Melopoeia and Time

The tradition in serious poetry, of poets anthropomorphizing impersonal forces (Love, Time, Beauty) is a rich one, even if it fell into disuse in the twentieth century. John Keats, for example, will always address impersonal forces like Love, Time, and Beauty in a personalized, I-thou manner. He thusly imposes on the aesthetic context the resolutely personal (odal) world which is his insignia. The Modernists and post-modernists found Keats, and Romanticism, naïve for this anthropomorphizing proclivity; yet, the tunnel vision they imposed on poetry, involving the hegemonic power of the impersonal, objective, and synthetic, shuts down the humanistic and the imaginative in a surfeit of emptiness and unmusical banality. As for how this issue is dealt with in Apparition Poems— if Time, for instance, is to be anthropomorphized— one compromise solution involves taking Time and making it a dry iced, impersonal “it” in an I-it chiasmus situation. Thus, the perceived hokeyness of making everything personal is avoided, even if a confession is also made that impersonal forces like Time may stand in Inter-Dialogic relationships with our consciousness, metaphorically jumping into our brains and making incisions, not out of a conscious will, but out of unconscious, emanated power. Time, of course, is merely (as Kant teaches us) an intuition, something our brain imposes on what matter is empirically given to us, and also an aid to register perceptible changes in matter. The problem, for the poet swimming in these waters, is that human consciousness generates emotions about these processes. So, we have Apparition Poem 1067:

 I want to last—
to be the last
of the last of
the last to be

taken by time,
but the thing
about time is
that it wants,

what it wants
is us, all of us
wane quickly
for all time’s

ways, sans “I,”
what I wants—

One of the oddities here is that melopoeia, and melopoeiac tension/release games, compensate for the frustration of the protagonist’s circular Inter-Dialogic interaction with time as an impersonal force, impinging on his consciousness. The music manifests in clusters, which is my usual manner/mode of melopoeiac practice, and in end-rhymes as well. The Inter-Dialogic tension here— the knowledge that anthropomorphized time “wants,” in an impersonal fashion, to co-opt and destroy everything I, as an individual, either have or have created— makes it so that the poem, which begins with “I want” and finishes with “I wants,” has in it a sense of metaphysical exploration of combined or “mutt” interactions between personal and impersonal forces, what has perceptible bounds and what does not. The problem with the poem anthropomorphizing Time is that the poet’s instinct to do so, though it jibes with his aesthetic intentions, must nonetheless be riddled with the doubts and inconsistencies of consciousness reaching too far past itself, and its own empirical understanding. The principles of pure reason— Kant’s top rung of what human cognition can achieve— can only speak of Time as an intuitive force in human consciousness, and not strictly knowable past that. We do not know if Time-forces inhere in the universe which manifest some form of consciousness or personality. They might. To the extent that the poem sketches a semantic and melopoeiac circle in space, where the end and the beginning are rough parallels, what is suggested is a sense of stalemate with an impersonal force which cannot help but touch us, in both Inter-Dialogic interactions and out, while also manifesting evidence that no consciousness can inhere in it, and the personal and the impersonal become so hopelessly intermixed that the poem gets lost in its own music. To be lost in melopoeia, while also dry iced by an I-it perspective, makes the poem its own kind of hybrid, built of parts which ache to transcend their limitations and know what is not readily known, even as what is shown to consciousness here is frightening and frustrating. 


Inter-Dialogism: Cheltenham Elegies (IA)

Inter-Dialogism: Cheltenham Elegies features meta-criticism of the Elegies oriented around phenomenology, and the concept inter-dialogism, on Internet Archive or in full-text

Kierkegaard and Dry Ice

The complex relationship between Inter-Dialogism and philosophy cannot be simply or succinctly enumerated. When consciousness leaps into other consciousness, the basic questions of phenomenology remain the same— what is inside our consciousness, what is outside, what is held or bounded in or by consciousness, and what is not— only issues of individuation, difference, and distinction manifest to lead any inquiry into any number of both theoretical and semantic quagmires. When philosophical issues are addressed in serious poetry, the potential and actual arabesques out into cognitive space become innumerable, especially when Inter-Dialogism is used in a new capacity. What happens when, as often happens in philosophy, allegorical figures are employed? From Socrates to Zarathustra to Abraham, philosophical texts must lean on symbolic representations of individuals, to delineate the essences of philosophical dilemmas and interests. Abraham, we know, was Kierkegaard’s major choice is his most pivotal text— Fear and Trembling— and he, as an author, asks us, as an implicit “you” in an I-thou relationship, to attempt to leap into Abraham’s consciousness when the Lord asks him to climb the mountain and sacrifice his son, seemingly for no reason, and testing Abraham’s faith, sharpening his faculties of perception. Apparition Poem 1613 subsists as both an interpretive vista onto Kierkegaard and a tangential representation of an implicit “I” who has been able, it would seem, to achieve the requisite Inter-Dialogic leap into Abraham’s consciousness, though we know Abraham to only be a figure in an allegory, rather than a partner in any intimacy:

Follow Abraham up the hill:
to the extent that the hill is
constituted already by kinds
of knives, to what extent can
a man go up a hill, shepherd
a son to be sacrificed, to be
worthy before an almighty
power that may or may not
have had conscious intentions

where hills, knives, sons were
concerned, but how, as I watch
this, can I not feel that Abraham,
by braving knives, does not need
the one he holds in his rapt hands?

What the implicit I sees in 1613 is a kind of loop around unconscious processes of governance— that God himself may rule the Universe from a center of consciousness or not, and that the subtle mental strength Abraham gains from contact with this Universe Force unconsciously begins to direct his thoughts and actions, which take on consonance with being sharp, incisive, knife-like. The final loop, we see, is that, in a binding chain, the “I” in the poem becomes sharp, incisive, and knife-like from Inter-Dialogic interaction with Abraham (and it is implicit by this time that Inter-Dialogic interactions may happen with characters in allegories as well as flesh and blood people), who has inherited his incisiveness from the Universe Force whose consciousness or unconsciousness cannot be gauged or mastered. If the dry ice rule applies here, as it does for most of Apparition Poems, it is because all philosophy, as heavy as it is on intellect and allegory, is touched by dry ice, and I-you queries ride shot-gun to the objectivism which must drive the thing forward and turn the proverbial steering wheel. Is some real I-thou intimacy mixed in? To answer this brings us to a philosophical critical crux which is very strange— strange, in 1613, because the protagonist seems to be (mystically, uncannily) attempting an Inter-Dialogic leap into our brain, as he (unconsciously) sees what he sees, and steps back out again, leaving a sense behind that philosophical awareness can be governed by unconscious processes and impersonal forces all the way through, just as many of the most salient Big Questions, both for science and philosophy, are impersonal ones, and can only be conjectured at in an impersonal, if not unconscious, manner. The implied “you” in 1613 is rather rare, and demanded by a literary context; a merely philosophical context would stay in the third person; but, in attempting a bridge and a chiasmus between philosophy and literature, aids the reader in feeling a sense of humanity amidst all the objectivism and dry ice. Yet, the contradiction inheres that in addressing the Big Questions on any profound level, it is almost always individual consciousness which is able to produce breakthroughs in science and philosophy, cloaked in the impersonality and objectivity (governed, also, often unconscious processes) of the third person. If poetry is able to enter this game seriously, the first person singular must re-make itself as explicit, and personal, to give whatever construct is at hand the insignia of the aesthetic, and allow the reader graceful entrance.


Dry Ice

The “dry ice” approach to serious poetry— I-it employed over I-thou— forms an interesting chiasmus with what I call Inter-Dialogism. When you want to jump over the hurdle of ordinary consciousness into the consciousness of another, however briefly, and if the Other in question is set at a natural distance from you, as can happen in many contexts, the result can be insight or a mystified sense of helplessness. Think how this works in terms of worldly power— militaries, judicial systems, governments— and how individuals who fall under the aegis of these conglomerate interests are forced to make their points and gather their information. If you meet another personage, with the insignias of worldly power on them, one way or another, your attempt to make the Inter-Dialogic leap may or may not be hampered by timidity, reserve, prudence, intimidation, coercion, or a sense of being toppled by protocols. Often, if the Inter-Dialogic leap is to be made and the insight gleaned (leading to whatever further action the situation or context demands), it must happen quickly, once the powerful party has somehow been shocked into revealing themselves. Worldly power, as relates to the individual consciousness of those who bear it, can create a brain white-washed by its own armature of complexities and protocols, which make it so that, when both partners in a conversation have vested worldly interests, Inter-Dialogism is beleaguered by the dry ice of no intimacy whatsoever, and often, no brain symmetry (interchange of nations). Everything remains resolutely impersonal, even as, as everything created by the human brain, political armature must show cracks and strains, and those skilled at noticing those cracks and strains can make an Inter-Dialogic leap towards figuring out another consciousness. This all manifests in Apparition Poem 1345, from Apparition Poems:

Two hedgerows with a little path

between— to walk in the path like

some do, as if no other viable route

exists, to make Gods of hedgerows

that make your life tiny, is a sin of

some significance in a world where

hedgerows can be approached from

any side— I said this to a man who

bore seeds to an open space, and he

nodded to someone else and whistled

an old waltz to himself in annoyance.

The situation appears severe— the protagonist of the poem is spinning out an allegory for someone we assume to be a government or military functionary. The purport of the allegory is the idea that when the human race plans to move forward, forcing individuals to worship forces that degrade, abase, and trivialize their lives usually, and needlessly, disrupts human progress. As to why the Inter-Dialogic needs of the protagonist swerved him towards employing this allegory— the functionary’s reaction would have to reveal, one way or another, at least a part of his brains, and thus make the situation more comprehensible to the protagonist. Thus, the whole Inter-Dialogic interchange has to happen without there being any personal emotion involved at all. Inter-Dialogic reactions dry iced this way, without any personal emotion, when represented in text, are a taste some may have more than others, just as the first, dry iced set of Apparition Poems may be preferable to some over the more personal Cheltenham Elegies. Here, what is set forth is a situation in which the functionary’s reaction— annoyance— leaves in enough ambiguity that the reader must decide for him or herself if a real Inter-Dialogic leap has been made or if the protagonist misjudged his adversary. He has attempted to initiate a battle of mystification— a sense that boundaries are being crossed, so that who is mystifying who becomes an open question. This reality is, as I said, political more than personal, just as the Elegies have politics built into them only on secondary levels. Why dry ice in serious poetry is interesting as an aesthetic effect is that most sensitive temperaments understand that the dry ice effect has its own aesthetic grandeur, just as Shelley’s snow and ice storms in Mont Blanc are strangely, eerily gorgeous. As for 1345, the poem ends with the situation seemingly power-blocked; allegory told, allegory rejected; and yet we know that in politics, responses can germinate over long periods of time. Thus, the battle of mystification works for the reader too, who will be unable to predict either the precise context of this battle (no precise playing field, like Cheltenham) or how it may turn out in the end. The entire edifice is on ice.


Menace and Foreboding

One subtext of the entire enterprise of the Cheltenham Elegies is that the significations of the American suburbs must change. From the dulcet and the banal, the suburbs acquire an aura of menace and foreboding. How the menace and the foreboding are incorporated into our view of the American suburbs connects directly to Inter-Dialogism. What happens when the leap from one consciousness into another is made, and what is seen is perceived to be a direct threat to the individual who initiates the leap? This may happen in a number of different contexts, including social situations in which individuals are not only required to keep their cool, but to maintain the wonted placid façade that is the suburban insignia. Even more murky are situations in which the individual who makes the Inter-Dialogic leap perceives a genuine threat, with some genuine intimacy snuck in on another side of things— in other words, the insignia of betrayal. This goes beyond mere troubled brotherhood, into a place in which the drama of life and death is so intricately complex and elaborately woven that everything (again) is lost in ambiguity, and love and hate are impossible to distinguish. This is where the individual with Inter-Dialogic tendencies (like the Elegiac Protagonist) gets beaten back with his or her own limitations— emotions take over, and where there is any sensitivity, it is lost in confusion and despair. Keats inverts this process, in the Odes, into being lost in a haze of sexualized, musical ecstasy— the Odes and Elegies find two parallel lines towards consciousness losing itself, in self-transcendence towards dissolution into higher realities. As the Elegies’ blackness meets the Odes’ whiteness in the Gyan chap, a foundation is built of wonder around the possibilities of poetic language. Yet, in Elegy 260, we finally come face to face with the brick wall in all the Cheltenham characters’ consciousness— they cannot let go of their pasts, and replay all the most important scenes of menace and foreboding in their heads endlessly, in an eternal loop:

I was too stoned to find the bathroom.
The trees in the dude’s backyard made
it look like Africa. You were my hook-up
to this new crowd. The same voice, as always,
cuts in to say you were fucked up even
then. You had a dooming Oedipal
complex. We were all wrapped tight,
even when we got high. I was the
only one getting any, so you both
mistrusted me. African trees & easy
camaraderie. A primitive pact sealed
between warring factions— my spears
(take this as you will) for your grass.

Dealers in the world need to have an intuition, a sixth sense. The need to be able to intuit who around them is for real and who isn’t. The problem with the Elegiac Protagonist here is that he isn’t completely a dealer. He appears to be an accessory to dealers, and nothing more. Yet, his sixth sense informs him in this memorized loop (“The same voice, as always…”) that he is being betrayed somehow by someone he cares about, probably the hero/anti-hero from 261, and there is nothing at all he can do about it. Elegy 260 is rather unique, among the Elegies, because it does not come to any definite conclusions; in fact, the poem ends before the action starts, leaving the readers to configure for themselves what the nature of the action exactly is, and what the betrayals might be. When betrayal of individuals is involved, Inter-Dialogism becomes profoundly horrible, a waking nightmare which brands individual minds for all time with the decisive moments which made or broke them. The funny twist involved in 260 involves sex— that if the Elegiac Protagonist is about to be excluded from something important, his success with girls is what may be standing in his way, which has caused hatred and resentment to migrate towards him, and this betrayal. In the suburbs, the fates of individuals are often decided sotto voce, and in the kind of accents which may accompany the reading of weather on TV or a game show host’s opening monologue. Quietness and stillness do not preclude viciousness and petty larceny to souls. All the menace and foreboding built into Cheltenham as a construct have to do with these levels, and with the sad, sick sense that suburban deaths are potentially as banal as suburban lives. That the Elegiac Protagonist lived to tell his tale cannot efface the Inter-Dialogic horror of whatever he sees in his friend’s brain here, and the Meta-Dialogic defense mechanism voice he has developed to counter it (“you were fucked up even/ then”). Where this leaves Inter-Dialogism is a variegated place which can cover the gamut of human thoughts and emotions. Elegy 260’s version of Inter-Dialogism is one of the hardest, and also the most realistic— in Cheltenham, as in much of the rest of the human world, human life, often claimed to have some sanctity inhering in it, is actually, in practice, as cheap as a dime, and treated with the extreme lowliness of those who live in the dirt.


Brain Symmetry

It is arguable that it is possible to reveal, in literature as in science, that symmetry exists between human brains. Though no two human brains are alike, where there is symmetry between interests, common circumstances or experiences, and genetic data, there is also brain symmetry. The effect between characters in a drama of this phenomenon— brain symmetry— is an interesting one, because, like William Wordsworth finding interest in “similitude in dissimilitude” generally, why two brains that have symmetrical properties might make for greater intimacy but also greater antagonism is an interesting question. For Inter-Dialogism— the jumping of consciousness into other consciousness and out again— the individual who makes the Inter-Dialogic leap, if it is into a brain which shares some symmetrical proportions, may then experience extreme euphoria or extreme discomfort, but the reaction is likely to be much more drastic, intense, and compelling then if the leap was into a brain entirely Other. Brain symmetry syndrome manifests in Elegy 414:

And out of this nexus, O sacred
scribe, came absolutely no one.
I don’t know what you expected
to find here. This warm, safe,
comforting suburb has a smother
button by which souls are unraveled.
Who would know better than you?
Even if you’re only in the back of
your mind asphyxiating. He looked
out the window— cars dashed by
on Limekiln Pike. What is it, he said,
are you dead or do you think you’re Shakespeare?

The Inter-Dialogic energy here is all over the map— this Antagonist is so close to the Elegiac Protagonist, on so many levels, and yet so distant on others, that we can feel both his despair and irritation. Troubled brotherhood again. The 414 Antagonist is also, we can intuit, someone who might have developed into a writer or artist, but has been held back by circumstances which did not plague the Elegiac Protagonist. Yet, neither he nor the Elegiac Protagonist may know or realize why this may be the case. We find ourselves, as readers, awash in ambiguities— why is intimacy so frustrating, both in its ability to enlighten and its ability to tantalize, between two characters? When a character finds him or herself jumping in and out of another’s consciousness, and then repelled out again, and yet so close (possibly) to revealing the entire truth about the character in question, the dramatic tension, scintillating to watch if “scribed” in the right way, also demonstrates why closeness and intimacy can be so frustrating among the human races. The partial— partial revelations, partial knowledge— is a tease. In 414, the Antagonist is so entirely teased by the Elegiac Protagonist that he attempts every semantic trick in the book to get the visceral reaction he wants— he flatters, insults, cajoles, levels with, laments, compliments sideways and backwards, all with the sense that he is talking with another, more successful, version of himself, which is its own torture chamber for him. Because, as the scene is lit, we never see the Elegiac Protagonist’s reaction, all we know is that he does not feel it is important to interject. He wants the camera to remain closely focused on his Antagonist, knowing (as we know) that this is someone not that different from him, who has been forced to say “I” and not mean it. The Antagonist is articulate and has some depth and some honesty consonance to him. He may or may not also have literary talent. But the lighting effects want his voice to be heard alone in 414. Not just that— by lighting him alone and his rap, we can see how the Inter-Dialogic energy is working from him into the Elegiac Protagonist and back out again, including what in the Protagonist might be repelling him away, without the reciprocating energy from the Protagonist into and out of him being visible as well. That is how the levels of ambiguity frame the drama of 414. It is for the reader to reject closure and figure out some of those dynamics if there is any symmetry between their brain and the poet’s.


Irony and the Elegies

As to what is revealed, in the Elegies, by Inter-Dialogism and Inter-Dialogic interactions— the leap of the consciousness of an individual into another’s consciousness, and then out again— we have seen that all Inter-Dialogic revelations are merely partial. No one can see or reveal anyone else’s brain in totem. But partial revelations are also conduits to revelations of irony— that what is revealed, what emerges on the surface, might be contradicted by something unseen, once the one consciousness is repelled out of the other. A case in point, of irony emerging from Inter-Dialogism in the Elegies, is 420:

The Junior Prom deposited me (and fifteen
others) on the floor of her basement. I could
barely see daylight at the time, and at three in
the morning I began to prowl. I was too scared
to turn on any lights. She emerged like a mermaid
from seaweed. I needed comfort, she enjoyed my
need. We had gone out— she was bitter. The whole
dialogue happened in shadows. No one was hooking
up in the other room, either. You spiteful little princess.

The way the Elegy concludes— “You spiteful little princess”— suggests the emergence of a duality. The heroine/anti-heroine of the poem is, in the context of the poem, a spiteful little princess— yet, if she were only that, if she were a one-dimensional character with no drama built into her consciousness, would she be worth writing about? The same applies to the hero/anti-hero in 261; we know he brings his dare-devil streak to the surface, and that he reacts negatively to the Elegiac Protagonist pulling rank for his status as an artist in Cheltenham; yet the way 261 concludes establishes a kind of parity, so that the Elegiac Protagonist has ways and means of insinuating that there is more to this character than meets the eye. The surface level or layer of the character is then riddled with ironies, and the potentiality of drama, through shocks and surprises. Intuition is a key to these revelations— what Inter-Dialogic interactions reveal to intuition, the hidden depths of another’s consciousness, are what make the figures in the Elegies both compelling and dramatic. The intuition is not just the writer’s, or the Elegiac Protagonist’s; it is something to be held and to function in the consciousness of the reader as well. How the reader reacts to the dramas in the Elegies depends on what intuitively strikes him or her as interesting or provocative. As to what the dire battle is in 420, and whatever else the spiteful little princess might be hiding, the leap can be made also into what the Elegiac Protagonist wants from her here— what kind of comfort, physical or emotional, or both— and back into the position that she has certainly leapt into his brain, seen what she has seen and then been repelled back out again, and then acted accordingly, and spitefully. Does she have reason to be tiny-minded and spiteful? Readers need to act on their hunches and expand their consciousness into this frozen moment, and live out part of the drama between the two brains for themselves. Then, they can begin the labor of establishing who is more spiteful, and tiny-minded.



Meta-Dialogism, the idea that an individual consciousness can both contain and represent myriad voices, all of which both reveal different facets of the self and establish revelations of Otherness, can only take us so far in dealing with the Cheltenham Elegies. What accounts, for example, for the phenomenological leap in Elegy 414, in which the Elegiac Protagonist’s rival seems to jump into his head, take a quick look around, then be repelled back out again, having intuitively grasped something, if not everything, of his consciousness? This is about the revelation of parts, rather than wholes; that whatever tricks individual consciousness does towards revealing and understanding the consciousness of others, no one can ever infiltrate anyone else’s brain in a totalized fashion. Yet, all of us make these partial leaps, whereby parts of another’s brain are revealed to us, before whatever is Other in the brain repels us back out again. When these phenomenological leaps happen between characters in a dramatic context like the Cheltenham Elegies, and it is always the same structure— one individual’s leap into another brain, intuitively experiencing a partial revelation of the brain,  and then back out again— the process deserves a title, as a conduit to pushing the established drama further. I call it Inter-Dialogism— partial penetration between brains. Inter-Dialogism, in itself, works as an accomplice to Meta-Dialogism— our store of voices is enhanced and refined by our contact with, and assimilation of, other voices, other consciousness, even as it is only by intuition that the noumena is partially revealed and we generate our own voices out of material partially, sometimes insecurely understood.

Inter-Dialogism makes a number of assumptions, all of which must be enumerated if we are to understand the characters in the Cheltenham Elegies. For those who can partially penetrate others’ brains, we must take for granted a desire in them for a real interior life, to live beneath and behind the surface of things. This does not have to be for a germane reason— some like to live beneath the surface of things just to control or dominate others, so as to consolidate (for example) their business interests or to ensure that they will not be busted for their various crimes and subterfuges. Still, the drama in the Elegies is often between a placid surface and tsunamis of hatred and misery beneath— those with little intuitive power, who dwell solely on the surface, are not available to be used for the right dramatic purposes here, though they may be employed as dupes or pivot points. It is also the case that the essential dramatic incision moments in the Elegies are not outward ones— the drama is often in what happens within a single consciousness— a memory or revelation, sometimes out of Inter-Dialogic memory with someone else, as in 421:

Huddled in the back of a red
Jetta, I thought we were in a
Springsteen song. But there are
no backstreets in Cheltenham.
It’s only the strip-mall to house
and back circuit. Anyone could’ve
seen us. It wasn’t a full consummation—
for want of a graceful phrase, we
were too smart to fuck. There was
no playing hero for me. Nor did I
force you to confess. What could you say?
Cheltenham was soft, and all too infested.

sometimes out of Meta-Dialogic reactions to an intuitive understanding of someone else, as in 260. Establishing the basis for Inter-Dialogism also assumes that part of the drama of infiltrating someone else’s consciousness is the intuitive sensation of being repelled back out again— that some foreign energy within the Other’s consciousness has formed a power-block against your intrusion and pushed back against it. The drama in the Elegies is thus a drama of subtleties, rather than gross gestures— even the Old York Road u-turn has in it more modesty, just on the surface, then would appear to be on the surface. The Inter-Dialogic tension—the leap the hero/anti-hero’s consciousness make into the Elegiac Protagonist, what he intuitively sees, where it takes him, and how what is foreign to him pushes him out again, all resulting in a brief (underwater) ruckus on the surface— has to be read, also, with a certain amount of intuitive understanding to make sense, and the fluidity of individual consciousness first acknowledged and then imaginatively understood.  


Gyan Books: Posit-Deposit

Gyan Books of Delhi, India, has published a paperback edition of Posit-Deposit, which includes (also) two of my intros, and is the first appearance of Deposit in print, which includes Manayunk Sky from fourW. 


Meta-critical pursuits are what they are. A certain portion of any literary audience will call a meta-critic an egotist for paying careful attention to their own work; however, more discerning audiences will judge meta-criticism based on what incisive quality inheres in it, and whether it digs into the books at interesting angles. I’m thinking of this because my last four pdfs constitute thirty-eight pages worth of work— half of the seventy-five pages of Exile and Exegesis— so that, once the next chunk of work is done, it will be released as more-or-less the Part 2 of Exile. The four pdfs— on Trish, the Elegies, the Gyan Chap, and Dancing with Myself— have left me in a semi-awkward space. I spent a few hours this morning with the Sister Lovers section of When You Bit…, trying to gauge whether it is fertile terrain to work on. I have to conclude that the answer is no— the action, in Sister Lovers, is too much on the surface, and though the melopoeia in some of the sonnets is nice (particularly Big Black Car), and inventive, all the formal inventiveness is surrounded by clunkers. Sister Lovers is much lumpier than Dancing with Myself. As to what else I might work on— I’m having a block with Equations, Opera Bufa, and Chimes— I do not know how criticism of prose poetry is supposed to go, but the hybrid form is disruptive, in many ways, of serious poetry criticism, so that someone will have to invent a way to critique prose poetry the right way, and it may or may not be me. I also have more rich insights into the Elegies, but they’re a bit tired now, and would move towards a sense of overuse if I touched them. The possibility also exists that I could develop a nexus of ideas specifically about Neo-Romanticism— what it is, what it means in Aughts Philadelphia art— and, from Trish outwards, how it will affect how our collective oeuvre will be received in the world.

The cosmic state of being between two places— even in a micro-context like my meta-criticism— is also one which is making America in 2015 an intriguing place. There is a mystery in people which didn’t use to be there, even if it sounds awkward to bring to the surface— what their Internet habits are. The glut of information and operating systems available on the Net make it so that what any individual may know is more surprising then it would have been twenty or thirty years ago. People’s lives are as constrained as they’ve ever been, perhaps more so; but the passkey towards all varieties of data means that more individuals then ever can hold on to their own brains. The surface/depth tension in the Elegies is the surface/depth tension here— people forced by circumstance to bring platitudes to the surface, hiding what really interests them and what they’d really like to talk about. Phenomenology in the age of the Internet is quite difficult, because so much more information about everything is more available then its ever been before, and people have bizarrely shaped brains from bringing dross to the surface yet holding golden perspectives in their minds. So, what the characters in the Elegies do— attempt to infiltrate and take over and co-opt over people’s brains— is now something easier half-done than done in totem. The Internet has manifested a camouflage system which has in it all the Piscean deceptiveness of Neptune’s current travels— and those meant to live as individuals, if only in their thoughts and visions, can now do so unimpeded, even as they may lead lives, as the Elegies characters do, of quiet drudgery and despair. Worth thinking about.    


Neptune Games

The wages of Piscean energy: a dive or subtle shift into transcendence on one side, a flop into emptiness or nothingness on the other. Neptune and Pisces (and, currently, Neptune in Pisces) has a hinge to the bottom-of-the-ocean syndrome— seeing everything as nothing, and time as an expanse of pure, eternal nothingness. Some of the most gorgeous moments in art have both the transcendence and the emptiness or nothingness happening at once in them— and human consciousness is forced to make up its mind. Are we alive or are we dead? Are things real or are they not? Is all this really happening? As you answer these questions, realize that you are playing what I call Neptune Games— games of dimensions and dimensionality, wherein subtle shifts make all the difference but create a permanent sense of flux and dislocation which is difficult to accept. Once you have seen human reality as pure nothingness at least once, in any scummy pond you happen to inhabit, all your perceptions, both of art and of life, include the dimensional game of what is nothing in something, and what is something in nothing. Neptune Games work in sex, too, and with drugs, where “slumber” fits us to move passed strictly focused consciousness into something more fluid, and the ultimate Neptune Game is this— the fluidity which is the highest state of human consciousness has about an equal amount in it of something and nothing. Why the human world is so eager to pass off somethings as nothings and vice versa is that real somethings not only have the power to elevate individuals and their consciousness over others but to deify the right human consciousness at the right time with a state of ultimate somethingness, which is true individuality made tactile, Neptune co-joining the Sun.

Can you find the right fluidity in doing nothing? For those involved in creative endeavors, Neptune Games have also to do with angles— not just the Dickinsonian dictum “tell it slant,” but the idea of channeling energy already slanted with subtle shifts built it. Taking multi-dimensional ideas and putting pieces together to make them tactile. Art or creativity generally manifests, when done in or from the correct dimensions or time/space coordinates, jewels with facets. Time itself, in Neptune Games, is equally something and nothing— there when we sink to the ocean’s bottom, gone when we can swim. Yet, if we surpass the courage of the Romantics and dare to float into the charmed circle of the human, the meaner Neptune Games— how to deflate creativity and enhance homogenization, to trash up achievement with mediocrity and enforce non-achievement, to take the massive and make it tiny and make the tiny massive— must allow for dimensions of nothingness, which is really something, really capable of taking tactile form, to impinge as an incentive to swim largely alone, as human individuals must. That’s the pure something idea the dwarves among us do not want you to know— the greatest treasure mankind possesses are our brains— and the most potent position for a brain to be in is to be atomized against the entire cosmos. The greatest Neptune Games are created by, and for, individuals, who can accept the cosmic perspective of one brain against all that is not it. Century XX tried to throw this Neptune Game away, and reified dwarfishness in its stead. Century XX was, in many sectors, mostly nothingness. But the Internet is from Heaven, folks, and a solid world has been initiated online to balance the dwarf-dances and staged buffoonery. Where Neptune is right now can take the dimensions of your consciousness and broaden them by working with polarities— something and nothing, emptiness and fullness— and weighing all their consciousness-echoes on the right kind of Libra scales. The scales will continually subtly shift too.


The Prelude: Underwater Moods

Human consciousness which seeks the transcendent, or attempts to make itself transcendental, eventually must ask a critical question: which forms of activity are really valuable for human consciousness, and which are, or constitute, mere escapism? William Wordsworth’s The Prelude, to me, can only be a minor masterpiece, for the simple reason that Wordsworth’s chiasmus with the natural, natural objects, natural forms, which constitutes the narrative-thematic backbone of the book, is a kind of crack cocaine for him, getting him high without leading his consciousness to a more truth consonant place. William Wordsworth was born with Mercury in Pisces, and it works. Pisces and truth consonance is variable— evolved Pisces energy can arrive rather easily at the grandest, most cosmic truths, which coalesce for it out of thin air; while pedestrian Pisces energy slips and slides around telling the truth, out of feelings of humiliation and embarrassment, and also looking (as Wordsworth in The Prelude is constantly looking) to escape. Wordsworth goes so far out of his textual way to remain in one of his underwater moods, within the charmed circle of the natural and against the charmed circle of the human, that the whole book passes without the Prelude Protagonist having had more than a brief, cursory interaction with another individual human being. Wordsworth’s asides to Coleridge are also anodyne, and Wordsworth does not inform us of what Coleridge might have to say back to him. The major quality of Keats’ Odal Cycle asserts itself over The Prelude because the primeval genius of Music, in its purest form, and created by an individual human being, allows Keats’ to transcend without seeming unduly like an escapist.

Underwater moods can become stagnant— this is one of the pitfalls of Neptune in Pisces. When Wordsworth’s underwater moods stagnate in The Prelude, the reader can feel him gasping for air, and willing to falsely reassure himself. The entire endeavor of English Romanticism, by the way, not only insists on the transcendental impulse issuing from individuals, it does so in such a way which, rightly or wrongly, projects individuality onto the reader, as though what they are seeing and hearing is something they, or anyone, can relate to. This is false: most readers of the English Romantics read for the wrong reasons, and without the individual, individualized purity of intention which can lend gracefulness and insight to a reading. Reading the Romantics while Neptune is transiting Pisces is a way of letting language place us underwater, whether the murkiness of Wordsworth or the limpid clarity of Keats; and, if we are willing to take a rather icy plunge, to connect what we are reading, in all its transcendent bliss, to what we know, in 2015, of the charmed circle of the human, and what the limitations of the human race really are. The distinction, in the archetype Pisces, between high and low art (kinds of water) is also huge: high and low art can perform roughly the same tricks for human consciousness, only high art can take brain matter, not just heart and emotion matter, and make it fluid. That’s the problem with low art/pop culture crap: it works around emotions, and ambiance. It makes you feel, but, for higher IQs, does not provide fodder for heightened thought. Heightened thought, transcendent cognition, what you will, is the most powerful ocean in human consciousness, and the only one capable of pushing the human race forward, individual by individual; and the lethargy, recumbence, and stagnation which tend to manifest during Piscean epochs can be balanced by subtle shifts of perception towards a truer, more correctly shimmering level of multiple truths, subtly shifting within themselves, underwater and on dry land.


Neptune in Pisces: Creepy, Lurid, Macabre

I’ve always felt that Pisces is the creepiest sign/archetype in the Western zodiac. The reason is relatively simple: with Pisces, unlike the other signs (including water signs Cancer and Scorpio), the action is all underwater. The Piscean underwater-world is full of shadiness, darkness, strange, magnetic beauty but also erosion, deterioration, and death. Underwater, consciousness may bump into anything without knowing what it is: friend or imposter, predator or prey. I bring this up because Neptune, Pisces’ ruling planet, is doing a long-term transit in Pisces as of 2015, and will be in Pisces for the foreseeable future. Which, if one were to take it literally (I take it, as I take most occult/astrology lure, half-literally), signifies a strange time in which inexplicable things happen, magnetic currents create an underwater sensation for a large portion of Earth’s populace, and there is a creepy evanescence to all the regular pastimes and pursuits with which the human race passes its time or expends its energy. The creepiness of Neptune transiting through Pisces is already manifesting in sudden fluctuations in population, right on the surface; in the egalitarian world of the Internet impinging on the Turd World of Hollywood and mainstream media; and in the sense of oscillations in the air, sudden mood shifts which make it so that individuals may wind up depressed or exalted, without knowing why. Neptune, quite comfortable in Pisces, is happy to destabilize everything and place it all underwater, where everything is sudden shifts and bizarre alterations.

When I was a teenager, I learned the basics of astrology quite thoroughly. It took me fifteen years, into my thirties, to come to grips with what for me became an obvious fact, hewn right into my birth chart: astrology does not always literally work. The archetypes, however, are always interesting: for me, the strongest are Pisces, Scorpio, Gemini, and Libra. Virgo occupies its own second tier, and the rest are semi-scrubs. As for what works in my own natal chart: Scorpio rising, Mercury in Capricorn in the third house, and Mars in Gemini in the eighth. The rest is poppycock. If anyone cares: my real sun sign in Scorpio (I’m a double Scorp), and my Venus is most assuredly in Pisces, one reason this Neptune transit is so interesting for me. Phenomenology is profoundly Piscean— the flow of consciousness, its interiors and exteriors, has its own underwater algorithms, especially in contexts like the Cheltenham Elegies. Underwater consciousness is facilitated by Neptune transiting Pisces— as is the underwater sense, in relation to language and textuality, that sudden shifts may be made towards elucidating and incising new phenomenological possibilities between sound and sense in major high art consonant poetry and art, Elegies, Odes, and the rest; even if what data is uncovered has the sense of unsettling (creeping out) readers with an underwater world which conflates essences of fecundity with macabre signifiers of deterioration, decay, and death. The Cheltenham Elegies are coming into their own while Neptune is doing its Pisces dance, and I would like to hope receptive minds are being unsettled, destabilized, and “creeped out” in exactly the right way— towards rigid cognitive matter being made fluid.

A quirk about Pisces as an archetype: the weird, wafflish sense Pisces has of time itself, of temporality. When there are Piscean energies around, time works in mysterious ways— twenty minutes can last an excruciating five hours; or twelve hours can pass by pleasantly in twenty minutes. Time becomes underwater time. The fluidity between moments with Pisces is something which can be tapped into: through art, sex, intense intellectual labors, or even time spent doing nothing, staring vacantly into space. Staring vacantly into space, by the way, should be big during Neptune’s transit through Pisces: all those little times, daily times, when we could choose to either do something or nothing, will be touched by the creepish underwater sense that we are being pushed back into lethargic recumbence. Yet, when the graceful side of the fluidity manifests, our time spent doing nothing will subtly shift our moods upwards, towards a greater sense of unity and relaxed acceptance of the fluidity of whatever consciousness wavelengths are flowing in. 


Shelley's Semi-Empiricism

One task which occupies Percy Bysshe Shelley for the duration of the fifty-five stanzas which constitute Adonais is the undoing of Keats’ transcendentalism with, not exactly empiricism, but semi-empiricism. By dousing the archetypal with the empirical— the facticity of Keats’ corpse, of his having been reduced, materially, to waste— Shelley reveals that the essential purpose of the poem, which is derived from the Odal Cycle, is to denude the transcendental, and its music-world, of its glamour so that we may see the nothingness levels of consciousness which constitute the greatest threat to it. If I say Shelley is only semi-empirical, it is because whatever one would like to call “Death’s pale court”— if not transcendentalist, some kind of inversion of transcendentalist— not to mention the necrophilia incidents with female “Splendors” (including Urania, and her gauche palimpsest over Psyche’s delicate refinement)— creates a textual landscape which affirms metaphysical, as well as physical, reality. Yet all the metaphysics cannot conceal Shelley’s revelation of who the human race actually are, as destroyers of archetypes, transcendentalism, music— wolves, ravens, reptiles, invulnerable nothings. The energies Shelley is channeling have some Satanism in them— the perversity of tearing away what is too pristine, to replace it with the vulgar which is nonetheless more truth consonant, now that the angel (Keats) is fallen. The Satanic impulse also guides Shelley to the place that Keats is subject to I-It objectivity— his corpse, which may be all he is, is all that is left of him, so he becomes a “thing,” just as death may constitute eternal nothingness (a semi-empirical sensibility cannot tell). 


Advice to the newly official poet, Doowred Nukcaj

Desmond's words as Ovid Yeats, 8 Jul 2007 15:37, comment on the Guardian Culture pages book-blog by Jonathan Morrison, How about a genuinely dangerous book for boys?

rayz: Most of these boys wouldn't know how to read...
CJUnderwood: Actually, in my experience they do know how to read. They just don't, and for good reason because beyond the purposes of enjoyment and self-edification that reading serves for the dear writers and posters on this blog, for most ordinary young men (and by ordinary I mean those who don't have parents who are art dealers, stockbrokers, teachers and high ranking company execs) reading serves no practical purpose. So they just don't. I've been reading virtually non-stop since I was 16 (now 23) in preparation for and then when studying for my English Literature degree; to be honest it's done nothing for me but give me a vocabulary that makes me sound like a walking dictionary in casual conversation. Since my father has been a mechanic for Volvo Construction Machinery for the last thirty years, and all my friends come from similar stock, it makes for some interesting if exasperating evenings in the local pub. If I could have that time back and spend it playing football instead of reading, I would gladly take it.


Ovid Yeats: I detect a lot of honesty on this thread, but the Love level is hovering below buoyancy and sinking. Underwood, now you have revealed your age, i am a lot closer to fixing a trace into your psyche as a lover looking to infuse the affirmational buzz on the floe for those of us yet to find their thought-fish and swim home in the mind to ones true omphalos. That on these islands, or certainly, Ireland, the Well of Segais, is the source of anwyn and imbas, or the ineffable literary poetic inspiration within our own imagination. It is the dead that make us so. The anima mundi. Human spirit and Greek world soul from which the poets of yore, that create the foundation of the English language poetry tradition, spent their time fishing for spoken song poems that are eternal and timeless.

Located at the equidistant node of self-revelation and soul understanding you alone possess, the polestar of rite and guidance one maps with as they learn to dance thru music in time happening on the page as the printed utterance of our source, and the sum of millions of once living souls that randomly connected to create us and our brief flash of life atop the sidhe pyramid of the dead that speak thru us. Or nae.

Ones life, as Milton's concurs with Amergin, is nought but fate, dán, and a poem itself. And although not all who write go on to become verse-smiths, all literacy is essentially, poetic expression in various degrees of beauty and eloquence. As it is ability and poetic knowledge that make a writer so, and Morrison's deposit above is but one from many he will create in his career with the keypad, and is lite and fluff.

However, whilst it will never be the tipping piece that caused Jonathan to win the imaginary Art correspondent of all time award, more importantly than that, one detects that the raw psychic weight imbuing this piece, the swirling abstract force of Johnnies mind which has been delineated ontop the floe for our perusal and critical response, is one of Love.

And i do not say this tongue in cheek or facetiously, as the piece leaves us not facing a call to arms or to make a supremely subliminal decision concerning the affairs of wo/men, but to be happy and go a bit daft at the weekend, and as a young person Jonathan's mind will carry little more than the wish to enjoy life, be it skinning up, boozing or cruising.

Most senior bores on this rag talk with more skill at combining words, attempting to paint the hard-working people of pen-craft, as being more imporatant than us mere mortals, just because they write. But what they have not learnt, and what Jon has, is to harness to the positive within, the Love not hate.

Worse still, these armchair know-alls that would have us believe their utterances carry the import of a greater gravitas, beyond what words appear on the page. The supreme Yeatsean selfishness of wondering if men went out and shot other men as a result of your words.

But whereas an argument can be raised for Yeats' arrogance, given the particular circumstances in which his incoherent bundle of accident and chance passed itself off as the most important contemporary global poet composing with the English language in bubbalin Dublin teworn, when in the fullness of his poetic maturity - the other bores here on this forum have not exhibited such obvious evidentiary support with our own letters, merely the petty tepid mores of secure middle-class hacks spouting off about what we witness remotely and electronically.

Not experience in the brutal flush. The music of what happens sung here by them without learning is absent and negative. Jon is singing of the music that happens in his own life, however humble or easy it may seem to be fo us dreamers pretending we are something we aren't, that mock, though we be the same.

For what is Art but the supreme and terrible Love that is beyond all ken and comprehension, the polar force of frozen stella scope and mirrored in the omphalas of molecular proportion?

What Love came from this cold beauty is but the act of very consciousness itself, live in the waking breath which guides us through whatever form and state within the greater play and field of eternal energy and bio-electro-magnetic flux human life is a derivitive of.

And i think it is important here to inject a note on which to draw ones critical datum; the intellectual first sight and recording within, what collection of pyschological proofing mechanisims one assembles as they tread their divinely uiique path of Art.

The ineffable and literary something within that represents the deepest valency furthest from quotidian consciousness in which the lower emanations of existential reality presents itself to us whilst in our waking form, before the womb reclaims us and we snap back and retreat to shade, our brief rehearsal for cosmic fame continued as ghosts haunting for peace.

And maybe perhaps for a portion of the phantasmagoria in which to be of use to the diviners and prophets seeking to sway humanity at the seance and dig which is the very life force of Art.
The casting of fools into an ever less remote unknown, should ones practice have flowered in the sacred ground of whatever discipline one claims to have trained in.

Mine is language. I am training to be a professor of poetry, several more grades ahead of me. A full time bore and trainee saviour, street-corner rakehelly boy back from the pages time forgot. And a three-quarter Mayo, quarter Cork soul trapped in the body of a working-class Lancastrian spacer at the fame academy with fifteen minutes to look society directly in the eye and fear not, nor simper and beg ones audience, but to ignore them and walk on air, as Seamus Heaney famously wrote, in his poem The Gravel Walks; and what, I suspect, may well be his epitaph, carved on some slate grey stone of Ulster - and walk on with hope in your heart, against the better judgement of others that would have you believe, they know better and best of all about poetry and fíliocht.

For what is Art but acting the bollix and caring not what people think?

Gyan Chap: Visions of Innocence/Experience (IA)

These meta-critical analyses on IA address the Gyan Books chap Cheltenham Elegies/Keats' Odal Cycle. And in full-text

Visions 5: Deals

Does the Elegiac Protagonist deal? One of the mysteries attendant upon the Cheltenham Elegies is this— the Elegiac Protagonist is surrounded by dealers and dealing energy, and the extent of his participation in the deals around him seems to vary from elegy to elegy. Dealer or not, the Elegiac Protagonist’s ambiguous participation in dealing rituals makes clear he is no naïf in the world, and never was. He knows what it means to be Outside— outside the law, outside acceptable social norms and societal bounds, outside the narratives and mythologies which, from the Academy to the media, tell us how human lives should be lived and run. Old York Road at midnight is outside; so, also, is the curb in 410:

No one who was there that night, high,
hasn’t been abased. Wisdom has its
palaces that look more like park benches.
Youth’s privilege is to be in love with
life. I was in love with life that night, too—
the crush of strange kids in an Abington
house, movements towards more weed.
We sat on a curb and planned more
mischief. The Universe had some mischief
planned for us, too. For those of us who
live on the curb and nowhere else—  a requiem.

Whether a dealer or an accessory to dealers, the Elegiac Protagonist has a profound sense of his own status outside an interior that, from Cheltenham on out, may or may not even exist. The dichotomous energy between inside and outside is active in the Gyan chap— the Elegies configure and represent an eternal outside, frozen and static, individual consciousness unsheltered; while the Odes configure and represent an eternal inside, frozen-in-fertility, individual consciousness in relation to music and its synecdoches. Thus, the reader response model to the Gyan chap— through the outside of the Elegies to the inside of the Odes and back again— has a hinge to the potentiality for destabilizing consciousness towards redefinitions of literary interiors and exteriors, transcendentalism and phenomenology, music and drama moving in and out of each other’s territory. The cumulative effect can be both spectacular and phantasmagoric. As to what necessitates a collision between these dichotomies— the collision may not be considered a literary necessity, but (like music itself) an illuminating luxury, which (also like music) configures a transcendental, abstract reality, posited above standardized, singular textuality, in an autonomous, erogenous (fertile) space. How music and drama fertilize each other: music demonstrates for drama the pleasures of abstraction, while drama enacts for music the complex levels and interstices of the concrete. The music and drama inhering between the Elegies and Odes elucidate the irreconcilable differences between poetic approaches, while also elucidating the richness of the potentialities of serious poetry towards the creation of new aesthetic worlds and mind-scapes, negatively capable within themselves.   


Visions Pt. 4: The Chap

What the Gyan Books chap amounts to is a semi-dialectic— Elegies, Odes, Elegies— that, without a synthesis, leaves questions in the air difficult to handle. In terms of alignments, when we align the Elegies with phenomenology— inside the mind/outside the mind dichotomies, played out in or with the dramatic intensity of a Protagonist’s revelations of Otherness— and then align the Odes with transcendentalism— Keats’ configuring a play of archetypes in his consciousness, which grants him access to an ability to create and maintain a certain kind of poetic music— as a thesis and an antithesis, uncompleted, in the chap, by a synthesis (not to mention the humanism of the Elegies offset by the formalism of the Odes), the difficulty of making them relate is the sense that what they share is less substantial than what differentiates them. The freezing of moments into immortality— pairs of lovers— stillness or quietness or a “hushed” quality— the pastoral and the suburban— rigorous music with rigorous narrative-thematic elements— visions and the visionary— all these constituent factors which bind the Elegies and the Odes together still, in the context of the Gyan chap, have a way of configuring a kind of textual jigsaw puzzle, where pieces must be connected slowly and with care. One facile interpretation— that the Odes constitute an intermission or intermezzo period against the bleak, hard darkness of the Elegies— has to fail and fall if we grant the Elegies and Odes commensurate power.

When Drama is aligned with phenomenology and Music with transcendentalism, and both are given equal representation in a gestalt unit like the Gyan chap, the reader response effect (to paraphrase Wolfgang Iser) must be a varying one, and, if the puzzle pieces can never settle into easy interlocking patterns, it is a challenge to the individuality of the reader to discover if the thesis and the antithesis can be made to synthesize. The challenge is a call to define an individual’s sensibility, both towards Drama and Music; the down in the dirt phenomenological challenge of Otherness with the transcendental lunge towards the higher, abstract, mathematical realities of the most exquisite forms of musicality. The sense of the Gyan chap as a kind of test or divining for different synthesis notions in different readers takes the chap out of the realm of standard and standardized textuality and into a realm in itself both phenomenological and transcendental.


Visions Pt. 3: Drive

In the American suburbs, one of a handful of essential imperatives is just: to drive. Suburban dwellers live, partly to drive; and because suburbanites are driving sons of bitches, the appearance and reappearance of cars in the Cheltenham Elegies should be no surprise. The problem with cars, as many experienced people know, aesthetes or not, is that they stink. They are expensive, dangerous, wasteful, unnecessary pieces of equipment, the remnant of a kind of Killer’s Century that was in and of itself expensive, dangerous, and wasteful. The problem with cars in the Cheltenham Elegies is that the way different characters move, certainly the hero/anti-hero of 261 and others, expresses how cars can be deflation sites— engendering outward, superficial movement not balanced by anything interior. Cars in the Elegies are visions of entropy, taking dramatic participants from nowhere to nowhere; or, in 421, acting as a stage for a possible consummation to be deferred forever. That cars create false, delusive movement— manifesting material status and security, while negating the spiritual, especially as regards the Earth as an entity above the merely human— make it so that as an elegiac archetype, the twentieth century automobile carries with it the symbolic resonance of mankind fooling itself with bogus progress, materialistic values, and the crass sense that danger and death be built into everyday experiences and stages.