Common Sense

Common Sense

by Ted Greenwald

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<P>First published in 1979, Common Sense evinces a spare street-wise style rooted in the vernacular of the city. Now something of a cult classic, the book is recognized as an understated masterpiece, pushing at the edges of spoken word. This is the language of everyday, brought onto the page in such a way that we never lose the flow of speech and at the same time we become attuned to its many registers—musical, emotional, ironic. Ted Greenwald's work has been associated with several major veins of American poetry, including the Language movement and the New York School, but it remains unclassifiable. An online reader's companion will be available at</P>

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780819576439
Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
Publication date: 04/05/2016
Series: Wesleyan Poetry Series
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 202
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

<P>TED GREENWALD has published extensively for over fifty years. He is the author of over thirty books, including Licorice Chronicles, Word of Mouth, Jumping the Line, In Your Dreams, 3, and Clearview/LIE. He lives in New York City.</P>

Read an Excerpt



An evening Spent talking Spent thinking About what my life would be If I'd stayed With a particular girl or woman I went with What would be If FdVe been accepted to and gone Where I applied To a different school Than the one I did Where I'd learned Different social graces Than the ones I have Where some of the material Values of the American dream Had rubbed off Enough to make me Live it out In the good-works sense If I'd settled down And settled For the foundation On a house For future generations Instead of assuming Immediately past generations My foundation to mine If I'd been A little quicker to learn What was expected of me And wanting to please pleased Going on that way Through all eternity Fve probably been saved From mere routines By a streak of stubbornness By a slow mind And tendency to drift By an emotional development That requires My personal understanding Before happening Feeling out the implications An emotion has in Form of expectation Before trying out and After awareness I sense a willingness To tell someone I know and like And sense the same from Anything they'd like to know About me And, at the same time, have A vast sense of privacy Which means There's no way I'll wear out my personality And its sense of continuity Although sometimes I feel empty But talking to Someone I like And trust And sense the same from I feel way up And after a long evening Of talk about this and that Feel wide awake And feel the world Wide and awake around me And have a visual intensity In memory That, in near memory, dulls And throbs And grows vivid as hell When I bring it to mind Some time from then What my life Would've been like Under different circumstances WouldVe been different With its own Attendant ifs And its own what-might've-been But this way Fve elected to follow And cast my vote Each waking day in I avoid The possibility Of taking the past too seriously Or feeling any bitterness Or sadness
This way When my ship comes in FHVe passed out of mind Beyond the sight of land And won't hesitate For a second To look back on all this With fondness or remiss The air'll be clear The moon'll be there And you, whoever You are and hope to be,
Will be here with my love


fog rolled in drink rolled down water towers cars sixteen floors down (night)
wind in, cool off the room seen The Quiet Man (homeric)
my brain feels homeric in its dawning Joan up in Ithaca (my arms cool)
reading at Holly's a week from tonight readings reel in my brain plans reel in my brains to marry Joan (secretly of course)
to set up our house (better wishes bad feelings cautions lay to rest) a place to live for two people life a subtheme drink cooling my throat, a new notebook underway the night in place the night in a place in my heart in my doubts I my fingers itch (for what)
loosen them, the self this poem it is asleep now rests in the night soon underneath the poem is a dream is awake the dream will be all over


Enormously difficult To explain exactly
How I feel Clearing my brain After seeing Where I'm going After resting After taking care of this and that For another round of works Finished one thing Found a solid voice
(Temporary, I'm sure)
Time to lean back And think about life Roughly halfway over
(Over what? Water?)
Very little In the way of theory Cropping up (like grass)
More and more The time turns to practice The sense of unity I feel should be somewhere I guess'll be there Long after I'm gone And someone else Looks back on all this And talks to me Across the ages With me talking Through my poems Up to a certain point
(A hundred, two hundred years)
Language (the ass) carries The burden of meaning While after (say Around five hundred years hence)
A flipflop (oops, a pothole!)
The meaning carries The language By then (like me)
Changed beyond recognition And to think This doesn't even require A grand plan Although, if I recall correctly,
At one time I thought it did And had one Ready for anything Nowadays I'm more or less content To let a lot Of things take their own courses Like amiable rivers Making blue lines Down the map of history I'm not saying That some things Don't infuriate me They certainly do But I've learned Mostly through stupid repetition The same patience I apply to my own works Moving them out of range of good and evil Is applicable
(In a romantic way, I guess)
To things (natural and unnatural)
Outside myself I'm on better terms
(Though still able to bear grudges)
With most things and people More sociably amiable
(No longer stand In a corner at parties Facing into the wall Smelling the school-like plaster Getting plastered)
Now I talk it up And even when down Never talk down But remain subdued Fve learned to like Winters more But hate the end of same Feel relief at spring Crave sun on body Enter through the lobby Of annual depression Have greater sense of Personal comfort Expanding horizons Ability to survive
(And know how far I'll go To do)
In this year of famine And pestilence Have learned To keep my mind and ear Cocked (like a gun)
For the true poetry Of the language to go off And fill The sky of the mind With angels conversing And have Enough memory left To remember And write the angels down Without pinning A single body or wing I have finally Returned to the cheerfulness I had when very young Before the bubbles In my personal seltzer'd Gone flat When the fingers of school Having opened my thinking cap Kept the bottle open Long enough To let the fun out Amidst a multitude of others Asking one way or another
?Whatever happened to you?

You were such a cheerful kid"
And that I am


Airy rushes punch my shirt Through a window of sunset dirt And send me reeling like a lure Through the water nerves of America Once on the other side of somewhere I relax and become someone else Not that I behave different Just behave less often The sky offers me solace and office space And stars I keep in drawers Wear nothing But a little mist and halo I will imagine myself A sympathetic headlight Knocking on the door of the night To borrow a cup of sugar From the beautiful neighbor Who's moved in Without even the clothes on her back
"Would it be possible To borrow a cup of sugar"
"Sure Sit down, honey Make yourself comfortable"
I ease down in the big dipper


Somewhere (where) in between say Index and middle fingers, to one day Wake up and find growing a new rather Radish vestigial finger Little do you know little do you too know Eyes picking off barrages of mirages soberly. Questions.
Lone. Drinking on an empty beach. Sauterne Bottle overturned. Sand thru sievey fingers,
Listen to prokprok of waves Fearing too many great many great Thinkers and thinkers of our time Busy themselves, usefully. Seeing sprockets as the real Real. (And all that entails.
Spend time dubbing in historical consciousness,
Makes the heart grow blonder with the distance.
Waterproofs hair. Air.
Fingernails grow whatever way you wish Sunny nostalgia the way wishes grow,
Whicheverway, are more close to OBJECTIVE vestments searched for where Disguised as rockets One's free to choose between limits Between sign that YIELD Either a b c d e or Any other squint or Sequence found squeezing the fingers. Eh, graft. Being Not so much a question of question or of answer,
Swallowed with unicap and orange juice, but of right Detachment from the lips Alphabetically precipitate, that really brings out Evening crickets bats the real you eating bubbles Every and each night of the week, depends Combining sequence with each (vague) COUNT.
Always hoped for sixth toe on either foot.
Merely sonar, an indication you're not alone And someone somewhere cares for you.
Detailly, even if vaguely. Please, to mow the maudlin.


for Ted Berrigan

rain (second day in a row)
morning (day-after-day)
body smell, need a bath coffee cigarets ashes in ashtrays one-after-another pile up need shoes, yesterday walking in rain revealed a hole in my right sole sitting around not thinking of much of anything feeling drizzly, wait to go vote (later)
'no' to mass transit amendment have my fill of mass transport everyone wanting to transport themselves went to Columbia (last night) to hear Ron read translations (one of four readers, translators)
fine translations drinking opium through pores of ordinary american unlike the others (studies in the subordinate clause)
(non) relation to (any) poetry first school setting for me in 4 years (puke!)
vergule everything starting to fit in place have a home home be a home reaping (this fall) routines reappearing in the dress of melancholy like the housewife of a house making (work) time go I've made some money working with my own hands I've made some working with my own hands I've made up much experienced some done some I've loved often enough been shot down enough to hurt often I've pitied myself as well as others (both ways unhealthy emotion)
I've wondered if I could love someone else (morbid)
I've made my doubts into poems discovering covers often get kicked off to cool the body's heat and mind's jungle growth I've wondered (and felt made to wonder) if my own ?worth' is
'worth much' and wavered well, Ted, when I saw you on 8th St last month we (you) talked for awhile and then went over St. Mark's and Gem's to take pictures with Gerard you said, the one thing that always disturbed you about my poems is there are no really embarrassing moments in them (I couldn't get a word in edgewise, you were holding forth)
I don't really know what's embarrassing, shot elastic in panties
  at a party that drop and stop conversations
  turn heads?
who knows ('who knows' embarrasses me)
and anyway there's quite a difference between gossip and embarrassment
(couldn't get a word in edgewise, for two hours)
what embarrasses me is I'm 28 and aware (and made aware) of it all the time I'm finding it difficult to stop smoking (still 3 pks a day)
and have been drinking too much lately (out of what, boredom
  habit, pain? don't know, who knows)

smoking too much dope irritates the shit out of my nervous system being continuously irritated (snapping)
putting on weight plagued by small aches and pains (right now open abscess draining behind my right ball, can't sit)
think I have trouble sleeping (and, I guess, really don't)
my habits and routines embarrass me and I still, although I don't think so as much, think my arms too skinny (they really aren't)
my body too small or too big (varies from day-to-day)
it's embarrassing to feel my self body image etc (often)
defined by people around me (my reaction to their reactions)
that embarrasses me a lot zeal embarrasses me, your zeal for instance always lining up poets and their poems one up one down in relation to you and your poems
(I'm embarrassed by the same zeal, ambitions,
it's no real consolation that when it rains it rains on everyone)
most of all, this Election Day, I'm embarrassed by death death is really the only embarrassing thing and sometimes (unexpectedly these days more often)
it scares the shit out of me


Fog hanged over the park, the night cold, and, clean against the tree you leaned in the sunlight, breathing he spinned the car out on fine gravel near the gate over the fence. standing straggly she laughing at the tree

And, the drain clogs, when I shower, with my hair,
queasily, paper rolling out of your handbag, glinting sequins,
by the spinning over her shoulder and, she stood, laughing wheels
"how do you get to the station, from here?"

Skin smelling clean, after the shower, and, dark,
merrily, tempting me to talk to you, and, asking if you've seen,
and, turning to her friend, tall, and, skinny next to her,
"Taking the first turning you come to in the book, and curve

round it." Warm moisture rising, I rise sluggishly,
the latest news from Paris, tho I've never been there, calm
"he never could control the damn thing, and, thinks he's Fangio."
She knew better than to laugh, but she did, anyway ,laughing

hide behind a tree, and, light bark late, keeping the neighbors late,
and, you ask me "have you seen the latest news from Paris?"
Out back someone mugging laughter, and, he thought over the problem to bust her gut. "Did you see that turning the horse made dog?"

Hours arranged handily on the wrist, I scrutinize them,
and, and tell you ?I've never been there myself, have you?"
How to get back on the road, and, keeping his hands intact.
"Absolutely splendor, the light on shimmering her hand."

Hourly, and, after dinner they scrutinize me. "How we love,"
and, you answer, "yes, dozens of times." I look at my watch He's such a bore. Always running around fast over the place."
She knew better than to know know better than his local hands, placed

filling mail order slips, out, sleeping afterward in the down,
and, you shiver, and, laugh, "it's really terrible what's happening!"
how it sounds in reverse. Scared, and, the hairs turning prematurely gray, respectably, over the nearest sand mound in the pile

pillow I puff up with my hand before the light goes out
"oh yes, I agree, would you care to join me for lunch,"
spun gravel rising under the wheels, and, him sitting. The clay lump she picked up some too, running it thru her veiled fingers

in the fireplace. And, you say ?you are thirsty," and, I believe,
and, you take my hand, handily switching your pursing lips to the other side clinging higher under the screech, and, wheel.
And, they And, she looked at him, blinking owlly back tears.

came anyway, you, and, "I am thirsty too, for more dinner wine"
"not having any money, but wanting to speak to you so much."
"Who? Who? Does he think he is? Anyway?"
She knew there was nothing to do but curve out the light ground

under her, and several more candles to warm the room. To the other side of your mouth. "That's okay, I love lunch in the park, anyhow."
His phantom figure stalking shadow after shadow after dark.
And, cry til a little pool formed, and, she rose to go home.


stop for a minute wait up for this friend to tick off its catching breath and draw parallel like two lines with two el's the train of thought reaches the station in the Bronx or Queens the friends get off at and walk out of below onto the french tablecloth of sun in a black and white movie in one of those theaters with a sky


how long's it been since we last spoke there are infinitely less bridges left than last a lifetime weather's finally gotten nice the sky in t-shirt the kids how's yourself must be grown a lot since I last saw them has the job been working everything out all right
's pretty much the same here, but a little better,
if that makes any sense the sun's on the scene the tiniest random bolt blocks away glows windows despite rust and brick take on a fire you wouldn't expect this I'd miss if I was that, and n't here dinner with friends you haven't been down to see the apartment yet
— the one I share — so I can only approximate the view the rent is nothing in the state of comparison the nation, body politic corrupt body that houses the dog's skeleton is even the glowing nothing nerve-ends of buildings are nothing to the vertical pleasure harvested from don't the horizontal my feet get me wrong are still very much on my feet are the ground grounded in sacred principles that carry me to sharpen my wits on the whetstone suddenly of today's air we've passed all that on a train of thought with a hook in it to reach out and grasp the male principle in the station just passed this allows us to nap in comfort for awhile, letting,
like efficiently circulating blood, the breeze gently blow around the toe managing to move me a foot from where I started but, enough about me how about you

THE/SKELETON the skeleton of the gestures were glowing


I'm having a hard time making ends meet So what, my suit is tan, that is the style What with the grocery bills being What they are. Do you have the same trouble Now. And you know damn well that that is the way Adding 2 and 2 and getting uneasy,
Strange numbers you never thought existed before?
I like it: when the style changes so does my tie;
It is not really the strangeness you are Talking about. It might be the coloring,
You can hear me huffing (puff) (puff)
But never the strangeness. That is beastly.
Or, at least hot. The numbers creeping up Going down the street away from your door Behind you in your head, as you sit smoking The ash growing longer with the hours.
After you have had the last word in the conver-
It is the longest cigaret You ever smoked.
Sensationally, speaking of our love, it is on the fritz,
Part of the new german-french lover from "New Vague"
Invading the number system


Privets come into season at high tide.
The night on the Great Neck side near Steppingstone the bargeman walks over the water the refrigerator opened the mailman fell out.
Opening the closet the grocery boy fell out banging his head on the floor his knee.
The snow bushes 40 years preparing dinner,
or the laugh on the rug, gold threads weaving in
& out over the bodies on the floor.
First sack, the corrugated box lit up under the lawn lamp the rippled footsteps running from the scene of the hiding, tumbled out onto the floor. "What are you doing in there?"
"I am searching. It is good to be free again."

The first race we took a beating lurching free from the vain control of sense.
As your hair goes so goes the subtle undercurrents passing thru the foot into the chin, & up. Even if you ground yourself with the closet door the tension is mixed, the filth of corners have no effect
& proselytic airs the room have no effect.
The hum. The prop limbs stacked in the corner penetrate handle & space between fingertip plastered the original conviction.

white hair melting in the warm air rising from the radiator in the corner, the whiteness.
The hand. The space between fingers.
Walking slowly on the rocks.

nubile syrup the syrup marrow from the lips of well the spray, the seaweed, her grass side,
sweating with a light touch on the neck,
walking the ghastly hours deliveries are made;
dotted hours, & the rabid denture chewing the long gloss.

Her maple thigh — mole ... cheek —
the chattering of teeth on the ground,
count out plums & grapes leading the eyelid bay & stars. The line.
The whim drawing the danger thru the dust out of the corner.
The underbrush kelp. Transforming the hedge circuits.


Excerpted from "Common Sense"
by .
Copyright © 1978 Ted Greenwald.
Excerpted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

<P>Whiff<BR>Fog Rolled In<BR>P.S.<BR>Airy Rushes Punch<BR>Bleep<BR>For Ted, On Election Day<BR>And, Hinges<BR>Stop For<BR>Note To A Dumb Friend<BR>The / Skeleton<BR>Pore Suspension<BR>Privets Come Into Season At High Tide<BR>The / Form<BR>Miami<BR>Quick<BR>His / (The<BR>Detonator<BR>Radio Crop<BR>Dew, Discrepancy<BR>A Thought<BR>I Hear A Step<BR>Fat Lines, Turn<BR>Tracer<BR>Four Days of Books And High Fever<BR>I Forgot To Remember<BR>Transformational Grammar<BR>Lapstrake<BR>Common Sense<BR>Something Nice Happened<BR>One / Thing<BR>We Pass Slowly<BR>Jiggles<BR>Elegance And Umbrellas<BR>Comb<BR>Fatty<BR>Making A Living<BR>Zero Hour<BR>A Man Was On A Hill<BR>Mister Tree's Manual<BR>For Laffs<BR>Straight On Bearing Left<BR>Standard Air<BR>Prime Meat Clouds<BR>Looks Like A Busy Week<BR>To Use<BR>Happy / Dolphin<BR>Come In And Look Thinking<BR>Snatches Of Music<BR>This Is The Right<BR>The Pears Are The Pears<BR>Swan Leg<BR>The Words To The Song<BR>Ah!<BR>Other Vase<BR>Restless<BR>Human Events<BR>Always / Surprised<BR>Poem<BR>She Looked<BR>Saturday Night<BR>Goes On<BR>For Joan<BR>Body<BR>One Foot<BR>The Piano Shivers<BR>Getting Through<BR>Germ Warfare<BR>Strange Dreams<BR>Blazing Down Sun<BR>Blink<BR>Superfluity<BR>Wash<BR>Backscratch<BR>Cool / Cool<BR>Candling<BR>Food Cycle<BR>Such A Long Time<BR>Hand Over<BR>Ghost<BR>Next Week<BR>Clean Glass Poems<BR>Howdah<BR>The Mutt's Laser<BR>The Life<BR>Modern Times<BR>Ninth Street<BR>The Words Drone On<BR>Quiet Dampness<BR>Complete Balancing Weather Meets<BR>What Were His Last Words<BR>You're Welcome<BR>Sitting Around<BR>Off The Hook<BR>Gray Out<BR>The Book I Toss<BR>Seated On The Back<BR>Poems / Pile Up<BR>Last Five Minutes<BR>Acknoweldgments</P>

What People are Saying About This

Terence Winch

“Ted Greenwald knows what real American talk sounds like, understands the rhythm and pulse of the language, and knows how to write poems that are built around that knowledge. He is one of America’s most ambitious and provocative poets.”

Bill Berkson

“Ted Greenwald’s poems ‘give voice’ to a variety of New York idioms, and with that, a distinct attitude toward both language and experience. His hard and insistent surfaces admit to an extraordinary range of feeling, humor, observation and often ironic commentary. His ultimate strength as a poet is his basic humanity, something that can be claimed for very few.”

John Godfrey

“Craftsmanship of line breaks. Motored by mind. Stark insight. Truncated adventitiousisms. Balls.The Age of Reasons, poems from half a lifetime ago, demonstrates why Ted Greenwald has inspired so many poets ever since. When itships, it should be packed in laurels.”

From the Publisher

"Ted Greenwald knows what real American talk sounds like, understands the rhythm and pulse of the language, and knows how to write poems that are built around that knowledge. He is one of America's most ambitious and provocative poets."—Terence Winch, Jacket 19, October 2002, reviewing Jumping the Line

"Ted Greenwald's poems 'give voice' to a variety of New York idioms, and with that, a distinct attitude toward both language and experience. His hard and insistent surfaces admit to an extraordinary range of feeling, humor, observation and often ironic commentary. His ultimate strength as a poet is his basic humanity, something that can be claimed for very few."—Bill Berkson

"Craftsmanship of line breaks. Motored by mind. Stark insight. Truncated adventitiousisms. Balls. The Age of Reasons, poems from half a lifetime ago, demonstrates why Ted Greenwald has inspired so many poets ever since. When it ships, it should be packed in laurels."—John Godfrey

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