Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Addendum


As an addendum to yesterday's post about Crowley's The Book of the Law, I want to make something clear about the text. Both Crowley's intro to the text and his postscript are written rather gauchely. Because, in the postscript, Crowley inappropriately suggests that the book should not be studied, for fear of the life of the individual who might study it, he comes across as rather a histrionic adolescent; or, as we see here, The Fool. The Fool on the Hill does, indeed, have a problem; through fooling around with states of non-being and nothingness, while trying to seem to himself like a substantial individual, a something, as it were, on the surface, the Fool has reduced himself to a Zero-state. As he plummets off the cliff, he is a reminder not to be half-assed, where Nothing/Something dichotomies are concerned. Crowley could have used this reminder. Those who will study The Book of the Law, for its literary excellence, will just have to deal with an author unwilling to handle what he has created, and who is more than willing to play the fool.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Do what thou wilt...


There is the big chunk of Crowley's Book of the Law which reads to me as superior poetry; then, there is the dictum which in many circles has become a commonplace: Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Crowley remarks, in his introduction, that Do what thou wilt constitutes a simple code of conduct; which implies that what is being signified is a simple Do what you want. Thus, the bastardization of Crowley into Satanic, adolescent cults and orders, mostly undeserved, is due partly to Crowley's own negligence; because there is another, richer way of reading Do what thou wilt. The way I have always chosen to read the dictum, Will (Thelema, in the text) is something, an individual essence, which must be divined for through processes of arduous spiritual labor and eventual catharsis. To "do one's will," one first has to know one's will thoroughly. The process of learning one's own will involves not only introspection but awareness of all levels and gradations of positive and negative Otherness; how the individual must stand in relation to the rest of the (complex, contradictory) human race. Not simple stuff. Just as Love is the law, love under will can only be the manifestation of internalizing complex realities and assimilating them over long periods of time. For the love to be there, under one's will, it must be directed concretely; you must be loving something or someone; and it is impossible to love everyone and everything.

P.S. This piece, on Crowley's novels Moonchild and Diary of a Drug Fiend, appeared on the British blog Eyewear in 2013.

Monday, June 26, 2017

I posit no boundary between us...


The line in the title poem of Posit (I posit/no boundary/between us) is one I'd like to parse, in reference to what Neo-Romanticism is meant to be in the humanities world in 2017. If looked at objectively, an argument could be made that Modern art, post-modern art, and Deconstructionist literary theory are all largely constituted by a succession of boundaries, and a succession of boundaries effect. In other words, the works of art, and the texts, are a game and a gambit against both intimacy, and the possibility of intimacy, between reader/viewer and creator. Deconstructionism configures intimacy as naive, as both an intention and a possibility, largely through the perceived obtrusion of the arbitrary into language and linguistic significations. Modernity and post-modernity lean heavily on alienation tactics and irony motifs. To get a little Wilde, the importance of being earnest is lost. Yet Deconstructionism must withstand its own contradictions; as Roland Barthes enumerates how we might be seduced by texts, it must be understood that what is seductive in textuality is, in itself, the possibility of writer/reader intimacy; and that intimacy can only be a viable possibility if what is arbitrary in language and balanced and offset by what in language and linguistic symbolization is purposeful (as Wordsworth would have it), and penetrant into the psyche of those who read and experience the text. In other words, scruples aside, language works.

Art works, too. Neo-Romanticism is, in fact, predicated on a belief in the efficacy of aesthetic symbolization, and (specifically), the positing of no boundary between creator and viewer/reader. Neo-Romanticism, on a primordial level (sprung, perhaps, from a ricochet to Philadelphia's buildings), believes in itself, and believes in its audience. Why the Dusie chap Posit, which ten years ago was ricocheting across the country for the first time, was more a statement of intention than I at first perhaps perceived, is because I failed to grasp the underpinnings of the work itself in regards to the primordial compact I unconsciously projected onto it, as I created it; a self-regulated, self-sustaining world of good faith, good intentions, and genial good will towards whoever might choose to read the text. The Neo-Romanticism which was born out of Aughts Philadelphia does, in fact, attempt to take the first person singular and make it genial again. There cannot be a "you," a second person singular, without an "I"; and the significance of poetry's primordial perspective, an "I" addressing a "you," is that it becomes a Heideggerian sheltering device against what might corrupt it from without. The succession of boundaries effect embedded in Modern and post-modern art, the creation of more and more vast distances between reader/viewer and creator, is not an effect Neo-Romanticism finds interesting. Formality is another issue, and off the table here; but, suffice it to say, formality creates the inherent genial good will of a rich relationship to history and histories, continuity of consciousness over long stretches of time. Formality adds levels of richness, rather than impoverishment.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Saturn on Docshare


Saturn is a pdf I compiled in 2013. It presents my first run of print books. Docshare has released the Saturn pdf here, in its own way/manner.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Aughts Elucidations


On page 125 of this document is what amounts to an invitation to understand both Philadelphia itself, and what the cultural composition of Philadelphia in the Aughts was. It also reveals something about what I purport to be Philly's sun sign (Gemini), and the more unfortunate dimensions of Geminian postures and behaviors- trash-talk, double talk, slander, insecurity, and evasion. The party who penned this screed wants to be forgotten what I cannot forget- at a certain point, the olive branch was specifically offered FROM the Philly Free School to this posse. They seemed to accept. It's just that, over the rest of the Aughts, some of my forward momentum in Philadelphia was specifically blocked off by their cruelty, childishness, and unwillingness to respect others. Having a choice between adult-level dignity and infantile posturing, I witnessed them usually making the more unfortunate choice. Yet, a good fight can be an interesting spectacle, Artaudian or not, and all this rivalry and trash-talk heightened the perspective that the Philly cultural scene gave off a good amount of light/heat. Go figure.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Ode: On the Schuylkill

On the river's bank, boat-legions rolled
    in search of commerce, bridges to build;
souls, cargo (heavy, light), bought & sold,
    coffers waiting in Philly to be filled.
Ladies stepped gingerly onto green banks,
   white satin, black lace, versed in politesse or no-
      patterns walked, insignias inscribed into air-
young ones, underlings already in their ranks,
   sought to make the landing show-offy, slow,
     down a hundred yards from a drunken fair.

Add a century, an Expressway looms over
    the murk- wave-sounds, squeals, & metal-
which the Schuylkill cannot answer, hovering
    under- slow-moving, patient, & settled.
The river's mind is settled- the human race
   churns around it restlessly, adding bodies
      shorn of dignity, bloated, pulp-bloody, blue,
having carried burdens the river never dreams
   of, emptiness so incorrigible the Schuylkill's face
      registers nothing but limp waves- tender, true.

The Keats-brain, peering in, questioning, elevates
    the Schuylkill's mystery into frozen heat-
truth & beauty all in the browning, decay, fate
    of all water-bodies subject to our meat-
I sit on the edge, watching overhanging leaves,
   frozen myself by the gross negligence
      of what lies beneath the river's surface,
& my own, as the summer sun inverts, grieves
   for the masses, exploring no penitence
      as I am, grounded, here, diving for purpose-

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Smitten European Syndrome


Anyone who's lived in Philadelphia for more than a few years knows the Smitten European Syndrome. On one's travels in Philly, periodically one will run into European folk, who passionately vow for Philadelphia against all the other American cities: for class, style, distinction, and dignity. It's just something that happens. Much of the European hoopla around Philadelphia has to do with architecture: after all, what a city essentially amounts to is a collection of buildings. As a collection of buildings in the continental United States, Philadelphia is peerless. What the Philly Free School amounts to, is an extended attempt to transmute the grandiosity, stateliness, and gravitas of Philadelphia's architecture into a body of higher artistic work; why I called one of our key pdfs Our Architecture Did This To Us. All these facets of Philly, as a construct, point to one essential reality: Philadelphia is an adult city; a city about solidity, on and beneath the surface. For the continental United States to grow into an appropriate awareness of PFS, all the sectors of America which remain Babyland sectors (the press corps are the worst, and NYC, with its bold-facade-with-nothing-behind-it emptiness, runs a close second) will have to grow up. What I'm doing here now amounts to planting seeds, because wheels this extensive and ponderous can only turn slowly.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

& Now, Chicago...

As per other Happenings Ten Years Time Ago: on July 6, 2007, I read with a bunch of Chicago poets at Kate the Great's bookstore in Andersonville, Chi-Town. We wound up doing three Philly Free School readings at Kate the Great's; the final one, in the summer of '08, capped off a trip on which I lectured at Loyola behind Opera Bufa. Illustrated here is a Loyola syllabus featuring the book; this, also, is a term paper written on the book for the class by Stacy Blair. But, back to the main: I forgot to mention: Philadelphia and Chicago do share many key issues. Chicago's image problem is a hinge to Philadelphia's: that to make Chi-Town simple is a fool's game. Down to rich Chicago suburbs appearing in 80s movies with which we learned our moves as kids (Bueller? Bueller?).

Friday, June 9, 2017

Dare


Philadelphia is a city with an image problem. To make a long story short: Philly is impossible to nutshell. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: if Philly has a sun sign, it is certainly Gemini. Geminis do, often, have image problems: they tend to be too complex, too all over the place, to make easy summary possible. The press are wankers and adolescents and need their soundbites, and other cities come through just fine (at least on the surface): DC is the government, LA is Hollywood, Vegas is casinos, Frisco is queers and queerness, Nawlins is alcohol, the Florida cities are the Florida Lifestyle, the Texas cities are the Texas Lifestyle, Seattle went from Nothing to Grunge to Nothing Again, Pittsburgh/Cleveland/Detroit are junk/trash, and the funniest, for those who observe the tactile realities of the United States beneath the surface, is NYC as the power center of everything. Philadelphia is just too complicated, too ornate, as its architecture is, to do the sound bite routine. So you will encounter anomalies: Garrison Keillor, avant-garde hipster extraordinaire, on the Prairie Home Companion, confidently summarizes Philadelphia as a "working class city." On the other hand, a movie like 2009's Dare, which amounts to a staging of Less Than Zero in the rich Philadelphia 'burbs, emphasizes all the Easton-Ellis paradigm insignias of too much too soon, from queerness to sex/drugs/alcohol/money.

Indeed, what Dare actually is, is a meta-movie, staging something daring: accurate reportage of what the Philly 'burbs really add up to, beneath the surface. And, as the movie unfolds, the sturm und drang around putting the pedal to the proverbial metal towards an apotheosis of affluent, wasted youth, brings to the surface yet another Philly complexity; the kinds of kids and families who might hire Rocky Balboa as a plumber or maintenance man. They were there in 1976, too. You just didn't see them then.

Ten Years Gone: Double Imperatives


Ten years ago today, on June 9, 2007, I stepped into the post office, on Chestnut Street between 20th and 21st Streets in Center City Philadelphia, to mail out the first copies of my Dusie chap Posit. A decade and many books and e-books later, it is interesting to reflect, on June 9, 2017, what it means to spend ten years publishing at or on high levels. What it brings to the surface, for me, is an awareness and an acknowledgment that we are living through a transitional time, where publishing is concerned. The splintered or splintering effect in publishing, created by the competing, not always commensurate demands of online life against print life, has created a sense of the whole enterprise as a whirling dervish highwire act. Posit, in 2007, was released as a print chapbook and an e-book simultaneously; Mark Young's journal Otoliths had that double-pronged effect going then, and still does. Beams came out as an e-book later in '07, and pirated print editions soon appeared on the market; while later books like Apparition Poems and Cheltenham were released in print without precise online counterparts. To make up that difference, I placed the pdfs on sites like Scribd and Internet Archive, where they have enjoyed some success. But the point, that the publishing imperative should, of necessity, become a double imperative by '17, is one which adds gravitas to a semi-Sisyphean conception or paradigm model of publishing, in which only the super-diligent and highly motivated might survive, and the idea of standing, confidently and suavely, behind print alone, is an antiquated one.

In fact, from '17 on out, it looks like in many ways online is winning, which I did not expect. The reason is simple: online offers a more pure, less riddled-with-corruption reading experience than print does. The paradigm which held sway in my mind for many years, of print and online holding commensurate weight and finding ways and means of balancing each other out, now in and of itself seems antiquated. Online, of course, cannot be completely utopic; the human race en masse are not capable of producing utopic contexts; but many of us at least do not feel, by '17, that we've stepped into a Rosemary's Baby-level Satanic orgy when we read online. Amazon is just that, an obvious, obviously corrupt jungle; as is the University library system in the United States. It is the province of rackets and racketeers; if you didn't think print books could kill, think again. The problem, for myself as a literary individual, is that I love print books. I adore them. Yet, if the integrity and the purity is online, that's where I'll be. When I stepped into the post office on Chestnut Street ten years ago today, many poetry voices were still dismissive of online as a viable context for poetry; I had no idea then, that so many of these were racketeer voices. So, unbelievably, if you want to ride the publishing cutting edge in '17, you may have to admit that print can be expendable now. Preservation techniques have made online a suitable venue for Eternity, and the Eternity Sweepstakes; and print has become a fool's paradise's, at least part of the time, for clods and literary clod-ism.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

PFS and the Heartland


High or serious art is usually considered the province of the big cities, here in the States. That's generally where the schools, the money, and the prestige are. Yet, as I get older, I can't not be curious as to how the Philly Free School will fare in other parts of the country, like the Bread Basket, or Dust Bowl, or Great Plains, or what have you. One of the most salient mysteries built into America, as a construct, is this large chunk of the country, comprised of small and mid-level towns and cities. What would a rural community see or not see in PFS? The way I imagine it, a small town hidden in the Bread Basket somewhere might have an intrigued response. In small towns and rural communities in general, the populace lead slower lives, and live to more advanced ages. Philly Free School art is meant to encourage contemplative duration; that is, is meant to be consumed, assimilated, and interpreted over long expanses of time. And slowly, piece by piece- not like the McDonald's, disposable version of haute culture espoused by New York. The idea is that if this particular population were to be drawn to, and drawn in by, the Philly Free School, it would be because our oeuvre radiates a certain kind of depth, of dimensions and mysteries which in and of themselves require slow, patient study, to yield the greatest receptive reward. I am attracted to the Bread Basket as an idea and an ideal in relation to us; the kind of audience who would be willing to dig beneath the surface of the paintings and books and stay there. Yet, I am no expert where Heartland mores and tastes are concerned. Who knows?