Brian Johnston

(Jan.20,1943 / Oklahoma)

PH: Poetry Writing: Open Letter #B.


Note: The following letters are very slightly edited versions of the original letters exchanged by Tapan and I. I hope our readers will appreciate and enjoy the diversity of opinion expressed here. We are both talking from our hearts about poetry, do have areas of overlap, but are also our own men.

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** ORIGINAL MESSAGE ********************
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From: Brian Johnston
To: Dr Tapan Kumar Pradhan
Date-Time: 5/20/2014 12: 22: 00 PM (GMT -6: 00)
Subject: A New Poem
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Hoping you like this one... Hope your vacation brings you back refreshed

Acceptance

The width of my room - twelve lovely dresses,
The height of my sky is a bluebird's flight,
The depth of my ocean just one deep breath,
But vision's boundaries are my mind's sight.

Let me welcome my death as I have life,
Knowing where I am is where I belong,
Say farewell to my soul's earthly temple,
Feel my life yield to a heavenly song.

Loved ones…! Please don't shower me with flowers,
Die with my senses dulled to mortal pain,
Let your gentle hearts be my protection………
Oh God….! You're here! My tears feel just like rain.......

Note: This is an early version of my posted poem ‘Acceptance Accepted.'


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From: Dr Tapan Kumar Pradhan (Bhubaneswar India; Male; 42)
To: Brian Johnston
Date Time: 6/4/2014 7: 53: 00 PM (GMT -6: 00)
Subject: Re: A New Poem
It is a fantastic poem, Brian. Very well composed, with a nice, warm flow and a certain nostalgic cadence. Makes one think and reflect. Very good. You should create more works of such quality.


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From: Brian Johnston
To: Dr Tapan Kumar Pradhan
Date-Time: 7/9/2014 9: 28: 00 AM (GMT -6: 00)
Subject: A new poem to start your day!
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All Is Stardust But

Like an excited smear of photo luminescent bacteria,
Trembling with a beauty so fearfully short lived,
On a dark globe, 'mother earth, ' that is itself stardust,
Mankind's cities gleam feebly, tremulous, at night
Against the infinite blackness that is space.
Space that is itself the ultimate black body,
For no light, no energy, can escape its depths.
Light is only seen here, in fact,
If you happen to be in its way,
As it rushes past on its way to equilibrium,
A kind of stasis, where everything is the same,
And God, if He exists, perhaps melts into all we know,
Imagination, now indistinguishable,
From the lack thereof,
A lover you will never see again.

And the star you still see hanging
From the branch of the universe's tree,
Like the turtle of ancient lore
That carries the earth on its back,
Is not the same star at all
But a star diminished by a single photon of light
You know, the one that struck your fancy,
Impacting the retina of your eye, which is actually
Naked brain, grey matter exposed to light.
This photon, in so loving you,
Surrenders its identity completely,
Just for the chance to warm you one iota.
I wonder what, in fact, happens to a photon,
That in all of time, does not strike anything?
Has it too served God's purpose?

Oh God, please promise me,
That when You dream,
Your dreams will always be,
If not of me, then, at least of this creation,
For, Oh God, it is so beautiful!


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From: Dr Tapan Kumar Pradhan
To: Brian Johnston
Date-Time: 7/24/2014 8: 59: 00 PM (GMT -6: 00)
Subject: Re: A new poem, ‘All Is Stardust But' to start your day!
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It is good. Nice reading. Lofty spans of thought and imagination.

But the problem is: - it reads like an essay. Not like a poem

Dear Brian, having read many of your poems, I observe this: - You are a nice man. You always love to do good to others. You want the whole world to know and remember you as a nice person. But the truth is that within each of us there is a devil, an impish black devil lurking. Unless we unleash that devil into our poetry, the stanzas will lack real zing, real fizz...


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From: Brian Johnston
To: Dr Tapan Kumar Pradhan
Date-Time: 7/24/2014 11: 00: 00 PM (GMT -6: 00)
Subject: Re: Re: A new poem to start your day!
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Dear Tapan,
Maybe my poem 'Extremes' would be more to your taste? I would be curious as to what you would say about it, if you can find the time. I am looking forward to seeing what your new poems will be like after your rest. I wonder too what you think of our most popular poet Udiah (Witness to Yah) . Do you know anything about him? I have attempted to communicate with him but perhaps he thinks I have to much of the devil in me? You think I am concerned with other people's opinion, but actually I desire only to serve God through my life and my poetry. If you read my poem 'Killing Cicada Killers, ' you might learn that I too am willing to kill under the right conditions. And lifting weights as I do, anyone who attacked me barehanded might get more than they bargained for, but like intellect there is always someone smarter, stronger, and better looking than we are.

Yes, we certainly all have a devil lurking within us, I am no exception for sure. But it is part of my faith that God has already won that battle, the devil is just another loser and a bad poet too I'll wager, however full of himself he is. I find many of my own poems more poetic and imaginative than many of yours too of course, our tastes and styles are different but I am apparently more impressed by your talent than you are mine. Groupies (popular vote if that's what it is) are certainly no guarantee of quality. It seems very strange to me that Udiah has had such a surge of popularity recently. His recent work just before his rise to fame seem is good but not great to my taste and yet he has risen to higher levels that I ever saw you at. It is hard for me to understand this.

No, I think you are mistaken about this poem 'All Is Stardust, But.' I am not sure what your error with it is, maybe the beauty of Physics imagery escapes you with its freshness and unique charm, an unfamiliar terrain that perhaps you are not as comfortable with as more traditional but perhaps equally elitist poetic puffery. But I have seen with my own eyes throats closed with its eloquence. Neither it or I need your approval in that way. In any case, though I hope to learn from you and will, if you are friend or not, I wish you well and do hope that you will be a less condescending friend in the future. There is certainly something missing in your character, kindness, generosity, maybe just simply treating others as you wish to be treated instead of as others have treated you? Perhaps in spite of your admitted demons, you are basically a nice man too. I will however continue to write and grow into my own kind of poetry, my own voice, as God helps and inspires me and be grateful for whatever readership it finds. Maybe your demon is your problem? Really, I swear, you don't need him! Perhaps it is only seeing with his eyes that your poetry is better.


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From: Dr Tapan Kumar Pradhan (Bhubaneswar India; Male; 42)
To: Brian Johnston
Date Time: 8/9/2014 1: 37: 00 AM (GMT -6: 00)
Subject: Re: Re: Re: A new poem to start your day!
Dear Brian Sir

I hardly visit PH. My friends are also showing less interest in the site.

As regards Stardust, I read it again and again.

It is a good effort, no doubt. I understand the imagery. But it does not touch my heart. It is a fact. It may touch the heart of a million people - but not mine.

When I read any poem, I go by my gut feeling. It has to make an immediate impact on me. Otherwise, I have no interest.

I am not an authority on poetry or a literature. If anyone asks my opinion, I give my honest views. Same thing I expect from others. I neither flatter, nor expect flattery in return. In fact, I never send my poems to others for comments. As I told you earlier, sir, I have a small circle of friends, who enjoy my kind of poetry, although it may be totally useless in world opinion. We believe in a particular style and we experiment a lot. Poetry is a simple tool of personal communication for us - we are not bothered about awards, ratings and opinions. I uploaded a few poems on PH just on my friends' request, as it helps them to forward the links to their own friends. Once my friends develop their own website, I shall bid goodbye to PH! !

I read some poems of Udiah - honestly, I am not impressed by a single one of them. They are well crafted, may be well intended (vehicle for Christ's message etc...) - but the fact is, they do not touch my heart. Actually, not more than 2-3 among the Top 500 Popular Member Poets are any good. I find it surprising. Many of the poems I like on PH have been written by quite ordinary, unknown persons. You are absolutely right! There is definitely something wrong in me and my personality! ! I am happy with that.

Everybody has his own style and artistic choice. I respect others' opinion.

I think you did not quite get the 'Devil' part. Everybody has two sides - Saint and Devil. The Saint's consciousness is merged in God. He has little time for analysing things and compose creative poetry. The devil is not satisfied with God and his creation. He always likes permutations and combinations. Since a devil always 'invents', he may not be always truthful. Most people (including myself) while reading poetry, are actually seeking this Devil to thrill themselves. A devil thrills - a saint does not. Saints are usually boring.

I used the 'devil' word as a compliment to you. You are too good a human being to become a good poet. Most of the 'greatest' poets in history were miserable in their personal lives - depression, divorce, bankruptcy, suicide.... Is that the goal of human life? ?

I have little interest or time for poetry (except occasional reading to divert my mind) . I devote almost my entire time to various social and organisational work. Poetry is secondary. Hence my opinion on poetry should not carry much value.

Hope you understand, sir.

(P.S. I loved a few poems by Ed Nigma. He has real potential - if only he works hard...)


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From: Brian Johnston
To: Dr Tapan Kumar Pradhan
Date-Time: 8/9/2014 12: 52: 00 PM (GMT -6: 00)
Subject: Your last letter! Thank you sir!
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Dear Tapan....

I find myself hoping that you'll stay a friend
In whatever venue you happen to end
Though demons get high marks in your repertoire
The one who serves God Sir is really the star

The thrill of Saint's insight to me is a blast
And high jinks of demons a boring repast
Success is not virtue but reward of Grace
The goal of our life is the smile on God's face.

For tearing down things is a walk in the park,
The coddling of evil a big question mark
To understand God is the Saint's only 'biz, '
Rejecting man's pride to give praise to what IS!

Brian Johnston
August 9,2014

I would like your permission to post my little ditty on PH with the title 'Dear Tapan.' I loved your last letter and would love to share our recent letters too in the same way I shared our first group of letters. I think they honor us both (even if you are smarter than I am) and discuss issues that all poets and wannabe poets should think about. I very much hope you will say yes.

I was especially happy to see you encouraging Ed Nigma for he is a poet of note in my book as well and dear to my heart. Though I will never write poetry like his I too recognise his talent. Even in genius though there is room for improvement.


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From: Dr Tapan Kumar Pradhan (Bhubaneswar India; Male; 42)
To: Brian Johnston
Date Time: 8/9/2014 1: 28: 00 PM (GMT -6: 00)
Subject: Re: Your last letter! Thank you Sir!
Dear Sir

I believe in complete openness in discussion and I never hesitate to give my frank opinion. You are most welcome to share with anybody anything I have written here. I do not believe in copyright also. For I think, nothing can ever be really 'copied'.

I was surprised when you felt that my not appreciating 'Stardust' was unexpected. Let me assure that I do not even like some of the poems of Robert Frost - that does not take away anything from Frost's greatness. Secondly, I do not like any of my own poems also, although some people have shown some appreciation. Not a single person (outside my little circle) has offered me any constructive criticism so that I can improve. PH is a cheap platform for praising each other's useless work and get good scores in return! That's why I am not interested in such sites at all.

Let me also clarify certain things: -

(1) I am not a very serious poet and not at all a scholar of literature
(2) English is not my native tongue - hence I am not the best judge of the merits of English poetry being written in UK and US etc
(3) The language I write in can be at best said to be 'Indian English' - with its own idiosyncrasies and limitations
(4) My poems are targeted at a very narrow, small circle of friends (who do not have any big literary ambition)

Submitted: Saturday, August 09, 2014
Edited: Friday, October 03, 2014

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

Dialogs about writing Poetry!

If you would like to give this exchange of letters a rating, please do so in a comment that is separate from your regular comment if you leave one. Many poets, including myself, have been experiencing visits from hard to identify PH members who like to damage other's poem's ratings with illegal multiple votes of 1.0 and make a mockery out of normal voting. You voting in a comment field helps me to protect your rating of my poem which they wish to destroy. I know that this is a bit of extra work for you, but believe me it is appreciated.

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