Sheldon Kranz

Sheldon Kranz

Poems from Personal & Impersonal: Six Aesthetic Realists [Definition Press, NY]:

  1.  Sonnet for an Enemy
  2.  The Blue Coat
  3.  Problem in Space
  4.  Pigeons and Men in Tight Blue Suits
  5.  On Meeting Beauty
  6.  Becoming Morning
  7.  The Funeral
  8.  Rhoda
  9.  In Time
 10. Antagonism with Landscape
 11. Pale but Piercing Sky
 12. No Tickets
 13. The Moments Between the Moments
14. Homer, Sappho, and Everything

Poetry & Education Links:

Excerpts from
Eli Siegel's Introduction to
Personal & Impersonal: 6 Aesthetic Realists

1. The Ever-Living Question
The question, What is poetry?--is as alive today as ever; it is likely more alive, for it is felt increasingly that what poetry is deeply and immediately concerns what our lives are.....Do poems of all languages, times, localities have something in common? I have said--and called it elementary--that poems as happenings have a cause in common....Most persons would say that an emotion is necessary for a poem to happen. It is so....
      It is equally clear that emotions as such don't make a poem.For everyone has emotions. When you miss a bus, you have an emotion; when you're on a plane, and the plane sinkingly, suddenly does a strange thing, you have an emotion; when Miranda, sobbingly, calls you up and tells you she can't keep a date, you have an emotion; when an employer calls Raphael, the shipping clerk, into his moderate-sized office, Raphael has an emotion.
      But you and Raphael don't necessarily have poetic emotions because these things have come to you and Raphael. What we can't grant to Raphael, we can't grant to anyone. It is only personal emotion, not poetic emotion or art emotion that so far has been had.
     And so we come to Personal and Impersonal.
2. Personal and Impersonal
What distinguishes a poetic emotion or, generally, an art emotion from the customary kind is that while a poetic emotion is personal and impersonal at once, the customary kind can be seen as just personal.
     Burns suffered from love, and saw his suffering with impersonality, too. So there were poems. Many other Scotch young men in the 1770's and 1780's suffered from love, but the way they saw what happened to them was not the way Robert Burns saw what happened to him. Burns made a poetic happening out of what happened to him with Mary or Jean or Nancy. In so doing, he was impersonal, too; abstract, universal, all-things, all-persons. Clearly, if Burns' songs were just personal, they would be like Donald or Jamie or Gilbert complaining, of an evening, bitterly, in some Ayr hostelry. Donald's, Jamie's, Gilbert's complaints we can surmise; they have not come to us; Robert Burns' complaints, yearnings, contemplations, ardors have come to us; they were impersonal-and-personal; they had and have what is called form....
5. Sheldon Kranz: Primal Finesse
In poetry, there is something primal that shows itself, in the resulting words, as finesse. In the work of Sheldon Kranz, this primal finesse can be seen.
      For example, Sonnet for an Enemy is a successful sonnet in the Shakespearean form, because a battle in self is dealt with as if the writer were in the midst of it, while he was looking at it, as a hilltop observer might. The syllables fall rightly, but the source, the primary thing, is working in the syllables and the pauses between the syllables.
      Lines like:
        If individuality pursues

        Who smile and chop away at what is kind,
while elegant--in the the eighteenth-century sense--convey the uproar of life, and the unseen force behind the unheard uproar.

      There is something primal about Mr. Kranz's poem, The Blue Coat, though its form is clearly other than that of Sonnet for an Enemy. The primal in the world makes for the uncertain, the seemingly unshaped, the rough--and it does likewise for the filament, the accurate web, the neat, flexible blade and petal. The Blue Coat is about where individuality finds warmth; and the poem deals well with the two contenders for the individual's warm acceptance of himself--the intimate forces in one, and what one owns, or seems to; as against the unbounded, subtly immense universe. Accuracy and music are in the lines of The Blue Coat. They are there, though otherwise than in the lines of a successful sonnet; for music in poetry comes variously, in truth.
     The hiddenness between two people is swirlingly presented in Problem in Space. The tightness in mankind is entertainingly and valuably related to the flying tightness of pigeons in Pigeons and Men in Tight Blue Suits. --How much are we for beauty--particularly the beauty that can unconsciously disarrange the hugged routine of self--that is to be seen, with poetic consequence, in On Meeting Beauty.--Ornateness, yes--and a touch of reprovable ornateness--is in Becoming Morning, but the radiance of the universe, as--somewhat in the Kantian manner--it is to be found in the, at times, dim enclosures of self, is effectively got into Becoming Morning. The lines tremble in measured correctness.--An occurrence of lasting somberness is in The Funeral, metrically well described. 
     Character can be in poetry, and the crisis of character. The poem Rhoda exemplifies this. --The breathlessness and exactitude of existence are well transmitted in In Time.
     Is there that in us desiring coldness? Antagonism with Landscape says there is. Cold is primal; it is that in this poem of Kranz, with beginning selectivity and fear. 
      It is the world that enables us to see, say the transcendental philosophers, notably the aforementioned Kant. The poet in Pale but Piercing Sky says that when the sky for him has that powerful aesthetic junction of paleness and piercingness, reluctance, limitation, superfluous snugness in him are defeated; and he sees with untrammeled willingness and effect. What seems and what is are, through the sky, in mighty inseparableness. --The poem No Tickets is an allegory about whether we have met our own demands. An allegorical locomotive may not agree with our complacency.
      Is any moment in existence interesting? That is a philosophic, poetic, immediate and primal question. It is answered, neatly and keenly, in The Moments Between the Moments.      
       The primal, then, becomes pointed in representative work of Sheldon Kranz. Some of the roll and tumult of poetic lines is not with us as yet; poetry has more motions; and yet more motions; but the grass blade in its sharpness, and the clearness of a print, along with the primal, are in the poems I have mentioned. The meaning of the fact that these are in the   poems, will linger and make for increasing critical awareness and thankfulness.


If love for love is my own winter's tale,
Then gratitude must find a willing mate, 
And search beneath the sea for one clear sail,
That fought the waves and sank beneath their weight.
If individuality pursues
My wildest flights across the barren reef,
Then love in all its pride cannot refuse
To shelter me from my own disbelief.
For I have searched the corners of my mind,
And found them filled with figures from the past,
Who smile and chop away at what is kind,
And nail their victims to a secret mast.
So each of us acts out his winter's tale,
Yet longs to find again that one clear sail.


"Just look at him," the mother said,
"Doesn't he look precious?"
The boy looked down and saw his coat.
He smiled. "My coat is blue," he said.
The words went deep and twisted hard;
The sun was gone; the coat was harsh;
The boy began to weep.
Deep within him lay the sun,
Hidden by the brand-new coat.
He tried to find the sun again,
But all he saw were coats of blue.
Fighting, he sank into his mother's lap,
Into her soft blue dress.


I sit and listen
While part of me drifts among the coffee cups,
No longer wanting to look at you.
I talk and smile acutely
While--gently floating--
I look down on our quiet heads
And find the tops of heads most curious.
You would not know this,
Until tired of the conversation
And of the fading smile behind my eyes,
You float up above the table and the cups
To meet me,
And laughing, show me
How ridiculous we both look.

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