As/Is







6.12.2014


Introduction: Trilogy


The Main Line, a clump of suburbs and business interests outside Philadelphia, would seem to be an odd locale for explorations of, and interrogations into, the very fabric and potentialities of poetic language, all under the aegis of the clamped-down monotony of a major national and global recession. It’s not just that there is no rich Main Line arts tradition; the Main Line is so resolutely about business, materiality, and the maintenance of surfaces against possibilities of depth, and determination which amounts to sangfroid to regard everything else from a stance of laissez faire complacence (edged with naive mistrust and condescension), that moving forward here with an ambitious aesthetic agenda is a “far be it” scenario. If I have managed to do so, its because something of the Main Line, an ambiance of desolation-within-implacability and despair beneath contrived assurance, has managed to touch me, and take me (and my Apparition Poems series) to a new place, where a novel relationship has been forged and consummated. Recessions, I have learned, have an enervating tendency to take those with sensitive minds and hearts right to the edge of deliverance, transcendence, and grace, and then push them back into the cloistered cubicle from which they began. So has my time been on the Main Line. The subtext of all the pushes and pulls has been a plummet into the revelations of age and experience— that the curtains of youth and innocence have been yanked back (with some force) to reveal a human landscape, starting from the Main Line, of corruption, fraudulence, and unending duplicity. El Diablo en musica is the flatted fifth; in language, human voices with every intention of enacting pantomimes and staging the fullness of empty lives, set in place for evil, arbitrary purposes, have assailed here who is left of those with an honest purpose.

Trilogy begins and finishes from this set of concerns and purposes— the Main Line as microcosm (for America, for the West), the evanescence of transcendence and the transcendental impulse, and, past that, the evanescence of existence itself, and of humanity. Formally, Trilogy maintains the signature elements of Apparition Poems and Cheltenham— internal rhymes, assonances, alliteration, and head-split gist-phrases still constitute my solution for raising free-verse to the level of Keats, Wordsworth, Shelley, and Milton. Because Trilogy is being written and released in 2014, less than halfway through a decade heretofore undecided by anything but a devastating recession, my hope is that the Teens may yet emerge as a decent time for major high art consonant poetry and literature. Oddly, and as many of us did not expect on the evidence of the Aughts, it looks like any advances in English-language poetry must transpire from within the United States; entropy has overtaken the UK, and UK poetry, to such a pervasive extent that contributions from Britain seem unlikely. The connection between Philly and Chicago in the Aughts was fortuitous, and has remained so in the Teens— if Philly-Chicago becomes the hub of substantial aesthetic progress for poetry in the Teens, and a kind of anchoring conjunction, it would be both a positive and a grateful event. But who knows. Trilogy was born out of the arid, and aridity— the specific form and function of psycho-spiritual aridity on the Main Line. Its projected fecundity, over a long expanse of time, is a contradiction I am happy to have engendered.