Craig Kurtz

Vieille Poésie ~ Alte Poesie





Sois mon frère ou je te tue.

—Nicolas Chamfort.


Popularity is what

you get from rotten scuttlebutt;

it is the recompense of those

who follow fashion, I suppose;

it is important to agree

with the canaille majority;

you’ll win a prize if you concede,

so go along with the stampede;

now, finding bad guys is one way

to show good guys that you’re OK;

forget details and perish facts,

we don’t think much, we run in packs;

let’s turn it up, let’s turn the screws,

I’ve heard it’s true on the fake news;

remember, it’s all justified,

it’s just a little fratricide;

well, first you’re at the table, then

you’re on the menu, Jacobin;

don’t worry if it’s wrong or right,

for popularity loves spite;

it’s up or down, it’s sight unseen,

don’t mind that silly guillotine;

it’s the fast track to get éclat,

it’s fun ‘til it’s not, ask Marat;

conforming is the safest way

unless you’d be Charlotte Corday;

I’ve heard it said, ‘it isn’t fair’ —

the final words of Robespierre;

ah, popularity is great

until it’s you they decollate.



The degrees of wits, as I see it
are four, which I shall now remit.


The Foppish Wit plies trade uptown
with trillibubs of sparked renown;
his verses don’t exceed sonnets
and always nims their better bits;
endeavoring to make dames swoon,
if failed, revenges with lampoon;
his meetest trait is his perruque
and, gauging yours, a pert rebuke.


The Café Wit’s a vain coxcomb
who’s always seen with some vast tome;
he’ll haul to parties book reviews,
discoursing Latin ’til you snooze;
he rails upon best-seller lists
and thinks footnotes will interest trysts;
his utterings are recondite,
his learnedness is done in spite.


The Romantic Wit’s a misanthrope
who thinks it’s hip to pine and mope;
his hair is tousled with panache
and when he sees you, asks for cash;
he censures mankind with rhymed taunts,
esteeming just the Renaissance;
certes, his staunchest raillery
impugns those more well-off than he.


And, last, the Critic Wit — the worst
of all those wits condignly curst;
he holds the court of surquedry,
condemning those more deft than he;
he’ll have all aphorisms slapped,
all bon mots lashed, all sallies strapped;
and, since he governs the wits’ gate,
the wits cosset this addlepate.




Lusty Wenches


In faith, I like a woman hale,

who’s not above swishing her tail;

forsooth, a shy wench is for rubes,

hooray for one who shakes her boobs;

I like a lass who’s mettlesome

so, go on, dear, joggle thy bum;

I like it when a jade prevails

me to entreat her farthingales;

it makes me merry to conster

that she’s got hankerings under;

methinks we’ll have some dancing first,

then a bumper before I burst;

by mass, I swear there’s nothing beats

the two-backed creature ‘twixt the sheets;

or better yet, the best I found,

we’ll have our sport, anon, green-gowned;

indeed, priggishness doth frustrate

when a chaps’ penchant’s to gyrate;

huzzah for honest coitus,

why tease in times of great dehisce?;

let’s hear it for a lusty minx

and good ol’ concumbre high jinks;

I’ll not be one to get all coy

when there’s fair swiving to enjoy;

so, since it’s an act of congress,

let’s employ their proffered largesse!




The Jester’s Pitch


Forsooth, nobody needs a jest

when life is fair, as prepossessed;

if everything was admirable

then anticks would be inutile;

in times of bonny merriment,

wisecracks are sure superfluent;

nobody needs a laugh when they’re

as happy as a millionaire;

nobody needs a somersault

when the zeitgeist makes all exult;

who needs a comic pantomime

when rapt with a merry pastime;

a jolly farce is overkill

when people surfeit on goodwill;

good times are bad for madcap folks

since good times furnish their own jokes;

nay, only when the days turn tart,

the whole world needs the cut-up’s art;

when things turn sad and life does plague,

you need someone to pull your leg;

when money’s short and dangers lurk,

that’s when comedians find work;

when kingdoms forget how to laugh,

the king needs a fool on his staff.

Finding the 21st century obsolete, Craig Kurtz versifies Restoration and Shakespeare’s plays, illustrated by Anni Wilson. Excerpts appear in Crannóg, Orbis and, upcoming, Seems and Straylight Literary Magazine. Visit for particulars.