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.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Brain Symmetry


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

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

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

Monday, August 24, 2015

Irony and the Elegies


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

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

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

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Inter-Dialogism


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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Gyan Books: Posit-Deposit



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

Camouflage


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

Friday, August 21, 2015

Neptune Games


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

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

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Prelude: Underwater Moods


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

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

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Neptune in Pisces: Creepy, Lurid, Macabre


I’ve always felt that Pisces is the creepiest sign/archetype in the Western zodiac. The reason is relatively simple: with Pisces, unlike the other signs (including water signs Cancer and Scorpio), the action is all underwater. The Piscean underwater-world is full of shadiness, darkness, strange, magnetic beauty but also erosion, deterioration, and death. Underwater, consciousness may bump into anything without knowing what it is: friend or impostor, predator or prey. I bring this up because Neptune, Pisces’ ruling planet, is doing a long-term transit in Pisces as of 2015, and will be in Pisces for the foreseeable future. Which, if one were to take it literally (I take it, as I take most occult/astrology lure, half-literally), signifies a strange time in which inexplicable things happen, magnetic currents create an underwater sensation for a large portion of Earth’s populace, and there is a creepy evanescence to all the regular pastimes and pursuits with which the human race passes its time or expends its energy. 

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

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

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Shelley's Semi-Empiricism


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

Monday, August 17, 2015

Visions 5: Deals


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

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

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

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Visions Pt. 4: The Chap


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

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

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Visions Pt. 3: Drive


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

Friday, August 14, 2015

Visions of Innocence/Experience Pt. 2


Both the Odes and the Elegies offer what might be called, without undue Romanticism, visions of Eternity— the Odes, Eternity-as-Music, the Elegies, Eternity-as-Drama. When I say Eternity, I mean to signify the reality of timelessness and a visionary sense that mind-scapes can exist and subsist in states of frozen timelessness. So, as the Odes tell us that Eternity is its own kind of music and the Elegies tell us Eternity is its own kind of drama, the dichotomous split between Music and Drama, how they are involved in temporality and recuperated pasts (whereby and wherein the present is the past and the past is the present), the Gyan Books chap creates for us a confusion or systematic derangement of time-zones. How these deranged time-zones are demarcated, to the extent that there is demarcation, has to do with how both the Odes and the Elegies employ archetypes, which are used to imply suspended temporality in many aesthetic contexts. Keats’ Odes employ deductive, generalized archetypes— Love and Beauty (Psyche and Eros), enchanted forests, self-referential musicality, relics from classical antiquity. The Elegies employ inductive, specific archetypes (in other words, attempt to create new archetypes)— Old York Road, Elkins Park Square, Tookany Creek, Subarus, Jettas. When forced to cohabitate in a print text context, these two approaches to archetypes, and archetypal timelessness, balance the sense that the Elegies offer (still) a quotidian world, rather than the transcendentalism of the Odes.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Visions of Innocence/Experience Pt. 1


An elegiac issue: is the Elegiac Protagonist, as he appears in the Cheltenham Elegies, an egomaniac; and, if so, does it reduce or abrade his presence in the Elegies? The premise the Elegies work from is that this Protagonist left Cheltenham to make his name in the world as an artist, and proceeded to do so, with a reasonable amount of success. The claim he stakes in 261—“I say “I” and it works”— reinforces the impression that his self-image is assured, possibly bordering on arrogance. Yet, the subtext (it seems to me) is that the Elegiac Protagonist’s self-confidence or (pejoratively) arrogance, manifest in his stance before Cheltenham, was adopted as an adolescent as a self-protective measure against Cheltenham’s intrusions into his consciousness— nothingness places, nothingness voices. The phenomenological tension of feeling these places and voices in his consciousness meant that he would need to develop his own places and voices to counter them. Thus, the Elegiac Protagonist begins the meta-dialogic task: building a repertoire of voices to protect him from the niggling voices which haunted him growing up, and which he can never quite eradicate from his conscious and unconscious mind. The cognitive dissonance of appearing arrogant in the Elegies is balanced by the sense that the Protagonist’s arrogance has in it also the courage of making a bold stand against nothingness realms, nothingness people. If it is taken as precisely that, it is not (then) mere arrogance (though it can appear to be arrogance when backlit the right way); it is a mutable, chameleon like force which allows the Protagonist to navigate tight, uncomfortable phenomenological corners from within the resources of his individual mind— although, inevitably, some may see it as mere arrogance.

Keats’ Odes and the Cheltenham Elegies both have to do with youth and adolescence— in Keats, the innocence and ecstasy of youth, both its sensuality and its creativity; in the Elegies, how youth may look from many years into adulthood, once objectivity has enumerated how the world works and why it works that way. In the Gyan Books chap, which is interestingly sequenced— Apologia, some Elegies, Odal Cycle, more Elegies— it is interesting to note how the Elegies and the Odes condition each other. The exquisite musicality of the Odes and the exquisite dramatic tensions of the Elegies find a way/manner of commingling that is more complimentary than one might think. The Blakean dichotomy here— innocence versus experience— gives rise to some rather spooky, uncanny tensions between the two sets of poems. What the Odes seem to say to the Elegies— music is eternal, and (to quote Nietzsche) life without music would not be worth living— chides the Elegies for their cynicism, bleakness, and clipped terseness, and also places bets on the immortality of joy and affirmation over pain and despair. The Elegies are happy (so to speak) to answer back incisively— that the beauty here is in truth consonance, and that when dealing with flesh over archetypes, and the phenomenology of mind against mind (or minds), music must fade to the back, however immortal and gloriously innocent it might be. Keats’ “brooklet scarce espied” is a nod to the rarity of real music (immortal music); and the Odal Vision is the manifestation of something rare and precious in the world. The Elegies counter by their superabundance of material which we see everywhere in human life— not only mind or minds against mind (and the phenomenology of minds within minds), but the one against the many, the individual against the community, the artist against the philistines, and the present against the past— not to mention the omnipresence of duplicity, treacherous self-interest, and absolute human homogenization to abased norms.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Mysteries of Music


As John Keats aces out Arthur Rimbaud as the ultimate “systematic derangement of the senses” practitioner in his Odes, the next, obvious question arises: why does Keats need to systematically derange the senses of both himself and his audience? What does Keats, or his audience, get from it? One answer— not the only by any means— is that the systematic derangement of the senses in Keats’ Odes can stand as a metaphor for the mysteries of poetic music (melopoeia). That is, the exquisite prosodic level of the Odal Cycle— what, first and foremost, makes it peerless in the canon of English language literature— has mysteries hewn into it which Keats is bearing down on incisively by tacking the tack he does. Why do sounds move us, derange our sense and/or moods, the way they do? Why is music, or prosody here, transform consciousness into something more limpid, fluid, ecstatic than it was before? By taking Keats’ prosody and making it our own Grecian Urn to dissolve into (in our derangement), we may begin the work of investigating why the human race might have a need both for music and for poetic language and their transformative power. We also may begin with the acknowledgement that, among its many facets, the Odal Cycle has a way of being “meta,” self-referential— the Odes make a marked attempt, if read correctly, to reference their own effort to create a visionary landscape or mindscape with poetic music, melopoeia, and thus mystify the senses of their readers, scramble sensory data in all directions, all towards dissolution into higher echelons of consciousness. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I-Thou/I-It: 60/40 split


I have demarcated spaces for what I call an I-Thou approach to serious poetry, and an I-It. The I-Thou approach leans towards naturalness, intimacy, and Nature as principles; while the I-It approach prizes objectivity, distance, and a rough or harsh version of Nature. Also under the aegis of I-Thou: what Keats calls “sweetness,” which usually has to do with sexual or sexualized processes in Nature; purity, whereby perverse impulses do not destabilize subsistence within Nature’s bounds, and most impulses are wholesome or healthy; sex itself; Keats’ Odal Cycle and the Cheltenham Elegies; and what John Keats (his body of work) does as a textual signifier in general. Under the aegis of I-It: perversity in regards to the Nature, and a tendency to dwell on the rougher, harder aspects of Nature; less interest in sex, and more fascination with death, bodies as cadavers/corpses; the two poems which I feel constitute the most incisive work of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Adonais and Mont Blanc (which is, admittedly, and more than Adonais, split between I-Thou and I-It); and many of my own Apparition Poems. As per Mont Blanc into Adonais: Shelley’s vision of Mont Blanc, which is then internalized and imposed on the corpse of Keats in Adonais; that Nature (human and otherwise) is halved between creative and destructive elements/impulses; still leaves the door open for Shelley to emphasize death over sex, and perversity over pleasure, to then create a lurid palimpsest over the Odal Cycle, and to bring his attentive readers back to the home truth of the mortality of flesh, sans what redeems mortality for Keats— the possibility of a chiasmus, always, with the immortal in Art and Nature. So, Shelley finds a way of bullying Keats into place once he is merely flesh.

If I had leave to quantify which is more relevant, incisive, truth consonant, and major high art consonant between I-Thou and I-It: I give, for reasons I will explain, I-Thou a 60/40 advantage over I-It. My reasons have to do with philosophy: that there is an ontological sense in which it cannot be proven that being, or being-in-itself, or (to use Kant’s term) the noumena, is finite or perishable. Once a cohesive being is set into motion within the charmed circle of existence as matter, or being-in-matter, it cannot be created or destroyed. To simply matters: where existence is concerned, and on a profound level most do not realize subsists: when you’re in, you’re in. The pulverizing perversity which prefers corpses to sex and objectivity to intimacy— I-It— has in it something eternal— about severity, ends, severance in general. There will always be deaths following births through the cosmos, just as third person objectivity has an interesting way of animating, via incisive angles, different forms/manners of existence. Third person objectivity is a kind of knife in serious art and poetry, cutting through things, sharpening perceptions with incisions. If first person intimacy is slightly more powerful, and in tune with the endeavors of both Romanticism and Neo-Romanticism, it is because by consolidating the very basis of being, in the world and out, and by showing us the ways and manners of being-in, and of matter changing, specifically matter changing forms (corpses being static, sex being dynamic), first person (first person to second person, to be precise) intimacy takes us to what the richest veins of our existence are, in a way that third person objectivity cannot. First person intimacy illuminates rather than incises, and what it illuminates symbolizes how our perceptions can attain at least a degree of immortality.  

Monday, August 10, 2015

Trish: Neo-Romanticism


Trish: A Romance manifests an interesting chiasmus between Romanticism and feminism. The Romantic poets, as a gestalt whole (including their work), were not feminists; yet what we gleaned from their endeavor informed the reality of Aughts Philadelphia to a pronounced enough extent that, as we immersed ourselves in transcendental realities, we often turned to them for inspiration. Or, at least Trish and I did. As to what constitutes Romanticism for a creative woman, what I call a Creatrix: it is not merely the development of subjectivity/individuality, the pursuit of a distinct, irreplaceable “I”; nor is it merely the development of imagination and sensibility. Romanticism here has to do with being willing to live a certain kind of life, walk a certain kind of walk. You have to burn, as an individual, both towards creation and towards a kind of intense engagement with the world around you; and the richness of different forms and manners of experience must be the kind of richness you cultivate. It is not necessarily an anti-materialistic impulse; sex and art can both be materialistic; but it is an impulse towards living a day-to-day reality impinged upon by idealism, the pursuit of formal beauty and knowledge of forms, and the sense that “dryness,” mere academicism or didacticism, is accursed, in art as in life. Romanticism is promiscuously engaged with living on as many levels as an individual falling under its aegis possibly can. So that, at the end of Trish, when I reach a moment of truth or gist-point, it is to sum up both Trish as a woman and Trish as an ideal, who in herself stands for the entire endeavor of Aughts Philadelphia art, and the questing spirit on all levels which lead us to walk the tightropes we were willing to walk and to create from a place which embodied not only rigor bur risk:

Is it only because I can still sit
here, writing these lines, that our
escapades still seem like good ideas?
If we did end up corpses, who would
be the wiser? On this account, I
have no solid answers. I can only
say that for some reason, some humans
need the charm, the sparkle, the electricity
of romance, and will put their lives
on the line to attain it. So it was for
us. Those that are kith and kin to us
will understand. Those that aren’t may
choose to laugh at our foolishness. But
it must be dry, accursed laughter to us.

What this last sonnet offers, in miniaturized form, is a coherent, cohesive value system, a moral/ethical code around the pursuit of the aesthetic, which is disciplined towards Romanticism, both the nineteenth century aegis/movement, and the mere, not capitalized pursuit of romance. That this is both moral and didactic constitutes an irony, because this value system seems to manifest the morality of amorality and the ethics of chaos. Yet the lessons of Romanticism have to do largely with taking standardized moral and ethical norms and replacing them with equivalents for those who wish to create on high levels. In the variegated world Romanticism offers, and as we chose to take it, as post-Romantics or Neo-Romantics, the biggest failure is not, as Walter Pater would say, to form habits; to form the habit of risking your life for your work or art is actually a good idea here; the failure is to not heed the siren call of an existence supercharged by all forms of engagement with the world; to retreat into self, dull, dry, non-transcendental frigidity. Romanticism or Neo-Romanticism risks, always (also) the accusation of Peter Pan-ism in its participants; that the siren call is, in fact, a lure towards immaturity and infantile narcissism. The point must be taken that this is often the case. However, some of us in Aughts Philadelphia, the Neo-Romantic faction of Aughts Philadelphia Renaissance creativity, felt that the risks of what conventionally constitutes maturity— moderation against sensual excesses, abstention from non-sanctioned scenes and art-circuits, belief in the durability of precise routines— were too great, and that the road of excess was rather a safer one for us to travel on than the straight and narrow. If Romanticism has been made parochial by the Academy, we wanted to redeem it by putting it where it belongs— in the streets and the beds where its vagaries may be profitably relived. That it is at the heart of the Neo-Romantic endeavor, as I see it— the recuperation of Romantic idealism from the torpor of parochial systems back into the heart of darkness and light which is all the carnality, Dionysian wildness, and systematic dedication to romance we see in Trish. From the classroom back between the sheets.    


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Trish: The Creatrix


As feminists have duly noted, the archetypal figure Psyche in Keats’ Odal Cycle is not exactly empowered. She provides fodder for Keats to create a convincing imaginative vista from; her overt sexuality, her beauty and vulnerability create a space for her to unite the Heaven and Earth. She is a goddess who can descend to earthly tactility and palpability. As she unites all realms, Keats’ reaction in text is intellectually, emotionally, and physically satisfying for him; but we are never shown whether that sense of satisfaction is shared by Psyche. We may choose to believe that Psyche, being a goddess, is loftily sublime over the kind of impulses which create the congeries of Keats’ reaction to her; or it may be that Keats wishes us to believe that Psyche mirrors him precisely, as a tangent (also) to Echo as a mythological figure. If feminists disrespect Keats’ version of Romanticism, it is because, by not granting Psyche a voice, he exudes a sense of supercilious condescension to her/ in her direction. Perhaps. But this is not an issue in Trish: A Romance: Trish is introduced to us, in the poem’s opening sequence, as having painted a masterpiece called The Vessel, which we see hanging in a prominent public position. The Vessel is an imaginative vista opened by Trish herself; we perceive her, instantly, as both having a voice and carrying the clout to make it publicly heard. More than that: she is a creative artist of some stature; we might call her, in the adumbrating of Trish mythology, a Creatrix. If the Creatrix, or any Creatrix figure, is to take her place as a Romantic archetype next to Psyche, and other passive Muses, the first recognition of how this may happen is the recognition that the Creatrix has a will-to-power which is uniquely her own. She is able to unite the intellectual, emotional, and physical compartments of her consciousness, by imposing her imaginative will on the world. Trish’s Philadelphia is specifically a stage on which she can act out the complex dynamics of her will’s complications, intricacies, and idiosyncrasies.

So, if Trish becomes a Creatrix, we may see her as an empowered version of Psyche. She is post-Odal; sexualized, a figure of myth, vulnerable, down in the dirt, but an active, passionate player in the world nonetheless. There is no room for a Creatrix in the Odal Cycle; Keats needs to keep Psyche in place, and his starry-eyed Romanticism and spontaneous overflows of powerful feeling center on a version of the feminine which poses no threats to Keats’ masculinity. Keats, with Psyche, can afford to be androgynous; sex with her can be “sweet,” “tender,” and “quiet”; because she, as an archetype, cannot speak back to him. Trish is a back-talker and a tell-it-like-it-is straight shooter, who assumes parity (or superiority) to the males of the species, always. Trish, being self-made, will not brook interference, either with her art or what happens in her boudoir; and the protagonist of Trish accepts this, even as it lands him in deep water when he falls head over heels in love with her. The Creatrix is involved in complex intimacies:

There was a period in which we could
not talk to each other. I either
had to have her totally or not
at all. There would be no grey
for us. Was this karma for the
manner in which I treated
Lisa? Closing shift: Roger came
to pick up Trish. I heaved against
the glass doors before the manager
came to let us out. Romantic poems
were being written, informed by a
kind of desperation. I read Donne
for a Penn class and extrapolated

his stance (metaphysics abridging
Romanticism) and remembered
that first night, in which Trish
and I read “The Ecstasy” to each
other. Now, she horded her body
where I could not see. I have my
own conceits, I thought to myself,
walking home from Penn in rain.
Spring rains; Trish returns. She
seems chastened. There is a part
of her that needs me. It is a part
of her that she rebels against, so
that her manner towards me takes
the form of an interior war made exterior.


The complexity of Trish’s character is involved with trying to balance a creative and personal life; how to be impersonal, in major high art consonant ways, and personal simultaneously. Such is the way of the Creatrix; an archetypal figure who achieves states of balances by imposing her creative will on the cosmos. That feature of Aughts Philadelphia: a shared supposition among creative participants that women have as loud a voice as men, and the ability to make these voices heard on high public levels: is one that Trish goes out of its way to reinforce as more than mere myth. So it was. That’s why, at the end of the day, feminists should have reason to be satisfied both with Trish and with Aughts Philadelphia: the arrival in the world of several formidable Creatrixes coincided with so little resistance to their status as powerful presences that sexism in Aughts Philly was a no-go. You either (it was said) get hip to the girls, or you go. Our Romanticism, which was also a kind of Transcendentalism against mundane reality, was a collective embrace of complexity, as well as a sustained attempt to create a shared imaginative vista, all through the Philadelphia and West Philadelphia monuments, houses, bars, galleries, coffee shops, and the rest. What we created has many things in common with the imaginative vista opened by Keats’ Odes— a sense of cognitive enchantment, and a recognition of the mind’s capacity both to discern enchantment and then to re-create, in imaginative ways, what we have discerned— even as what a Creatrix is takes the Odal Vision, Odal Cycle, and Odal Stage, and utterly transforms it into a realm in which women, as well as men, can express how their own personal version of enchantment descended upon them, why, and where the road goes as it winds.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Trish: Something Places


In my discussion of Cheltenham Elegy 261, I offered the point that the American suburbs are repository areas for what I called nothingness places— places specifically built, maintained, and consolidated to mean nothing to anyone. What, for example, does the I-Hop on Old York Road mean to you? Yet this discussion begs an inversion— what would it mean for a place to be something— to have meaning inhering in it for someone, or for a group or sector of people? This is relevant to Trish: A Romance, because Philadelphia, as it appears in the narrative, is not a nothingness place for the characters who inhabit it. What Philadelphia means, in this context, is a stage for drama, romance, art, sexuality, and a variegated social life. The portions of Trish which take place in West Philadelphia represent a specialized, refined sub-world for the characters to do their dances in. West Philadelphia, which has only ever received wide national press coverage for the MOVE debacle of 1985, which unfairly portrayed West Philly as a slum or ghetto, should constitute a surprise for audiences here. As a stage, West Philadelphia offers these constituent elements— the rusticity of elegantly dilapidated, early twentieth century houses overrun with ivy, each with a grassy backyard; proximity to the University of Pennsylvania, many of whose students choose to live in West Philadelphia in a multi-cultural context; a large constituent group of hippies or “green” types, vegans who run their own communes out of West Philly; and what Baltimore Avenue is, as the main thoroughfare through West Philly; a strip offering not only interesting architecture but a no-skyscrapers, borderline-suburban intimacy, a homey or homespun quality against the larger scale of Center City Philadelphia.

West Philadelphia, for the characters in Trish, means freedom— a median realm between the suburbs and the city, offering the best of both, so that romance and sexuality can erupt in full flower with the minimum amount of interference. Those rustic houses encourage their inhabitants to let their hair down, and the easy West Philly vibe of the early Aughts was a further incentive to let intimacies develop. The portions of Trish that represent intimate encounters are the product of Philadelphia (and West Philadelphia) laissez-faire; the sense that the city could be used as a stage for eyes to get starry, and for bodies to respond to each other. This sequence in Trish amounts to a confrontation with totalized textual abandon towards sexual intimacy, and also expresses the spaciness or cosmic dimension we all saw and felt in Philadelphia in the Aughts:

For some reason we do not make
love that night, and when I wake up
I am fit to burst. I send red signals.
Trish’s compassion overtakes her: I
am getting sucked off. Her glasses
remain on. She is doing this because
she loves me, and love-waves are
communicated in oral gestures. She
means it. I can sense James

in the courtyard, listening. Will Trish
close around me at the right moment,
or will she miss? As I go off the edge,
I feel her miss slightly and then hit,
and I have left the planet. She is so
far beneath me that there is no seeing
her. She swallows me, and I will never
leave her mouth again. It is sealed.

How far can sex in poetry go? How much can physical sex come to seem enchanted, or an enchantment site (like Keats’ forest), or a touchstone towards greater human understanding, textual or otherwise? The limitations of English Romanticism dictated that Keats and the rest could never take us this far; individuals may judge for themselves whether a textual destination this graphic is a worthwhile telos for a narrative like Trish. Yet, why Philadelphia may seem to be an advanced rendering of Keats’ Odal Stage is that what we see in Philadelphia has greater truth consonance towards more vivid human realities then what Keats was allowed to offer us; narrative-thematic gravitas about actual encounters between humans (rather than the Keatsian play of archetypes), set in place to question (again, after two hundred years) why some souls seek romance, excitement, sex, and frissons, and others do not. West Philadelphia amounts to a safe haven for these questions to be formulated and then answered; as a stage, it manages to embody the right excitement with the right, semi-Odal sense of stillness, quietness, and sweetness. This is why the national media on Philadelphia are a joke; as an eminently complex place, trying to fit its round peg into the square hole of sound-bite culture, Philadelphia can never seem anything but stunted and gauche. It is only up close that we see Philadelphia broaden into its depth and complexity levels, which elevate it above most of the rest of the continental United States, so that it can become a potential stage for any human or humanistic drama it chooses to. In Trish, the wild, florid side of Philadelphia, the romance of and in its streets, is what manifests, and in that manifestation is the enchantment not only of superior architecture (which Philadelphia very much has) but of superior consciousness, and its own imperatives to intimacy.