Conflict Poetry: What Narcissism Means to Me

One of the key steps in the conflict model underlying this blog (see the relevant pages in the Home Page heading) is Getting Real. So many of the issues I post on in the wider political world seem to reflect various for forms of self-deception and delusion, and no doubt, those who disagree with any of my postings think I suffer from delusions too. But I guess I know my view is just that; my view, my perspective. I don’t confuse it with ‘one take reality’ or as Gregory Bateson said so well: ‘The map is not the territory’. One of the ways I find to get fresh takes on reality is poetry, hence my posting poems on this site, whether or not they related directly to conflict: they are all fresh takes on reality.

So in this vein, I am reading Tony Hoagland’s marvelous collection of poems with the great title: ‘What Narcissism Means to Me‘, and I thought I would give you a taste of his various takes on reality with just a few extracts from his poems in this collection. There is something to offend everyone in his poems, though if we use them to think, then I think ‘no blame’. Thanks Tony.

From Commercial for a Summer Night

We were drinking beer with the sound off,

watching the figures on the screen –

the bony blondes, the lean-jawed guys

who decorate the perfume and the cars

the pretty ones

the merchandise is wearing this year.

Alex said: I wish they made a shooting gallery

using people like that

Greg said: That woman has a PhD in Face

Then we saw a preview for a movie

about a movie star who is

having a movie made about her

And Boz said: This country is getting stupider every year.

What Narcissism Means to Me

There’s Socialism and Communism and Capitalism

said Neal

and there’s Feminism and Hedonism

and there’s Catholicism and Bipedalism and Consumerism,

but I think Narcissism is the system

that means most to me;

and Sylvia said that in Neal’s case

Narcissism represented a heroic achievement in positive thinking.


‘Success is the worst possible thing that could happen

to a man like you’ she said,

because the shiny shoes

and the self lubricating slime of affluence would mean

you’d never have to face your failure as a human being.’

Phone Call

Maybe I overdid it

when I called my father an enemy of humanity.

That might have been a little strongly put,

a slight exaggeration,

an immoderate description of the person

who at that moment, two thousand miles away, 

holding the telephone receiver six inches from his ear,

must have regretted paying for my therapy.

The Time Wars

We ourselves were fighting the Time Wars:

We could feel it speeding up, rapidly escaping,

like the hiss from a leaky balloon.

We were trying to plug it, to slow it down, to decelerate,

but none of us was having much success –


We ourselves weren’t thinking about the future anymore.

What we want is to calm time down, to get time in a good mood,

to make time feel wanted.

We just want to give time many homemade gifts,

covered with fingerprints and kisses.

This is Tony:

About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
This entry was posted in Conflict Book Reviews, Conflict Humor, Conflict Poetry, Conflict Processes, Ways to handle conflict and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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