I swung a loop from the warehouse
space back into the gallery itself-
throngs of hipsters milling around,
whiskey, wine disappearing from
the little island space situated near
windows picking up western sun-
light; night descended on Cherry
Street; an ambiance of anticipation.
When anything can happen in human
life, nothing usually does- spectacles
like this were exceptions. Avalon established
eye-contact; off we pranced to the stairwell-
Mike Land grinned lasciviously, as usual,
& polished off a beer he'd received gratis.
I was fighting in a French
Revolution of some kind,
hiding out in a sleeping
bag in a mess hall, gun
tucked under pillow. I knew
in an intuitive flash that
we'd be attacked that night, & we
were, but I followed a horse
out the door & was not
killed. Then I was back in
a room w wooden floors &
I saw you preen through
the window, but you weren't
looking in at me, you were
staring off, into the distance,
pristine as a Vermeer maiden,
so I went looking for Manet's
Olympia, whoring behind the mess hall.
Poetry that aims at the heart seeks to do so (usually) through an affective
catharsis; poetry that aims at the mind seeks to do so through a certain narrative-thematic skillfulness. If we are merely emotionally moved, or merely
intellectually stimulated, it is likely that what we are reading is decidedly minor
poetry. Minor poetry maintains a narrow focus on a goal that, however
elaborately formulated, stays either in the heart or in the mind. Given the
battles that have been waged on this blog and elsewhere, it is useful to note
that, between the two camps at war in American poetry (mainstream and
post-avant), there is an agreement on each side to reduce the other side to a
caricature of one of these two forms. Centrists perpetually accuse
post-avantists of being all head; post-avant poets perpetually accuse Centrists of being bleeding heart sentimentalists. However, these battles
are often waged at the level of content. Where form is concerned, people
tend to clam up, often because they lack knowledge of the formal mechanics of
poetry. I want to posit a new possibility that has not, to my knowledge,
heretofore been posited. What if someone were to put together post-avant, as a branch of avant-garde poetry (as it
exists now), and formalism? What if someone were to kick open the door and declare
the commensurability of form and intellect, of letting heart in the back door
via a level of formal elegance, employing the architectural techniques of the avant-garde?
I have felt the need to justify to myself why, after all this time and several books, I keep coming back to form, feeding on it so to speak, now
that I know what I know. If the arbitrary nature of signs or signifiers means that we would
be foolhardy to trust in their transparency, does that negate lapidary
or ornamental usages of language? I don't think so. It's not as if Saussure
was the first thinker to point out the deficiencies of linguistic signs. John
Locke said roughly the same thing 120 years before Saussure, and the major
Romantics were all fluent in Locke. Yet the inquiries of someone like Coleridge
never threw in doubt for him that the organic unity of harmonious
metrical language was worth creating. Maybe, to bring it straight back to 2009,
poets of my generation are deciding that experimental poets over the past fifty
years have thrown out too much. Or, maybe there is no reason, I can just
get tautological and say I like formal poetry because I like it and
leave it at that. Tautological logic (a contradiction in terms) can be
surprisingly useful, even therapeutic. Why? Because the universe is
unfathomable, and poetry is part of the universe, and often few of us know why
we write what we write. It's no accident that Jack Spicer thought aliens
were dictating to him. At the center of each of us is a solid core of
emptiness, which we act out of.
I mentioned Wordsworth's phrase harmonious metrical language.
"Harmony" is associated with music, as is, of course, metrical
language. Coleridge iterates, in his Biographia, that a man (or woman) without
music in his/her soul can never be a poet. I think my addiction to metrical
language or melopoeia (and it is, to an extent, an addiction, albeit a positive one) is in
large measure the product of an imagination weaned on music and the metrical
language of song lyrics. Metrical language, as manifested in song lyrics, is
the most popular kind of poetry in the world, and has been for half a century.
The nineteenth century saw the tremendous popular success of Byron and Tennyson.
There is no twentieth century analogue to Byron and Tennyson, because the lack
of metrical harmony in serious poetic language rendered it too difficult
for mass consumption. It is no accident that the single most famous Modernist
poem would probably be Eliot'sPrufrock, a metrical composition.
People want music that isn't merely Poundian/High Mod melopoeia; they want it to
be surface-level and discernible and, sometimes, I agree with them. Using melopoeia, in its most disciplined forms, is not a mode of conservatism either; it is simply a way of constructing poetry which manifests and works on a maximum number of levels to achieve the maximum inherent memorability and potency. The more tools we may use to create poetry, the more liberal, and liberated, we are.
The Schuylkill flows cleanly, despite
all the murk, as the Expressway looms
on the other side of it; the trees, as
usual, are Heaven, rooted much too
deeply for us to fathom, cocked at
a solid angle into a receptive Universe;
I am waiting, writing on the edge of
wars, chopping through the cesspool
of centuries old shit, stunned by an
awareness of the human brain's torques;
and when I imagine you it's with a sense
that we're both standing at the river's
edge (we are, of course), and as long as
we see the trees into the sky we blend in.
O, if only I were still a young
buck, a gun, a razor-sharp grass-
hopping wisp, I'd flip for your
dogged persistence, brutal sex,
siamese purr, write a sutra
for our every rub, manifesto for
every wet night, bagged, bombed,
bitten down to a raw-red quick;
but I sit, bereft of ego except to
know that I like seeing you better than
being seen, and as a vapor hung
above, below, behind you I rate
what possibilities we have of rain-
layed out like jarred tea at Starbucks.
The Ontological Contradiction (from Postulates and Empty Spaces) ('14)
Though the evidence from Kant's dialectics suggest that substance, that-which-is, causality, is accidental; and furthermore, that, if substance is accidental, indigenous meaning inhering in substance is unlikely; it also then becomes true that a question arises as to the practicality of interrogating the posited null set around inherent meaning in substance, that-which-is, from the side of complete and total immersion in substance/causality; and if meaning is seen to inhere in the possible meaningless or not; or if the beyond-us which must be antecedent to all-that-is necessitates a practical cognitive withdrawal.
If substance/causality is an accident, then it is also necessarily the result of a contingency, or strictly speaking, the contingent; the non-existence of substance subsisted as a possibility. What inheres in the contingent is the possibility of non-existence; yet accidents/contingencies are, or tend to be, contained and delimited by/within discrete successions within increments of time; the possibility, within contingencies, of non-existence, conditioned by an antithetical result (existence), seems also to necessitate discretion, discrete successions in which a change occurred (non-existence into existence). But all-that-is, substance, causality, necessarily always was and will be; time creates a formal condition of indiscretion, and endless series of successions. The Ontological Contradiction built into Kant's dialectics is this- substance/causality cannot be involved in contingency, or it would cease to be what it is (self-sufficient, permanent), which is impossible; yet, if substance/causality is an accident, it must have contingency in its economy as a hinge towards involvement, in some succession somewhere.
Introductory Notes Towards a Phenomenology: The Meta-Rational
being of things consists not of our notions of them, nor our ideations of them;
nor do things consist of the Kantian thing-in-itself or as independent entities;
rather things consist of the balancing link between the thing-in-itself and our
ideations of the thing-in-itself. The balance between these two points of
consciousness cannot be perceived alone; what is needed to comprehend it is a
sense of the meta-rational. The meta-rational is not, like the irrational,
posited against the rational; rather, it is the step beyond mere rationality,
the point at which foreign elements become important to consciousness.
-There is space between time, space between space, and
space between causes.
-This space between is, in one sense, an intuition.
-Space Between, in this sense, is an intuition of Being.
-Space Between cannot be named except as such; naming
entails a certain confinement.
-Space Between can possess us between thoughts.
-Space Between may be seen as an extension of the
principle “Negative Capability” beyond aesthetics.
-Space Between, in fact, may be seen as what
consciousness is between thoughts.
-Space Between in the selfness of what is beyond us.
-Space Between, as transcendent will, is solid being
congealed in a momentary sensation.
-The mind must divide originally because the body itself
is a plurality.
-The mind’s structure finds its mirror in the body’s
plurality; but the mind’s wholeness is not self-apparent.
-The body is plural, yet it moves together; the mind is
plural and moves plurally; that is, it is capable of moving in many directions
-The mind moving the body is conscious thought; the body
moving the mind is unconscious impulse (thought).