John Keats' Ricochet Effect: Star Trek?

John Keats, especially in his Odes, both patented and mastered what I call the Ricochet Effect. What the Ricochet Effect amounts to, in serious poetry, is this: in the economy of Keats’ Odes, line by line and word by word, each word or phrase is made to ricochet, in exquisite, harmonious balance, with the words around it. In Shelley or Wordsworth, this is true of the end-rhymes and uses of anaphora, when they occur; what makes Keats special, and peerless, is that he effortlessly employs end-rhymes, anaphora, assonances, and internal rhymes to create a Full Spectacle of words ricocheting off each other in harmonious balance, so that no words, even “thy,” “thou,” “that,” and the like, remain untouched. Keats is, as I have incised before, a peerless verbal musician. But what are the implications of this formal innovation in serious art— the Ricochet Effect— and what does it mean, as manifestation of the highest kind of formality in serious art, for the Ricochet Effect to exist in the human world and in the human landscape, as a thing among things?

Keats did not live, as we all know, to see his work flourish in an expansive way. During the decades of obscurity following his death, the Empty Spectacles around poetry, the wheels spinning, one might say, continued unabated— names meant to be forgotten were cast up, prizes given to dolts and dullards, fame appointed to stooges and puppets as usual. The way the human landscape is configured, Keats’ formal innovation— what I call the Ricochet Effect, which implies totalized, comprehensive musicality in language— had to sit for a long time before it was pronounced worthy to live past the dolts, stooges, and puppets of the early-to-mid nineteenth century. The horror of the staging of Empty Spectacles while genius-level work just sits, waiting to be elevated, is that it means that for individuals who dare to create on serious levels, what is guaranteed, usually, is a thankless positions buried obscurely beneath the stooges, puppets, and dolts. Yet I wonder if there isn’t some wisdom to letting the most advanced kind of artistic work just sit, just sit there, emanating into the Collective Unconscious and all kinds of human economies, while the stage is cleared for its emergence. Serious artistic work, to be mystic, has a kind of sentience of its own— Keats’ Odes (for me at least) are sentient, and able to chop into whatever economies they choose to chop into, over a long period of time. If individuals who create seriously are willing to give up the drive for recognition, and just let their work sit, then the work can begin to do its own job of destroying the Empty Spectacles and puppet shows over a long period of time.

Serious forms in art, as I have said, are (I believe) sentient, or have a kind of sentience inhering in them. What is sentient in them is a second individuality, past the individuality of their creator. How the sentient forms reach out into the world is to find the individuals most receptive, and begin the process of altering their brains. If this sounds a little Star Trek, please forgive me…but the mysticism of serious formality in art is a little Star Trek, a little Vulcan. It is based on granting sentience, shuddering, resonant sentience, to whatever forms are high-maintenance enough, complex enough, and exquisite enough to carry it. Why I like Keats’ Ricochet Effect as a paradigm model is that, as I have incised before, it models not only serious formality but permanent avant-gardism— because the Ricochet Effect works so subtly that it changes every time we see it, Keats’ Odes can never (for me) leave the sphere of the avant-garde. The semi-sad conclusion: for the individual creators of serious formality in serious art, there may or may not be redemption or salvation. Often, unfortunately, there is not. But for the work itself, emanating seen or unseen, heard or unheard, into the world, there will always be a sentient sense of redemption and/or salvation, every time a new individual is reached, tormented, exalted, and brain-altered. More Star Trek soon.


from Ode On Jazz (Youblisher)

from Ode On Jazz

from Ode On Jazz


From Boog City 71: Two Cheltenham Elegies

Issues Around Formality

Formality in serious art is one of the highest expressions of individuality known to the human race. Why it should be that form and formal rigor were misrepresented in the twentieth century— from the height of individuality into a snobbish, classicist ploy to maintain a priggish, Sunday School veneer to high art— is because the twentieth century was essentially, to employ America as paradigmatic, a Republican century, in which serious expressions of individuality were frowned upon in the high sectors, both in America and in Western Europe. Serious expressions of individuality were largely replaced with Empty Spectacles, and thus the degeneration of the century into a kind of School of Quietude. A Republican century, like the twentieth largely was, regards formality in serious art as one of the gravest threats to the hegemony of homogeneity, non-individuality, and the persecution of serious individuals as de rigueur; what part of me warms to talk about this, is that the Republican twentieth century is now over. Great God Almighty! Now that high ideals around issues of formality in art, and serious artistic individuality, are back in circulation, and the lives of serious artists and those who appreciate serious art need not be macabre (serious art does not have to be humorless, either), we can put our crosses and garlic away and look at the issues around formality which are more intriguing.

Like, for instance, who Mary Harju is— a serious formalist who I tend to think will be underrated over a long period of time, but who will nonetheless fail to drop off into nothingness. Mary isn’t, to be sure, dazzling the way Abby Heller-Burnham is; and, to shallower aesthetic minds, is easily dismissed as too derivative of Renaissance Humanism to be taken seriously as a major artist. Mary, to me, represents a certain class of artists— formalists— who are solid, and/or workmanlike, without being dazzling, yet whose work tends to endure while a surprising number of dazzling showmen/showgirls disappear. Yet this type of artist, and there are tons of them in different rooms at PMA too, have a strange karma— never to appear dazzling, but only solid; and yet to find their work enduring in a solid way, and in such a way to suggest that the expressiveness of mere formality, when executed in a rigorous fashion, is 60/40 correct as the approach to serious art in general. Innovation (maybe, and I am sort of playing Devil’s Advocate here) counts 40/60 less then solidity. Republicans and their Empty Spectacles throw the whole thing into the garbage, as they are taught to do in the School of Quietude; but in a more germane century, artists will have to decide for themselves what mere formality and formal rigor count for, even as I have a suspicion that Mary’s paintings may sneak up on some in an uncomfortable fashion over a long period of time.


4325 Baltimore Avenue ('04)

Jason cooking flounder on a filthy range,
   picked up at 40th & Walnut where Penn students
mingled w/ artists, Chomsky-ites, bums, mothers,
   where French bread for two bucks we’d carry
around for walks home down rustic mansion’d
    streets, fish-waft filling lovably threadbare
kitchen laden w/ mustard & crumbs— gone—

Mary’s Acme pesto pasta, Olive-oil Goddess
   she’d make a pot on pot in a pot & we’d
have a bowl from the pot watching hot
   French-flicks in the vivid living room, gone—
paintings, Mary’s evocations Dionysus & Apollo,
   Jason post-Dali post-structuralist Dada &
Derrida derived violences, submitted to smitten
    PAFA judges winking secretly at Jason’s tight
ass, Mary’s too, they screwed, we screwed, we
   all were screwing each other secretly, tenderly,
flecked w/ little chips from falling ceiling, gone—

parties on green-awning’d porch, weed midnights;
   butt-smoke, frost-breath, gun-stocked West Philly
cops stop to shock us w/ looks, putting no
   cell-bar cramps on druggy St. Steven, gone—
moments later I’d drag Mary into her wood-
   floored torrid bedroom & open-door fuck
her, hoping Josh & Kevin might spy
   us, one time on whiskey Mary’s diaphragm
got stuck inside her, I felt it, fucking her,
   we laughed, Mary’s hair then was
long down to her ass, raucous, gone—

Grace, Jason’s grace, a minx of jinxing, she from
   rich Connecticut knows Salinger reads my poems
at parties makes snot comments, silver-belted,
   out on the back porch in October wind we stood,
Grace, raven tresses Heaven-breasts innocent
   sex, girlfriend who had Jason by the face, ass,

I made scathing Spears comment everyone
   hissed, instead we put on Stones Kinks Elliott
Smith, Josh who played music, gone, now w/ Sara,
   jailbait date stealing cars & kisses, back-seat
caresses blonde tresses sun-dresses, trouble-
   starting, Kevin’s dread on my head, gone—

Kevin dumb chimp we called him big beast of
   a man writing bad songs doing Ritalin lines
raging through nights fucking Diana, gone,
   moans that broke us up, Oh Kevin Oh Kevin,
waitress of the hunt, Diana, blank stare, no cares
   or qualms taking alms from everyone, doing
laundry, Diana & me in lust discreetly, doors
   open, Bohemian dream-time—

apogee— everyone hot— everyone fucking, painting
   making music, boozing, drugging, sucking, humping,
leaning on nothing but the night’s promise, always
  more night, another line, another ride, time
to find out food, hues of mood, clues of color, love
  shape, O Lord we were the crux of ourselves,
our nexus the nexus, our moment the moment, all
  now reduced to ash, nothing but a shut window,
a fiery memory of an open one…


Odal Orientations

John Keats Odal Cycle, as I call his five major odes, is not warped by too much dichotomous energy, where poetic formality is concerned. There are slight variations, but the form the five Keats’ Odes take is similar (and unique onto itself). My own five odes, which may or may not constitute an authentic cycle (I haven’t decided for myself yet), have a problem of a kind of formal “lumpiness”— three of the odes are formal, and employ Keats’ own odal form; while two are informal, “jazzy” not just because one is an Ode On Jazz, but because they employ high level poetic musicality in a way that attempts to translate something about jazz music, and its approach to formality, into serious poetry. Ode: To Bruce Nauman, then, is, for the sake of what I am trying to express here, another “jazz” ode. Keats’ formal innovations could align him with (if we want to attempt to make precise translations) Bach or Beethoven; so that, by employing his forms, I also attempt that sort of classical, classicized musicality. That’s the formal backbone of On Love, On Exile, and To Satan. Having my five-ode sequence waver between “jazz” and “classical” orientations creates, to bring things back to square one, the sort of dichotomous energy that some readers may find confusing, and certainly less an orderly procession then the march through Keats’ odes.

Where the narrative-thematic is concerned, Keats odes stick to the transcendental— imaginative landscapes, immersion in mythologies, meta and/or ekphrastic poems which take works of art as their starting place, raw nature in chiasmus with the human brain (his extension of Wordsworthian dynamics). The world Keats inhabits, here, resonates and shudders; it is a living world, animated by the vivacity of an imagination which Keats “fancies” has its own reality, against the merely tactile. Keats demonstrates for us, with no holds barred, exactly what Modern and post-modern literature blood sacrificed; the sense that the world we live in is alive, and does, in fact, resonate and shudder with life. The nihilism of Modern and post-modern literature naively dismisses Romanticism as naïve, and creates, consolidates, and maintains a world skewered towards obsolescence, deadness, and human impotence in the face of attempting to achieve transcendental states of consciousness. If Modernism and post-modernism are naïve in the face of Romanticism, it is for the simple reason that scientific fact points the human brain towards the realization that the world around us really does resonate, and shudder, and that mysteries inhere in nature which can lead our minds permanently upwards. The jejune Modern/post-modern sense of world-weariness and effete skepticism have less basis in scientific fact then Romanticism does, try though Modernists and post-modernists might to invert their efforts into a talisman against naivete which is secretly experientially sound. My odes are somewhere in the middle of this— not as transcendental as Keats, more about individuals, human landscapes and relationships, intimacies which inhere on these levels, and also pain before corruption and coercion, where human collectives are concerned.

It could be taken that 4325 Baltimore Avenue is my sixth ode. I wrote it in 2004, about all the fun we had there (West Philadelphia) in ’02 and ’03. The fall of 2002 is when I wrote Ode On Jazz, as I was gorging myself on jazz at that time, and I had a sense of spiritual harmony about my life, both because of the marriage I had going then and because the feeling in the streets in Aughts Philadelphia was exactly what I had been searching for since I began writing seriously. Philadelphia in the Aughts, like Keats’ woods, mountains, trees, and lakes, resonated and shuddered the right way, had a strange life of its own. It couldn’t be that Ode On Jazz was not written from a transcendental place, even as it also an attempt at translation. Ode: To Bruce Nauman fulfills a similar task. The “classical” odes in my cycle are a split, in an odd, backwards/sideways fashion, between heaven (On Love) and hell (On Exile, To Satan). As I develop my thoughts about the two odal cycles (I am calling my five odes a cycle out of convenience, up to a point; we’ll see later if the shoe fits this particular foot), the jazz/classical dichotomy is one I want to develop, as a critical translation— what the implications are, how far they take us out into a possible twenty-first century. Especially as we approach the two hundredth anniversary of the first official release of this odal form, via John Keats, into the world at large.



In a run of centuries that all made at least some of the right kind of noise, the twentieth may go on record as one of the quietest centuries in human history. The reason is simple: for the duration of the twentieth century, too little was produced of permanent value in too many high sectors and in too many high disciplines. The camouflage, or camouflaged, nature of daily life in the twentieth century hung on this contradiction: there was lots of loud activity on the surface, creating an appearance of vitality; while, beneath the surface, there was an impinging shadow of pure, desolate emptiness, and the sense that what was happening on the surface was both trifling and perverse. For me, the twentieth century is all about the Science of the Empty Spectacle— and there is a science to the creation, maintenance, and created obsolescence of the empty spectacles which constituted most of the landscape of the twentieth century. Empty Spectacles which work depend on what I call razzmatazz effects— large numbers of people gathered together in one space create the right kind of razzmatazz effects, for example, from sporting events to political rallies to popular music concerts. A crowd of 60,000 fans, gathered to see a football game, or Bruce Springsteen, is a decoy against the fact that both events have no real relevance in pushing the human mind, or the human race in general, forward. Both are set in place by the media to represent vitality, but the vitality is all surface level. Underneath the surface, there’s the dead, flat, quiet emptiness of what the twentieth century actually was. Which, by the way, would not necessarily be the case if the high sectors (science, philosophy, high art) kept up, and moved forward in the right way; in the twentieth century, they did not. A surfeit of razzmatazz was not balanced by the gravitas achievements which the human mind is capable of.

In art, the twentieth century razzmatazz was all about movements which espoused a rhetoric of limited thought, limited emotion, and limited intimacy between individuals— Abstract Expressionism, Pop, Modernism, post-modernism. The oeuvre of Andy Warhol actually bothers to announce itself as Empty Spectacle; but it is self-knowledge which points back, in a self-referential way, to its own desolate emptiness beneath the surface, and Pollock, Rothko, and the rest land us in similar territory, as does Duchamp before Warhol and Koons after. These artists are all, including Warhol, as quiet as they can possibly be, in their own anticipated obsolescence. They are Empty Spectacles made specifically, and in a purposeful way, to be destroyed into complete nothingness, like big crowds for sports and the like. Again, all is desolation beneath the surface. The fact that a book like Finnegan’s Wake, which is so blatantly a case of the emperor wearing no clothes that it begs to be laughed at (as does a hearty slice of Proust and Woolf), could be considered a twentieth century talisman, of real worth and having real gravitas inhering, is an indication of the essential School of Quietude gestalt form of high art and high sector life in the twentieth century. Poetry in the English language more or less announced its obsolescence as well, as Centrists wrote harmless greeting cards and avant-gardists churned out gibberish, a simulacrum of something purposeful, but not involving thought, emotion, or intimacy between individuals somehow. Philosophy and science I will touch less; specifically because whether Deconstructionism lives or dies still seems like an open question, and science is not my field, though I know that faux-science in the twentieth century was rampant.

The twenty-first century has to be better. Some of us have already set a body of work in place, beginning with the Nineties, which assures this. The irony, and it is a major one, is that if this a century of substantial progress, the polarities may reverse, and the surface razzmatazz and Empty Spectacles of the twentieth century will disappear. The price to pay for profound depth is a surface which must, of necessity, be quieter, as real, permanently relevant noise is generated. It may be that, in the twenty-first century, the masses are at a loss as to how to amuse themselves— if governments choose to emphasize individuals and the high sectors, this will almost certainly be the case. The stadiums full of cheering fans will no longer find a prominent place in the national economy, the media will be tamed or disbelieved, and the School of Quietude which was the twentieth century aegis or rule-book will invert into a century being, in a manner of speaking, avant-garde; standing in a place where boundaries are being destroyed and serious creativity is being pursued with vigor. Or, humanity being what it is, some of the Empty Spectacles will continue to balance what is happening in the high disciplines. Who knows? But I will say that, for this century to repeat the Quietude of the twentieth is now an impossibility. Philadelphia in the Aughts has already decided that for the rest of the nation, and the human world.

Brian Willette: The Garden of Hanged Men (SS Fall '98 Vol. 2 No. 3)

Siren's Silence Fall 1998 Vol. 2 No. 3: The Garden of Hanged Men by Brian Willette (cover)


From Siren's Silence Fall '98 Vol. 2 No. 3: Clean (Youblisher)

From Siren's Silence Fall 1998: Vol. 2 No. 3: Clean by Adam Fieled

Five Major Odes (Scribd)


Adam Fieled: Five Major Odes (Youblisher)

Adam Fieled: Five Major Odes

To Satan (2nd Draft)

Let it not be said that his rhetoric drifts
   out of focus on Earth for a casual minute—
nor that just retribution is not terribly swift
    for those who disrespect his intimate business;
as the new mother, tethered away from her child,
      meths up, eats what she doesn’t want
           to mortify dread that she might be other
      then a perfect Satan’s gofer, brain-washed, wild—
          infanticide-schemes, inverted taunts,
              floorboards arranged under carpets, like gutters.  

Pentagrams engraved on truth, justice-seats,
    masks woven wanly of paint-wearing flesh;
abattoirs filled with poison-dwarf sweets,
     histories chopped out of infants, made mesh.
What are they scripting: for who, for what?
    That all the false idols, set in a line, might dance
       tangled, backwards, to all that they dread?
How is he drifting? He’s straight, he’s shut
     against any heart holds a  heavenly chance
         of imposing their visions, getting vicious in bed.  

You’re a ruddy old Big Man Downstairs, you,
   fibs so jejune I can’t hear but to laugh—
your buttons are pinned upon somebody who
    mistook all the fame, and the fortunate path.
Why governments swoon before truth is clear—
    you set the bar too high, and low at once,
       no innocent cleric can face all the dumbness—
why all of these drones from downstairs, not here,
     can’t say a lick out of being a dunce,
       define for the ages what being a bum is.


Samsara2001Eng Subs


Adam Fieled & Melissa Floyd (Sodano), 2001

Yudu Philadelphia: Wayback Machine

The following images have been saved from Yudu onto the Wayback Machine: Siren's Silence, Fall 1998, Vol. 2 No. 3, cover (Brian Willette), Clean (Adam Fieled, P. 22 SS Vol. 2 No. 3), American Writing: A Magazine, Issue 21, cover, Icarus In New York (Adam Fieled, P. 37 AW #21). And from Ode On Jazz.


From Siren's Silence Fall '98, Vol. 2 No. 3: Clean (Adam Fieled)

From American Writing: A Magazine (21): Icarus In New York (Adam Fieled)


Jessica and Jennifer Strawser

“People who write, know: what you tap into when you write can be an anticipation of circumstances in your life yet to come. Turns out I wrote She Disowned My Life in the fall of 1995, in my dorm room (322 Holmes Hall) in North Halls (the artists’ dorms on campus), in State College, Pa, while attending Penn State. Musically, I was thinking both Big Star (who I had discovered that summer via my friend Steve Kurutz) and early Elvis Costello, who liked to write, early in his career, in the key of E. What was I writing about? It seems to me, with twenty years’ hindsight, I was tapping into what was about to happen in early ’96; my first long-term relationship, almost a marriage, with Jennifer Strawser. Not to get catechistic, but did she disown my life? Sort of; we were just kids, but she was looking for a sense of intensity about her and total dedication that I didn’t always have to offer, and when we broke up in the fall of ’96 (I was “disowned”), that was one salient reason. Fast-forward a dozen years: I brought the song to the Eris Temple to record in ’07, having had it in my back pocket for an extended period of time, and booked drummer Pete Leonard, who had played in my high school band, to do the session. The day of the session I felt rather unhinged about what was going on. It sounded chaotic and messy to me. Another writer’s quirk, especially when music is involved: you can’t hear a goddamned thing when you’re too close to what you’ve just done. So, whatever I was tapping into when we were recording (probably my break-up with Mary Harju six months after), the recording was shelved for eight years. Eight years, and I finally see that Matt, Pete, and I stumbled onto a new kind of rock magic that day in North-West Philly. Now, the song is officially out, twenty years after I wrote it.”

Siren's Silence Fall '98: Vol. 2 No. 3 (Cover)

Audioboom/Mixcrate: Wayback Machine pages


Yudu Analogue Black-Outs, don't you?


Live at the Kelly Writers House ('04)

This performance, by American poet Adam Fieled, was taped at the Kelly Writers House on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia on April 5, 2004, as part of the Live at the Writers House series. The poems: Icarus In New York, Ode On Jazz, Ode: To Bruce Nauman.


Stain Bar Variation #2