Confessional blog post # 341

Greetings, fellow moles.  I've lost the habit of conversational blogging.  The old Brown University Library (the Rock) was my Alexandria, my table-talk slab : now I'm way out here in the high lonesome, like a rolling stump (off Highway 61).

Apparently we inhabit these digital knowledge-canals.  Robots remember things for us, bots remind us, etc.  I've gone out of fashion (about 10 years ago) as bloggentator (aka Mr. Potato-head).

Poetry shivers in the frisson of its immediacy, its grasp of The Cool - the shimmer of This, your slangy Now.  Behind lurks the power of the Word Itself - like an Old Master, like Big Daddy, with the moneybags (Universities Bank Here).  It Can Help You.  But the kids are nervous : that's how it goes (swimmingly).  The Academy of American Poets invites you to become an Associate Member (tote bag to follow); Poetry magazine hits monthly, like velvet lightning.  Jimi Hendrix reads us!

(It is really good, btw - especially the issue I was in, sometime last year.  Tonic verbs, with scattering of playdough... what is poetry, btw?)

I've lost, as I say, the hobbit of consternation.  Out of the gloop.

Still try to read books, now & then.  People may get the idea I've retreated into some kind of bizarre eccentric personal hut.  As John Keats once averred, "I am picked up and sorted to a pip.  My imagination is a monastery, and I am its monk."

Yet my day is very scheduled (horae) - what with family industries, managing various major national crises, reading parts of a book or mag, and writing my Answer-To-Dante Poem...

As a matter of fact my personal mental space is so "Middle American" it's become exotic to many.  Recently I was subjected to a biting, sarcastic FB attack, by the accomplished young poet Phillip B. Williams - I guess because he felt I was some kind of Neanderthal.  Probably a generational thing (young guy knifes geezer).  You have to wear a digital sign on your head now to explain what appropriate medicines you are currently on in order to make you immune to the wrong purifications.

Am in the middle of this volume, American Covenant.  By another Philip - Philip Gorski (Princeton UP, 2017).  See, I can still find scholarly tomes!  This is a good one.

Do you know the difference between despotism, liberalism and republicanism?  Are you aware of the "civic religion" of These States?  Are you conscious of its binding presence in American history, and in your daily life?

It's a kind of hagiography, or demonology - from John Winthrop through Hannah Arendt, H.L. Mencken, W.E.B. Du Bois, John Dewey, Reinhold Niebuhr, Martin Luther King, Lincoln, the Federalists, Roger Williams, many another.  Along the road you receive a blast of enlightening rational political science, theology, sociology... sorting to a pip the various strains of religious nationalism, radical secularism, libertarianism, neo-liberalism, democratic republicanism, etc etc - aside from the special orthodoxies of the Two Major Parties - which have framed the debate about American life since the Primal Dawn of Roger Williams' Canoe.  Umpt to Trump.

Gorski is searching for the spiritual-intellectual common ground : the forces moving American history.  I'm finding (right now) his commentary on Hannah Arendt quite stimulating : her concept of the "public happiness" - as she describes the revolutionary origins of the United States - having to do with a very concrete experience of democratic participation, a path to finding oneself-as-citizen, something wider and more liberating than oneself-as-private (economic) individual.  She gets at the root of the necessity for self-government, popular sovereignty : that we become content, energized, & deeply happy, as we engage with our neighbors on a basis of equality and justice.  Thus she redefines (or rediscovers) the Founders' meaning of "pursuit of happiness" : it's a public, civic thing.  So she asserts the authority of the forum, the commonweal, as a counterweight to merely private interest, the seductions of predatory Mammon (pure money).  Reading Gorski's interpretation I was reminded of my halcyon days with the VISTA program (established by JFK - the domestic Peace Corps) so long ago : community organizing for civic engagement, empowerment (by the scruffiest neighborhoods).

There are many sorts of poetry.  I'm following up some very ingrown toenails of personal obsessions, with me since the early 1970s (that's almost 50 years ago).  Problems with Shakespeare, Bible, Nabokov, Mandelstam, Akhmatova, Hart Crane... Pound, Dante, Stevens, Eliot, et al...  - what to do with the Epic Poem?

I am aware that just because they are old obsessions doesn't mean they are interesting.  Coolness is a kind of polish - lemon wax.  You have to be able to speak to the moment... perhaps I've lost my touch, my Lemon Pledge (if I ever had it).

Too late now, I guess.  I'm an inveterate Blog Monster.

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