Friday, December 4, 2015

Pleasure and Plebeians Pt. 2



Avant-garde poetry in the English language has had a mediocre reaction to Deconstruction. The tendency is to turn Deconstructive tenets into sound-bites— like, for example, that (using the wonted, tendentious first person plural) we know that language, being arbitrary, cannot open a transparent window onto any given image or topos we may choose. What tends to follow from this is a Deconstructive card trick— that, given the inadequacy of arbitrary language to address themes, we should remove, in broad terms, the thematic from our poetry. Avant-garde poetry should then be constituted by language about itself. It is even suggested that narrative is an antiquated trick in poetry, linked, in its potential obsolescence, to the nineteenth century and back. What then passes for poetry, in many avant-garde circles, is so textually impoverished as to be easily dismissed as gibberish, as the proverbial baby is thrown out with the bath-water and the nose is cut off to spite the face. The extraordinary naivete at work here is the quintessence of the plebeian— reducing philosophy and poetry at once to a collection of sound-bites, dismissing poetic diction and melopoeia as meaningless, even bringing into question whether poetry (at this stage of impoverishment) is being written and published to serve subterranean purposes besides and beyond the pursuit of the aesthetic. What I want to say about the naïve, plebeian reaction to Deconstruction in avant-garde poetry is practical— if there weren’t some adequacy inhering in texts and textuality, we wouldn’t write them. The baby-mush that is Objectivism, Language Poetry, and the like, which evacuates the aesthetic from the aesthetic with a pretense of intellectuality which is actually just a form of thoughtlessness, rattle shaking, and ill-concealed hatred of seriousness (intellectual and otherwise) and serious poetry, has no real place in Posit or Neo-Romanticism except as a set up for us, a MacGuffin to start things off.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Pleasure and Plebeians Pt. 1



Here’s how Roland Barthes has a way of being, or seeming, suspect: his brief survey of The Pleasure Of The Text makes no mention of harmonious or metrical language in serious poetry. How could textuality engender any more pleasure then it does from poetic diction, musical language, melopoeia, what have you? The texts Barthes tends to lean on are formally barbarous compared, say, to Keats’ Odes; but the larger point I want to make, beyond Barthes being largely a plebeian version of a literary critic and aesthete, has to do with both formality in poetry and how it relates to the intimate I-Thou relationship between writer and reader (with the text itself occupying a middle ground) illuminated by Posit. What I want to express is a practical tangent to what Barthes expresses in his book; Barthes points to what in avant-garde novels is seductive, “cruises” the reader; and misses the obvious point that formality, harmonious language in serious poetry was developed partly for people to seduce each other (usually men seducing women), and that formality in serious poetry is the most obviously seductive facet of any given language, French or English. What the seduction is meant to lead to is an intimate relationship that finds its consummation in the penetration of artful language into the human brain. More on this later.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Cheltenham Elegies, more on YUDU analogue...



The following analogue mp3 pages are featured on YUDU: Cheltenham Elegies, Dancing With Myself, Apparition Poems 1 and 2, from Beams, from Equations, Opera BufaPosit, ReturnsWhen You Bit...TrishChimes, Canyons Lined In Blue WatersLive In BrooklynShe Disowned My LifeEris Temple EP, Ardent. Cheers.

Lyricism and Deconstruction


Whether Deconstructionism happened to be a cohesive, authentic intellectual juggernaut movement or not is up for debate. What is not up for debate is that the central tenets of Deconstructionism— the evanescence and arbitrary nature of language, and the dichotomous push-pull both away from and towards the text and textuality— inform Posit, and The Posit Trilogy, to a very significant extent. That Deconstructionism can also apply to painting— that there is also, proverbially, nothing outside the image— makes Deconstructionist thought relevant also to the Philly Free School and Neo-Romanticism in totem. What Posit seems to signal, as a literary talisman initiating the Neo-Romantic endeavor (encompassing also, what Abby had already painted), was the reemergence of non-arbitrary language, of a kind of lyricism-within-Deconstruction, one that attempted (and attempts) to make aesthetic its own contradictions:

“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
existence,
droplets stopping
my mouth—

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

To what extent can form and formality (lyricism) redeem the arbitrary nature of the signifier? Is the lyrical signifier arbitrary? An empirical answer would have to put the truth in the middle of things— that, for instance, with “known” and “shown” in the poem’s concluding line, the sonority of the two words together (that they rhyme) makes for an effect meant to engender pleasure, and not to be arbitrary; yet, why k-n-o-w-n and s-h-o-w-n mean what they mean, rather then meaning something else, is as arbitrary as any other word, or words, meaning what they mean. Bring in, or draft, so to speak, the issue of subjectivity-in-text, the first person singular, and you see how lyricism drafts Deconstructionism, also, away from corrosive nihilism and towards some discrete affirmations: of form and formality in art as redemptive, of formal effects as meaningful against the arbitrary, and of the first person singular as a potential textual meeting place or median point around which all these imperatives assemble.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Neo-Romanticism and Lyrical Ballads



The sound recording I have circulating now called Live In Brooklyn features Amy King, in her introduction, mentioning the imminent release of my chapbook Posit. Its official release date, when I mailed out the first copies, was June 9, 2007. Just the mention of Posit, for me, makes Live in Brooklyn more important than the video taped at Goodbye Blue Monday in Bushwick in August 2009, of me reading some When You Bit… sonnets. The reason is simple: for Neo-Romanticism, for the Philly Free School, Posit has prescience in it which can effectively make it our Lyrical Ballads. It provides an intellectual spine and framework which supports the entire Neo-Romantic endeavor: from defining Neo-Romantic subjectivity, establishing an engagement with Deconstructionism and other forms of philosophy, re-affirming, past the English Romantics, the power of the personal, the first-person singular in art, and also incising into our gestalt sensibility a warm, humanistic approach to human sexuality, in defiance of English Romanticism’s wonted frigidity and more in line with Neo-Classicist painters Ingres and David, Posit stands as a document which leaps past 2007 (just as The Posit Trilogy leaps past '17) and establishes what the twenty-first century might hold for high art, from Philadelphia on out. For me, Posit is the most seminal text with my name on it until Apparition Poems and the Cheltenham Elegies. The likability factor, huge in work like the Dancing With Myself Sonnets and Chimes, may not be as omnipresent, but Posit was not channeled specifically to be likable: it is there, as Lyrical Ballads was, to lay the groundwork for a revolution in consciousness, away from the vacuity of previous American art and towards creating representative American work which could stand comparison with anything produced in Europe in the last thousand years. The dialogues with Wordsworth, specifically, have continued into the present day.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Staring at Buildings, Waiting for Individuals


Fayette Street in Conshohocken is a testament to the power of the human imagination. The aesthetic effect both of architectural sublimity and of bizarre juxtapositions carries over the whole length of Fayette Street, from where it begins until it turns into Butler Pike. I am by no means an expert on architecture, but the jaw-dropping gorgeousness of Fayette Street is difficult for any serious artist to miss. Were the architects channeling other worlds when they pieced Fayette Street together, building by building, strip by strip? I think so; and I have already likened Fayette Street to Narnia (remember Cair Paravel?), though any fairy tale realm where the fanciful, the evanescent and the ethereal (apparitional, in the spirit of Neo-Romanticism, also works) triumph over the quotidian and its monstrosities. This strip, between 2nd and 1st Ave on Fayette, adds an edge of the urban and hipsterism to the party. It looks like Georgetown in DC and Park City Utah; but, as usual with Fayette Street, the juxtaposition of the strip with Calvary Episcopal, Saint Matthew Church, and the Conshohocken Municipal Building behind it where the slope levels off again takes something normative and makes it transcendental. And does the architecture of Fayette Street critique the inhabitants? On the other side of things, the row homes which constitute the architectural backbone of Fayette Street past the Municipal Building on 7th Ave and Fayette all have something important to say, sometimes fanciful/imaginative, sometimes not, about the kinds of folks who may be living there. Hard-headed, practical things too; and in this way, the evanescence of Fayette Street is balanced, heaven to Earth, Kether to Malkuth. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Conshohocken Free Library: 3rd Ave & Fayette Street


Calvary Episcopal Church: 4th Ave & Fayette Street: Conshohocken


Sex as Dialectic


William Wordsworth leaves out of his Preface to Lyrical Ballads any particular approach to physicality, to the body, or to bodily awareness in general. By doing so, he leaves a certain critical door wide open to accusations that both Lyrical Ballads and the rest of his oeuvre lack the visceral quality born of rigorous physicality. When the mind, for example, associates ideas in a state of excitement, Wordsworth seeks to document the process in his poems; yet what the mind is reacting to is (Wordsworth suggests) a kind of perceptive consciousness of the durable permanence of natural forms and the human mind’s chiasmus with them. What about the durable permanence of the human body itself, as Renaissance humanism likes to suggest; or, even better, what about texts and textuality which assumes that the body itself is an idea, and associations and entanglements of bodies are associations and entanglements of ideas as well? This is in Keats’ Odal Cycle, and in Apparition Poems as well, especially in 1070, which forms a palimpsest over Wordsworth’s Solitary Reaper:

I said, “I can’t
even remember
the last time I
was excited, how
can I associate
ideas?”
            She pulled
out a gun, a tube
of oil, and an air
cushion,
            and it was
a spontaneous
overflow,
            powerfully
felt, in which we
reaped together

 It is a backbone of one of the strains of my work, which includes (also) Equations and When You Bit…, that sexuality is not only an expression of our physical selves but also an idea. A tangential thought is that, as is expressed in 1070, the human body itself is an idea, and sex itself can be a kind of physical dialectic.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Neo-Romanticism and the Individual


There is one central Neo-Romantic contradiction which animated the lives of all the Neo-Romantic artists in Philadelphia in the Aughts: we were all engaged with the world around us on as many levels as possible. Yet, to follow through on the quest and the aptitude to create innovative, provocative, and major high art consonant art, we all needed to maintain (sometimes) an extreme degree of solitude as well. I can’t speak for Abby, but for me, the tug between solitude and solitary creation on one side and social and/or sexual engagement on the other was a hard row to hoe. This contradiction is there for all serious artists, but we, all of us, were perhaps more baroque, labyrinthine, and apparitional then other artists at other times, as the smorgasbord we had before was so rich and so tricky. So, we had to flail around and attempt to find as much solidity as we could on as many levels as we could. What Abby gives us, in Frozen Warnings, is a sense of two things: total emotional entropy between two individuals, and a manifest formal/thematic triumph over the insipid Americana of Andrew Wyeth, on his own turf. Abby, in fact, has ways of triumphing over PAFA (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts) formalism simply by painting situations as emotionally charged (sometimes sexually also, sometimes not) as possible. The pursuit of passions and emotions in serious art is always solid. It also manages to bridge the gap between solitary worlds of creation and levels of social engagement. Takes us, solidly, to Apparition Poem 1341:

Secrets whispered behind us
have a cheapness to bind us
to liquors, but may blind us
to possibilities of what deep
secrets are lost in pursuit of
an ultimate drunkenness that
reflects off surfaces like dead
fishes at the bottom of filthy
rivers— what goes up most is
just the imperviousness gained
by walking down streets, tipsy,
which I did as I said this to her,
over the Schuylkill, two fishes.

Individuals who live in multiple worlds often do not find it easy to connect. All the Apparition Poems elements— the night, the city, sex, death, drunkenness— coalesce around the vagaries of trying to communicate the incommunicable, which may be incommunicable for practical or for psycho-spiritual reasons. The dry ice I-it here, is matched by Abby’s equivalent of the same in Frozen Warnings. From Center City Philadelphia in the Aughts, we all had to live through a certain amount of dry ice— the city is not a solitary place, even when you need it to be, and it was invasive and intrusive sometimes. Aughts Philly, in fact, had and was a kind of merry-go-round game, which meant that mastering the stops, when to get on and when to get off (so to speak), was a delicate art. Artists need space. Frozen Warnings is given by Abby here a suburban template, but involves urban issues too— what happens when hipster-ism and scenester-ism turn sour, and what sinks in is the gravitas of one’s own isolation? The Neo-Romantic obsession with multi-tiered living is also frustrated by the dynamics of balancing imperatives to join and imperatives to self-isolate as well. So that, our reaction to this dilemma could not be dictated to us by Philadelphia’s architecture; that could only lend rigor to the art we were creating. As to what should constitute the life, we were all more or less on our own, and it remains that way to this day.  

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Neo-Romanticism and the Academy


As per Neo-Romanticism and the Academy: we will have to be both in it and out of it forever. The in/out dichotomy could express beleaguered avant-gardism or half (or a third or quarter) academicism; but, because Neo-Romanticism has a hinge both to philosophy and literary theory on high levels, both of which flourish (usually) only in academic contexts, and because I went to Penn and Abby to PAFA, we will never properly be “street” (as we could be) in Philadelphia, New York, or anywhere else. The more aesthetically valid version of academicism we espouse is our version of classicism— of historical awareness which dotes on an elite handful of already elite achievements, specifically in English Romanticism and French Neo-Classicism. Yet, looking at Meeting Halfway, Abby’s boldest statement of queer intentionality, and how classicism is balanced by an imperative to be intimate, sexual, and provocatively so, we can see how Philadelphia’s architecture insisted on a multi-leveled, multi-tiered approach, so that we as artists could be, at least partly, of the street as of the Academy. Call it Neo-Romanticism’s nod to Mannerism, or just a major high art consonant Wall of Sound; and this whole syndrome, of balancing a plethora of imperatives, including raw, frank sexuality, and a classicist dedication to elite forms, is also played out provocatively in Apparition Poem 1649:

Oh you guys, you guys are tough.
I came here to write about some
thing, but now that I came, I can’t
come to a decision about what I

came for. What? You said I can’t
do this? You said it’s not possible
because it’s a violation and not a
moving one? It’s true, you guys

are tough. You know I have tried,
at different times, to please you in
little ways, but this one time I had
this student that was giving me head

and she stopped in the middle to tell
me that I had good taste and you had
bad taste, and I’ll admit it, I believed
her. She was your student too, maybe

you’ve seen her around. She’s the one
with the scarves and the jewelry and
the jewels and the courtesy to give the
teachers head who deserve it. Do you?

Fayette Street in Conshohocken manifests a willingness to transgress, and so do we. When themes and forms are juxtaposed in unlikely ways (City Hall, Center City Philly), we demonstrate an extremely rugged sense of individualism, as does our body of work. Neither Abby nor I were working with any kind of dossier or script to guide our creativity; we were under the architectural spell we were under, and winging it. Getting classicist hands dirty the right way round; the buildings insisted on it (Liberty Place Towers). Or, you could call it formal rigor with a socially relevant edge; creating spaces for our audience where beauty and sexuality themselves could be provocative issues, ditto aesthetic formality. Posit these constituent elements to Neo-Romanticism in chiasmus with the Academy, and what emerges is something very indeterminate, to be honest. Or, the ambiguity between the Academy and Neo-Romanticism has inhering in it the tension between formality and thematic provocation, beauty and conceptuality, which (owing to an inferior relationship to aesthetic form and formality) the twentieth century in literature and visual art never particularly bothered to deal with, as the English Romantics and French Neo-Classicists did in the nineteenth. The twentieth century, backwards and sideways, in Neo-Romanticism, is all about what in our work is conceptual, including concepts of forms, and why we have chosen to employ aesthetic formality the way we have. In the aftermath of the glut of post-modern conceptuality in the last fifty years, daring to be formally beautiful and socially relevant simultaneously is its own gambit. Walks down the right Philadelphia streets will show anyone that Philadelphia’s spaces are constantly doing these tricks, between usefulness and ravishment, what is serviceable and what is sumptuous, all in a time/space continuum spanning a number of centuries. What our architecture revealed to us is a game much more grandiose and all-encompassing then most of the twentieth century in our disciplines dared to imagine— a way of taking raw sex, raw beauty, and weaving it through with the right kind of conceptuality so that we’ve got all the way from Ingres to Warhol, all the way from Keats to Pynchon covered. 


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Echoes of Mannerism in Neo-Romanticism


The hinge from Neo-Romanticism to Mannerism, also, is a reasonably blatant one. Our whole approach to art— more is more, rather then less is more— features exaggerated portions and warped perspectives, even amidst the elaborate formality and architectural hi-jinx. Abby and I both share a perspective, which recurs regularly, that there is or can be something inherently funny or absurd about complexity, and that the multiplication of tangents from a work of art should include tangents the basis of which are absurdity and Dada and Duchamp. With the rejection of simplicity, of course, comes the realization that if we are not to appear too stentorian or heavy-handed, a light touch can be as effective as a sturm und drang one. The Walls Have Ears, here, has in-built the Mannerist tensions around queerness and bisexuality; behind that, the idea that sexuality itself, as both an ideal and an idea, is inherently Mannerist. It brings out in individuals, always, what is warped and/or perverse, not to mention exaggerated, in them; and because the formality of the painting is, as ever, masterful, and because queerness is a serious theme to be addressed, audiences can choose to take The Walls Have Ears as an exercise in painterly absurdism or not. Coloration issues— everything bathed in piss-yellow (Serrano?)(Piss Dykes?)— opens a vista that, when Neo-Romanticism builds into its constructs a sense of absurdity, Mannerist exaggerates aid and abet us towards a realization that the Philadelphia architecture, kitchen sink approach can yield the right dividends. Or Apparition Poem 1327:

She said, you want Sister
Lovers, you son of a bitch,
pouted on a beige couch in
Plastic City, I said, I want
Sister Lovers, but I’m not
a son of a bitch, and I can
prove it (I drooled slightly),
took it out and we made
such spectacular love that
the couch turned blue from
our intensity, but I had to
wear a mask because I’d
been warned that this girl
was, herself, a son of a bitch

Neo-Romanticism is, take it or leave it, pretty free and easy about sex and sexual intercourse. Just as Philadelphia architecture is pretty free and easy about co-opting your space and thrusting its symmetries into your brain. Not to mention that the ambiance in Aughts Philadelphia which we all lived through was largely about free and easy sex. This poem starts from a ground that the two figures in the poem appear to be either very stoned, or bimbos, possibly porn stars (or actors), and then sets the game in motion which it wants to set. It’s about straight sex too, which (to be frank) I feel might be ready to make a comeback. The Dada level is how goofy the exaggerations are, towards a sense that every conceivable imperative to aesthetic excess is served, other than the number of lines in the poem. Apparition Poems only has a handful of sonnets in it, and sonnets as a poetic form are usually the enemies of the Mannerist (sonnets think small, stay confined), but that’s part of the game here. And the fact that both The Walls Have Ears and 1327 “have game” and play games is one of the reasons Neo-Romanticism is contemporary and ready to compete right now. Because the whole twentieth century is always showing up in the paintings and poems sideways, and at odd angles, audiences won’t need to feel disappointed that they are falling into a trough of anything backwards seeming or retrograde. This is true, particularly because the free and easy approach to carnality is rather advanced, and executed with a sense of borderline-disjointed looseness. What can I say? All those years our architecture was dictating our art, it also pulled off the neat trick of freeing Philly’s bedroom antics, which were considerable in all circles, both when masks were necessary and when they were not.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Platonics and Neo-Romanticism


The parable of Plato’s cave is an interesting one for Neo-Romanticism. The idea, that all we perceive with our brains are shadows of a higher, more perfect reality which exists in some ethereal realm in (perhaps) a parallel universe, fits in perfectly with the sometimes gratuitous gorgeousness of Philadelphia’s architecture. If Philadelphia’s architecture amounts to shadows on the wall of the proverbial cave, echoing a more perfect reality, then Neo-Romantic art, if it is to fulfill its task and obligation to Philadelphia’s architecture, must embody a similar sense of the gorgeous. The duality inheres: Neo-Romanticism has on one side Philadelphia’s architecture, on the other side deep-set engagements with English Romanticism and French Neo-Classicism. All of this is involved, in Neo-Romanticism, in an unbounded sense of idealism around the potentialities of serious art. Our idealism, in fact, was and remains a kind of ghost for us; the sense of channeling worlds which must remain ghost worlds on earth, of translating the untranslatable, of manifesting the sublime as a mode of echoing a higher, inaccessible sublime. Art’s illustrious past is thus so well-worn in Philadelphia’s consciousness, from PMA on out, that Philadelphia artists must get used to the ghosts, the way citizens of Phoenix get used to the tarantulas. Idealism and the past form part of the mind’s architecture in and for Neo-Romanticism, and the Platonic which girds up the buildings which form our landscape become built into our mindscapes as well. This Apparition Poem attempts a co-opt move of Platonics, towards a realization of irony towards absurdity amidst the sturm und drang of the domestic:

You can’t
get it when
you want it,
but when I
want it I get
it; she rolled
over on her
belly, which
was very full,
and slept; its
just shadows
on the wall, I
thought, dark.

The idealistic idea that somewhere in the universe hovers a more perfect pregnant wife or mistress hangs heavy here. If the juxtaposition here— Greek philosophical gravitas with down-in-the-dirt domesticity and sexually charged strife— is a rich one, it is because the “ghosting” or apparitional process has happened in an unusual context or at an unusual moment. It has also erupted from the brain of an unusual protagonist. Abby’s Lost Twins is even richer, creating a scaffolding of allegories over parables under allegories about art history, gender, queerness, form (engagement, importantly, with David), and also the sense of dislocation, of being “ghosted,” through alienation alternating with familiarity to art’s past. The idealism in Neo-Romantic art is also a conceit, as in The Lost Twins— that the works of art we create can encompass everything, from pop culture to Duchamp to David, all at once, and put together in a novel formal package as elaborate and maze-like as anything on Broad Street or Pine Street in Center City Philadelphia, for example, or Fayette Street in Conshohocken, which is its own Narnian paradise. Somewhere, says the Neo-Romantic narrative, there exists a perfect universe of perfect works of art, which permanently capture and embody all important forms and themes. The ghost of this perfect, spectral world holds us in thrall as we attempt to channel it. We have our hint of it in Philadelphia’s architecture, Keats, Ingres, David, and now we become psychic lightning rods to bring it down to earth again. If this sounds Romantic, good. The idealism of Neo-Romanticism has as one of its foundations the belief in a shuddering, resonant, inter-connected and interstitially linked world, not just the shards and fragments of Modernism and post-modernism. What they chopped to bits, we impose wholeness and unity on.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Ingres and Text


The English Romantics were usually quite coy about sex and sexuality; Byron not that much, the others very much indeed. One of the odd facets of Neo-Romanticism is that the best bits of my poetry actually have as much to do with French Neo-Classicism, especially Ingres, as they do with the English Romantics, who I like to tease. Thus, this palimpsest over Wordsworth’s Solitary Reaper, who he quite chastely listens to in the ever-present Romantic enchanted forest, with its shuddering, resonant eco-system of sensations and thoughts:

I said, “I can’t
even remember
the last time I
was excited, how
can I associate
ideas?”
            She pulled
out a gun, a tube
of oil, and an air
cushion,
            and it was
a spontaneous
overflow,
            powerfully
felt, in which we
reaped together— 


Ingres, and his Odalisque, does a similar trick over Wordsworth’s coyness (they were contemporaneous), and also manages to create a chiasmus between architecture and sex. The way Ingres paints his nude, her architectural proportions, all the exquisite symmetries and scaffolding spaces, are what make her of permanent interest. She’s a building and, as the song goes, a brick house. Abby does a similar skyscraper trick in Meeting Halfway, which is frank on another level about sex and sexuality; not about the architecture and tactility of bodies, but about queerness, and how the body defines space in relation to its proclivities. That’s why Neo-Romanticism does not need to fall into a rut in which I am accused of being a predatory male in text, decimating women with my gaze; Abby’s presence redeems the whole package deal we offer with the sense of the bodies she paints, including also The Walls Have Ears, signifying the architecture not only of sex, but of the thoughts which sex builds in our mind out of the different, potentially queer, worlds we inhabit. The architecture, as it were, of sexual identity. All the ways sex can create ghosts or apparitions— that when two people sleep together, queer or not, a third entity is created which hangs as a ghost presence over the two; that being inside the body of another human being is potentially a dupe situation, in which you are really nowhere, if you have not also penetrated the other’s psyche; that bodily fluids around sexuality are ghostly or apparitional substances; and that every person you sleep with, if examined closely, creates another challenge of multiple meanings for those who wish to lead an aesthetically and socially examined life— are also ways sex has of putting up psychological scaffolding, which creates the phenomenological complexes which define our individuality in relation to the world. Wordsworth and the rest are too coy to get there; they remain in their own imaginations; Ingres and David, on this level, are richer, and so my translation (I cannot speak for Abs) of Ingres into text. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Our Architecture Did This To Us: Neo-Romanticism


This pdf collects writing on Neo-Romanticism and Aughts Philadelphia, on IAYoublisher, and in full-text.

Our Architecture Did This To Us...


Neo-Romanticism was partly created by Philadelphia’s architecture. What this means, in practice, is that all of us, especially Abby and I, were subconsciously attuned to the architectural level of Philadelphia as a city, and had spaces in our brains geared to create art out of processes of absorption, both by osmosis and in our conscious appreciation of what in Philadelphia architecture is sublime. As to Neo-Romanticism being, in a generalized way, about the spectral, the haunting/haunted, or the apparitional— Philadelphia architecture, from City Hall to the PMA to (even) the Liberty Place Towers and the PFSF Building in Center City, not to mention the houses and row-homes in West Philly and Fayette Street in Conshohocken, all have a sense of being channeled from an ethereal place, where elaborate maze-like structures wind into unexpected corners and something (a specter, an apparition) is always hiding in the maze of the buildings which you did not notice before. Neo-Romanticism channels and refines the same energies, as imposed on us by the architecture, which also has to do, as Neo-Romanticism does, with multiple meanings and complexity. As a work of architecture, what Philadelphia City Hall (or PMA, or Fayette Street) means can never be pinpointed simply or briefly. Complications in architectural exegesis lead to other complications, issues create and develop other issues, and the whole process Neo-Romanticism channels is an infinite string of tangents, beginning with the work of art out of the architecture. The tangents, which express these multiple meanings, can also be thought of as specters or apparitions. The development of perceptive powers, in these Philadelphia contexts, also require an acknowledgement of the omnipresence of phenomenology as an issue— what is inside and outside of our minds, and what is the nature of raw consciousness itself. Philadelphia architecture, and Neo-Romanticism, do not give perceptive viewers the option of closing interpretive vistas with simplicity and singularity that much.

Because our work was in many ways channeled from a city’s architecture, which can signify (among other things) a past, or the past, Neo-Romanticism’s relation to temporality, and how aesthetic pasts may impinge upon the present, is a complex tangent as usual. Because English Romanticism and French Neo-Classicism loom large for us, complicating the summons to action from Philadelphia’s varied, often baroque architecture, as we have created our body of work, we have worked out of weird temporality, or kinds of “time warps” (leading, it must be said, to some Rocky Horror-ish reactions to our work), which make the past an apparitional issue which creates tangents out of us and our endeavors. The phenomenological reaction to temporality— how our consciousness registers time passing, or not passing— is thus steeped in a Solid World sense that engagement with the aesthetic creates universes and dimensions in which new kinds of temporality may be experienced; and this sense, of odd time dimensions, is right there in the Philly streets (and in Conshohocken), as receptive psyches are imposed on by buildings which still emanate their own levels of consciousness, of being-in-the-world. The meaning of space, and a sense of phenomenological engagement which registers that space inside and outside of the mind offer opportunities for mirroring or “mirrored” situations to develop, makes it so that Neo-Romanticism has many levels of richness built into it from being hewn out of something already Solid. Do cities with the best architecture often produce the best art? Whatever brain space we worked out of, with Romanticism and Neo-Classicism bargaining a deal with architectural Philadelphia, and also with a good amount of general engagement with recent developments in the art-world (and I include under the “art” aegis literature as well), we began a process of creating for whatever audience was there the spectral, apparitional world which was demanded of us, and with inhering all the multiple meanings and tangential significations possible. That, I will assert, was always what was waiting to develop as serious art in Philadelphia, if it bothered to happen, which it now has. If some audiences used to singularity are wondering why we, as the Neo-Romantics, are so defiantly multiple all the time, now you know the reason: our architecture did this to us. An artist who is not susceptible to be imposed on by the sublime, when and where it exists, is not an artist. Architectural Philadelphia has been looking for apt conduits for a hundred years to answer its siren call, and we just happened to be there. The larger question remains: once other cities and art-worlds have stepped into the maze, grasped the spectral and the apparitional, gleaned the right multiple meanings, what will the world then bother to make of us, and us of them? 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Neo-Romanticism and the Solid World


One of the difficulties of pursuing a Solid World lifestyle is that the Regular World is implacable. Not just implacable, much of the time, but monstrous. The phenomenological import of the Regular World on the Solid World is (sorrowfully) almost always mind-rape and molestation. As to why the Regular World, so much of the human race, needs to game against the Solid— the human race on earth are still rather young, and not all souls are equally developed. Some souls can handle and appreciate the Solid, others become frightened and intimidated by it. It stands to reason that a warning be issued to anyone who pursues high art, philosophy, or science seriously, or even other humanities pursuits at high levels— if you stick to your guns in an individualistic fashion, you must expect some persecution for doing so. Yet the Regular life is no place at all for individuals, because the backbone of the Regular is homogeneity and conformity. Neo-Romantic art is always stuck at a kind of crossroads here— trying to take facets of Romanticism and Neo-Classicism and update them in an individualistic fashion, while also being palatable enough to “blend in” and be shown and/or published along with others. Others, it might be added, who fit the profile of the corporate and/or bureaucratic, and who espouse positions blatantly for the Regular and against the Solid. Why Neo-Romanticism should win in the end is the same reason Romanticism and Neo-Classicism won in the end— superior formal rigor and narrative-thematic gravitas inhering in the art, influenced by the sublimity of Philadelphia’s architecture and the sense of Philadelphia (also) as haunted, spectral, apparitional. The major Neo-Romantic seeds, I would venture to say, have already been planted. I will tend the garden for as long as I have the capability of doing so. What I would encourage others to do, who like Neo-Romantic art, is to use us as a template, but (please) be willing to acknowledge our influence. No one likes to feel ripped off, and rip-offs (these days) are Regular.

Neo-Romantic art makes a bunch of assumptions which are worth discussing. That there is a tie in serious art between formal beauty and individuality which is worth cultivating, and that was largely eschewed by twentieth century art; that formality itself is expressive, above and beyond the conceptual; and that the conceptual basis for the development of forms has to do with Solid World attachment to the Irregular and to the sense that Regularity necessitates homogeneity of forms and themes by guaranteeing material rewards to imposters and conformists. Aughts Philadelphia was, in general, not a rewarding place/context for conformists. Yet, it will take some time for us to be a straightforward, Regular “buzz.” Warhol in the 60s and 70s, for example, was not particularly like that; he “buzzed” plenty in his own time; yet, the whole point of his work is built-in obsolescence, which assures his oeuvre no future at all in a century which values individualism and the Solid. If you are interested in Neo-Romanticism, please prepare yourself for a long, rewarding ride. Not only that— that we embraced form as perhaps the most serious mode of aesthetic individuality means that those with sufficient brains will never find leave to be embarrassed with us. The spine of our body of work is set sturdily and securely in place. As in Romanticism and Neo-Classicism, the multi-dimensional aspect of myself and Abby— that there is strong narrative-thematic material to enhance, gird, and reinforce the formal, manifesting an ideal of the work of art as well-rounded and Solid— can only intermittently interest the Regular world, ever. When was the last time you saw the name John Keats in the New York Times or the New Yorker, or, for that matter, The Philadelphia Inquirer? The Solid World is always in the process of building and rebuilding itself, and re-inventing its own architecture. If what the Regular World has in store for us is scripted respect backed with distance and mistrust, who cares? The reason to create (ultimately) is that you want to create, and you can; and this axiomatic assumption undergirds not only Neo-Romanticism, Romanticism, and Neo-Classicism, but any attempt by an individual to do anything with any depth or higher meaning. As such, this is the Solid axiom to start from with us.

Friday, September 4, 2015

More Notes On The Solid World


John Keats left the planet Earth in 1821. His work gradually began to gain some prominence in the 1850s, 30-35 years after his death. Let’s not forget how the Regular World works, folks— I would estimate that each year, between 1821 and 1855, there were thirty major prizes, grants, and fellowships given to poets in the UK, from Oxford, Cambridge, and elsewhere. Over 35 years, that’s roughly one thousand awards. John Keats, during his brief lifetime, never won any prizes, awards, or fellowships. John Keats was a Solid World poet all the way, and righteously individualistic into the bargain. Righteous individuals do not tend to be awarded or recognized by the Regular World at all, who prefer (usually, and in the short term) clowns and dummies. Why the Solid World winds up wiping the floor with the Regular World is that products of the Regular World tend to have a built-in obsolescence— they are made specifically to be ephemeral. This goes for high and low disciplines. But the game against individuals is simple— to delude individuals into believing that the Regular World approach is better, necessary, and worth making sacrifices of integrity and creativity for, is one stated aim of the Regular World. The Regular World is all about Devil’s bargains. The Solid World, conversely, is all about a different sense of time and space— the whole purport of the Solid World is to develop one’s brain and imagination to its fullest creative capacities, from rock music straight through to science. Now that the Internet has incised into America some respect for the Solid World (and, in some sectors, for Philadelphia as a Solid city), it can be registered how space, the spatial, registers in Solid World contexts. No one individual, btw, can keep up with the Regular World— one of its strategies to incapacitate individuals is to create a deluge effect so that, forced to keep up, individuals have no time left to develop their imaginations. The Regular World is there specifically to incapacitate individuals— but the Internet is creating cognitive space around individuals which is difficult to disrupt, and continuous imaginative flows are now possible as more and more Regular World taunts and admonitions are ignored. The Solid World essential lesson is a phenomenological one— that physical space, outside of our brains, is mirrored and echoed by the cognitive spaces within our brains.

As for the Solid World and the temporal— what Keats calls “silence and slow time”— the way we experience time in Regular World contexts is invariably a frog-march towards an ever receding target, and/or the monotony of carrot and the stick games. We must remember that, with the brain equipment that human beings have, and their abilities to tune in on high frequencies and recognize and assimilate anomalies, the whole idea of a Regular World is a fallacious one. The Universe is not, strictly speaking, Regular. It is too diverse and too complex as an organism. So that leading a frog-march life, forced or not, has nothing to do with anything. Solid World time or temporality is psychedelic— time has different ways of passing or not passing, depending on what we are thinking about or whatever we happen to be creating. The vicious Regular World versions of time, where groups and conglomerates pulverize time into a sense homogeneity and singularity against individual endeavor, are circles which the Internet can break, by introducing individuals to the algorithms and algorithmic endeavors of other individuals. Imaginations can be kindled by other imaginations, from individual to other individual, and the Regular World will stand by helplessly, hoping no one notices that their hegemonic reign is over. The Neo-Romantic endeavor was initiated and sustained, from Philadelphia on out, because we all had ways and means of tuning out the Regular World. Philadelphia’s superior architecture not only helped (Conshohocken has superior architecture too), it created a mirroring, echoing spatial dimension in our brains which could be used as a template to follow; thus, Abby’s superior compositions and the Cheltenham Elegies in totem. Philadelphia’s superior architecture is one of its many insignias of Solidity, and the Regular World goes out of its way not to notice. But Abby and I both had susceptible brains the right way.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

(Welcome To) Psychedelic America


There are a plethora of assumptions which gird up the Regular World, both of the media and of institutions, and which are designed to express hegemonic power over all other worlds, including the slow, Solid World of human progress. These assumptions include— the idea, emanating from the media and from corporate/bureaucratic institutions, that we are the center, and that we represent everyone; that we are trustworthy, and work up to significant moral/ethical standards; that anyone who wishes to be progressive or au currant must pay close attention to us; and that the achievers chosen by us to be celebrated are both cohesively real people and the highest achievers in their disciplines. Yet the Regular World is maintained, also, by some obvious fallacies— that human progress happens at even intervals, which it does not; that there is always relevant action in the high disciplines and everywhere else, which there is not; that corporate and bureaucratic sectors do not put together dummy packages to sell to the public, which they do; and that slow, Solid World progress does not (invariably) wind up grabbing the historical brass ring every time, thus nullifying the Regular World ostensible achievements of dummies, drones, and dupes. The Internet is now frustrating the narratives and mythologies of the Regular World by making the Solid World, its, slow, steady progress, accessible to be read or listened to at any time by a public tired of clowns, dummies, and corporate drones. With this process, the assumptions made by Regular World stalwarts, especially in the press, are being frustrated and thwarted by a newly educated, newly enlightened public. The question, in America, of who stands in the cultural center is a huge one; and the same goes for philosophy and science. That we may be standing on the threshold of the emergence of a culturally disparate America, with a refined sense of cultural taste, honed by contact with the Solid, is a major issue in this country, who can no longer be taunted by Western Europe (which is far sicklier then us right now anyway) as lightweights, nitwits, or Philistines.

If the American cultural map begins to shift around the Solid World, obviously Aughts Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Renaissance, The Philly Free School, Neo-Romanticism, will all benefit. Where the road may lead next is impossible to predict, except to say that the next Philly may be Detroit in two years or Miami in twenty, or neither. The Regular World will not be there to force its, and our, hand, and fill up space with corporate/bureaucratic blarney. A contradiction of the Solid World is this— because real human progress is irregular, and can happen anywhere at any time, the progress of Solid World culture is, in a broad manner of speaking, psychedelic. Mind-expanding also works; and, as I send out both a wake-up call and a Welcome to Psychedelic America, the hope I hold here is to reach as many people as possible with the sense that the possibilities, once the Regular World is officially snubbed, are limitless. Not that the Regular World is going anywhere; because of who the human race largely are, it can’t be; but the Regular World must have a sense now of being disoriented by several generations of artists and thinkers who will not settle for corporate and bureaucratic contexts, and demand freedom to pursue individual, organic, as irregular-as-needs-be agendas. There may also be issues of composites or “mutts”— conglomerate interests who want to pursue half Solid, half Regular agendas. Okay. Still, once enough Solid energy is let into the air, the cultural and intellectual vibe is free to create an American package deal which has in it some passionate dedication to creativity meant to endure, rather than merely to fill up space or represent other interests.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Let's Get Solid...


Over a long period of time, the human race has accrued to it some stable, solid achievements. When there are solid achievements in the high sectors or disciplines— science, philosophy, and high art— the processes by which the achievements are recognized and assimilated happen, always, slowly and incrementally. Solid human progress, in fact, is always slow. What I want to argue is that the Internet has created a new kind of Solid World context. Here, the seeds planted are free to grow incrementally, and thus establish and consolidate a solid basis for progress on high levels. This Solid World is angled specifically against what I call the Regular World, which is bound by laws which make human progress impossible— newspapers which must come out every day, magazines and journals which must be released month by month, and especially (for the high disciplines) prizes, grants, and fellowships which must be awarded at regular intervals. Whenever anything must be repeated at regular intervals in high-discipline sectors, with no leeway given to lulls and fertile periods, human progress is being arrested. Regularity is essentially corporate, and bureaucratic. It is also not constructed to withstands major changes, when and if they happen— why Solid World material takes a long time to be assimilated. The 2015 Solid World online pile-up is thus a profoundly disruptive force. It is also one of the key reasons I am still alive and working steadily. That Solid World schedule— what appears online happens in its own time, at regularly irregular junctures— is demonstrating for the public what human life can be at its best, and most creative. Militaristic regularity does not have to disrupt or corrupt serious creativity— organic devotion to an interior life can be the name of the game, and serious individuality cultivated.

Regularity (as has been spotted) is also a game to destroy individuals— but the new 2015 thinking populace are allowed to no longer be fooled by the corporate and the bureaucratic. Furthermore, what is Solid online now manifests the promise of growing more Solid as time passes; so that the corruption of the Regular will continue to be exposed at all points. Individuality will be cultivated in more sectors, and respect and toleration for individuals will have to be learned. The abrasiveness of the corporate and the bureaucratic, and its machine-like Regularity, towards individuals, is one reason the twentieth century was a partial charnel ground; animated by clowns and dummies. Because Regularity must pretend that human progress happens at regular intervals, which it very much does not, clowns and dummies must be created to fill in the corporate blanks or dossiers, while the Solid must happen elsewhere. Trash has to be generated to fill media vats— Regularity demands it— but now, we live in an America which is developing a sense of balance about such issues. As the public develops tastes for organic irregularity, its superior, progress-oriented righteousness, confusion may have to reign for many decades to come. What was a hands-down victory for the corporate and the bureaucratic in the twentieth century may become a hotly contested, high-stakes battle for hegemonous power and influence in the twenty-first.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Emotions and Inter-Dialogism


How do the emotions of individuals play into, or out of, Inter-Dialogism? To make an Inter-Dialogic leap into someone’s brain and out again, and glean whatever you can, presupposes in the individual making the leap that personal emotions will not interfere with the process. Obviously, human consonance being what it is, this cannot always be the case. The murkiness of making an Inter-Dialogic leap while one’s emotions are wreaking havoc with one’s ability to perceive truth is a fact of life, both in literature (the more personal varieties of literature) and in our daily lives. In fact, the core essence of both Meta-Dialogism and Inter-Dialogism are threatened by their potential chiasmus with chaotic, disheveled, impenetrable emotions, and by the sense that without the objectivity that manifests along with emotional detachment, both of these leaps become mere leaps of faith, unsteadied by a relationship to what might be called intuitive empiricism. This plays out in poetry, literature, and drama, in the manifestation of unreliable narrators, characters desperate, destructive, unlucky, and emotionally unsteady enough so that, as intuitive as they might be, neither we as an audience nor they can ever really be sure they are drawing the right conclusions from whatever situation might be at hand. Inter-Dialogism is dogged by subjectivist interests every time, so that rose colored or dark colored spectacles take raw data and misshape them or configure them out of proportion. Apparition Poem 1488 is a case in point— a representation of a harsh situation— complete severance of contact with the beloved in question for the protagonist— with no reason given. What ever Inter-Dialogic leaps have been made on both sides have led to stalemate; even as the protagonist, as besotted as he might be, must adopt the dry ice approach in discussing his predicament:

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—

We assume here that there have been Inter-Dialogic leaps on both sides. Yet, if these are two emotionally vulnerable, emotionally unstable individuals, what has been communicated from brain to brain cannot sink in and be assimilated the right way. This is especially the case if booze is involved, which confuses boundaries and senses of proportions and forces things to flow in a warped direction. That warpage gives 1488 an eerie glow of strange dimensions and unclean leaps, unclean consciousness. The significance of the linoleum floor as a symbol is that it works as a synecdoche of all the different forms of warpage on offer here— alcoholism, emotional desperation, overactive imaginations, and (perhaps most tragically) Inter-Dialogic leaps which suggest both some purity of intention and some genuine psycho-affective chemistry, but which are getting trampled by the inhumanity of the landscape these characters inhabit. Linoleum floors are cold, un-homely, homogenous surfaces, which reflect (also) the coldness of the complete severance between the two in question. The warm, companionable, sensuous side of drunken-heartedness— vino veritas, also— is being buried by consciousness which can no longer have stable reactions, so that what has been learned from the requisite Inter-Dialogic leaps knitting soul to soul cannot be recalled and skillfully employed the right way. It may be the case that the muse of 1488 knows this, and that it accounts for her severance of the relationship. If so, the protagonist has a ways and means of accessing a note of pure pathos, which resounds in the poem, even as he also reveals that his assumed mastery of his muse’s heart, and what it has in it (“all that ever was/of drunkenness”), has to be false, because he seems not to know the reason for the sudden severance, which should be clear to him. When Inter-Dialogism is nullified by subjectivist interests, consciousness can fester and transform itself into all shapes and sizes of narcissistic delusion, even as the protagonist in 1488 attempts to reach beyond his narcissism.   

Saturday, August 29, 2015

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. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

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.



Thursday, August 27, 2015

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.



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

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.