Thursday, January 19, 2012

Some part-formed thoughts on poetry

Essay on Poetry (final section)



            Sanity is having plausible excuses for your madness. What is the basis of religion, mystical experience, but a species of madness, which only justifies itself when a rigorous and often dogmatic interpretive device is placed over it? All of life is a sort of madness at heart -- not some neurosis in the dead science of psychoanalysis, but true madness, Romantic madness, the wisdom of the heart.

            Poetry is makingness. What is made? Not ideas, as in philosophy, which is the art of defining. Philosophy speaks of the assumptions that order experience: philosophy is a grammar of categories, a logic of definition. Poetry gives definite experiences, but not their explanations. Poetry is the art of suggestiveness. Clearly mere words cannot give you the experience the poet has if they were a transcription of his experience. "I felt sad, I cried," is newspaper stuff. Poetry does not refer to things, it gives the experience itself. What sort of experience? A poetic experience, something not even the poet could experience outside of his making it into a poem. A poem, ultimately, and as all art does and must do, refers primarily to itself. It is no mirror of life, it is itself, a positive addition to the world: a poem gives you an experience you could not have without the poem, and the same for paintings, music, drama, and all the genres. The ideas of poetry may be better expressed in philosophy (or history, or science). Those are merely the concrete holders of experience. The evocative, allusive, suggestive experience rendered by poems is by no means also indefinite. It is definitely suggestive, and not just suggestive of anything that comes to the mind of a careful reading: the full idea of the poem -- yes the poem is an idea, an experience, a precise, self-similar identify -- is in a careful, attentive, and exacting reading and rereading of the poem's body. A poem doesn't mean just anything, and it doesn't mean just one thing: the poem is a pluralverse, a set of worlds overlapping, with exact laws and strict limits, limits which exist even as the meaning of the poem pours into the all -- and every good poem pours into the all.

            The poet is a God when he writes his poem. The moment of creating is the divine moment -- when I am on, when my innermost emanates, there is nothing that could be compared to me in all the universe, I am without equal and without other, but am proud as the sun and as laughing as the stars laugh in their twinkling eyes.

            The definite ambiguity of the poem, which requires intelligence, immense sensitivity, and careful devotion in the reader, which is fully invisible to a scientific gaze, or the eyes of a fundamentalist, does more than appraise the reader of its worth. All objects when rightly seen are also a mirror. By reading that I come to know this. Wisdom is finding analogies between experiences. The poem properly read shows me the poems I already am, and the poems I might become. Art seduces you to beauty: art exists for the transfiguration of the beholder's soul. Indeed, the artist's soul transfigured in the production of his work: for that moment, he is, properly is, his full being leaps forth, the Tao water of his innermost necessity kisses the Logos sun of his conscious will. This mystical experience -- I think there is no other mysticism at all -- may be encoded or distributed in a wide range of genres or forms. But when something new is added to the cosmos, a new order is created -- this is the miracle, there is no other. The miracles of the religions, the gospels, the magic of the gods, the healings of Asclepius, are miracles only in that people believe them. The art has convinced. The events that never happened yet open events that do happen: awe and hope are created. That, that is the miracle, not what some impossible godling did when nobody is looking. The addition of a new idea into the world, a new name, a new experience, enriches the world -- how the air is already thick with heavens and paradises, of hells and Hades, of Elysian fields and the halls of Valhalla, and many other dimensions of being we have not guessed at -- so we can drink down our love like honeyed milk, angel's milk, and hum into the joysong of the all.


My storm kicked ship was battered to splinters

I grasped the immortal veil who swam me safe

Wisdom in pigtails led me through rude crowds

Her childlike form left me in immortal gardens

of Pears and Figs ripe every season, a fertility

No hated winter could fallow.


            I called to the sea of Lux: "Open your mouth, and give me your words, words from your heart, sweet melodious words from the tender of your heart. I followed the advice of old: befriend your betters and learn. The old gods I quickly overstepped, but the poets who sang those gods were deeper and cagier. "Be students," they advised. "Better to be ignorant then a fool blinded by his favorite truth." What is man but a self-reading book? How long will men envy their machines, the factory working green at the persistence of the belt, the accountant enamored of his calculator, the lumberman lusting for his chainsaw, the yuppie sporting a car instead of a personality? When will man be sufficient to himself? I would tell you of Lux and her mane, but the awesome one in pigtails has barred our sigh with the folds of her sacred mist. Was not Hermes rightfully the father of writing, pure logos, with his cultic wand nothing more then a pen of ink -- such holding the occult powers to hypnotize man to sleep or wakefulness.

            I follow the black threads through the library, my skein of love drives my quest through Ariadne's labyrinthine ear, till I discover the door of the innermost, the center of the universe, the belly of the triple headed beast, and read that curious warning: "To what the door will open depends on the bent of the key that turns." Yet how long can I pause when I would heal the wound of longing? You say I equivocate, but a boulder must be rocked back and forth before it has the momentum to thrust past its bounds.

            Empedocles may have been the only philosopher passionately worshiped as a God in his own time; Velada too was received as a God in the flesh; Montanus the Phrygian managed to incarnate not merely the son, but the whole trinity in his person, not a few tyrants have hummed the ditto: "Is it pride? Is it grace? I will run the human race!" and all of them might readily have shivered over the apotheotic words "Let us have nothing now which is not its own evidence."

            Heaven is made of promises. But so what, money is made of promises too -- the very stuff is nothing but promissory notes, infinitely deferred the way the French approach meaning, so that of the economical system, we must resort always back to Red Hen Justice: you may eat the bread if you put work into its making. It takes nimble toes to dance out of traps of society. What lithe legs to leap worldly gulfs -- aren't those toes and legs traps in and of themselves? Was not the buck who praised his horns later caught in the chase with his head snared in a thicket? If wisdom is the sea, the mother of Hermes and Christ, she the holy spirit of our internal inspiration, which saturates our emanation, so that we are ever pregnant with new life to the universe, must we not, for integrity's sake -- integrity is richer than money! -- refuse those arms, as long and melodious as the necks of swans? Always act so you must respect yourself. We are tempted to ever greater and thicker experiences, for how else shall we enhance our art, and where else do we feel as divine as in our art?--but do you here the siren song: I'll steep you in love and bake you in warm affection, I'll salt you in kisses and pepper you in pecks! I'll garnish you with tickles, and dress you in hugs." Did not the hunter grieve "I sought a buck, and lost some doe." We too will be penniless for all our work, yet we will resist the temptation of bliss, and spurn eternity -- do not sell your soul to get into heaven! -- but we demand not merely to create art, but to be art, to be the poems we breathe. Is not the innermost a name? Are not its abiding emanations a poem? Does not the being of each of us resonate a new energy nowhere paralleled in the universe, or if it could be paralleled, only in a same of our being, a sister of our heart and a brother of our blood? What you stammer in public, say loud in your heart: my only duty is to my own.

            Duty secures intimacy, and happiness waits at the door. Though Love refuses the bit -- love is always a transgression -- yet to be loyal to what I love I must turn that energy called freedom into a new energy called commitment. I can only commit to my own: you others are leave in your place -- what knowledge do we have of each other? We have the same truth but different tempos, the same experience but different tropes. Our music you cannot hear, but if you could, would you not learn that music plays passions beyond reproach? That the poem is the justification of all science, all religion, and all philosophy? Though she precedes them and inspires them, so they make exact what she merely suggested, they must return to the source, dip their heads back in the womb of their beginning, and become again poems. One is most strongly punished for one's virtues. Does not the Allist cry "I am a new revelation, my mind the eye of the all! Ama plethorabyss loves my soul and embodies herself in my flesh!" Who would understand him? Who could? What could I recommend that man or woman but: boots for thistles, grace for dismissals; the ass doesn't know much, but it knows how to kick, and the donkey prefers straw to gold. Let their criticism inoculate your from the fiercer critic: yourself. The delighted are delightful, happiness inspires, all the world loves a lover. Yet there is a danger when the world seems to praise you. Could we not even say that a virtue praised is a virtue lost? You are at war here: be direct in love, indirect in war. The goddess is a playful child, because she doesn't care. She knows her business and tends it well: the opinions and truths of foreign minds she lets tend to themselves. For perfection looks flawed, fullness seems void, justice appears crooked, skill looks careless, eloquence will stammer for effect. Don't fret what they say: Shoulder suffering and embrace love. Be free of spirit and you buck the spirit of gravity. The softest mane gallops over the hardest earth. So speak truly and act natural, while attending the nature of truth -- the intuitions of your divine soul are the truth of truth. But we've been whirling like a twister! Where was I hoping to arrive?

            Oh Lux! Receive my grateful tears, and steer my fated bliss to kiss and spill my love into your pregnant belly, fat with the love I have poured into you.

            Like the cauldron of Charles Ives, where music against music stacks deeper into the subtle tone, the occult and esoteric melody, amidst the confusion of voices and images we hear a child's tune, a simple melody, some eerie reminder of an impossible joy we must have once felt yet can hardly remember now, as when I wake from a dream in the morning so full of an impossibly deep joy and innocence that I for a moment imagine I have finally arrived at that heaven I've been for so long creating.

            I speak of the forgotten poem of our soul's conception, the merging of orgasms that was the birth of our being, the infinitely textured energy of the name of our Self. This every poem gestures at, and all poems are stanzas of The Poem.



Life becomes first beautiful then eternal


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