Tag Archives: art


I see a paradox in form and rhyme:
A pattern, regular as night and day,
Will coax a phrase we’d never think to say.
Inspired by verse, we might compare a crime
To something sour—perhaps a slice of lime.
This act of making words a thing of play
Restores the color to what’s going gray
And lifts the spells of blindness cast by Time.
Convention, seeming like a chain with locks,
Releases brilliance that we never sought
By forcing us to free a fettered thought.
In form and rhyme, I see a paradox.



Below is the section in which the speaker meets his guide. [From the “Underworld” part of *The New House of Fame* by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess]

“Meeting My Guide”

Inside a bare, depressed, neglected room,
Were nameless graves with labels ‘one through nine’.
I came across a shade beside a tomb
Whose sunken eyes appeared to softly shine
and momentarily dispel the gloom.
His eyes, which gazed intensely into mine,
Suggested that he hoped I’d stay to talk
To him about the place the pallid walk.

His voice, which sliced the silence like a sword,
Then said, “Though once a legend of the stage,
For many years, I’ve mostly been ignored
Or mentioned briefly on a ref’rence page.
With England’s finest troupes, I often toured
And earned the highest honors of my age.
Who’d think an era’s great celebrity
Would be consigned to long obscurity?

Before he* held a gentlemanly staff
And fame had pushed his head to tops of trees
Beyond the reach of any tall giraffe
(or whatever novel idiom you please),
I was inducing Shakespeare’s crowds to laugh
Until they begged for breath upon their knees.
Together we were Joves to Adam’s wife:
What Will designed, I galvanized to life.

[As if displaying his ability to clown,
His language was, at times, an awkward blend
Of phrases from a modern urban town
And others from the sixteenth cent’ry’s end.
He’d call a beard “a bed of facial down,”
Then speak of “twerking” or another trend.
He knew as much of newer slang above
As Cupid’s ever known of making love.]

What’s most remembered from our Much Ado?
Why—by the heathen rites of popish mass—*
The constable who never had a clue!*
I was a hit with high to lower class,
But later Will declared, “You never grew.
You’ve always played the part of brainless ass.
I’m weary of the roles you’ve been assigned
And long for jests more gentle and refined.”*

Is William Kempe a name thy ears have heard?
I was, as modern Yankees call it, “cool.”
Before the days that Willie was “yes-sirred”,
I played the part of clown and rustic fool
[When Will required a scene or two absurd
Enough to make the groundlings grin and drool.]
But by the time he was composing Lear,
He’d caused the roles for me to disappear. “

“If you’ll remain a moment by my side,”
(He whispered in a pleading, hopeful tone
I think would pierce a tyrant’s armored hide
And soften stainless steel or solid stone)
“I’ll tell you more whilst serving as a guide
To wonders living men have never known.
…But, first,” he said, excited as a dog,
“I wish to share a witty monologue.”

Although he’d never let me have my say,
I thought with pity, “Time has done him ill.
Provided I’ll not have to give him pay
Or find a sacrificial beast to kill,
I’ll let the lonely actor lead the way…”
My thoughts were broken by these words from Bill:
“I’ll now begin my witty, pretty speech,
In which, like Horace, I’ll delight and teach.”

“Will Kempe’s Monologue
“Who’d think that Death could take so many souls
across the river Greeks once knew as Styx?
The Reaper reaps the carriers of coals.
He buries builders skilled at laying bricks
and people smiling when the cam’ra rolls
[but, when it’s off, assaulting aides with kicks].
Of spirits dead there’s such a high amount
that I’d not try to take a thorough count.

“That hair, those lashes curled by skillful hand
Will fall one day from your decaying skull.
That skin you have so diligently tanned
Will fade until it has become quite dull.
Your famous frame, your sunken ship unmanned,
In time, will be a rotting, hollow hull.
For many decades, your body will endure
without a perm or proper pedicure.”

It seemed his monologue would never stop.
I cut him short, which caused his eyes to tear.
“Cuttest thou my mind’s unripened crop?
This cut, unkind as that of any spear,
Hath made my sinking spirit drop.
…yet, mark my final pretty couplet here:
Though ‘fame’ and ‘glory’ are appealing terms,
They’ll keep no man from being food for worms.

“In Bessie’s age*, an actor who was hired
Would win the fame of being dutiful
(And other names to which he had aspired)
With lines as filled with what is beautiful
As babes are filled with grace when nobly sired
Or ships of pirates are of booty full.
But if you fancy speeches short and plain,
I’ll bind my wit with cold Concision’s chain. “


*He=Shakespeare. For the sake of meter, I have taken grammatical liberty with “He” and its antecedent. I realize that a possessive form, like “Shakespeare’s,” does not serve as a proper antecedent to “he” because “Shakespeare’s” is functioning here as an adjective that modifies “crowds”. In any case, readers need not assume that the stylistic quirks of characters are also those of the author;)

*Tensions between Protestant England and the Catholic world made similar irreverent oaths common in England. ]
*Dogberry—played by William Kempe, the stanza’s speaker
*Robert Armin, known for more sophisticated humor, replaced Will Kempe in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

*Bessie was an affectionate nickname for Queen Elizabeth I.


A sonnet by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess [I admit that this sonnet is odd by even my own bizarre standards]…

The sections orchestrated sound divine
…until the puzzle’s pieces are combined.
The ore came freely from the Muses’ mine
But now opposes being well-refined
To match its twin enough in tonal hue
For ears to think they make a handsome pair
(Instead of thinking, “Someone missed his cue
And played a measure not belonging there”).
Perhaps a demon doesn’t like me very well
And has decided it’s his evil mission
(Before returning to the fiery pits of Hell)
To see I never find a good transition.
In music, poetry, and also life,
It’s hard to make what’s sep’rate man and wife.

Brave New World

How easy it’s become to cross the sea–
To visit lands with foreign flags unfurled.
The web connects Japan to Sicily,
And knowledge travels quickly ’round the world.
Oh, age of unsurpassed technology!
You’ve made our globe a place where all is swirled.
[When not subjected to our foul abuse,
You’ve served with tools of nearly boundless use.]

With modern tech, celebs can swiftly share
Selected priceless moments with a crowd
Of millions of adoring fans who care
A lot about and feel sincerely proud
Of novel ways a star has styled her hair.
The shrines where ancient worshipers once bowed
Have given up their place without regret
To profile pages on the internet.

Celebrities from days of early date,
I wish you lived to see how things are now.
Who knew what hat was worn on Milton’s pate?
Who knew when Francis Bacon waxed his brow?
[Men* lived when news required a longer wait,
but thinking folks must surely wonder how!]
If only Shakespeare had a profile page,
We’d know about his actions off the stage.

*Iambic pentameter and political correctness do not get along.

Imagine! Brilliant Michelangelo
Would post a pic of what he had for lunch.
Adoring fans would be the first to know
If Mikey’s meal was soft or apt to crunch.
I’d like to think a later post would show
His fav’rite types of whiskey, wine, and punch.
A single finger’s touch or mouse’s click
Would lead to Mikey’s latest glamour pic.

Selections from *The New House Fame* by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess

“Inspired by Maya Angelou” (a villanelle by Paul Burgess)

“Inspired by Maya Angelou” (a villanelle by Paul Burgess)
(In 2006, after reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, I composed this villanelle for a class. Since it is as cheesy as the most sentimental of greeting cards, I had not planned to share it with anyone. But, since Angelou has passed, I will post it in memory of her. [As with many poems I wrote in college, the meter is a bit irregular])

The Poem:

Suffering heavy heart and wing,
Wind forcing flight close to the ground,
This bird will never cease to sing.

To my song, I’ll always cling,
Though I may appear nearly downed,
Suffering heavy heart and wing.

No man, whether peasant or king,
Will ever silence my bold sound.
This bird will never cease to sing.

My voice will vibrantly ring,
If I am shackled and earthbound,
Suffering heavy heart and wing.

Whatever fickle Fate may bring,
Be it murky marsh or sparkling spring,
This bird will never cease to sing.

Though one day thorns of age will sting,
And my green soul will become browned,
Suffering heavy heart and wing,
This bird will never cease to sing.

“Titian’s Flaying of Marsyas”

Below you’ll find a cheesy, didactic poem I composed in ’06 when an assignment required us to write about a work of art. The poem demonstrates, yet again, why I tend to stick to “nonsense” verse.

“Titian’s Flaying of Marsyas
Head dangling over oily crimson ground—
A grisly dripping feast for a hound—
Does he now curse the sweetly singing sound
Of that once discarded instrument he found?

As he’s being peeled like some soft, ripe fruit,
Does he wish he’d never blown into that flute?
For the tunes he played, he grew to so admire
As to claim them fine as those of Apollo’s lyre.

Did he unwisely neglect to recall
The tragic fate that one day did befall
Arachne—challenger of the grey-eyed Goddess—
Notoriously punished for her art’s success?

Perhaps he remembers, as coldly his death nears,
How came old King Midas to possess asses’ ears
And realizes that he has been such a sorry fool
To incite the wrath of a god not often cruel.

Though the ever-steady hand of Phoebus slowly flays
The sinful satyr, ‘tis truly hubris that slays
Him and dyes the barks of pines forever red
As the one on which his final blood is bled.