Bio of B.E. Stock

BIO OF B. E. STOCK B. E. Stock has been writing poetry since the age of eight, and has lived in New York City since age 16. She studied...

Hi, all.

I'm looking at a fairly new pamphlet from a wonderful program called ARTS Anonymous, which I've been involved in on and off since about 2000. It's a worldwide 12 step program for artists who want to yield fully to their creativity or balance areas of their life or get over a block or find the courage to promote their art. Here it's more what we don't do that gets us in trouble, which is why it's called the "anorexia of avoidance." This pamphlet has slogans such as "Desire is God knocking at the door of your heart" and "God has no hands." If you are a fellow artist who would like to be more connected and get some encouragement, go to

Here's a little present, a piece from Collected Poems, published in 2001.


When a silver plane floats by
With a soft roar between white clouds
It looks so easy you would not know
The hot loud engine dripping grease
That holds it up, you would think
It naturally files.
Oh if you want to have
Hope back again you better
Pay a visit to the engine
And learn how to burn

Love, Barbara
Hi, friends.
I'm thinking about the different types of poetry I write. I have never thought that because there is free verse, we never write traditional verse, or because I write sonnets, I never write something that is almost a sonnet. In recent years, I have been having fun with nonce forms and bent forms. When I had lost my poetry files and typed them back in, there was quite a bit of work I had done since 2001 when I published my book, and I put them into categories by form.

So now I have big folders called Classic, Blank and Free, Ballad Type, and Syllabics.

Here's a sample from the Classic folder.

Bringing The Baby

Coming here day after day when she was out,
We more or less forgot she had ever been here.
Even the due date had become unclear,
And the whole thing engendered a kind of doubt.
Now she has brought him in, and carries about
Amid the computers and the phones in a blanket
The sleeping face that opens and starts to fret,
The tiny fingers and precocious snout.

A few more months she will enjoy that world
Beyond the walls, where we are born and die
And marry, win and lose and lullabye,
And what is left of life can be unfurled,
Until her leave is over, and she leaves
In someone's hands the little one, who grieves.

On similar themes, one from blank and free:

Farewell at Three

No one recalls exactly when he came
A quiet lawyer with a wet triangular mouth
For whom the teasers have no funny story
Sitting around him in the conference room
While the obligatory cake is cut
And soda served in waxy flowered cups.

There is no mention of a better job
Or illness of a relative, only
A move to the Southwest, some months away,
And preference for a different sort of practice.

A certain glow they all have seen before
On those who, even for a little while,
Have found release, lights up his dogged face -
And underlines the mysteries beyond
This frenzied hive, wherein his windowless
Abode awaits the new associate.
Him, no tradition bids us celebrate.

And one of my husband's favorites from Ballad Type. Clearly, he used to play with toy soldiers.

Lead Soldiers

Someone has to be to blame -
John has sucked upon the head
Of a soldier in his game
And was injured by the lead.

Punish then the older boys
And the store where toys are bought;
Punish all the future toys.
Thus the blame is neatly caught.

Never more allow the fun
Of uniforms and strategy,
Learning battles lost and won,
Learning life in effigy.

Boys will punish when they lose
And curse the dirt for being dirt,
Knowing that they cannot choose,
Nor by accident be hurt.

And from Syllabics, a poem about a modern piece on the radio, by which I was awakened.

Modern Strings

Great Spirit come to us
We have lost the way home
We have lost the way home
Our chords are sick, our tunes
Are mournful, yet no tears
Relieve us. Our dead hearts
Drop through living bodies
Our frozen feet stick to
Our boots, our food is snow.
For us dawn brings no hope
And darkness no relief.
Gaze and touch are useless;
Words fail us; colors scream.

Great Spirit come to us
We have lost the way home
We have lost the way home


Love, Barbara

Hi, friends.

I'm thinking about the difference between an academic view of poetry and a poet's view. The academic understands and admires the craft and the vision that went into creating the poem. The poet views it in a nuts and bolts fashion, expecting to do something of the sort himself. It's like an architect looking at a famous building, versus a scholar. I remember in grammar school we memorized poems and it was great. It stopped in junior high. If I ever got to teach poetry writing, I would want to start by looking at the classics, memorizing them, then imitating some of what they are doing. If we did that, and then went to a typical open mic, we'd know immediately that most of what we're hearing is not good. To be fair, there's a lot of garbage in every age. It just doesn't last.

When I did my artistic inventory a few years ago I talked about the influences on my writing. I want to share what I wrote about Keat's "Ode to a Nightingale."

Nightingale – one of my favorite poems in the whole world, tho much longer than I can usually appreciate. He maintains the high quality all through. Ababcdecde.
He’s not feeling well – drowsy numbness. He hears the joyful song of the nightingale and it makes him intensely, unbearably happy. He would like to be like this bird. He would like to drink some magical wine that would enable him to disappear and go with the bird into its happy world. Why is he so unhappy? He sees the misery of the human race – sickness, death, fever and fret, people groaning and you can’t do anything to help them. Though his brain is slow, he is determined to use poetry instead of wine in order to transcend the misery of life. He dreams of moonlit parties, but where he sits is dark and mossy. So he uses his sense of smell to imagine the various flowers, many of which are exotic and unknown to most people. They stand for spiritual realities and nuances.

“I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fig tree wild,
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine,
Fast fading violets covered up in leaves,
And mid-May’s eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.”

This is the point where if someone reads the poem out loud, I begin to weep. When we can’t see our way, we imagine what it would be like to be at home in the universe, to belong to our lives. So he listens to the bird, he smells the flowers, he thinks about how everything is integrated in nature. But there is no answer so he reflects on the easefulness of death.

“Darkling I listen; and, for many a time,
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Called him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath.
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain –
To thy high requiem become a sod.”

So it wouldn’t be any good to die, and not be able to hear the bird, but he’d like to become different – simpler, happier.

“Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!” What’s he talking about? Birds have a very short life span. There’s nothing immortal about them, except what they may inspire in a complex, brilliant, unhappy man like John Keats. “No hungry generations tread thee down.” He’s oppressed by history, by all the folly of the human race. He thinks of the bird as a sort of Platonic absolute that appears in ancient Rome, and in Biblical times, to call people to higher realities.

Finally the bird falls silent and flies away, leaving him forlorn. He’s been so caught up that he’s not sure whether he’s waking up, or whether he truly awakened and now is falling asleep, back to the same dreary, limited, painful life.

As to form, the regular rhyme is compensated by varying the number of stresses to a line. 5555555355 He also reverses the foot a lot, adds unstressed syllables, but all in a smooth way – he writes iambics as others write prose.

Take a look at "Nightingale" some time.

Love, Barbara
Hi, All.

It's interesting to reflect that just when poetry got modern and started to shun the old devices and the heartfelt emotions most people can identify with, popular music exploded with new themes combined with the tunes and rhythms of ancient folk songs and sea chanties and things like that. I was very much a part of the folk music and folk rock scene, and when I became religious, a lot of it involved singing newly minted music that sounded like folk and country. I wrote an inventory of my poetry after my computer crashed, and thought about the things that nurtured my work. Certainly one influence was the lyrics of Bob Dylan. When the big volume of all his lyrics came out, I bought it immediately. And I was happy when he got the big prize, even if his reactions were awkward at times.

I want to share some thoughts about one of my favorite Dylan songs, "Mr. Tambourine Man."

This is thought by many to refer to going on a drug trip. I think instead it may refer to running into street musicians in the wee hours, after being out all night and not being able to score a girl. He’s tired, maybe hung over, and feels defeated, lonely and confused. But until someone frees him from himself, he can’t even get a song out of it. He needs inspiration. So it’s a crazy sort of prayer to the muse.

The chorus, four lines with a strange rhyme of me and me, going to and following you. The tambourine man is doing jazz or some other irregular beat, so he imitates that, and has the jinglejangle imitating the sound of the tambourine – a sophisticated device called onomatopoeia – sounds like what it is. The rhythm is catchy, informal and comforting. You just have to feel better, it’s so much fun.

He says he’s not sleepy, but then confesses, My weariness amazes me. Next verse, My senses have been stripped, my hands can’t feel to grip, my toes too numb to step.” He’s in a terrible mess, and yet because of how he feels, he can’t rest. Third verse, he proposes to try out some poetry to accompany the musician while he’s dancing behind. Last verse, he wants to transcend even his art and just dance on the beach, not thinking about “memory and fate.” Why HER diamond sky? Why only ONE hand waving free? That’s never cleared up. Perhaps he fantasizes that he’s with his girl friend.

The verses have a hectic rhyme scheme. Verse one, sad had sand sleeping feet wet dreaming internal rhyme street. Verse two, sleep grip step wandering, fade parade way under it. Verse three, sun one run facing, rhyme time behind mind chasing. Verse four, mind time leaves trees beach sorrow, internal rhyme reach, free, seat, sands fate waves tomorrow, internal rhyme today.

This would never work without the stretchable, chantlike melody, and that’s the point. He has to have a rhythm to bear him along, as well as the magic of inspiration.

I can't get much inspiration from the music coming out lately!
But maybe others can. The older generation was so turned off by Dylan's nasal voice and harsh attitudes that they entirely missed the gold that was in there. So who knows what I am missing that some poet is using even now?

Love, Barbara
Hi, all. I just realized the address for Blue Unicorn has changed. It is now 13 Jefferson Avenue, San Rafael CA 94903. Subscriptions are $20 and single copies $8.

Love, B
Hi, all.

I highly recommend a poetry magazine called Blue Unicorn, published out of Kensington, California. I was introduced to it by Dr. Alfred Dorn, a master of traditional verse who taught at Queens College. He gave a course through the old Brooklyn Poetry Circle which I attended a number of times. Blue Unicorn has published many of my poems through the years. Here are three of them.


Muscle weary, my neck
Hardly able to turn, I wake
Swaddled in the silence of dawn,
Then hear a solitary sparrow
Try his notes amid the fog
Clearing from the invisible river.

And what have I done, striving
To make a metaphor of flesh
Bashing itself against the walls of time?
There is so much given to us
And then no more. We walk
Between the unseen fences, dreaming
Of freedom in the maze of our skull.

The teacher brings us lessons in breathing
And staying still in strange positions.
Rebels all, we obey him to the letter
Or engage in permissible adaptations.
Sometimes we stumble, and he untangles
Our process in a moment, laughing.

Our thoughts are like spring rabbits;
He places collars on their necks
And leads them back to the room.
We are relieved; our hearts doze.
Under us the train rumbles on;
We listen, and let it pass.

BU XL # 1, 10/16


They said their sins to God of sky
The priest laid hands upon his head
And prayed on him the penalty
A burden soft and deep as lead

He wore a sign to warn all hearts
That no one might be taken in
With cries and stones they made him part
To die alone of all their sin

For years within that wilderness
He bore his lorn and haunted breath
Until he found a kind of peace
But never could discover death

One day he met the Sorrow Man
Who on his shoulders raised him up
And bathed him by the well in town
And offered sweet compassion's cup.

But how the haunted people hissed
To see their victim still alive
Till better offering than this
A few were willing to believe.

BU XXXX #3, 6/17


I heard of his passing between laundry and the bus.
The goons took my bike light the day before; my husband
Had root canal the next day. There was a sale on eggs
At the store; the robins were out.

I heard of his passing, and happiness took me --
I sat in the silence and listened to the rain,
A radio far away, the pulse inside my ears,
The sufficiency of life.

BU XXXVII #2&3, Spring 2014

Love, Barbara
Hi, friends. I've been thinking lately about the well known critic Adam Kirsch's The Modern Element, which clarified for me my position as a poet out of synch with my time. He defines "courteous" and "discourteous" poetry.

The courteous poet meets his ideal reader on conditions of equality. He will strive for clarity. There's an assumption of a shared literary tradition. They gravitate to meter and rhyme. The discourteous poet values novelty and complexity for their own sake. The reader is assumed or ignored. Form is theoretical, not musical. I definitely identify with the "courteous" side. Kirsch discusses extensively the work of Richard Wilbur, who is consciously untimely. He started writing poetry to heal himself during World War II. Kirsch observes, "There is something quietly but unmistakably polemical about Wilbur's proud adoption-by-translation, in Ceremony, of La Fontaine's 'Ode to Pleasure':
"For games I love, and love, and every art,
Country and town, and all" there's naught my mood
May not convert to sovereign good,
Even the gloom of melancholy heart..."
He adds, "Such praise of mundane joys defies the whole trend of English and American poetry since Eliot, if not since Wordsworth. Against the potent myth of the Romantic poete maudit...Wilbur sets the unfamiliar ideal of the poete benit."

Somehow Kirsch includes Shelley and Keats among the "cursed" ones, but I respectfully disagree. Keats's Odes are paeans to transcendence in which all the goodness is wrung out of a jug or a bird song, so the poet becomes alive to the second power, and gives that to the reader, no matter how lousy he personally feels. I am not a great fan of Shelley, but he too seems to celebrate art, nature, manly strivings. Later on, Kirsch says that Hecht "adopted a sort of Flemish-painting spirituality, in which the detailed observation of nature is itself a kind of prayer, a way of 'praising God' for the sheer fact of existence." Beautifully written - but not describing anything new, surely.

Kirsch points out that T.S. Eliot thought a poet should need to innovate style because he is attentive to "new subjects, new feelings, new complexions of consciousness." Kirsch goes on to distinguish between a merely fashionable nihilism and despair pertaining to the 1920s, and Eliot's "spiritual and musical discoveries." Kirsch describes how Trilling, Winters and Tate disliked Ginsberg's Howl because it smacked of where Hart Crane was going when he committed suicide, and the whole nihilistic thrust of modern literature. Winters recoiled from the rebellion against form and continuity, and the "itch for novelty." Isolated by his battle with the "idols of the age", Winters became hostile and extreme.

Kirsch ends with Horace's statement:

"Of writing well, be sure, the secret lies
In wisdom: therefore study to be wise."

I couldn't agree more. And certainly I have seen as I get older how large-minded tolerance, reason and moderation serve me so I can live long, have my mind in good order, and write well. It also helps if I honor my "father and mother", in other words, whatever of tradition looks like family to me. I do not consciously think of all this when I write, but it certainly informs my writing. I hope I impart a larger truth, a life-affirming elan, and along the way, perhaps, some universal insight which never goes out of style.

Love, Barbara
Hi, all! Stock here.

I want to talk a bit about my long fiction. I have quite a bit of it, none published. A few years ago there was a fire in my apartment house. I got nervous about my notebooks, and put most of them into a room in a warehouse. I did the same after college, but you might expect a violent, unsafe environment since I was living in what as then called Hell's Kitchen in the west 50s. In quiet Bay Ridge, it was jarring. Then a couple of years ago, on my birthday, my computer crashed. I lost all my poetry and fiction, and was very grateful to have paper copies. It didn't take too long to type in the poetry. The novels were another matter. I've been proceeding in roughly chronological order, and omitting the ones I think would be interesting chiefly to myself.

I'm thinking of offering copies of  manuscripts for a small cost, then going to a small publishing company and saying, Look, I already distributed to 50 people. At least I wouldn't be like the herd!

So far I have retyped the following:

The Girl Downstairs (a holy roller convert works as a receptionist in a Roman Catholic rectory)

Sophia (arduous escape from toxic spiritual director by going to a Bible study church)

A Wretch Like Me (Rector at Bible study church runs away to the Village and gets lost in lesbian scene)

The Diary of Freddy Jones (law student runs away from God and becomes very messed up)

Jesus and Esau (Fat man follows Jesus into the desert after His baptism)

Stay tuned!