4.30.2007

(Latter part of poem #8 below : sort of a comment on remarks about poetry & "fluency" posted a few days ago.)

4.29.2007

8


And every race is a memento of the last
and the race itself is in memoriam
for the republic - its equilibrium
a dream of self-determination (still steadfast).


It seems a dream-work of oppressive habit
round and round the celebrated shell.
And the echoing shouts, curses - rivals'
obscene chicanery - twilight orbit


of the mob - all mingle there in the valley
of three hills (fuse and fade out into
children's games). And the chariot
of the elders, clasping their hoary tally-


books, stamped with the black-white oval
of Siena... an absent river (Dante's gibe)
streams invisibly beneath it all. The tribe
of poets crosses there - perpetual


hum (mellifluous). You search for its source
in the double-almond of those eyes beyond
memory - like an icon from Trebizond
or the sound of a nervous horse


in love with the whole race (spread
over the sloping breast of earth-
buried bricks). Woman of the South,
Sheba from Nile head-


waters, angel next door. Evening
monotone (universal groan). Cosmic
longing springs from the tropic
Amazon - her hair tendrils an unseen


planet; there the contemplative
urchin sets his paper vessel free
to echo in the stream of memory.
Horses, muses, stream, give, give.

4.28.2007

...meanwhile, the horserace (or turtle race) continues...

7


On the prehistoric spine of Providence
spring trees branch white
with tiny flowerets. Intricate
clouds come down to earth. Once


each April, all the young trees
are almond-shaped. The almond
blooms in winter snow (the round
year interrupted so) and so precedes


the Palio. And so the Palio proceeds -
one horse (the last) sets a race in motion.
Pegasus, molding the Hippocrene fountain,
is pattern for these hill-town cavalcades.


Anxious against the rope the jockeys
plunge their steed-necks; hair's-breadth
will determine (after all the breath-
less muttered dickering) who hoists Mary's


flickering image in the Campo once again.
Meanwhile trees whisper a different course
(I remember small purple-white magnolias
in the courtyard beside the Franciscan


chapel, at the edge of a cliff-like wall).
They hold their places, swaying in the wind.
Sap rises slowly, tuned to long sorrow, blind
adoration. Slowly, lowly... (like a turtle's call).
Wrote this simple poem after listening (for the first time) to Mstislav Rostropovich playing Bach for solo cello. Good music for a cruel April.

My kind, friendly neighbor across the street, whose nephew died at V. Tech the week before, passed away suddenly in his sleep on Thursday night. A loss to my neighborhood (not to mention another severe blow to this family).

4.25.2007

Robert Archambeau writes a chipper report on Brit Poetry Wars in the Chicago Review. But the debate between Wilkinson & Riley over poetry/politics - Riley's critique of what seems to be a bent toward Language-purism and hands-off politics, stemming from a failure to distinguish between the two (poetry & politics) - well, this sounds like an echo of old debates on the Buffalo Poetics List of 10 years ago. Can't we get beyond these parameters somehow? Of course, British authors have a knack for saying whatever they say very authoritatively ("ne'er so well express'd")...

It seems like a continual re-statement of basics (though I pretty much agree with Riley's position). No, aesthetics is not politics, nor vice versa. No, poetry is not only a purification rite for a particular stream of left-religion (though it may be for some people). No, poetry in general, or particular "schools" of same, will not save us from capitalism, global warming, war, etc. (though particular poems might help).

Most poetry expresses shared values & trends of the moment; thus the "poetry wars" on various continents reflect ideological fractures in the cultural/intellectual spheres of the time. I think the aim of the poet (or dramatist or novelist), however, is to dig deeper : without surrendering fundamental principles, to find shared (if unacknowledged) ground, and to provide models of reconciliation.

4.23.2007

I'm on jury duty this week, so blogging will be minimal. Here's another scribble for Fontegaia chapt. 2 :

6


The swelling crowd fills the Campo-conch
like the roar of the sea - contrada banners
swoop and flutter, sailing - glory to Siena!
Horses, horsemen jostle in the cinch


of the lead-rope - twilight inches forward
from the bell-tower - the tenth horse
starts his run... the race is on (hoarse
cries of rival jockeys, lashes of calf-pud).


Peacock rivalry, testosterone.
O vain people! Chasing a bloody rag
around the haybales (for a brag).
This is about the poets (non-Verona).


You hold the key to the highway, cowboy
(sucking your pacifier). It's cold
in the mountains (iron manifold) -
where snow locks up the almond eye


in a hexagon of exempla - where the race
wheels around a cast-off labyrinth
and the frothing beast (ninth
horse of the Apocalypse) reflects your face.

4.22.2007

Interesting lecture by Kenneth Miller, biology professor at Brown. In the tradition of the Scopes trial (remember Inherit the Wind?)
3 chords for Virginia

4.21.2007

HG Poetics has received a great number of visitors in the last 24 hours, thanks to Mandelstam (and the McKanes). This archival post to his poem "To Natasha Shtempel", translated by Richard and Elizabeth McKane (Bloodaxe Books, 1996) was the link. A member of a Classics discussion list had posted the poem in the original Russian, in memory of the victims at Virginia Tech; then someone found the link to the McKanes' translation.

This poem, like certain pieces of music, always brings me close to tears. It's fitting for this season, and for last week. Mandelstam often connected poetry with medicine and healing.

The poem was Mandelstam's last published work, written in exile in Voronezh, in May 1937, a few months before his death in a labor camp in Vladivistok. As the McKanes note : "When Mandelstam gave this poem to Natasha Shtempel, he said: 'I wrote this poem yesterday. It is the best that I have written. When I die, bequeath it to Pushkin House.'"

Yesterday I took some soup Sarah had made to our neighbors across the street. Their nephew was one of the victims at Virginia Tech.

4.20.2007

Believe it or not, I represent continuity with that old high road. An American version. Not the pretentious post-avants, not the harlequin New York School, not the prosy Olsonites, not the slick magazine poets, not the cautious academics (charming and dazzling and fine as they all can be). Not them - just little ol' me. Henry. It's all there in them pocket-size paperbacks, the long & short of it.
Here's the new pocket-size, illustrated, & less expensive Dove Street.

& cf. JL today for a different angle on "abstraction".

The painter's abstractions are "concrete conceptions" of color, line, shape. If we go back to Mandelstam's idea of poetry's double thread - the impulse and the medium - we can think of the formative impulse as abstract (logical, constructive), and of the medium as concrete (a fluent song, a dramatic design).

In poetry's case the medium is so different from that of painting (or music, for that matter). It is the word. In Mandelstam's sense, the (poetic) word is a "plow, turning up the deep layers of time". How so? Because, for one thing, the word is the intimate expression of human consciousness - and it is lasting. Thus it forms a bond between human beings of different places and epochs. "I don't want Ovid in translation; I want the living, breathing Ovid." (Mandelstam again)

This archaic, perennial aspect of the poetic medium is part of what I meant by tradition as an objective reality (the bees' hum, the ongoing conversation). Thus poetry displays two kinds of fluency : sonic and "chronic".

It is precisely the modern-postmodern emphasis on breakage, dissonance and iconoclasm - & the banal-commercial-industrial iterations of same - which make this special fluency of the poetic medium difficult to recognize or value.
To think of the verbal-poetic medium as a river. Whitman's "hum of your valved voice".

To contrast a notion of art as emerging from conceptual abstraction, a sort of Platonic ether, with the idea of the "vernacular" (whether in language or architecture). Poetry emerging from this sort of perennial sound (Edwin Honig wrote somewhere about poetry as something like bees humming, present always and everywhere.) (Honig's name, in German : "honey")

Drab, dehumanized modernist building projects. Poetic productions stemming from abstract notions of language, form & ideology. Or kraftwerk poetry based on a do-it-yourself model - a-historical, detached from the flow of culture and civilizations, re-inventing primitive wheels again and again.

As opposed to an "Acmeist" model of poetry as a distinct, perennial something - an ongoing "conversation" (Pasternak's term) - rooted in shared culture and history, memory (a Dantean vernacular, the volgare illustre). Or Mandelstam's (& Akhmatova's, & Yeats's) sense of it as a gift, stemming from states of exaltation - inspired yet built on labor (Mandelstam proceeding from Pushkin & the Russian tradition).

What I'm trying to describe is close to Eliot's much-maligned concept of tradition - an already-underway, ongoing conversation, which one can join (and even revise) if one is willing to recognize it, and put in the necessary work of absorbing it.

My understanding is that these emphases are normative for European and world poetry : and somewhat distinct from the American (& Futurist) emphasis on flash, immediacy, (post)-modernist abstraction, constructivism, industrial kraft-production.

The "hum of the valved voice" - aiming for clarity and engagement, an intellectual agility for grasping connections. Wallace Stevens, a great technician, tended, in his critical comments, to downplay 20th-century emphases on technique : in favor of this "river-sense" of fluency which I'm trying to get at.

The poetic medium : perennial fluency.


Mississippi River, near Franklin Ave. Bridge,
Minneapolis (photo by Phoebe G.)

4.19.2007

Would like to clear out the cobwebs, the lumber here. (Often feel mildly rebuked by John Latta : ie. today's "the temptations of earnestness".)

*

"Critical faculty". Fair judgement. I'm not referring to people (individuals), but to an aspect of how we play at art & poetry.

We take a liking to a poem or an artwork. Then we recognize weaknesses, limitations - but we still like it. It's that initial response which forms the basis for mutuality & camaraderie among artists : we like the same things. & there's a (limited) objectivity about the process.

The point is that this is a critical activity, not a "creative" one. "Being poets together" is not a good enough reason to be together. But liking (some of) the same things - even if we disagree about some other things - this is a firm basis, at least in the art sphere.

*

The tumult of the years since 1907. The gale-force winds : modernization, technology, ideology, politics, war. & we've had so many explainers & culture-critics since then that we sometimes forget that art & poetry offer a continual opportunity to re-evaluate, re-organize, rethink everything.

This is the creative process itself, the source of originality. We forget how personal it is : it's a matter of the artist picking & choosing what's important - whether in subject-matter or style. The explainers love to identify trends & social determinations, while downplaying this essential matter of aesthetic choice.

*

There are the experimental conceptualists. For them poetry is a kind of discourse, a means of social role-playing or commentary. Then there are the poetry-krafftwerkers, the pedagogical creative writing technicians. For them poetry is a literary craft - a product one can learn to produce.

The former lean too far toward abstraction and concept; the latter lean too far toward the minutiae of literary-rhetorical technique.

Both concept & technique are obviously major elements of poetry, but to over-emphasize them is to smother the thing itself.

Let's say : poetry is an imaginative medium, a channel for particular forms of beauty-&-truth. It's a medium : an activity with archaic affiliations to both music and painting. Think of it as an ongoing stream, with certain qualities and aspects which have not changed since 500 BC or earlier.

I emphasize medium in order to try to differentiate my way of seeing things from both the kraftwerkers & the aesthetic ideologists. A complex artistic medium is not the same thing as the postmoderns' version of language as materialist silly putty. Nor is it the bread & butter of the industrial kraftwerkers : it is, rather, personal : suffused through & through with the artist's deeply conceptual allegiances and choices. This creative - pre-compositional - process of formulating such choices and allegiances is what gives birth to art which actually means something to us, moves us. An inner necessity.

(Osip Mandelstam, in his "Conversation about Dante", referred to this primordial process as the "poetic impulse". In fact Mandelstam asserted that the poetic process was a matter of entwining two different strands : the impulse and the verbal medium. This sounds simplistic only if one forgets Mandelstam's exalted, intuitive, philological sensitivity to the verbal-poetic medium - for him, a perennial, archaic, complex, autonomous activity/reality, suffused with cultural mana.)

4.18.2007

5


Siena-town wheels inward on itself,
inseminate with signs. Flutter of flag-
sisters in a ring (around the phallic
Mangia, swelling Campo, Fontegaia).


What's the source of all this muttering
and thundering? They hunt the lost Diana
River, rippling somewhere beneath the brouhaha.
They reach for the silk concealing her tippling


utterance. The Virgin saved them, once
(at Montaperti, in 1260). Now (nine times
90 years after) they burble the same
nursery rhymes - the world a microcosmos


in a horserace, history a folksong
of parochial abuse (carols and catcalls,
bridle deals). There are many protocols
flickering under Fortune's ping-pong



table (prong, sarong) - you'll learn them all
in order to become a man
. Only that dusty
widow-nun, shuffling so pigeon-footed (steely-
rimmed) mimes awkward exception to the rule.


Or the half-wit in the corner, self-conscious
beneath his crumpled horn - he'll take the fall
gently, for everyone, for a laugh (perpetual
motion winding down). All part of the sensuous


wave goodby, children. Sweet nothings
we've forgotten, baubles and toy
soldiers, the vagrant sweep and sway
of oak tree limbs. The sigh in the grass.
For very detailed background on the Palio, see this book from the 70s : La Tierra in Piazza, by Alan Dundes and Alessandro Falassi (Univ. of California Press, 1975). Lots of good photos. Last chapter a sort of anthropological-psychological interpretation, fascinating.

Recently, Allen Bramhall & Gabriel Gudding both discuss (& condemn) agonism & rivalry in American poetryland. Meanwhile I'm using this horserace as a metaphor for it.

Dundes & Falassi analyze the palio as (in part) a male puberty rite, colored by the machismo of Mediterranean culture. Curious & ambiguous symbolisms in the city of the Virgin and the she-wolf (for example, the winning jockey & his clan drink wine and suck on pacifiers after the race). That's just one aspect of it.

I understand & to some extent agree with Allen & Gabriel. Poetry, obviously, is many things at once : an art form, a game, a vocation, a means, an end. Poetry can be (profoundly) a release from egoism and violence and stress and Keats's "irritable reaching after fact & reason".

Sweet music of speech; delightful play & laughter; intellectual bread & wine; wisdom, encouragement, equanimity; etc. etc.

But an artwork also brings into play the faculties of taste & critical judgement. (John Latta quotes Coleridge's description of his reading method as "sieve and winnow" - and shows how it's done.)

Eliot's essay "Tradition and the Individual Talent" is all about coming to terms with contrary forces of ego and ambition, on the one hand, and the objectivity of the art itself on the other. "The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality."

Critical judgement acts (or should act) as the umpire - fair, disinterested, objective, above the fray. And every authentic poet is also such a judge - both of his or her own work and that of others. In fact this critical activity - as part of the whole creative process - is what makes for companionship, camaraderie & cooperation among fellow artists. It's not just that they are poets together - they are critics together.

When you have a fair referee - then you can have a horserace.

& no one can judge rightly without true love.
Back from visit to Minneapolis.

Removed section #4 posted previously (needs work).

4.12.2007

OK, this is it for little paperbacks. A new run of Rest Note, pocket-sized. Includes 3 related sequences : Rest Note, Autumn Door, and Fontegaia (part 1).

Now I feel like hitting the road, giving some readings... (p.s. I'll be away for the next few days, in the Twin Cities, for an 80th-birthday party for a couple of twins.)
I know, I know, the poem-section posted yesterday is mighty obscure. But not as obscure as the bird-talk of the mysterious Pihana people of the Amazon. (see New Yorker article)

4.11.2007

New issue of Chapel Hill, also in pocket size.

4.10.2007

I've always wanted to put out a book in that old 60s paperback size (roughly 4"x6"). Well, I'm getting around to it. Here's the sonnet-sequence Island Road in a new pocket edition, complete with photo on the back and frontispiece. & it's cheaper!



I've also added a back cover and frontispiece photo to the new Forth of July.)

4.09.2007

3


Siena's perennial quarrel with itself -
who can plumb this curious errancy?
Before the tumultuous horseplay
in the Campo, bells of Sunto, Martinella


(foghorn, swallow). A solemn parade
of captains, guilds, contrade, humbler
towns, ecstatic kids, to the Spedale -
where they mime a Palio-masquerade


for those too old or ill to see the race.
The little carroccio (triumphal car)
bears the four elders of the Biccherna,
the trumpets, and the object of the chase -


the palio. A silken banner, painted
with a figure of the Virgin. The drone
of the Sunto echoes her Ascension to
the Throne of Heaven, beside her anointed


Son; the iron in the Mangia tower reaches
through city walls, through thunderclouds
of August overhead. To whistling crowds
of contemptuous kinfolk she beseeches,


Peace. A whole more that its fractious
parts. Hobo Francesco hears it rustle
in frittering almond leaves, the tussle
of gutter sparrows. A racehorse


dumps in the cathedral; the Sienese
take it for good luck. Poets bicker
over the body of the Word (a wicker
basket in the Amazon - a breeze).
...decided (finally) to put out Forth of July in one volume, after I picked up Mary Douglas's book Thinking in Circles (about ring-structures in the Bible, Homer, Tristram Shandy, etc). Started looking again at the symmetries in my own poem. & seeing it (the poem) in a somewhat different light.

As I've written elsewhere, there's a great deal of ring-structure or mirror-symmetry in this poem, beginning with the "ABBA" rhyme of each quatrain, all the way up to the macro-structure. And there are a number of rings-within-rings. The technique was a lot like weaving : I would write parallel quatrains, or sections, or books on either side of a central pivot.

But Mary Douglas describes "classic" or ancient ring-structure as a means of (1) establishing firm meaning (by such parallels) and (2) creating a clear narrative structure (leading to a central turning-point and closing with a kind of resolution paired with the beginning).

In Forth of July, often enough, the narrator/protagonist is unaware of his real destination (Bluejay, his "guide", explicitly tells him this, repeatedly). The introductory poems of the prologue foreshadow the major concerns of the pivotal center - and then the poem veers off in a new direction, a deeper level. Yet "Bluejay" warns "Henry" of this from the beginning.

Furthermore, behind the narrator/protagonist stands a more shadowy - yet also pivotal - character, the meditative William Blackstone.

Not without reason the central chapter of the poem is titled "Ghost Dance". The poem represents ghoulish, garrulous Henry surrounded by ghosts (Bluejay, Blackstone, Juliet... & the mysterious "J").
The long poem Forth of July (previously published separately as Stubborn Grew, The Grassblade Light, July and The Rose, etc.), now available in one volume.



The Great American Caterwaul !!!

4.06.2007

re: post of yesterday -

effortless play, hobo bohemianism, the locus of art-making as ephemeral, contingent, unofficial, supremely natural, tossed around by more rigid social powers & forces...

chimes somewhat with Montale's notions of "superior dilettantism" & the "2nd life of art".

This (spring-feverish) trend of thought, if I took it seriously, might spur some changes in the way I interact with other poets, the (so-called) "scene"...

(what I want : a fusion of this bohemian sense of things with artistic dedication - scrupulous, upright, disciplined... sort of a Pushkinian-Petersburg-Acmeist spirit of collaboration. sounds appropriately ridiculous.)
Last night I was reminded that Eugenio Montale has a poem titled "Palio" in his 2nd book, Le Occasioni.

There's a translation of a much later poem ("After Palio") here.

"Palio" shows faint parallel to previous effort posted here (the contrast between "Bernardino" & Siena racing enthusiasm resembles the substance of the speaker's address to "you" - the spiritual "Clizia" - in Montale's poem). (see translation by William Arrowsmith in his great English edition of Le Occasioni.)

4.05.2007

One self-analysis post per day is more than enough.
Thought for the day : what a dreamy, ephemeral sphere poets & poetry inhabit in the world at large. That's part of its history. Part of its beauty, actually.

We take ourselves too seriously (me, especially). It becomes a career, an industry, a politics, etc. etc. And that ruins it sometimes. I probably would have stayed in the NY School orbit (30 yrs ago) if I hadn't started taking everything (including myself) so seriously.

Even the greatest achievements in art have tinges of the useless frill. The beauty of the world itself has tinges of the useless frill. It's a holiday, not everyday. A rarity. (Wallace Stevens gave this a lot of thought.)

This probably doesn't mean (unfortunately) that I'm going to stop taking myself seriously, or stop harping (as I tend to do) on arcane architectonic aspects and difficulties, deep philosophic themes, etc.

But today I want to get in touch with a younger, less socially-responsible, less ambitious self... the ineffectual bookworm nontennis-bum aesthete of yesteryear, the minor writer, the layabout. Why?

Maybe because I think poetry comes from a mysterious, almost-inaccessible region of effortless play. & also because (though I'm hesitant to acknowledge it) my own methods involve a lot of lateral thinking, serendipity, escapism.

It may be that I come across as a hopeless seeker-of-attention, with my massive blogging and endless serial poems etc... & perhaps that is the way it is. But it's also that I have simply evolved a way of writing which is not a matter of discrete individual poems; it's more diaristic & progressive. This is not so conducive to getting published (yes, I still get my steady supply of rejection slips from major poetry magazines - edited by people 20 years younger than me, and filled with work that I don't think, honestly, is as good as mine...)

I'm actually in a race against all the other American poets - my own competitive Sienese Palio - from a lazy, supine position, typing into my "Neo" (a very simple portable keyboard used in elementary school classrooms).

4.04.2007

2


The high-strung Tuscans with their mimic battles...
elmora, battaglia di sassi, fist fights.
They make a game of it - Mary, local saints
watch from the bleachers. The contest settles


everything. 600 years of symbolic
clan warfare - ghost dance, sacred epilepsy,
scandal summoned to the pitch of travesty.
O these infinite recurrent mirror-wars


of rival caballeros! They make a pageant play
feud pay to winnow dry resentment and contempt
blooded with animal names. Trumpets,
drums, neighborhood flags! Oh say


can you see
- the heart writhes
with parochial devotions - paces
its cage. An eagle plummets - laces
the sky with lilies, oak-leaves - scythes



earth from heaven. At that borderline
a frozen San Francesco stands in the sun
(collateral for all the vanity of Mammon).
He sheds his clothes... a simple sign.


*


The star of poetry rides with the bedouins
out of somewhere east of Somalia, near
Sheba's Eden - pursues the chanticleer
Etruscans (smiling from sand dunes


of Rome, from their tombs in the hills)
to vortex of contrada-nonsense -
meticulous hubbub of impious Sienese.
A candle burns the purple from their quills.


Book on writers & typewriters (Iron Whim, by D. Wershler-Henry), reviewed here in New Yorker. Relates how authors felt they were just the medium - that the typewriter was doing the writing.

(Chimes somewhat with post below, about role of the "muse".)

4.03.2007

... and so another round begins in Henry's (con geetar) famous horserace with himself (and all the other poets).

1
Mandarla al palio


Only God created the horse.
Among totemic animals of
(dragon, turtle, leopard, eagle...)
proud Siena neighborhoods


there is no horse. Only the race itself
belongs to the horse. Nowhere else
is a racehorse led to be blessed
inside the basilica-barn itself.


Virile, snorting, arrogant stallion.
Beast, clomping his iron hoof
beneath the cathedral's holy roof.
Bravo's elemental advent (of the Virgin).


Ninety seconds in the Campo ring.
A year drawn tight into a knot.
Banners, shuddering. Local Camelot
rages for Arthur's fabled coming


back... Guidoriccio - nobleman
in yellow-black, atop thundering steed
above Mappamondo (absent, indeed).
Crown of nobile contrade; king of kin.


Meanwhile wily Bernardino grins from his curving
alcove. The one who loses the race - the one
who surrenders (hobo, loser, slave... no one).
The shadow of a stolen colt flits (furtive,


cornered) - a shrouded patch of brown
or coroner's cigar thrown down (Corona).
Who will wear the crown? The arena
overflows - a boasting hubbub-hippodrome.
A very rich passage I used for an epigraph for July :

I had come to hear that great things might be true. This I was told on the Christopher Street ferry. Marvelous gestures had to be made and Humboldt made them. He told me that poets ought to figure out how to get around pragmatic America. He poured it on for me that day. And there I was, having raptures, gotten up as a Fuller Brush salesman in a smothering wool suit, a hand-me down from Julius. The pants were big in the waist and the shirt ballooned out, for my brother Julius had a fat chest. I wiped my sweat with a handkerchief stitched with a J.

- Saul Bellow, Humboldt's Gift

- Humboldt, Bellow's fictional version of Delmore Schwartz (& paradigmatic American poet), tells Citrine (the narrator) "that poets ought to figure out how to get around pragmatic America". Isn't this - hasn't it always been - the crux of the American poet's ridiculous situation? And isn't it - at some level - a spiritual problem? Not just a problem for the poet - but a problem which poets in particular represent and act out? The poet as unworldly St.Francis/Hobo figure, who dramatizes the conflict between spirit and flesh, worldliness and spiritual poverty (although Francis - unlike earlier ascetics - has always also represented the integration of humanity and nature - beauty, creation, love).
... exploring curiosities around Joachim de Fiore, in various books by Marjorie Reeves. She speculates that Dante (who put Joachim himself in Paradiso XII) was influenced by his imaginative prophecy-drawings - in the sky-written "M-eagle" of Justice, and in the image of the Trinity as a set of interlinked rainbow-circles (toward the close of Paradiso) (see diagram image in previous post). Joachim has repeatedly (over the centuries) served as point-of-reference/avatar for millennarian-revolutionary-visionary hopes & dreams, showing up here & there in 19th-20th cent. poets & novelists (George Sand, George Eliot, Yeats & Joyce included).



(See my note from this enormous blog 4 yrs ago (post for 4/8/03) :

" "Mammon Lujius", in FW: MMLJ, Matthew Mark Luke John. "Lujius" an inversion (as is rhyme-scheme in Forth of July i.e. Stubborn Grew / The Rose book 3, July) - an inversion of "Julius". July begins on 7/15 - St. Henry's Day or St. Swithins' - the date on which in 1099 the crusaders entered the Holy Sepulchre. 33 years later (age of Christ): 1132, Joyce's motif date in FW : birthdate of Joachim of Fiore, theorist of the Age of the Holy Spirit. Christ-Finnegan wakes from the sepulchre (time-age reversal) after 33 years (1132). July plays verbally & thematically with inversion of Caesar & Caesarism throughout - going from July 15 toward Ides of March & April 15 (death of CESAR Vallejo & Abraham Lincoln on Good Friday). Julius to Jewel-eye...")

4.01.2007

Why poetry-making cannot be taught.

Because the fulcrum of art is imagination. "Imagination" is a name for the synthetic-inventive capability of the artist - the mind in concert with the eye, the hand, the feet, the heart. And because this fulcrum pivots on a desire to represent reality holistically (mimesis, imitation, mimicry). And because this desire to replicate or re-present reality in a new key, in a new medium, is incapable of fulfillment - the medium can never grasp the changing totality.

So what the artist does is surrender to what used to be called the "Muse" - stepping blindly into a trance-like state of creative glossolalia - in order to surrender to reality (since this is the only way to even approach mimesis).

Of course it is possible to teach and learn some of the skills which are necessary preliminaries of this creative furor (these preliminaries used to be called "versifying"). But the furor itself - what used to be called "inspiration" - can't be taught or learned in school. It can only be suffered. No one wants to undergo this, who hasn't already had a premonition about it long before.

The concept of "holistic representation" - the sense of immediacy, actuality and truth-to-life, which is communicated sometimes by the faintest and most abstract artistic means - and is the most difficult thing to achieve, and is the measure of an artwork's integrity (wholeness mirroring wholeness) - should perhaps be the real benchmark of aesthetic judgement (that of both critics and artists).
This concludes what seems to be the 1st chapter of ongoing poem (Fontegaia).

28


A fine spring rain. Settles like silver
mist upon the street-lit pavement.
Your native town, beyond argument -
actual as the gravestones by the river.


But you're not here. And it was you
(like Ariadne, like a brown recluse)
played out the luminous painter-clue
that riddled me into this trobar clus.


Which one of us is missing, then?
Where mast meets shallop
at the center of cerebral hilltop
lamps of the frescos shine, shine -


the way your lashes flicker (here
and gone) across my absent-minded
minaret-dome. So branches bend
inward... homely signs cohere


only for the vagabond. Scripture
tags like a faithful Fido after vision
and the dogma of the politician
barks at its own reflection (pure


and blind) as hobo-capitan sets off again
toward the burgeoning rose in his sea-
chest (buried somewhere in deserted
San Francisco). Toward your return.