Built into Apparition Poems as a literary construct, and as a textual embodiment of what I call a “noir” or “deep noir” sensibility, are resonances from poem to poem, and from poem-sequence to poem-sequence. You could call these resonances textual “games” of a sort, and when two or more poems “game” with or against each other, the resonances between motifs, linguistic structures, and approaches to textual development highlight, in microcosmic form, what constitutes the text as an epic in fragments— an American epic. Here, I would like to investigate the game between two Apparition Poems— 1341 and 1488— and thus demonstrate how a representative Apparition Poem game works. The motifs I see intermixed in this game— drunkenness/intoxication, possible alcoholism, Philadelphia as a site for both interpersonal drama and textual creation, heterosexual (here) games between men and women, over both sexual and psycho-affective issues, and an unnamed epic protagonist’s relationship with language itself, and with his own cognitive capacities— recur throughout this nouveau epic text, and as it weaves its wayward course, this particular nexus serves to underline the labyrinthine depths (and heights) towards which the text attempts to ascend. So, here is 1341:
Secrets whispered behind us
have a cheapness to bind us
to liquors, but may blind us
to possibilities of what deep
secrets are lost in pursuit of
an ultimate drunkenness that
reflects off surfaces like dead
fishes at the bottom of filthy
rivers— what goes up most is
just the imperviousness gained
by walking down streets, tipsy,
which I did as I said this to her,
over the Schuylkill, two fishes.
And here, to initiate the game, is 1488:
liquor store, linoleum
floor, wine she chose
was always deep red,
dark, bitter aftertaste,
unlike her bare torso,
which has in it
all that ever was
to miss someone terribly,
to both still be in love, as
she severs things because
she thinks she must—
exquisite torture, it’s
a different bare torso,
(my own) that’s incarnadine—
The motif of drinking/drunkenness has to occur throughout Apparition Poems— the characters who inhabit the text tend to be excessive rather than moderate, and indulgent rather than abstemious. Why 1341 and 1488 both make incisions into the nature of drunkenness— “ultimate drunkenness” and “all that ever was of drunkenness”— is that drunkenness is seen not to be simple but complex, a multi-tiered state of consciousness which might move consciousness itself (and the relationship of consciousness to language) in any number of different directions. Yet, the dark-hewn nature of Apparition Poems, its stance in shade rather than light, draws us to the abyss that whatever the “all” of drunkenness is, it must be redeemed in our re-exploration of states of drunkenness in text, not necessarily as a state of consciousness in itself. The obvious facets of the drunkenness game here— that social contexts and sexualized relationships can drive us to drink in 1341, and that some humans choose to dwell permanently in drunken states of psycho-affective torpor in 1488— are undergirded by a meta-consonant sense that engagement in certain forms and levels of textuality have “all that ever was of drunkenness” built into them, and that the seemingly sober composer of the two poems has inhering a drunken sense of the possibilities of dual meanings and other “games” as redemptive of/for the self-respect of cognition, and its possible enchantments, of which drunkenness is one.
“Drunkenness” is also a specialized version of Philadelphia; as a city of romance and intrigue, intoxication, passion, and as an inversion of banal media clichés. Aughts Philadelphia was, in the broad sense of the word, romantic— freedoms to indulge were enjoyed there. Many of us did descend for periods of time into realms of semi-alcoholism. Even if, even for us, the Schuylkill remained filthy.
The sense of heterosexual, sexualized relationships between men and women— one of the backbones of serious art for the length of human history— had been edited out of serious avant-garde poetry a long time before Apparition Poems, for no good reason and against the natural proclivities of most would-be poets. I have no problems with queerness or queer art whatsoever— many of my Aughts Philly compadres were queer— but I felt that, for myself and for the greater good of the art-form, a re-introduction of passionate, sexualized (“experienced”) hetero interest would be both healthy and germane to this text’s sense of itself (sentience) as an American epic. Sexualized, hetero relationships with drunken, semi-alcoholic Philly as a background, sequestered in the racy Aughts, up the tactile ante against the merely cognitive, or even merely cognitive-affective, gaining an upper hand; and these two Apparition Poems together seem to be about the same relationship. That the relationship is tempestuous, “encounter” based in the broadly Wordsworthian sense, and also hinged to a secret-whispering social nexus, add a broad range of coloration and perspective tricks which make the poems work in an engine like way together, towards the conclusion of 1488 in heartbreak and a sense of entropic loss.
The loss, it should be noted, is epic, even if rooted in a series of fragments— pitched to a high frequency both of intellect (level after level of semantic scaffolding from line to line) and of emotion. The sense of gravitas-in-passion, mixed in with sex, booze, and Aughts Philly energy, is uniquely situated so that some audiences will miss the intricate sense of the poems as word-machines, systematically checking and balancing themselves for achieving the unique, simultaneous effect of maximum coherence/maximum complexity. Those who tend to favor “light” poetry, need not apply— but what noir can do, in terms of instilling ontology and pornography (of a sort) into epic fragments spinning out games among themselves in different directions, has something to do with a poetic response simultaneously (again) both to Deconstruction and to English Romanticism, never losing lyricism’s sense of inspired improvisation, or forgetting its sense of self-acknowledged, self-owned textuality, both representing human moments or instances and proudly displaying cognitions which can encompass them later, recollected in tranquility or drunkenness, or both.
As to how I have designated possible discussions/discourses about my Apparition Poems; applying the moniker “noir” or “deep noir” to them, in order the explicate the aesthetic terrain they inhabit; I would like to designate a possible chiasmus between “noir,” as defined in textual practice by me, and the theoretical underpinnings of English Romanticism. What noir and Romanticism share is substantial— a sense of mysticism or enchantment in cognition itself, or cognitive processes; also, the engagement-in-cognition between textuality and the human mind, and the mind’s enchantment with levels of textual transparency and opacity, back and forth; and a generalized sense of the necessity of dealing directly, to a greater or lesser extent, with philosophy and philosophical issues in texts maintaining artistic/aesthetic consonance. In order to develop this discourse, I would like to look at “The Solitary Reaper” by William Wordsworth in a dialectical fusion with Apparition Poem #1070 from my 2010 Blazevox print book Apparition Poems. The issues of phallocentrism-in-text, imposition on the feminine, “theft” of the feminine, rusticity, chastity, and sincerity starkly given antithesis by urbanity, sensuality, and artifice, fused into meditations on textual innocence and experience, virginity and consummation, and ultimate female empowerment in noir over Romanticism, are the ones which will lead us, hopefully, to a satisfying synthesis.
It will be necessary, to begin, to present “The Solitary Reaper” in full:
Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.
No Nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne'er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.
Will no one tell me what she sings?—
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?
Whate'er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o'er the sickle bending;—
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.
And here is Apparition Poem #1070:
I said, “I can’t
the last time I
was excited, how
can I associate
out a gun, a tube
of oil, and an air
and it was
felt, in which we
To clarify: “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” is a famous phrase from Wordsworth’s Preface (to Lyrical Ballads). If the two poems together initiate a sort of wrestling match or scuffle, it is because of inversions in the two texts which come to a kind of textual impasse. When Wordsworth (or his protagonist/”I”) co-opts the song of the Solitary Reaper, the interaction is a kind of unconsummated (“chaste”) one— she does not know someone is listening, and Wordsworth seems eager to keep it that way. We are drawn in by her rusticity, the sense that (as Wordsworth would have us believe, and as he explicated in his Preface) the rustic evinces a superior purity/innocence to the urban, and the plaintive quality of her song advertises a kind of emotional grandeur or gravitas, a superior depth to her femininity.
The woman in #1080 is my antithesis. Because what is being presented to the reader would seem to encompass levels of sleaze (“gun, tube of oil, air cushion”), it is easy to miss that this protagonist is proud that he does not have to surreptitiously co-opt something (song or skin) from his heroine; the sense that she, out of her own urbanity, anticipates the need for a full consummation, or modicum of experience. Also important is that she initiates the action; whether we find it sleazy or not, she is in a more empowered position vis a vis the male than Wordsworth would ever allow himself to be. That, ultimately, is what a noir sensibility has over Romantic sincerity, which tends towards chastity: the fully realized, mature notice and transubstantiation into text of the adult, and adult levels of awareness, both of the body (in noir, an “experienced body”) and of levels of metaphoric awareness which Wordsworth would not have missed (that each realization of the feminine is a realization of a certain kind of text, textuality, and textual practice, bound together by processes of incision and receptivity conjoined in a single writerly consciousness, male or female). By having me raise a “plaintive” voice to my Muse, as I drolly invert another line from Wordsworth’s Preface (“as to the way the mind associates ideas in a state of excitement”), I feminize myself so that my compatriot may incise into me her experience. Thusly, the sleaze levels are superficial; my text empowers a sensualized, adult woman to enjoy (“reap together”) an encounter both more tactile and more textually fulfilling than the encounters both in Lyrical Ballads and in Wordsworth’s Prelude, which features, on a general level, few interactions at all, and remains mired in Romanticism’s narcissistic obsession with the phallocentric text.
However, as we work towards a sense of synthesis, what Romanticism and noir share (a sense of the mind’s enchantment with itself, and of the mind’s interaction with texts and textuality, shot through with continued interrogations of a philosophical self/protagonist) leads me to the belief that Wordsworth might claim for innocence/chastity some hegemony over experience, in terms of the need for strict male/female boundary maintenance, as a superior mode/manner of achieving the kind of clean-minded adulthood which can maintain (also) dispassion, objectivity, and devotion to intellectual development. Adulthood does not have to mean fornication and pornography. If noir is experienced where Romanticism is innocent, the reader will have to decide for him or herself how important boundary-dissolution is between masculine and feminine energies, and what vision of textual adulthood is more rich, and more aesthetically subtle, cognitively sharp. When I was writing Apparition Poems (‘09/’10), I was working in an ambiguous culture, sex-saturated on the surface if surprisingly chaste beneath, and so my 2010 Solitary Reaper had to have more tensions, more ambiguities present and accounted for than Wordsworth’s; down to the fact that, in the Apparition Poem in question, I manage, through my ingenuousness (textual and otherwise) to end her solitude. Or, my Reaper was never Solitary to begin with. But I must state, for the record, that I did, and do not intend for her to be perceived as a slut/whore. If you read between the lines (why am I bothering to talk to her in “Romantic” terms for the first place, for instance), she is well balanced; as Wordsworth’s Highland Lass may be, whose sense of agency remains undisturbed (in her own consciousness) by male need. If there is a synthesis point to end on, it is that all sense, for the intellect, is metaphor; and the Romance of intellect (a sense of intellectual innocence) to the noir of intellect (a sense of intellectual experience) is a useful hinge to a longer potential discourse around what may be fathered from the two together, both in art and in other humanities disciplines, over a long period of time.
Lyricism and what I call “deep noir” in Apparition Poems— the lyrical impulse here is divested of attachment to conventional (parochial, in retrospect) prosody (the term for my melopoeiac modus operandi is “clustering,” in which rhymes, near rhymes, assonances, alliterations, anaphora, and other devices occur at regularly irregular intervals). Also, the momentary or arbitrary is subsumed beneath fixed ontological concerns— “the enchantment of multiple meanings,” creating an epic effect (within the context of an “epic of fragments”) more than a lyrical one. Yet, what the Apparition Poems (including the Cheltenham Elegies) have in common with Keats’ Odal Cycle is what might be called (this works generally for major lyric poetry too) a compression or “compressionist” impulse, so that the maximum amount of textual data congeals into solidity in the most confined possible textual space. The talent to compress is the poet’s luck over the novelist’s or the philosopher’s. The advantage of compressed texts, compressed discourse (or, as in Space Between, compressed matrixes): maximum density of signifiers creates an intense phantasmagoric effect, in and of itself— like watching a good film, or fireworks— a simulacrum, more than the prosaic, of the rigors of sexual intercourse (not just Barthesian pleasure following a “cruise” but ecstasy, and ecstasy in the pre-twentieth century dual sense, jubilance and jumping out of one’s skin). Keats’ inclusion of the arbitrary, indicative of what he chooses to celebrate (make Odal), reaches into an ontological space where only by dint of native genius can poetic sound and sense reach a satisfying apogee— thus, the Romanticism of genius narratives and mythologies around literature are true for Keats, and a genius for the arbitrary, its serendipitous manifestation, is exceedingly rare. The sui generis quality of the Odes has remained unchallenged for two centuries. I also extend the purview of my investigation of the Odal Cycle to encompass Taoism and awareness of the Tao— a self-subsistent mode of being (here made textual), arbitrary, serendipitous.
Through the investigation of lyricism, the collusion of any text (or “textuality”) with notions of serendipity, textual elements magically falling into place to form coherent gestalt wholes— any time a text or discourse is not completely planned (which is every time), elements of chance force themselves on the human mind, so that what manifests, when it is substantial, mirrors the lyrical (or lyricism), either as a subtext or as a reference point. Working with fixed concerns, and attempting the imposition of intellectual discipline, a certain safeguard against lyricism is set in place (against adolescence, Romance), but when the spirit of lyricism makes the text or discourse refulgent, the writer(s) become memorable, evince the Romanticism of human warmth, and the memorable. What makes any text memorable is not necessarily arbitrary, but its manifestation must remain arbitrary (serendipitous) until a precise science of writing is developed which can reify specific textual formulas. In this sense, Keats and lyricism signify everything we still do not know about textuality— as we divine for its essence at one point, discard it at another; and lyricism-ontology, as a final mystery, beckons from a realm as surely Other, regarding language and the mind, as any floating in our cosmos.
Lyricism’s hinge to adolescence, and the Dionysian— I have the Dionysian ranked as a Secondary Mode on the Purification Chain, for the same reason that the “fixed” must take its place as a Primary Mode over the mutable— an ethos around the aesthetic, whether inhering in the text directly or indirectly, must supersede, in its formal structure (scaffolding, image arrangements as on the Grecian Urn), what is included in momentary instances/impulses to destabilize, abrade, propel the text further towards more inductive leaps, melopoeiac crescendos; and fixed textual ethos manifests the rigors of Apollonian order/gestalt form reification. Yet, to evacuate chance/the momentary from textual creation (or maintenance, even) is to deny a Secondary Mode, which has the capacity to purify Apollonian impulses of the cumbrous formal hegemony which engenders textual dullness/reification of signifiers into stasis: Keats returns. As to the rigors of ontological inquiry versus the rigors of melopoeia on the Purification Chain— if ontology is a Primary Mode to lyricism’s Secondary, it is because serious ontological inquiry in creative or discursive texts has a manner/mode of destabilizing itself, towards its own expectation horizon of the Dionysian— where the essential Otherness of the Other manifests, jarring maintained perspectives of singularity and subjectivity. Keats’ Achilles’ heel, in the Odal Cycle— reliance on melopoeia, melopoeiac forms (technical/tactile form, in other words, against intellectual gestalt form) renders experiences of Otherness (nightingales, autumns, Grecian Urns) clipped, unduly bounded (again, interstitially complicated by prosody’s war with intellection), and the resultant crescendos are redolent (often) of mere sensibility and not, for the most part, of understanding and reason. Keats’ “high requiem” is for this blindness, for his own lyrical impulse to cast off intellectual discipline.
Keats, lyricism, and what I call Space Between— what manifests as the momentary in the Odes, lurks as a subterranean passageway along an ontological vista of consciousness not only prioritizing a certain form/manner of Otherness, and Otherness attaining importance, but of identification of/with the Other, and Otherness, with the self, so that the self is (textually and otherwise) Other (“I is another” said Rimbaud), and thus loses its essence so as to extend its notions of being past the strictures of the Apollonian. Different minds, ideologies may judge this transformation as an adolescent anomaly or not— as the abstractions added by melopoeiac considerations invite the same judgment. Employing the constraints of my definition of Space Between, the balancing edge or link of Keats’ lyricism, wherein he discovers the gestalt form of a certain textual self, stands at/with the virgin/virginal freshness of allowing the momentary a substantial modicum of unrestricted access, and the sense of the intellectual access of chance/the momentary is representative of lyricism as a generic construct in general, against the epic, the meta-poem, the elegy, and poetry (such as blank verse) meant to serve larger forms (perhaps hybrids with prose, perhaps not), larger ends. As a perceived avant-garde apotheosis of the lyric, the Odes embody a strange command of their own dynamics, and the off-centered quality of their ontological quirks kick back at the notion of their own obsolescence.
Yet, the singularity of Keats’ Odes in the canon of English language poetry is problematic— because ontology, and Space Between, can dismiss so much of Romanticism’s naïve self-schemas and conceptions (up to and including the greater part of Wordsworth, Keats’ most serious rival), the Odes’ resilience and form/manner of shape-shifting confound even a minor dismissal. The challenge of chance, and the momentary, to a consciousness invested in ontological incisiveness, against states of half-being towards Space Between more defined, more fulsome, more grounded in intellectual command of boundaries (boundary dissolution, sometimes), is substantial and worthwhile, but mysterious and uncanny, like the raw lyricism of the Odes themselves. The Odes eternally invite us to participate in the arbitrary.
As to the lyrical impulse which infuses the Odal Cycle with life: the balance between what is picked up/grasped momentarily by Keats’ consciousness, hewn into the text, and (conversely) a fixed set of concerns which Keats (or any major lyrical poet) projects into the textual realm, consciously or unconsciously, every time he/she writes creatively, especially at crescendo moments of passionate intellection/intellectual passion, is a point of speculative interest for the critic, poet, or scholar, who wishes to grasp how and why inductive sensibility, understanding, and then reason should produce a text of vital interest over a long period of time. It is the balance between the fixed, projected outwards, and the mutable, promiscuously encountering momentary data to reify or unhinge what can remain fixed at the moment of textual initiation and consummation.
In Grecian Urn, as I have previously written, images of virginity (‘unravish’d brides”) are sought out from the fixed part of Keats’ consciousness as he looks at (enters into, both with a phallic sense of textual mastery and a negatively capable sense of identification) the urn. Yet, the avant-gardism of the Odes, their own unending mutability in productive directions/perspectives if viewed continuously, dictates the lesson that levels of irony built into this encounter complicate its straightforward verticality around passionate virginity, and the enchantment virginal states have of verticality in and of themselves, as virginal consciousness graduates towards consummation, once this sense of graduation is frozen into place, made immortal; the negatively capable subject who stands behind the Ode creates a sense of mutability around an audience trying to see into a fixed set of concerns given ambiguous expression, and become negatively capable ourselves. Does he relish virginity-images specifically from a virgin sensibility of his own, or is his fixed concern attempting to balance an injured sense of experience, of consummations (“ravishings”) gone awry, as we create a fruitful (“never can those trees be bare”) chain by entering his consciousness while the Urn enters his own consciousness?
Lyricism’s dance with raw subjectivity means that here, the New Critical commonplace against the desirability of gauging authorial intentionality must move to the back, remain in abeyance. Too much about lyricism depends on a sense of identification between reader, poet, and the text which dares to “play middle.” In the case of my own textual practice, the fixed set of concerns I project onto my texts has more to do with ontology, less to do with the rigors of melopoeia— my crescendos, thus, can never reach the heights of Keats’ Odal Cycle. Yet, the riveting nature of prosody, when balanced correctly with intellection (and Keats’ fixed set of concerns, projected onto his text, certainly involves the interstitial complications around prosody and intellection), is that it is a specific kind of hinge towards a sense of abandon (into verticality) and mutability (into verticality), and one that, with the twenty-first century and its conventions beginning to consummate themselves in 2014, may or may not be in danger of becoming lost in the ontological, and in hybrid forms. The horizontal, “planed” reach of prose, past the momentary or lyrical, and even forms of poetry for which prosody is not an overriding concern (Apparition Poems and Cheltenham are still involved in this concern, but not as an imperious imperative, the way Keats would have cogitated it) may mean that this form/manner of building textual impetus/direction will exist only as a kind of memory for us, but one fond enough, edgy enough, and wistful enough in its essential Otherness that its presence for us must remain stalwart.
This is a Blazevox portal page put together by Open Library itself. Thanks to Open Library, and to Blazevox. The standard OL search page for "Adam Fieled" now serves as a large portal page area as well; and here is my OL author page, another portal.
This mp3 offers Adam Fieled's 2000 EP Darkyr Sooner in its entirety. All songs recorded at Buttons Sound, Manhattan, except "Why Won't You See Me Tonight?" at East Side Studios, Manayunk, Philadelphia, and "Song to the Siren" at Main Street West, also in Philadelphia. All songs by Adam Fieled except "Song to the Siren" by Tim Buckley and Larry Beckett.