The Pulitzer Committee is proud to announce this year's winner for poetry, "Maurice" Leiter (relation unknown but suspected), a great soul that has graced this country for too long to not be officially recognized. Leiter has been a scarcely-published writer of verse since the mid 1990's, when his "Poems II" was first written. This first work was a sensation, taking the literary blogosphere by storm:
Poems in the roadway found in tire tracksPoems on soiled napkins rescued from trashPoems inside matchbooks like something to buyPoems on toilet paper unrolling without endPoems in cereal boxes like prizes to be triedPoems shaped in seaweed delivered by the tide. . .Death poems ringing coffins wrought by wriggling wormsLove poems found at morning drying on the sheetPoems poems poems poems poems
This is the genius of Leiter, and why he is an American treasure, the Whitman, or even Ginsburg, of his generation. The images presented by Leiter surpass "Leaves of Grass" one-hundred fold. When an ordinary man sees a piece of trash, Leiter sees glory; when an ordinary person sees a soiled napkin, Leiter sees a story; when an ordinary person sees a fragment of rotting kelp at the beach, Leiter sees Neptune's beard. Does this not teach us how to think—nay, how to live? And the poet does not shy away from stark images: of "coffins wrought by wriggling worms". How exactly a coffin was created (wrought: beaten, or shaped by) by mere worms, the poet does not stay, but leaves us to mull over it, until we can grasp what he has long known. And when an ordinary person sees a suspicious stain on the mattress, Leiter sees only the residue of love: "Love poems found at morning drying on the sheet". Then our poet repeats the word "poems" five times, so that we will not forget we are reading a poem on a page full of poems about poems. Why? His poetic power is unstoppable.
In another tour-de-force, Leiter discusses without any shame his own behavior when young(er):
In college I gave a talk in Comp LitOn Le Rouge et Le NoirThe hour before classI sat in the johnTrying to figure out what to say
It took merely an hour to think of how to speak extemporaneously on a subject! And was not "on the john", but "in the john", literally swimming in it. This man has no restraints; nature made not a mold for him, but that he should break it by his muse and his talent. Anyone taking a university class could either deliver a prepared speech, or speak off-the-cuff. But few could do both at once! The man's mind is multifaceted in both its apparition and capabilities.
Nor is Leiter afraid of experimenting with traditional forms of free verse. In "When the Poem is Done", he masterfully weaves accidental sounding rhymes with free verse:
When the poem was doneAgain old sorrows spunThe painful course rerunAs antidote to dyingAnd drained silence wonThe welcome apathyOf greying lightAnd day retired sighing
. . .
He is able to rhyme both "spun" and "rerun", and better yet, is able to push the boundaries of the meaning of "rerun" beyond that of merely referring to previously-aired television shows. He also seamlessly changes the syllabic accent of the word. Grammar rules are not meant for the great! So our poet breathes new life, pouring new reviving (rereviving) blood into our timeless language from his many spouts.
Leiter's mind known no earthly bounds, yet it is still as humble as a Bulgarian peasant's. Witness his masterpiece, "To Have Lived This Long":
To have lived this long in fealty to women without understanding them yetknowing their value as they melt or harden with the changing seasonsTo have lived this long scowling at the genuflectors the cringers theclingers the gossips especially the barren patriotsTo have lived this long among these barbarians even perhaps to havesupported them by inaction to have tutted and tsked but not to haverisked my body
The standards for a Pulitzer finalist—nay, winner—have obviously been met. Each line begins with the same "To have lived this long", and that is genius of the work. The repetition combined with bathos brings the reader to tears, and these are not crocodile tears, by any means. Women are not moody to Leiter, but they "melt or harden" (presumably they maintain their original shape, however). And despite a free verse form that does not require further poetic license, Leiter chooses to drop important grammatical words such as "and" between lists of nouns, all the better to shock us of how cruel the world is, yet we live in it still. And this is Leiter's world! And the barbarians: Not even the soul of our poet, who truly is a saint-sage, could hold back rage against those who have "tuttted and tsked" when reading great words, or having encountered such a great personality.
Finally, to show his understanding of world culture, Leiter mastered even the obscure and difficult form of Haiku:
Falling the ant risesAnd falling rises climbs againSay we two are free.
Here, the poet weaves the image of an ant falling and rising at the same time. Do not question this, as it is no contradiction: one must accept this, if one has understanding, that something can go up and down (physically) at the same time. Why an ant would fall down at all, since it (as an insect) has six legs and is rather good at climbing, is a question the poet does not even deign to address—his mind is pushing us to the clouds and away from such petty details. Our poet can see past base appearances. The ant "falling rises climbs", giving us three action verbs at once, shows how perseverance and doing three things at once is not limited to the higher strata of the animal kingdom, but among all of nature's creatures. The ant is capable of multi-tasking beyond the level of even a modern personal computer. And finally, the trifecta is ended with an aphorism: Say we two are free. Leiter's long-lost spirit has been freed by the sight of a mere ant (mysteriously) falling down! This is not petty, but profound. The poet and his ant companion have shared a moment together. Long may it last! And poetry live in the heart of his readers!
And because Leiter writes not for profit but for art, he placed all of his poems online for free. http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/poems_by_maurice_leiter/. The Pulitzer Committee is proud to add "Maurice" Leiter to the list of past winners, such as: Carl Sandburg, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Robert Frost, and now, Maurice Leiter. Read him, and understand truly what it is like to be alive!
p.s. If anyone has a good "radio announcer" voice, The Committee is looking for volunteers to recite Leiter's poetry; maybe a recording or two (fair use!) could be placed online, to bring art and literature to the masses. It could be read aloud in every school in the nation.
Preston Bell, premeditatedmeditations.com.