Wednesday, December 24, 2014

fourW 25 Anthology

The fourw 25 print anthology is released each year by the Booranga Writers Centre at Charles Sturt University in Australia. This year it features work by myself, Mark Young, Derek Motion, Ivy Alvarez and others. You can obtain a copy by writing to From the anthology:


Facades on Main Street have a lift
towards it, but the Manayunk sky
isn’t there, a mirage, a conglomeration

of spent wishes for a better human future
which can never be lived in the blackened
glare of well-trodden pavement. Its

expanse argues loudly for the subaltern
and its accessibility, a superior up
is down, a superior blue is black,

a superior open is packed tight
into a closed linearity, night’s deep
recess. Now, I take the trouble

to interrogate pavement, which
can only deny truths of not-surface, hotly.

Adam Fieled

Friday, December 19, 2014

Keats and the Prosody Meter

Having committed myself very willingly to a position that ranks Keats’ lyrical gift (for melopoeia, prosody, etc) above all others in the history of the English language, I have now gotten around to configuring what I call a Prosody Meter to posit other rankings. It begins with the supposition that Keats’ gift supersedes all other competitors, and the 100% of the scale is the 100% of Keats’ prosodic achievements. On the level of 75-80%, I would place (at their respective prosodic pinnacles) Donne, Wordsworth, and Shakespeare, all of whom create and sustain exquisite poetic music, but lack Keats’ edge of fulsome solidity, of loading lines from every angle with ore. When Keats, for example, offers “mortality/ Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep,” the effect of assonant sounds repeated so that almost every word in the line is included has no echo in Donne, Wordsworth, and Shakespeare. At the level of 66.66% I place myself and Shelley. “Clustering,” as I call my prosodic method, has the advantage of clearing up narrative-thematic ground so that I am not chained to my own music at the expense of narrative or intellectual interests, but also loosens a chunk of what could be formally golden into a purgatorial realm where what sticks, sticks and what is lost cannot be retrieved. Shelley I deign (as Keats did) to be a competent but rather lazy craftsman, who falls (despite a substantial lyrical gift) into lazy phrases and inappropriate repetitions: no one who reads the Romantics seriously can quite forgive “I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!” and its like. The lowest, 50% rung of the Prosody Meter has on it a cluster of poets habitually formally lazy enough that “ore,” in the Keatsian sense for them, is always over or under-employed: Byron, Tennyson, Browning, Swinburne, Yeats, and Eliot. All of these poets can be “jingly,” facile the wrong way round, and prosodic bells ring perfunctorily.

Back to Keats: if I do pick nits with some of Keats’ sonnets, it is because, by the time he begins writing the major ones in 1816, his “chops” are so developed that, in his innocent delight with his own magnificent technical facility, he sometimes undercooks his voltas (the volta in a sonnet occurs around line 9, which is supposed to turn or torque the narrative of the opening octave.) Keats’ early voltas can be “auto-pilot” contrivances:

O Solitude! If I must with thee dwell,
Let it not be among the jumbled heap
Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep—
Nature’s observatory— whence the dell,
Its flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell,
May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
‘Mongst boughs pavilioned, where the deer’s swift leap
Startles the wild bee from the foxglove bell.
But though I’ll gladly trace these scenes with thee,
Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,
Whose words are images of thoughts refined,
Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be
Almost the highest bliss of humankind,
When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.

The volta here undercuts, weakens the octave, by making the protagonist seem irresolute, and also unimaginative; in other words, it would have been more challenging for Keats to find in his solitude some objective correlative in nature to express what he wanted to express, rather than giving us the affective data nose on the face. It is, in American MFA parlance again, “telling” rather than “showing.” The irony of American MFA-land is that American poetry before me displays so little prosodic heft that American poetry gamers should worship the ground Keats walks on; but, in American MFA programs, the Romantics are little touched on. American poetry until now has been written uniformly by cretins. The gifted poets in the American canon are none. But back to Keats and his voltas: his more successful sonnets have structural dynamics that make the major turn interesting:

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripened grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starred face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the fairy power
Of unreflecting love!- then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

The double crescendo here— the revelation of Fanny Brawne, and Keats’ deeply felt passion for her, and then the plummet into the visionary locale of “the shore of the wide world” where Keats is confronted by his own powerlessness in the face of mortality (Keats’ Scorpionic courage in confronting extinction being one of his great poetic strengths), take us, with the requisite magisterial music (assonances like “of unreflecting love” backed/solidified by strong end-rhymes, and anaphora from “of” as well), to a place of complete, totalized textual fulfillment, where an extreme gift is made to serve genuine narrative-thematic gravitas. That is genius in major high art consonant poetry.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Apparition Poems: Ambient Ghettos of North Philly Pt. 2

One reason Apparition Poems got its title is that, between the spatial dimensions of different sectors of Philadelphia and its ornate architectural elegance, one gets the sense of ghosts, specters, and apparitions here, hanging in the air in a way that some find intoxicating, some do not. As I said about Temple University and the Eris Temple, those who find an interest in attraction/repulsion circuits (things, ocular vistas or otherwise, which attract and repel at the same time) will have much to ponder as they walk Philadelphia streets. Attraction/repulsion also leads, circuitously, to thoughts of salvation and damnation; and who the saved and who the damned are is another pertinent Neo-Romantic subtext. If Philly has an interesting relationship (also) to philosophy, it is because the relationship of our architectural constructs to the sky, the heavens, and to a widely disparate scene on the ground, lends a sense of transcendentalism to the city, and to attempts to forge higher worlds, aesthetic and otherwise, from it. This is all leading to this Apparition Poem:

There are gusty showers
in Philadelphia, showers
that beat up empty lots,

down in sooty Kensington,
you could almost believe
what the books say about

being-in-the-world, I mean
being in a damned world, it
really does seem that day

on greasy days in Philadelphia.

The circular nature of the poem around Philadelphia-as-topos gives it an air of being self-enclosed, self-completed, a whole, round circuit. The circle involves time, temporality, which has as one of its more graceful manifestations the temporal circle, where (in whatever context) you finish where you started. One of the grand subtexts of Philadelphia— architecture versus time/the temporal and space, is mirrored here, as the scaffolding of the poem creates a square around the circle of the poem’s temporal conceit. The “gusty showers” and “greasy days” of North Philadelphia depend, if we posit some aesthetic satisfaction in them, on a broadening of viewpoints towards a recognition that surfaces belie interiors, and what looks damned might actually be saved, and vice versa. This is Baudelairian territory— salvation and damnation are not up the alley of the English Romantics that much— and the Philadelphian Prowler may well be more, in his/her Noir orientation, simpatico with the Symbolists then with those consonant with the replenishing powers of trees, birds, and flowers. To be forced into a kind of Purgatory, against century XX, by architecture— such is the fate (through Philly Free School and otherwise) of Philadelphia in 2014.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Posit Trilogy: Ambient Ghettos of North Philly

Connoisseurs of urban areas and urban life know: dilapidation, in urban contexts, has its own kind of glamour and ambiance. There is a richness and a decadent glamour to dilapidated neighborhoods simply from the sense of solid time, decades and even centuries, passing through them, hollowing things out towards a kind of perfection; especially if the architecture is interesting. North Philadelphia is mostly ghettos, mostly dilapidation: but the nicer bits of North Philly are so potent with ambiance that, for Philly Free School, North Philly would always be interesting. Part of the PFS vibe was a certain kind of laissez faire around where we would go in Philly, which was anywhere, at any time. We were not hemmed in by fear; Aughts Philly was not a fearful epoch. So that, when my friends Radio Eris set up shop at 52nd and Cedar in the mid-Aughts, smack in the middle of a North-West Philly ghetto, and called their shared, co-op abode The Eris Temple, it became natural for my routes to begin to include The Temple and its environs. The Eris Temple is where the two Apparition Poems videos were shot; and the site of endless readings, performances, and adventures. It’s not like the violent undercurrents of that particular ‘hood were invisible to us; but we moved within the charmed circle of a germane time which subsisted for flaneurs, art-heads, and misfits. I also have to say that the glamorous dilapidation of North Philly (and West Philadelphia, too) supersedes the closest NYC analogue, which is Brooklyn, most of which is hideously ugly, sans the elegant architecture which distinguishes almost all of Philly, for all time, from other cities. This poem from The Posit Trilogy, “Tranny Dream,” catches the sense I have that, as the Aughts wore into the Teens, impending doom in the form of a Sword of Damocles hung over all of our heads here, even as I did not manage to write/publish this until 2013:

I find myself in bed with a woman
with a man’s crotch, & find this
unacceptable, & so excuse myself
into an autumn evening in North
Philadelphia, looking for a train
station, finding more nudie bars.
I get trapped in an enclosed space
with a stripper, done with her work
for the night, who counsels me
against taking the train home, that
I can sleep with her backstage at
her bar. I push past, into the night
again, & am assailed on all sides.

The first person orientation of the poem aligns it with, not only the original Posit, but Opera Bufa; what is even more important, on a narrative-thematic level, is the association with autumn, and its harbinger of winter, which amounts to a confrontation with mortality. As in, the way North Philly subsists in 2014, even for all its ambiance (which includes also, a sense of the spectral or apparitional), has become unmanageable for those of us who remember the frisson of being there pre-Great Recession. I wrote the poem from a dream, and from the ‘burbs; pining, as does happen, for a precious era which is now past. I will always be haunted by what Philadelphia was both for me, and for all of my friends and lovers in the Aughts, and by the sense that we managed to capture, from Philly, another, higher world out of the ambiance and architecture here. The second poem I would like to share is more nose on the face about the sort of goings-on which transpired at The Eris Temple in the Aughts, is a sonnet, and bears the simple moniker “Eris Temple”:

That night I got raped by a brunette
chanteuse, I lay on the linoleum floor
of the front room sans blanket, & thought

I could hack it among the raw subalterns
of the Eris Temple, who could never
include me in their ranks, owing to my

posh education; outside, on Cedar Street,
October gave a last breath of heat before
the homeless had to hit rock bottom again, &

as Natalie lay next to me I calculated
my chances of surviving at the dive bar
directly across from the Temple for the

length of a Jack & Coke, North Philly
concrete mixed into it like so many notes—

There was once a raucous charm even to the violent undercurrents which create North Philly’s ambiance, and the “concrete” of man’s desire to kill, maim, and dismember man, was never far from my thoughts while I patronized the Temple. Speaking of Temples, Temple University, where I held the University Fellowship from 2006 to 2011, is a North Philadelphia establishment, and is every bit as garishly lurid as the Temple is. What you can see from Anderson Building, where the English Department is located, is quite frightening in its stark attraction-repulsion circuit. To be on campus all day was to be challenged, by a blasted landscape, to find charm in a fracas, and to embrace a kind of alienation built into what Temple had to offer on ocular levels. Why it should be that this dynamic, attraction-repulsion, is so important to an appreciation of the ambient ghettos of North Philly, is that it takes a certain kind of sensibility to be magnetized by sites that are simultaneously attractive and repulsive; and the Neo-Romantics, especially the painting branch of PFS, were all heads for this kind of contradictory approach to the city we lived in, and loved.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Posit Trilogy: Dracula on Literature

The Posit Trilogy, which begins with Posit and was completed in 2013 (revised in '17), has its own unique identity as (like Equations) a possible dialectic in poetry/literature. I am looking into the way that Deposit and Re-Posit complete the Trilogy, and attempting to discern whether or not the dialectical form of discourse (thesis/antithesis/synthesis) is properly fulfilled. The Posit Trilogy, in its fanciful sense of characterization and levels of imagination, reads to me like a more advanced, subtler version of Opera Bufa. For instance, the absurdist chiasmus between Saint Augustine and Dracula as propelling the Trilogy forward; and that the manner in which Dracula, who is allowed air-time in precisely two persona poems which end (respectively) Deposit and Re-Posit, girds himself around with rhetorical heft against both Augustine, purity, and confession, and then the purity and potential transparency of major high art consonant literature, demonstrates that The Posit Trilogy is playing games both with pop culture, with poetry-as-theater and texts as staged, with intellectual seriousness being balanced with playful vistas opening, and with a deconstructive interrogation of literary seriousness itself, on guard against overrating texts and textuality:

You can’t tell me
you don’t feed on
the mysterious disappearance

of the need to do this—
that raw life & blood
would suffice to

satisfy, & gird you
against the grinding
towards sphere-music

you fancy you make.
I’ve lived a thousand
years among human

souls, all in need of
blood, little else, and
words are no blood

at all— what suffices
for such as you is
(as you say) a

simulacrum of blood,
with limited flow-
potential, & as such

I counsel you (if
you ask) to feed on
something more wholesome-

don’t scoff— wholesome
is not relative
for the human species,

& your words are dirt,
feeding no one directly,
& those who feed are

suspect, chilled by
exposure to terminal
frosts, unable to bite

what might suffice in the end

We may or may not choose to take Dracula’s critique seriously; The Posit Trilogy in steeped in investigations of subjectivity, and Dracula’s “I,” his sense of himself, is manifestly abased. There is also the sense that the ironies of us, a human audience, reckoning a vampire who hopes to convince us of the obsolescence of textuality, are potent ones: Dracula can stand in, however whimsical he seems, for mechanistic, brutish, repetitive, materialistic society, as a kind of door slamming shut, warning us not to take the textual action here too seriously, that menacing forces hover behind even what texts are germane to us. That, ultimately, Dracula (and those masses he is a synecdoche for) is an “anti-I,” and thus the greatest threat to the poetic “I” when properly employed, is another subtext beneath the whimsy. Equations goes out of its way to make its essential dialectic explicit, which bodes well for its surface-level popularity; The Posit Trilogy is more shadowy. When Dracula wins, in a context like this, it may be a sign of the times.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Notes: Cheltenham Elegies and WYB Sonnets

In examining prosodic structures in my body of work, it is noticeable that discrepancies present themselves in how prosody in general is approached. One interesting dichotomy subsists between the When You Bit...sonnets and the Cheltenham Elegies. Where melopoeia is concerned, the WYB sonnets are lavish leaning towards overripe: they cluster end-rhymes with internal rhymes, assonances, and the rest to heighten the carnival frisson of overwhelming romance, sexuality, intrigue, and transgression (the Something Solid sonnet series, from 2017 and out, focuses more on memory, recollected in semi-tranquility, and restrained music):

I ache: dull, sharp,
in a heap of paper.
All paper: picture,
bright, bold, dark.
I have nailed you
to a piece: black.
I darken touched
things: I’m used.
I write you, you,
you, as if kissed
by a fresh body,
rose-petal bliss.
I drowse: numb
as cocaine gums.

The nods to Shelley (“I pant, I tremble, I expire…”) and to Romanticism and the lyric “I” in general are right on the surface, and the whole game is the consummation of total aesthetic richness. It is a sense of wanting something, and getting it. The consolidation of end-rhymes with internal rhymes heightens this process. This is 2007 (the book was published in ’08, but much of it was written in the autumn of ’07). Four years later, and with the added encumbrance of a deepening national (and global) recession, I was ready to write the Cheltenham Elegies, and the note of lacrimae rerum was placed into them by impersonal circumstances becoming personalized. The melopoeiac dimension of the Cheltenham Elegies, next to the When You Bit sonnets, is hollowed out, emptied, reflecting a state of impoverishment; internal rhymes must suffice to color the poems, while end-rhymes are left out to preclude the rosy sense of ravishment in the earlier poems:

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?

Different audiences over a long period of time will find mete to embrace different kinds of prosody. For myself, I would tend to value the hollowed out starkness of the Elegies, their implicit vow against the traditional ripeness of end-rhymes, against the twisted, torqued half-lyricism of the sonnets (if I call them half-lyrical, it is because they are welded to a narrative structure which is book-length and involves other characters, rather than the traditional lyric, which sticks to a first person perspective.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Municipal Building: Fayette Street: Conshohocken

Notes: More on When You Bit

The formality of the When You Bit... sonnets hinges on an original admixture of formal elements. Rather than usual pentameter line structures, here I tend to favor five beats per line, or what I call halved pentameter. What chopping standard pentameter lines in half will do to a sonnet would seem to be an open question; but certainly the formal nod is to brevity, concision, and the impulse to compress poetic data:

(a) Three sets of teeth: who
(b) can check for cavities?
(a) A three-way circuit: who
(b) will start the striptease?
(c) Three lovers in three ways:
(d) how merrily the dance
(e) begins. We spin, we spin,
(f) we forget our instincts,
(b) anima, the part of teeth
(h) that cuts. We are sluts.
(d) There is an “I” here that
(h) stands for all of us, but
(b) its eyes are shut. Sleep
(b) lulls it to rest, not think. Or speak.

Besides the feature of halved pentameter here, there is also a system of internal rhymes inset to enrich the end-rhyme scheme, which is (again) unconventional. Thus, (for instance), “three” and “teeth” in line 1 work with “cavities” in line 2; just as “three” twice in line 5 reinforce the end-rhymes of lines 2 and 4, “cavities,” “striptease.” Keats called this kind of melopoeiac reinforcement loading lines with ore; and he complained to Shelley in a famous missive how scant Shelley’s reinforcement techniques were. Surely, if the regular number of beats per line is halved, it stands to poetic reason that what is left must be as loaded with prosodic ore as possible, and I attempted to accomplish that here. It is also a feature of this particular sonnet (“Three Sets of Teeth,” which opens the initial third of the book called Sister Lovers) that the first quatrain (four line stanza) is written in the Shakespearean manner— Shakespearean sonnets tend to begin with a/b/a/b. Shakespearean rhyme-schemes in sonnets are dramatic to the point of being overripe; Shakespeare liking to imagine his sonnets being orated from onstage, perhaps. The sturm und drang facet of Shakespearean sonnets is not answered by the Petrarchan mold employed by Keats (and, of course, Petrarch), which is subtler, more intricate, more about interstitial craft then dynamic fervor and bloody passion. That, through the first quatrain, this sonnet emerges as “semi-Shakespearean” is something I would like to posit. In being semi-Shakespearean, I attempt to open the book in as dramatic a fashion as I possibly can; even as the last, “clustered” ten lines, in all their irregularity, move the sonnet into uncharted formal territory, towards a kind of wilderness zone which mirrors the narrative-thematic wilderness zone the protagonist of the book inhabits in his ménage with his two Chicago Muses in the first twenty sonnets of the book. This formal wilderness zone is reprised in the 2017 Something Solid sonnets, with a silver lining of solid philosophical engagement.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Notes: When You Bit...: Clustering

Since Fortune tends to favor the bold, I am going to make a bold assertion: until Neo-Romanticism, including post-avant, there is no serious prosody in American poetry. Frost and Dickinson write Hallmark-level jingles; Whitman’s use of anaphora is cheap and barbaric the wrong way round; and even semi-Americans Pound and Eliot do not build the kind of melopoeia into their poetic constructs to vie with the Romantics and those who preceded them. I call my wonted prosodic manner “clustering”— that is, I avoid regular end-rhyme structures and build in melopoeiac devices (rhymes, near-rhymes, off-rhymes, assonances, alliterations, anaphora, etc) in a clustered fashion, where the devices fall in the poem where they will, which grants me much greater narrative-thematic freedom as a quid pro quo for musical solidarity and traditional poetic scaffolding techniques. In terms of my books, When You Bit… from 2008 is the most musically rich, with an intense focus on melopoeia in the context of a traditional form, the sonnet:

(a) My spirit is too weak— mortality
(b) Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep,
(b) And each imagined pinnacle and steep
(a) Of godlike hardship tells me I must die
(a) Like a sick eagle looking at the sky.
(b) Yet ‘tis a gentle luxury to weep
(b) That I have not the cloudy winds to keep
(a) Fresh for the opening of the morning’s eye.
(c) Such dim-conceived glories of the brain
(d) Bring round the heart an undescribable feud;
(c) So do these wonders a most dizzy pain,
(d) That mingles Grecian grandeur with the rude
(c) Wasting of old time— with a billowy main—
(d) A sun— a shadow of a magnitude.

(a) Asinine, as is, this ass is:
(b) ass I zip down into zero:
(a) anal, a null, a void this is.
(c) I’m behind a behind that
(d) sits smoking, rubbing, pink-
(e) tipped, tender, butt, button.
(f) She watches me watching as
(e) I go brown-nose in another.
(g) Only her car-ness, averted by
(g) eyes to the wall, seems happy.
(h) Only she can stomach rubs
(h) of the kind that want plugs.
(h) Sparked tank, here comes
(h) no come, & aggravation.

Keats’ Elgin Marbles sonnet here conforms tightly to the Petrarchan mold— both in the end-rhyme scheme, and in the way the volta (turn after the first eight lines, a sonnet convention) plays against the first portion of the poem. My spider on LSD rhyme scheme demonstrates how cluster-forms of prosody can work— the end rhymes fall in and out, and the last four lines sharing an end-rhyme have a sense both of (potentially) absurdizing the poem, and giving it an adequate crescendo.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Notes: Le Chat Noir from Posit

Anyone in America, especially along the Eastern seaboard, who lives past thirty-five will probably notice that, despite a tremendous press build-up to reinforce the “mega” quality of New York City, New York has no more material power in America than several other commensurate, or more than commensurate, cities: Atlanta, Baltimore, and, of course, Philadelphia. Indeed, the inversion between Philly and New York is almost perfect: i.e., Philly is precisely what New York is supposed to be, and vice versa. Philadelphians over thirty-five will usually have discovered the labyrinthine dimensions and depths of Philly, reaching out in myriad directions (including our sublime architecture here and what it signifies in the world), and touching Philly’s tremendous, forcibly underrated material and spiritual power in the United States. There are few American power-structures without Philly roots somewhere; yet, this structuring is largely “operative,” and not directly verbalized. So, older Philadelphians must live with what we can and cannot express on the surface, the way in which, in Philadelphia and out, we must be criminally misrepresented in the media, and also the false luster of NYC (and LA) lording over us their empty, bloated, comparatively ugly narratives and mythologies.

Dedicated New Yorkers, are, for the most part, a naïve race, a baby race, who understand little of what they see, and make every attempt to stay on the surface and embrace the false idol which is the city where they live. Yet, as they age, there will always be something missing for them, a sense that everything they see is a mirage, and that New York is the kind of city where fools rush in and almost no one else. New York art stinks of this syndrome. And, to the extent that I am winding this around to note something about the poem “Le Chat Noir” from the Posit chapbook (also included in '17's Posit Trilogy), it stands to reason that I should express where I feel New York School poetry needs to go: into the garbage forever, with all the other gamer crap from century XX. What I’ve discovered is that “Le Chat Noir” can be parsed as a heave-ho to the New York School, if we take the protagonist of the poem to be spry, pop-culture consonant, semi-hysterical, never profound Frank O’ Hara:

I pressed a frozen face
forward into an alley off
of Cedar St., herb blowing
bubbles (am I too high?) in

melting head I walked &
it was freezing & I walked
freezing into pitch (where’s
the) blackness around a

cat leapt out & I almost
collapsed a black cat I
was panting & I almost
collapsed I swear from

the cold but look a cat
a black cat le chat noir oh no

The poem is a sonnet, but the form doesn’t seem to be as important here as the thematic gist and the spin I want to put on that particular ball. If this is Frank O’ Hara, stuck in the bowels of North-West Philadelphia (the Eris Temple was located at 52nd and Cedar in the Aughts), and he imitates a Lana Turner-ish (for those who know his poems) collapse, it may be because the real decadent glamour on the East Coast is not where it is supposed to be, according to surface-level narratives, in the West Village or Soho, but in Philadelphia. I would like to argue that the realest glamour has always been in Philadelphia  for the hip and worldly-wise, and O’Hara’s New York is a non-existent joke in comparison. People forget what Le Chat Noir was in Paris in the 1890s— a Bohemian haunt where artists used to hang out, in absinthe-laden, concupiscent decadence. So that, if the real Le Chat Noir vibe on the East Coast is here, in Philadelphia, then all the NYC stooge celebrations in the world cannot redeem O’Hara from knowing that his aesthetic number is up, and we’ve got it.

***this picture of me was taken by Abby Heller-Burnham in 2002***

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Notes: Elegy 420/ St. Agnes Eve

The twentieth century didn’t bequeath us much, literature-wise. But I do like T. S. Eliot’s famous aphorism: “Immature artists borrow; mature artists steal.” The Cheltenham Elegy I would like to discuss does steal a crucial image from Keats’ “The Eve of St. Agnes.” If you put the Elegy next to the relevant stanza of Keats’ longer narrative poem (not an Ode, but sharing the Odes preoccupation with celebrating oddities and inverting poetic clichés), what emerges is a paradigm model of where the last two hundred years have landed us, as regards what constitutes innocence and experience, virginity and consummation, expectancy and satiety, and what historians chose to call Romance against what I choose to call Noir:

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, other. You spiteful little princess.

Anon his heart revives: her vespers done,
Of all its wreathed pearls her hair she frees;
Unclasps her warmed jewels one by one;
Loosens her fragrant bodice; by degrees
Her rich attire creeps rustling to her knees:
Half-hidden, like a mermaid in seaweed,
Passive awhile she dreams awake, and sees,
In fancy, fair St. Agnes in her bed,
But dares not look behind, or all the charm is fled.

Oddly enough, Eliot’s mermaids in “Prufrock” occupy a median space between Keats’ innocent, angelic Madeline, and my “spiteful little princess.” Eliot aside, both “St. Agnes” and 420 involve festivities— and the celebration of St. Agnes Eve in the Middle Ages (where Keats got his narrative plot) was just as garish and ostentatious as a Cheltenham Junior Prom. Yet, the Elegy and the semi-Ode share a preoccupation shared, as a concern, by myself and Keats— what happens in darkness, in hidden or concealed spaces, far from the proverbial madding crowd, against what would be known on the surface levels of society and its terms of acceptance or acknowledgment. Porphyro is asking for an elopement, and is accepted; the first person protagonist of 420 asks for solace, on any level, and is rebuffed. That both poems emerge as fully sexualized, on a hetero level, is fore-grounded by this comparison— a mermaid is a kind of siren, and carries feminine glamour with her wherever she goes, and even in darkness (underwater, perhaps, in this context). 420 foregrounds this ambiguity— is the protagonist asking for sex (a renewal of what has been extinguished, in the poem), or just a loving verbal interchange, or both? He receives, from his mermaid, neither, while Porphyro eventually receives both. That is a critical crux between Romanticism and Noir, as a new mode of visionary Realism— many stereotypically Romantic poems end happily, with a sense that conflicts have ended in a kind of fulfillment, textual or narrative, intellectual, emotional, or physical. The bleakness of Noir significations guarantees that what is anodyne in Romanticism can never appear— and readers may find either Noir airless and claustrophobic or Romanticism weak and cloying. Now, Romanticism is a major, vital, complex movement, so that variability of signification still applies; but, reliably, that the English Romantics, even the “Satanic” second generation (Keats, Byron, Shelley) were positivists in comparison to Noir Apparition Poems like the Cheltenham Elegies would be difficult to deny.

Back to the two poems: the two versions of adolescence, one British and one American, one in third-person omniscient and one in first, are a study between adolescence retaining its wonted luster of freshness, joy, surprise, self-discovery, and unselfconscious risk, or adolescence degenerating into the space of already-thwarted dreams, premature (even atrophied) adulthood, and a sense of the crepuscular towards realizations of mortality even before adulthood is officially reached. This is part of what the Cheltenham Elegies are for— to acknowledge the ludicrousness of adolescents leading their lives like little adults, fornicating, wheeling and dealing, wielding material power in inappropriate ways, and attempting to cope with these realities in the total darkness (“basement”) of non-existent family structures and no real guidance. It is an interesting torque, and one I did not necessarily plan, between Madeline emerging from her clothes “in” seaweed (while Porphyro watches her from her closet), while my antagonist emerges “from” the seaweed of what? Another shady business transaction, round of gossip, or dossier check that all the right Cheltenham heads are playing their parts correctly? Keats’ version of “seaweed” is merely an optical illusion (i.e. that’s how she looks to Porphyro from his vantage point in her closet), while my “seaweed” is a metaphor for an entire way of life— kids bedraggled by onerous, gross practical realities which cling to them whether they like it or not. The “mansion foul” where Madeline lives as a ward is (we may guess) no less corrupt than an average house in mostly upper-middle class Cheltenham; yet Madeline has retained her innocence. My anti-heroine swims through seaweed-strewn waters, and is far from innocent. If she is spiteful, it is because others are spiteful to her, leading to the usual nihilistic Cheltenham chain reaction. So that, the steal I made, to transpose something from the Romantic canon into a Noir reality, inverts but also sheds light on where English language poetry is willing to go in the twenty-first century, which is into the total darkness of the American landscape, where the only joy is telling the truth about what shadows you happen to encounter.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Meta-Notes: On Posit

To recognize a nexus of cyclical energy in Posit, involving the poetic “I”— inhering, an association of asserted subjectivity with heterosexual sexual arousal and the phallic— specifically, the phallus in the act of sexual intercourse— I begin with “Come to the Point.” The poem “Come to the Point,” with its blatant/rhetorically dual-minded, subtle essence (to come to the point in an argumentative, discursive, or dialectical context, and to come as in to ejaculate), has a parallel structure inhering in the first and last line— “I am that I.” The line-breaks (“I am/come to the point”) emphasize the curious juxtaposition of discursive and phallic potency— that critical cruxes can (literally or figuratively) be seminal. Here, in this self-critical meta-crux, manifesting in the unlikely context of a work of verbal art, the positing has to do with a critical line (or self-perpetuated discourse/dialectic) in favor of the reemergence of first-person singular perspectives in order to inaugurate a new era of textual freedom and “I” propelled experimentation for poets and dialecticians. The first person singular, expressed in poetic language, is also revealed to encompass phallic energy— just as Posit courts the acknowledgment and embrace of certain forms/manners of phallocentrism. To Posit something, in this compressed matrix of interests, is to enact a textual pelvic thrust. The “slipping down” in “Come to the Point” is meant to convey both seduction/sensuality (the slipping down, perhaps, of underclothes), and a sense of ease and freedom in the slide back into first person perspectives in text.

I am that I
that stations metaphor
on a boat to
be carried across.
that makes little
songs on banisters,
which are slipped down.
that slips down
antique devices,
china cutlery and white.
I am coming to
the point. I am
come to the point.
I am that I.

“I” must climb up
from a whirlpool
swirling down,
but sans belief
in signification.

“I” must say I
w/out knowing
how or why
this can happen
in language.

“I” must believe
in my own
droplets stopping
my mouth—

alone, derelict,
“I” must come back,
again, again,
‘til this emptiness
is known, and shown.

I married into blood and
broken necks, endless
anemic privation, but

no regret. You see,
hunger fills me. I like
vampire hours (no

sleep), a blood-vessel
pay-check, diabolical
companionship, tag-team

seductions, guileless
maidens about to
be drunk.

We know what sweetness
is in starvation. We’ve
found, satiety

is death’s approval stamp.
If you crave, there is
room left in you. If

you want, you are a
being finished is

a cadaver’s province.
Better to suck
whatever comes.

The manner in which Posit slips down into “Dracula’s Bride” to conclude— what we see about the first person perspective being argued for or “crux’ed” in “Bill Allegrezza,” that the poetic “I” perpetually manifests a kind of emptiness, which needs to be known, and shown, leads to the revelation of a persona (Dracula’s Bride), whose relationship to the phallic first person is both vulpine (infantile, even) and subservient; to, as the poem ends, “suck/whatever comes.” The rhetorical heft of Dracula’s Bride and her perspective has to do with “sweetness in starvation,” against satiety, consonant with the worship of the first-person phallus (which needn’t be brandished only by males, this is all metaphor), which delivers both sweetness and emptiness in its mechanistic performance. The emptiness of the first person singular contradicts or baffles its own power to inseminate— but that contradiction, when applied to poetic language (emptiness/fullness, infertility/insemination), is the bizarre synthesis which is the telos of Posit as a textual dialectic. The positing, or discursive thrust, is into both empty textual space and whatever proverbial Dracula’s Bride can receive the full/empty seeds the right way— and both Posit, and 2017's The Posit Trilogy, empty and deconstruct themselves in the same motion or positing.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Calvary Episcopal Church: Fayette Street: Conshohocken

This church and Saint Matthew Church are neighbors on Fayette Street.

Notes: 261 and Nightingale

I am continuing develop connective tissue, in a critical context/framework, between Keats’ Odes and the Cheltenham Elegies. Taking “Nightingale” and 261 (“Never one to cut corners…”), and a shared visionary sequence between the two poems— Keats in his poem, through the process of composition (Poesy, and its “viewless” wings), is able to extend the reach of his vision into the dark woods to co-mingle/commiserate with his synecdoche; just as the protagonist of 261, on the viewless wings of Poesy again, is able to “pull a rough U-turn” (“Here’s where the fun starts…”) on Old York Road at midnight, and thus join the ambiguous hero/anti-hero of the poem. This, doubled between the two poems, enacts a transmigration process which is an outlet and a subtext of the visionary, and temporally freezes the sense that what the nightingale/ “rogue driver” of 261 signify— night, death, physical mortality, but also an inverse (perverse) owning of dark freedom and power— is matched by a negatively capable textual engagement.

Never one to cut corners about cutting
corners, you spun the Subaru into a rough
U-turn right in the middle of Old York Road
at midnight, scaring the shit out of this self-
declared “artist.” The issue, as ever, was
nothing particular to celebrate. We could
only connect nothing with nothing in our
private suburban waste land. Here’s where
the fun starts— I got out, motherfucker.
I made it. I say “I,” and it works. But Old
York Road at midnight is still what it is.
I still have to live there the same way you do.

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster'd around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast fading violets cover'd up in leaves;
And mid-May's eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

Here is an interesting discrepancy: the “I” in 261 (important, also, to note that the rogue driver’s U-turn being made in the poem may be turning back to Cheltenham) manages to turn the proverbial tables on his companion (rhetorically/textually) twice (“But Old York Road at midnight…”), thus re-living the U-turn twice, rather than Keats’ singular journey into the dark woods. Keats does not begin to develop any kind of bravado against his Muse; conversely, the two textual U-turns in 261 demonstrate first, an ostensible escape from Cheltenham (which amounts to an assertion of personal or individual, artistic success), and then a renascence to a position that what Cheltenham and Old York Road signify are omnipresent in the human continuum; and both express bravado in both individualism and intellectual mastery. So does Keats enter the sensuous, shadowy paradise of the woods and then sink downwards, first into being grounded, then (as an extension) into Lethe-consonant (forgetful) despondency; and these are two textual journeys of visionary identification and self-transcendence. The possible inversion, in which Keats’ Ode, through its ultimate sense of lost, demeaned, defeated yet sensually self-aware consciousness, against textual flights or “Fancies,” constitutes a kind of elegy, while the Cheltenham Elegy, through its ultimate air of sangfroid and mastery (empowerment over harsh circumstances) demonstrates, if not exactly odal joy, certainly a sense of a kind of textual tour de force being enacted in a compressed space, an ambiance of the explosive, which is not in Keats. The nightingale and 261’s rogue driver (Chris) are both phantoms, essentially: rhetorically addressed, evanescent. The negatively capable identification process occurs once in the present (Keats, appropriate for an ode) and once in a visioned/visionary past (261, appropriate for an elegy)— and it is merely textual, unperceived, unappreciated by one inhuman Other (the nightingale) and one human Other (Chris). The ultimate destination, why the identification process is enacted, is for the imagined, individual reader-as-third party.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Noir Resonances: 1341/1488

Built into Apparition Poems as a literary construct, and as a textual embodiment of what I call a “noir” or “deep noir” sensibility, under the aegis of the Neo-Romantic, 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. 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:

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.

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
of drunkenness—

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. Aughts Philadelphia was, in the broad sense of the word, romantic— freedoms to indulge were enjoyed there.

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 Philadelphia 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 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, 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 prosodic effect of maximum coherence/maximum complexity.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Reap Together: Romanticism and Noir

As to how I have designated possible discussions/discourses about my Apparition Poems; applying the moniker 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. 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 an initiated dialectic.

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.

I said, “I can’t
even remember
the last time I
was excited, how
can I associate

She pulled
out a gun, a tube
of oil, and an air

and it was
a spontaneous

felt, in which we
reaped together—

To clarify: “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” is a famous phrase from Wordsworth’s Preface. If the two poems together initiate a sort of wrestling match or scuffle, it is because inversions in the two texts lead 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. Thus, 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, and male.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Keats and Lyricism Pt. 3

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. My early Aughts attempt at employing the Keats odal form itself, On Love, mines similar terrain. 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.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Keats and Lyricism Pt. 2

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, 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.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Keats and Lyricism

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.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

WYB Outtakes Pt 3


I am a limited body. I do
not encompass much, &
my ace-in-the-hole is how
& why I know this (from
long experience of waves,
which have taken salty
thoughts from my brains). 
I know vastness, being little.
I know defeat sans groans.
Being pure is what saves.
Out at sea, unnumbered
uproars roll past my ears,
like the Danny’s bar-keep’s
innuendos like thunder.   


I can't feel a thing but pain.
Everything I say's a blunder—
form and feeling gone insane—
heaps of snow inside my brain.
She's my loaded cherry pie.
I'm not worth her sliding doors
unless my eyes get cauterized
and moving sand's a wooden floor.
It's all been said except for this—
that I will out the road I missed,
scattered signs, paraphernalia of
our last night’s pilgrimage past
the bucks hitting Bucktown’s tow-
away zone, down-bound baked goods.

 Worn Yesterday

To circle you from inside you,
from inside glassy globes of skin
offered up in mute scream to
shared sharp pangs, how a lock
might close shut in this, how it
could clasp us to a firmament,
how in arching up we forge bliss,
down, & to be gone is concupiscent,
& come is gone, white-woven in —
what’s still unaccounted for is
how when I leave this place again
for Philly, I’ll look for you on
Main Street, Manayunk, find
myself at Worn Yesterday again.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

WYB Outtakes 2

Bon Appetit

Would that you were closer
that we each could roll over
and beg to be petted, loved,
rubbed & flown over, above
what keeps us planted in dirt.
I don’t mean to call you a flirt.
I don’t mean to tell you OK.
I can’t think of what I can say.
The omens say Bon Appetit
omens are closer than meat.
What murmurs from Wicker
Park’s main street as we are
up semi-fucking at dawn, city
birds: they portend concrete. 

                                                      Fear-Dreary Philly

No little lame balloon-man
whistles far or wee, or even
has balloons. I sit near the
fan, feel like Dante's son
plucked by this city of
dreams into Hades. There's
no way this can be anything
but rote, my hip routine,
& even a fly's anus looks
more succulent. But, what
the fuck. I've got memories.
As I anticipate the wideness
of your limbs, quiet or not,
the shore I stand on is silent.

                                                      Goddess in the Stream

Diana: there she is.
I’m staggered. She
gestures to herself,
as if to say, look at
me, I’m nude, I’m
yours. I can’t just
turn away. I’m too
moved, too turned
on: stricken with
a surfeit of lust. So
I bolt towards her,
& she emerges onto
a bank, & says: woe
betide stags’ movies.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Three WYB Outtakes ('07/'08)


You’re like an obsessive
astronaut: coveting space,
empty vacuums, stretching
outwards around you, deep
as wolf-hour dreams, dark
as bottoms of rocky peaks.
I live, breathe, in your sleep.
My need: toothed like a shark.
There is no reconciling this.
Uneasy space is rank to kiss.
I’m lowly wise, a slug, stuck
to woody surfaces, rocky
bottoms, yours. What luck:
between your legs is bold and stark.


Your scales are wave-hewn.
You are soporific as a siren.
Around you limbs are strewn.
It’s fin to tail chess. Pawns
move in an undulant fashion.
I have nothing to trade you
but a marching soldier’s gun
I know little of. I know what
to do with him, loosely, but
really this air has me kite-high,
ready to blow, high to black sky.
Then, on the shore of your
wide world I kneel before you,
hopped up on sedated nerves. 


I’m Eternity’s Pilgrim, I’m
hot enough to broil flesh, I
am made one with Nature,
yours, every time you flip
over for me. It’s cynical to
speak in these terms, but
I’m captain of a wet ship—
you’re sub someone, slut.

It’s a big identity mess. It’s
me angling to parse an angle
not yet gelled, where there
is “we”, & we’re newfangled.
It’s a bunch of bullshit.
I’m floss on thorns, tangles.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

From "Mortuary Puppies" ('98/'99)

C: (finding a razor, preparing to slit his wrists) God is a spider piercing heaven with venom and menace!

A: (knocking razor out of C's Hand) Fuck death! Death is the refuse of flies! (the rest of the group forms a semi-circle around him, begins falling at his feet and feeling him up sensually, lust in their eyes) Death is the pulse of underwater nowhere! (the group begins to sex-pant) Death is the thin arm of ridiculous waving! (the group begins to climax violently) You're all a bunch of babbling crabs! (he breaks off them and they whimper) Let us ride. Let us worship a lesbian gopher. Let us spit our vehemence. (he takes out a copy of the Bible from under the candle; in it are five copies of the poem "bible"; he distributes them; the rest of the group forms a line at the front of the stage and recites this poem)

B,C, D, E, F:

bible is stilts for mind-midgets,
brassy as a barnum poster, three-ringed
bible is black and white silent film
with Valentino Christ presiding....

A: (regaining his composure, lighting a cigarette suavely) Terrible, how our needy flesh imagines satisfaction in external monuments.

B: (rising, kneeling before A) Shut your eyes and listen- the thread of children's voices will hold our hearts in place, cozy as a hammer's nail or tire tracks on blacktop roads.