allen, and he and I withdrew and sang a song or two, and among others took pleasure in “Goe and bee hanged, that’s good-bye.”
The young ladies come too, and so I did again please myself with Mrs. Rebecca, and about 9 o’clock, after we had breakfasted, we sett forth for London, and indeed I was a little troubled to part with Mrs. Rebecca, for which God forgive me. Thus we went away through Rochester, calling and taking leave of Mr. Alcock at the door, Capt. Cuttance going with us. We baited at Dartford, and thence to London.
But of all the journeys that ever I made this was the merriest, and I was in a strange mood for mirth. Among other things, I got my Lady to let her maid, Mrs. Anne, to ride all the way on horseback, and she rides exceeding well; and so I called her my clerk, that she went to wait upon me.
I met two little schoolboys going with pitchers of ale to their schoolmaster to break up against Easter, and I did drink of some of one of them and give him two pence.
By and by we come to two little girls keeping cows, and I saw one of them very pretty, so I had a mind to make her ask my blessing, and telling her that I was her godfather, she asked me innocently whether I was not Ned Wooding, and I said that I was, so she kneeled down and very simply called, “Pray, godfather, pray to God to bless me,” which made us very merry, and I gave her twopence.
In several places, I asked women whether they would sell me their children, but they denied me all, but said they would give me one to keep for them, if I would.
Mrs. Anne and I rode under the man that hangs upon Shooter’s Hill, and a filthy sight it was to see how his flesh is shrunk to his bones.
So home and I found all well, and a deal of work done since I went.
I sent to see how my wife do, who is well, and my brother John come from Cambridge.
To Sir W. Batten’s and there supped, and very merry with the young ladies. So to bed very sleepy for last night’s work, concluding that it is the pleasantest journey in all respects that ever I had in my life.

Go and be hanged, we call
to a clerk, to a schoolmaster,
to two cows in the wood,
to God, to children, to the man
that hangs on Shooter’s Hill,
filthy flesh shrunk to his bones.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 11 April 1661.

In the morning to see the Dockhouses. First, Mr. Pett’s, the builder, and there was very kindly received, and among other things he did offer my Lady Batten a parrot, the best I ever saw, that knew Mingo so soon as it saw him, having been bred formerly in the house with them; but for talking and singing I never heard the like. My Lady did accept of it.
Then to see Commissioner Pett’s house, he and his family being absent, and here I wondered how my Lady Batten walked up and down with envious looks to see how neat and rich everything is (and indeed both the house and garden is most handsome), saying that she would get it, for it belonged formerly to the Surveyor of the Navy.
Then on board the Prince, now in the dock, and indeed it has one and no more rich cabins for carved work, but no gold in her.
After that back home, and there eat a little dinner. Then to Rochester, and there saw the Cathedrall, which is now fitting for use, and the organ then a-tuning. Then away thence, observing the great doors of the church, which, they say, was covered with the skins of the Danes, and also had much mirth at a tomb, on which was “Come sweet Jesu,” and I read “Come sweet Mall,” &c., at which Captain Pett and I had good laughter.
So to the Salutacion tavern, where Mr. Alcock and many of the town came and entertained us with wine and oysters and other things, and hither come Sir John Minnes to us, who is come to-day to see “the Henery,” in which he intends to ride as Vice-Admiral in the narrow seas all this summer. Here much mirth, but I was a little troubled to stay too long, because of going to Hempson’s, which afterwards we did, and found it in all things a most pretty house, and rarely furnished, only it had a most ill access on all sides to it, which is a greatest fault that I think can be in a house.
Here we had, for my sake, two fiddles, the one a base viall, on which he that played, played well some lyra lessons, but both together made the worst musique that ever I heard.
We had a fine collacion, but I took little pleasure in that, for the illness of the musique and for the intentness of my mind upon Mrs. Rebecca Allen.
After we had done eating, the ladies went to dance, and among the men we had, I was forced to dance too; and did make an ugly shift. Mrs. R. Allen danced very well, and seems the best humoured woman that ever I saw. About 9 o’clock Sir William and my Lady went home, and we continued dancing an hour or two, and so broke up very pleasant and merry, and so walked home, I leading Mrs. Rebecca, who seemed, I know not why, in that and other things, to be desirous of my favours and would in all things show me respects.
Going home, she would needs have me sing, and I did pretty well and was highly esteemed by them.
So to Captain Allen’s (where we were last night, and heard him play on the harpsicon, and I find him to be a perfect good musician), and there, having no mind to leave Mrs. Rebecca, what with talk and singing (her father and I), Mrs. Turner and I staid there till 2 o’clock in the morning and was most exceeding merry, and I had the opportunity of kissing Mrs. Rebecca very often.
Among other things Captain Pett was saying that he thought that he had got his wife with child since I came thither. Which I took hold of and was merrily asking him what he would take to have it said for my honour that it was of my getting? He merrily answered that he would if I would promise to be godfather to it if it did come within the time just, and I said that I would. So that I must remember to compute it when the time comes.

I offer a parrot my garden
and a church my mind.
The ladies dance
and the men dance too,
desirous of favors, exceeding a kiss,
asking god to compute it
when the time comes.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 10 April 1661.