What has been juggled for the two years since this site was last active? Many things… psychological location, physical location. A surfeit of locations. A gaggle of contributors to The Fiend… many gone to the wind. But there is a narrative somewhere in this tangle of memories. It involves politics.
How can I, that girl standing there,
My attention fix
On Roman or on Russian
Or on Spanish politics,
Yet here’s a travelled man that knows
What he talks about,
And there’s a politician
That has both read and thought,
And maybe what they say is true
Of war and war’s alarms,
But O that I were young again
And held her in my arms.
Yeats’s last poem has been analysed perhaps many times. The last time I heard this done was by the now-deceased poet Geoffrey Hill somewhere in the depths of youtube, telling me that it was not a very good poem. For a number of reasons. At that time I agreed with him, at least partially. It does not have that swansong quality Ray Carver’s Late Fragment has, or the inadvertant adieu of Shelley’s The Triumph of Life (inadvertant because Shelley was most probably murdered? Yes, I will join that ‘conspiracy jag’). The swansong is in the personified ramifications of the thing. It is a quieted swansong… and, in that sense, has majesty. It is also a paen to politics as youthful fundament… of a life essence of sorts. I see it this way; a girl stands looking at herself in a mirror. The word mirror is not in the poem directly… but the implication is everywhere in Yeats’s metaphysics, much of it springing – in a much more imagistic fashion – out of Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. As Yeats himself said: “some articulation of the Image which is the opposite of all that I am in my daily life, and all that my country is.”
The mirror’s there simply inasmuch as Yeats’s process of artistic production is the implication of the poem, along symbolic lines. This definition of the politic, in memory, in the human form, mingles with the tradition of personification in Irish literary tradition; the embodying of an Agon. As time exists so the politic and its own vision of itself shifts and mutates. We are able to see, in Yeats’s concision, the ‘life of the politic’ drawn out from the ‘event of the politic’, its various cultural manifestations.
This obviously implies a politics that is pluralistic in its definitions, and this implies (at least, for me) a permission to give a small summary of how western poets themselves have defined politics and their relationship to it. A re-assessment of a sort.
I’ve reversed my opinion on the poem a little. I like it. Would Joyce have? Most probably not. It is elegy… that most poetic of lyric forms. Joyce, being the most anti-historical of writers (if only in the most Freudian, most subconscious/unconscious sense… postmodernism has died in order to describe it properly, without becoming it). Another writer in the same mould might be another Celt… Dylan Thomas. I read recently Thomas’s response, by letter, to a criticism that he was not a very political writer:
You meant, I know, that my poetry is not concerned with politics […] but with poetry […] the idea you gave me was that you actually consider me unaware of my surroundings, out-of-contact with the society from which I necessarily outlaw. You are right when you suggest that I think a squirrel stumbling at least of equal importance as Hitler’s invasions, murder in Spain, the Garbo-Stokowski romance, royalty, Horlicks, lynchlaw, pit disasters, Joe Lewis, wicked capitalists, saintly communists, democracy. the Ashes, the Church of England, birth control, Yeats’ voice, the machines of the world […] but I ‘am’ aware of these things as well.
Thomas defines, by the workings of poetry, a mythos of inclusion and exclusion (while showing the slightly Celtic-communistic colours that were prevalent in his era). What the poem, in insouciance, excludes, makes its majesty just as valuable. What my response would be is that Thomas felt he had no overt, journalistic interest in putting the social world in order. His perhaps-ill-advised social worldview does not ostensibly enter the poem. Earlier in the same letter he says: I am broadly, (as opposed to regimented thinkers and poets in uniform) antisocial, but am extremely sociable. An artist, particularly in the Celtic stripe, instinctively retreats into the soul – thinks from the soul – in order to order a social awareness that is true to it. And that this – again, in dualism – is correct and incorrect… part of Thomas’s jealousy of Pound’s onslaught on usury via deep politics was perhaps so counter to his own inclination? Thomas, being too culturally and sociably amiable than Pound? These jealousies of poets as diverse as Ezra Pound and George Barker (in Barker ‘the political’ is more diffuse, straddling his early work and his very late poems), I think, is manifest in the ease with which social and political movements of their times enter the work. In Thomas we only have – as explicitly political – a handful of almost-journalistic pieces that seem to relate directly to his work in the BBC (that most propagandistic and pernicious of cultural outreach programs. The hand that signed the paper is the most cogent example… a mediocre poem, at best. Mainly because it doesn’t have the concrete detail of Yeats’s more political work). Pound – for the most part – stands outside of this. The insouciance of Thomas and the cultural urgency of Pound, though, provides an interesting dialectic.
Yet, after the war, we hear a poet like Robert Creeley saying simply ‘everything is political’… a wonderful way of obscuring the fact that his poetry has very little of the social, the public in it… meaning; the social and the public imply polis, imply commentary on binding forms of social interaction. We all know what political is. Yet our definition of it – as with history – is a political process, in so far as – like any human phenomena – it is an angel of constant flux and mutation. The other trains of thought – philosophy, science etc – bolster it when it is an object of focus, regardless of ethical considerations.
Creeley is not overtly a political poet, thus he is forced to say that ‘everything is political’ because there is something in a man that does not want to ignore entirely the political, no matter how mystical, philosophical or metaphysical certain of his artistic instincts are. What happens is that the claim ‘everything is political’ allows for an absorption of the social self, the public self, into minutiae and fragmentation. And this is not to say that Creeley’s investigations of male-female relationships, ostensibly, are not useful… but it, perhaps despite itself, allows for the disintegration of the public voice in poetry. I’m thinking particularly of the descent into L.A.N.G.U.A.G.E poetry, so that – by the 70s -American poetry is now ensconced in a poetry that is, by method, anti-public, in general. Is Joyce, within the American paradigm, then, also a fragmentation of the public aspect of artistic production? That is absolutely an interesting problem, and implies a whole critique of the ‘stream of consciousness’ mode (and if Freud is the cause of this – he was not explicitly a cause, in the cases of Lawrence and Joyce – there is still a problem there in terms of a cultural permission toward the inner voice. Joyce being much more an example here). But one would have to counter that with the claim that Joyce’s voice of an unconscious, as it were, gave literary life to a concept hitherto only theorised. This is one function of art; to give life to a concept… linguistic life, given the body is not only physical, but a function of language. Logos, making matter… assumes, from that divine standpoint, ethical import. The descent in contemporary art, in the 21st Century, is that it confuses the conceptual with that embodying, and enlivening, of language. The critic, essentially, has become the artist. And theory or concept, in its purest forms, then gets lost in mercantile considerations. This occurs to the point where it cannot create outside of a set of rigid theoretical and political stances.
In the British poets of the thirties (sometimes grouped under the short-lived Apocalypse banner) the tone, particularly in Gascoyne and Barker very much seems to be one of social engagement. Contra Joyce. And it strikes me, the more I think about these poets, that – when we discuss the political – we are actually talking about forms of thought, of psyche. Stream of consciousness, though, is a radical alternative to the social, the socially sayable. Perhaps valid, perhaps not (for Roger Scruton – whose youtube videos I’ve perused in extremis of late – Joyce’s mode is no comfort, and no extension, to his anti-modernism… what we forget about Joyce, though, is that – out of the unconscious voice- he extended the socially sayable… but at the expense of the public voice… what I think we witness here is advent of forms of thought that do not consider social voice… a problem we still have not grasped the consequences of. Suffice to say, both Buckie Fuller and McLuhan attest to the idea that all social infrastructures of western nations would have to take account of the reconfiguration this dissolution into dream-life and dream-utterance… utter pre-educational invention, would herald).
With the poets of the thirties we get the impression that the poetic voice is an extension of what is socially sayable. Psyche, by contrast is of great use, but she is not always entirely to be trusted, also. This is something, in modernism, that has become confused… an approach that only the Victorian would have understood. Which is to say that the Apocalypse school – even though its individual poets imagined themselves to be modern (and despite Thomas’s hatred of Tennyson!) – were more ensconced in a thread of poetics that didn’t see that contraction of the public voice into the inner voice as real. There is more throat in Thomas’s mode than dream, or mind, in the Eastern sense.
But, to get back to Psyche. Just this morning, this quote in a copy of Seven Pillars of Wisdom:
Arabs could be on an idea as on a cord; for the unpledged allegiance of their minds made them obediant servants. None of them would escape the bond till success had come, and with it responsibility and duty and engagements. Then the idea was gone and the work ended – in ruins. Without a creed they could be taken to the four corners of the world (but not to heaven) by being shown the riches of earth and the pleasures of it; but if on the road, led in this fashion, they met the prophet of an idea, who had nowehere to lay his head and who depended for his food on charity and birds, then they would all leave their wealth for his inspiration. They were incorrigibly children of the idea, feckless and colour-blind, to whom body and mind were for ever and inevitably opposed. Their mind was strange and dark, full of depressions and exaltations, lacking in rule, but with more of ardour and more fertile in belief than any other in the world.
Psyche is what occurs when Principle is partially or fully absent. Psyche, the pull of the social. And a woman, a goddess. Inferno, Purgatory and Paradiso. Pure politics is something absolutely in tune with the hierarchies of nature, and thus by extension the spiritual hierarchies present in the unseen. Seer is not at all a flippant term in this context, not only in a spiritual context… but also in politics; in separating wheat and chaff. Our attraction to Dante after over 800 years remains because of our attraction to the hierarchical, both in politics, in nature and in spirit. And Psyche, in this world – I’d say – is incontrivertably public and social.
Conceptions of Mind, Nomenclature
But also politics; child of the ideological. Adjective for the word idea, ιδέα, ratio, idée, Vorstellung. The translations leave and arrive in a Clapham Junction of the soul (that last word itself, with numerous translations… anima, âme, esprit, alma… anyone? The Spanish for soul is the Hungarian for apple, by the way. Interestingly toroidal, then. Geist…anyone? The making of I’s… Is… Eyes… I… θεός… I Theos… I… Deus). Thus, also, the ideal. ‘Of myself and God, god/gods’? The ideal.
The fall into conflations, permutations, alchemy… compounds. Wordgains-and-losses. You can see that strain, that argument, in Yeats – The Victorian? – ‘s All Soul’s Night:
I need some mind that, if the cannon sound
From every quarter of the world, can stay
Wound in mind’s pondering,
As mummies in the mummy cloth are wound;
Because I have a certain marvellous thing to say,
A certain marvellous thing
None but the living mock
Yeats applying the Joycean procedure? Except that Yeats seizes the midway and Joyce goes for – ultimately – the inexplicable (in some sense The Mystic… but more precisely what Duncan named Language Mysticism. This would not be to Akhmatova’s liking. No Russian fails – or succeeds? – in terms of that procedure). As with Nietzsche, there is an implicit sense that mind is a protectress here… something whose function is to not stray too vehemently into materiality. But Yeats trades on the Hindu usage of ‘mind’ here, and yet ‘mind’ in the western usage also has a ‘fallen’, earthly aspect. In this argument Lawrence’s preference against ego, against ‘mind’ won out. So that ‘mind’ in English has something of a dirty connotation in poetry after WWII. In Hindu thought it doesn’t have that quality.
In the 20th Century only Corso and Stevens seem to dissent from it, with Ginsberg acquainting it with moloch. Moloch exists though… but it is only one kind of mind. (Philip Lamantia saw it in The Owl, possibly splayed across the psycho-geography of Washington D.C? & that this is absolutely an element of the spiritual degradation of our current political elites).
But that is the Indo-Aryan tradition. Descent and ascent of etymology. We had to split the mindbody up in order to conceive of its parts. When scientism is over in the west then what will be the resolve? What is politick is the social. But it is the social redefined… with Joyce very much part and parcel. I turn from the goddess at my shoulder… and perceive that I am living in a world of others. Sartre, a true Hebraic avatar, found that rush-in of The Other debilitating. Hell is other people. Blake counters it with; the most sublime act is to set another before you. When you cannot take something from the pure presence of another then you are morally lost. We have lauded Sartre’s arrogance and drawn it too far into ourselves. Unknown to each other along the happy street, each dials up 100 other streets in the world… by the hour. The All (one of Yeats’s most used words), or The Internet-All… more succinctly appears on the radar of The Each. Expansions and contractions. Yet, a nation to contain it? Definitely, yet the terms slip and slide… but, again, the nomenclature sticks while the definition changes. Destruction and conquest of space. NASA not included. We needed a globalism to be a foil for the true yearning for world culture. To see that the deeper spiritual obeisance to cultural interaction had to have characteristics, that definition and nomenclature are interactive. That western civilization be, in general terms, a place for people who are white and of European descent. The dying arts of multicultural values and international diplomacy depend entirely upon the idea that values are allowed to become ill-defined over decades, and – in many contexts – centuries. What Hell is other people also did, was to allow for the idea that if such a thing were true, it needn’t be that bothersome to define who the social other was. If the other was from a totally different culture that did not share your language or values, you could simply appeal to that all-too-general totem of despair. Meaning; defy definition of any system of values or tradition.
On a more philosophical footing, though, perhaps the modernists, as children of Nietzsche, had to suffer The Other for a while. That The Other is teacher. Modernism… hmm, how anti-social is it? It really hinges on the now-almost-entirely-disappeared notion of The Great Man, and that this had ties to genius in literary artistry. Despite the lunacy of ‘The Great War’, the entire period from the end of the 19th Century through to the early 20s is permeated with the idea that a single individual can be a prime agent of social change… and, whether one believes in the politicos of that era, we can at least believe that the artists were similarly driven, and implied hierarchy
You are held in the world by your own devising… the noli me tangere of Lawrence… still a choice. Mass man is to be held at bay so as to eventuate the artist, as proto-politician (in slow motion) to go about making epochs. The contemporary workplace, though – at least for the acutely sensitive – reduces him to quantified object (hold on while I put on Nick Drake’s Place To Be). And yet there is still a pull -the magnetism – that exists in the man, out of time. The danger in this is the post-Creative-Writing-course idea that mass man has creative tendencies. Education seeks to level and equalize the creative tendencies of man in totality. I remember the words written on John Clare’s gravestone: A Poet is Born, Not Made. An absolutism now foreign to us. The implication being something that the arts – their scholar minions – can reconfigure the artistic impulse and make it sociable, nurturable; the long-held stance of the social sciences… this ridiculous dualism of nature vs. nurture. Thomas and Yeats would laugh at that, I would imagine… and thus could not function as popular artists in the 20th Century… so festooned is it with government grants and inorganic opportunities for poem-lending; as the muse of usury were conjured in some arm of The Bank of England.
And thus Polis… could it only be corrupting? Blame Baudelaire. That great saint and sinner of modernism. I feel acutely, bodily, this Yahwist sense of man in the mass… of him as an amorphous enemy that came out of the tradition of the Old Testament, and which Nietzsche, perhaps despite himself, lauded… held up, but held up to his own contempt (or Bob Dylan, in Don’t Look Back, when asked what, exactly, his feeling is, when confronted by another… his reply, in no uncertain terms, being; “I don’t like them!”) But this is only part of the story. That staying wound in mind’s pondering… how much of that wound-ness encompasses the social? It even has a sense in which, in its attempt to maintain reality, there is an evasion from the more spurious and unprincipled senses of the politic, what the polis encompasses, or would encompass. We have retreated from each other, and drawn closer to each other. We know that mass man could be sick, dangerous… could be simply ‘herd’. And yet also he is his own emancipator.
Myth attempts to solve this; let us not be ourselves, let us be Story… and, in story, be ourselves. Two travellers meet in a forest grove. What is your story? Why are you here? Odysseus affirms Scruton’s οἶκος… oikos – the rapture and yearning toward – home – but only in as much as he has been Away, and knows what Away really signifies. Is this only respiration, breathing?
To be a tourist in one’s hometown, to be at home abroad. Liberalism is simply surfeit of the latter. The traveller, so long Away from Home that he simply inserts Away into his conception of Home, inviting all foreigners to fill up that conception. It would seem natural, that way? But is not.
This, from an online review of Yeats by Adam Kirsch:
there is also a cost to this way of writing poetry, which you can see in some of Yeats’s other poems from this period. For if the world as it should be is all that matters to a poet, the world as it is can’t help looking a little contemptible—and that goes for all the people in it.
Kirsch, like the good puppy dog of post-modernism, takes only from the former part of Yeats’s acclaimed pronouncement of ‘to hold in a single thought reality and justice’. It is the great error of almost all poetry since the end of the war. The loss of the ideal in favour of the real, but not even the real…! morelike a kind of co-opted uber-materialist real which denies tradition, denies modernism… at least in the aspect the better ‘modernists’ had, of imbibing the romantic poets’ legacy while still allowing themselves a more urban, more quotidian vocabulary at times. The heart, however, is on the wane. It would take a re-reading of Lawrence’s Look! We Have Come Through! to reinstate the romantic into modernism. I take it on trust that contemporary literature courses, lost to their feminist and Marxist paradigms, could not go back to a book like that without severely tainting it it with critical theory.
What is… that is the great and false chiming at the heart of every production of poetry. What one loves, what one prefers, what one admires… all matters of the heart… these are absent in the contemporary world of poetry. What is published now by poetry publishers is simply the entropy of a single technique. And to bring them back is traditionalism. Is Dangerous. Is simply ‘out of our era’. (And when I hear an uber-liberal poet like Niall McDevitt respond to the poetry of Arseny Tarkovsky as ‘old-fashioned’ or ’19th Century’ (the excerpts published here at The Fiend) it tells me something about the way the public voice in poetry has been co-opted into a different fragmentation, that of the post-Ginsbergian minor compainant. It also tells me of the great cultural descent against the spiritual, and against religiosity, in western culture. (It seems to always be one of those two strands… either Creeley’s implied permission toward L.A.N.G.U.A.G.E or the Ginsbergian social wailing. McDevitt’s work is more than that, I’ll accede to… Pound is there, but the grandeur of the spiritual poets of the Victorian era is entirely gone. Perhaps that is his intention; something he is comfortable with… but what interests me about it is that there is something so traditional about British and western culture implicitly lost in this. That the liberal, in his vision of literary progression, is simply blind to).
Because in Kirsch, as in a myriad of other contemporary commentators it is vital that we understand the extreme loss of any imagination in literature and literary criticism. They simply cannot acknowledge the primacy of the imagination, and the legacy of the romantic in Yeats’s conception. In Soviet Russia they had leaders, and policies, they thought not to offend. In twenty first century Europe and North America we have an era we cannot offend, a sensibility. Liberalism. Neo-liberalism. I call it Post-Liberalism, in that it is a paradigm unaware of its own impending death. And to know that sensibility – as the foreigner does – is to have the tools to avoid it. One would need a retreat from the cultural to such a degree that my 10-15 years abroad would seem to be only scratching the surface. (How would Dante have appeared to his contemporaries in the fifty years after the Divine Comedy appearing in the world? It is incredibly difficult to begin to see it as his contemporaries did. But I suspect that they saw it very much in the same light that a few hundred American universities – and god knows how many academic scholars – see Pound’s Cantos. They do not get it. They hack away at its corners like so many cheese-hungry mice. While the public gleans something entirely emancipating, and holistic, in it).
In England, the government, and a large gaggle of government-funded poetry magazines, keep that same little politically correct paradigm firmly in place. It is in that tiny playground where all the awards are doled out, where all the reputations are made. That is the U.K. It shrunk down modernism to fit its own tiny size.
It took me a while to figure out it is the same in America (and something of my bad editorial choices at The Fiend have been a part of that learning process) but I did come to such a conclusion. I just read the other day that students of the University of Pennsylvania pulled down a prominent portrait of Shakespeare, protesting that he didn’t reflect ‘a diverse range of writers’… ironic, given his work is most probably the result of a range of writers, as a Facebook commentator wrily pointed out… and doubly ironic, given this university is home to Pennsound… one of the main sites my earlier writing on Robert Duncan, in particular, had been based on.
One understanding I gleaned from Pennsound, though, is how one can see the magnitude of the drop-off in poetic quality between, say the mid-60s and the turn of the century. Why the mid-60s? Well, because, ostensibly, this time is when the writers that were mature between the wars die out, and they are replaced by a baby-boomer generation who have seemingly taken none of their teachings on board. They are simply bad interpreters. And good interpretation allows for the resurrection of the memory of the poet, the vitality of their elusive teachings. The prime example of this would be the lives – and deaths – of Charles Olson, Ezra Pound and Yukio Mishima. In England Gascoyne, Barker and Elizabath Smart continue into the 80s and 90s but they are very much the weaker link and are not as openly politically engaged as the American strain I mention. Thus the desert…
I am in a friend’s room in Gwangju, South Korea. We are watching the entrance of Barack Obama into The White House.
I am in a small restaurant in a suburb of the same city… watching the inaugeration. I am a complicated human adult, a poet, of tiny, almost anonymous reputation; to others and myself. Back in my friend’s house we are most probably having a couple of beers, and he is perhaps holding forth on the change that is afoot in American politics. I am polite… he is happy that the Bush era is over. So am I. He thinks that Obama can change things. I am polite. Do I think Obama will change very much? Life is mysterious. Politesse; also politic? Social regard. That is all these meanderings come down to? And everything it comes down to. Quality of attention. A foreboding… a definite insouciance.
Now we know Barack Obama is a waste of space. Who will be next, in the psychological polis? Emergence of Mr. Trump. Mr Farage. Better… but not best?
But back to Mr. Kirsch:
What the spirits taught Yeats, underneath all the odd machinery of A Vision, was that the world is not as it appears; that there is another order in the universe, a hidden and majestic and powerful order, which a few choice spirits can learn to see. For Yeats, this revelation confirmed the definition of poetry he had long held: that it was a matter of disciplining and transforming the ordinary world. “As I look backward upon my own writing,” he once said, “I take pleasure alone in those verses where it seems to me I have found something hard and cold, some articulation of the Image which is the opposite of all that I am in my daily life, and all that my country is.
Tradition, then, in opposition? But that he had also made sacrifices too sacerdotal (and Maud Gonne did not forgive him for his senatorial role, for his naivety, that ol’ brag of ‘changing them from the inside’… De Valera; England’s Greatest Spy etc). Kirsch continues:
This was the opposition that Yeats meant to capture when he wrote that his mystical metaphors “…helped me to hold in a single thought reality and justice.” The famous phrase could be the motto of the whole generation of poets that we now know as the high Modernists. For poets such as Yeats, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Wallace Stevens, reality —the world as it is, as we see it in the newspapers and on the street— is incomplete on its own. It needs to be balanced, corrected, and maybe even replaced by a contrary vision of justice—the world as it should be, and as it can be in great works of art and literature. For Yeats and Pound, in particular, the effort to “hold in a single thought reality and justice” was responsible for what was best in their poetry. But it was also responsible for much that was morally questionable—which helps to explain why one of their greatest successors, W. H. Auden, came to repudiate that high ambition.
There is some meat here (but how Kirsch could only relish that; some articulation of the Image which is the opposite of all that I am in my daily life, and all that my country is? Again, the overdose of outsiderdom is what is entirely fringe also… what is abominably popular? The actress and the bishop).
Yeats’s maskmaking is both a departure and a confrontation. Departure, as in Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, advising: My brothers, do you then want to suffocate in the fumes of their animal mouths and appetites? Better to break the window and leap into the open air. / Avoid this bad odour! Leave the odolatry of the superfluous! / Avoid this bad odour! Leave the smoke of these human sacrifices! (advice for people regarding black magicians like The Clintons!?) Surfeit of outsiderdom, anyone? It is too much departure without confrontation. Or no?
In that intermingling of departure and confrontation art leaps out. The gyres ascertain a vehicle, a group-soul – both predestinational – and spontaneous in the pan-reincarnational will. Nietzsche’s Will to Power is only half the battle. That curious addendum ‘…and nothing besides’ is where the worrisome element of his tack is found. As, through a glass darkly, the gods reproduce themselves, mingle with the heart. Power, in such a conception, is purely social… humility, even in one’s utmost strength, one’s utmost power, must inevitably fall to a humility… and, in that mystic humility, the gods will do their work. In the group-soul, mirroring that individual template, only the bard, Fili, shaman has the necessary acumen to glean its utterances (and all conversation everywhere is an indicator but not a pronouncement… one also pronounces in response to it as much as being ‘of it’ or representative of it. Which is also why I distrust all ideas of poetry as an ‘everyday’ or quitidian dictation. The spiritual other will not conform as the social other does. Zukovsky, O’Hara limit themselves in wallowing in it).
Gaia & Beyond
The Earth, for instance – at least for Nietzsche’s Zarathustra – does not enter into that process. It does not inform that process. Would Blake’s nervousness regarding Wordsworth’s nature worship find a corollary here? Yet there is a feeling that earth, under some new conception, could encompass psyche and polis, and would not – like Zarathustra – have to throw out too many of the gods. I move more towards Wordsworth in my dotage. Blake says There Is No Natural Religion… the condition of religiosity, if it be a perpetual form of the Welsh hireath – yearning for what is not – perpetually gives permission to forms of spirit. Psyche – if fallen! – perceives matter as spirit. Yet nature is here to recapitulate a reversal in this. It says; “I am here to give you leisure but to remind you of what you are not… an example of More Than This, is what you are.” But how could you know this, without reference… without comparison? This is the only way to rest easy in a consideration of both Blake and Wordsworth. When I’m tired I read Wordsworth. When I am energetic I read Blake.
But the bucket spills in different directions. Humanism is overload of the human upon itself, as Heidegger understood it. An appeal to nature, as modus, is ‘un-earthly’ by being a possibility of the anti-human (Shelley fell into this habit, at least early on… I am still plagued by what Shelley, the vegetarian – the proto-disciple of Kundalini, of Eros – could’ve achieved… even given another decade).
Suchly, when you look at the girl’s holiday snaps you realise she is lonely. There are only landscapes. No people. Or nothing of human vitality in the capturing of those landscapes? Nature is barren, inert, without the potential majesty of the human soul inherent in poetic apprehension. This is photography.
It would be tempting to go back to the Yeats poem and have Our Lady Politic be also some form of Gaia, or some other earth-force representative. Something of the immanence of James Lovelock and John Lash? And I am very nervous about that possible connection between the goddess and Sophia, and Lovelock’s Gaia. Which is to say… I don’t see it. I see goddesses and gods prancing around. I see Nietzsche ignoring them in order to launch a post-enlightenment anti-materialist argument. And becoming, at least partially, a materialist. I see Jesus Christ replaced by Zoroaster, instead of Christ as successor. Yes, the Persian lineage in European culture is the triumph of a Caucasian genius, and that Zoroaster is an instance of that. O.K. But – as with Tristan Tzara – the gods are diminished. Pound counters it with:
…The hells move in cycles,
No man can see his own end
The Gods have not returned. “They have never left us.”
They have not returned.
Cloud’s processional and the air moves with their living….
And Nietzsche replaces the appeal to Greece in his first book, The Birth of Tragedy, with (and despite himself?) Persia and Zoroaster, later on, in Thus Spake Zarathustra. We see it in all that comes down to us from Ahura Mazda. Rumi. All solid stuff (as with Rudolf Steiner’s delineation of it) but still an obfuscation that, after MacDari, ensures the west-to-east movement is only ghosted. We Celts appeal to ourselves when we look into Ahura Mazda. A rejection of Ahura Mazda is not the issue here. Ahura Mazda and Zarathustra are simply children of an earlier Celtic pantheon.
The Sufis (and not the milkwarm version of them come down to a Ted Hughes and a Doris Lessing… these were the Mohammedans persecuted by Islam… not Islam’s preogenitors) as they have come down to us in modern Britain, are, of necessity, only the facile hint of a much wider tradition of which we were once a part. It could even be that Nietzsche – by his extensive use of Zoroaster – is a reincarnation of that historic personage; troubled, wise, dictatorial etc. What he does have in his favour, though, is this ability to broaden his psyche further than the classical… most of the German romantics simply fell into a worhip of the south, and of Greece (Heidegger – later – could be included here). Only Goethe and Nietzsche fully break out of this (Goethe, in his interest regarding the Biblical East, and via Hafiz… Nietzsche via Zoroaster).
Scanning through a copy of Maud Gonne’s letters to Yeats a few days ago, I come across this:
I have been thinking over the Celtic rite you read to me & away from the glamour of the musical words I see some defects which I think I should [?signal] to you.
As I said at the time it is far too much influenced by Neiche [Nietzsche], not only as to expression but as to fundamental thought, for Neiche is not Celtic, though his intense individualism & his rushing fiery paradox & his impatience & his contempt for the banalite & smallness of the many useless ones, appeal to us – Nieche’s central thought seems to do away with the Gods, & to reverence & to recognise nothing greater than himself, this is most contrary to Celtic thought.
The Celts have always worshipped & striven after an ideal purer, more spiritual, higher than themselves & it is no abasement to them to kneel before such an ideal […] to me it seems the spear of the soldier piercing the side of Christ & letting the essence of God flow into the Graal cup is the same symbolism as the spear of Lug piercing the night & letting the essence of God the spark of fire of the soul flow down into the Cauldron of regeneration & rebirth, & the font of baptism & the holy water seem to me the same as the purifying Cauldron of Dana which begins initiation, or the deep well by the tree of knowledge!
The altar of sacrifice & of glory is it not the stone of sacrifice & empire? & the sword which was to the warriors of old an inspiration as well as a defence is it not symbolised in the pure sword of Bridget the holy. What do I care if the Great Mother is called Mary or Dana or Bridget or the Captain of the Armies of Heaven is called Lug or Michael.
‘Nuff said? That the Celt is so mythologically and romantically driven that Nietzsche’s dialectic between Christian and Anti-Christian can be bypassed – or balanced? – without losing any of its argumentative drive. Yeats leaves that question wide open, yet Thomas – in his celebrated prologue to the last Collected Poems – appeals to pure monotheism. I want to know why the Irish and the Welsh are so different in this. It is as if I am re-playing an ancient drama between god and gods; the schism of old… praps Julian Jaynes could’ve told me. Spinoza and Thomas… curiously interesting compadres?
Fake Dualisms, Culture & Counterculture
But to return to that holding in a single thought reality and justice, departure and confrontation. By the time we get to Ginsberg something else has occurred, and it calls itself ‘counterculture’ (with all the usual parallels with the Frankfurt school included, of course). The first question we might ask is; did we buy into culture enough, so as to buy into counterculture? In the forest of false dualisms I shall fear no theory-spouting wolf… a little Ezra Pound meme I saw recently; ‘the technique of infamy is to invent two lies and to get people to argue heatedly over which one of them is true’. Yet, Pound DID have culture, or Kulchur… and the spelling is somehow necessarily different. Not Cult-ure. And many will be familiar with Mr McKenna’s Culture is Not Your Friend speech? The surrealists and the dadaists would warm to that, I’d imagine.
And yet I find myself requiring balance. I can take Tarkovsky’s stance on this, his traditionalist fever… retain culture via an aristocracy of artists? In order to get over the word culture a countering was necessary in western thought… and yet the Russian knew better to enter that dualism. We have not yet understood how antithetical Tarkovsky is to western liberalism. His take on women alone would make the hordes of British and American feminists shriek like banshees. Let them have their epoch, their dwindled anti-vital psyche, let them watch it shrink into the gleaning of an utmost cowardice, an evisceration of self and Self.
I can also enjoy Lamantia’s A Civil World (the lambasting of a totally crazed modern America) and yet there is something juvenile in it, amusing though it may be. What was juvenile in my earlier pieces on Dimensional Poetics was just that. They (the Beats, many of the surrealists, in their brute liberalism and communism) had decided the west was doomed. And so it has been? No… not exactly… the confontation has to find its root, its truest cause. And yet counterculture was psychologically founded upon a shying away from cause… and a retreat into symptoms.
Shame is Pride’s cloak. The utterable is sophistication, refined by the Fili. How much satire can one take? How much lungspace for laughter? Nobility of all language… that also doesn’t cut it (Zukovsky, O’Hara, as I mention… these artists worship, perhaps despite themselves, a materialism, instead of seeing that the workings of language itself are partly spiritual and even supernatural). Newspeak, you will have to go. De-constructionspeak, be warned! In the desert there are many things to laugh at, yet under the usual liberal and neo-liberal auspices it is the one thing on repeat… capitalism, capitalism, and now the Illuminati, as monogram (though the truth be much more complex than this). The conspiracy and alternate research fields had to be reborn to re-enter where political and religious engagement had been cut off prior to World War II. And that is where the Ickes and the Alex Joneses of this world enter. In the former an end-times interplanetary meme, in the latter a more timid Reaganite agenda. And, while I see the Alt-Right as antidote to this I wonder what figures on the right can be taken as heroic from our most immediate past. I would take Nixon over Reagan and Thatcher anyday… my Irish lineage will not allow for Thatcher’s approach re: Bobby Sands etc. What is most symbolic, in terms of poetry, is the fall from conservatism into the Marxist approach. Yet! It would have to be a conservatism almost completely shorn of the twentieth century. The last great figures of conservatism, in the past century, would have to be Yeats, later Eliot… and Pound (with many artists of a later Celtic strain – Thomas among them – falling for communism… and why? Because the Celt seeks the unitary in social life, and in certain functions of artistic purpose, and thus is fooled into notions of equality).
Is it not tragic, for example, that the academies take The Waste Land, The Hollow Men… as their totem, instead of Four Quartets? Yes, those earlier things were necessary – and if WWI was the beginning of the end for the west, understandable – but this liberalist body, in its worship of entropy, simply pitches them into the future as an infinite condition, rather than a historical weeping. It is not Adorno, but it is not far from it.
Both McKenna and Alan Watts, in their own separate ways, indicate something other than modern western culture in their philosophies… the problem therein is the building of a notion of creativity that truly opposes. Dada, likewise, chooses to introduce creative method as anti-art… meaning that Beat literature and contemporary poetry, for the most part, follow that approach, inheriting the ‘anti-art’ stance, in the popular sense; through Dada, surrealism, and beyond WWII. Post-modernism, then, becomes an imperative in descent… pushing an anti-artistic imperative, a fake rebellion in freefall. Satire, insofar as it was used by progenitors of those two movements of the WWI era, had its place. But in post-modernism it is the only imperative… an experiment in sardonic deconstructionalism gone insane. A supreme ironist’s stance. Insane enough to allow for – and absorb into itself – any of the faux-political media stories that come its way.
In Irish poetry of the nineteenth and early twentieth century we always have examples of satirical verse. What post-modernism does, though, is create a monogram of cultural rebellion in line with cultural Marxism. Nietzsche called this ressentiment; an endless spiral of intellectual one-up-man-ship. But if the subject, in dialectic, becomes trivial, those involved in it circle – in perpetuity – the magnetic argument their own powers of insouciance must transcend. Would Joyce embody that power of insouciance via dream language, or nay? Black humour, wordplay and punning would all fall into the category – for me – of a form of transcendence. Breton however, also could not sanction Joyce… proving that surrealism, and its barrage of motifs, could not accept the Joycean in early twentieth century art. That which doesn’t seem to have explicit worldly reference, or is at least formally framed to appear as such, is damned… since it does not claim to paint an apparent world, apparent under the aegis of the mass; a democratic envisioning. Celtic art, at least under Joyce’s terms, is the most undemocratic form of art, possibly in the world. Although it trades in the mythic and the classical, in the minutiae of its expressive power it denies any social world. Which is creation, but a problematic hyper-individualism? Only problematic for the politician or statesman… not problematic for the artist. Breton, despite his aiming for a Reality, elsewhere – the glow of the divine – would always fall back into forms of political adventure, of theory. Again, there is the glimmer of the statesman, the critic, in such an attitude.
Facts of Historical Perception, A Second Descent
And, regarding the subject of Pound, here’s a piece that exemplifies tranference. Transference of poetry as culture, descended under the aegis of poetry as counterculture:
War Profit Litany
To Ezra Pound
These are the names of the companies that have made money from this war
nineteenhundredsixtyeight Annodomini fourthousand eighty Hebraic
These are the Corporations who have profited by merchan-
dising skinburning phosphorous or shells fragmented
to thousands of fleshpiercing needles
and here listed money millions gained by each combine for manufacture
and here are gains numbered, index’d swelling a decade, set
The opening lines of a Ginsberg poem from ’68, the year of the Paris riots. What fascinates me about this poem is that, unlike The Cantos, it doesn’t do exactly what it claims it is doing… and does so in the name of Ezra Pound. It does not name… (all that importance of Kabbalistic naming?) and the best it can do is demonstrate an empty intention.
The passing, in this case, from one generation to another comes down to an empty gesture. We are treated to the problem of ‘corporations’ without knowing which ones are the most problematic to us, and who we should investigate, both personally and legally. Pound’s fight is reduced to a few crocodile tears. And so it goes with a whole host of writers in the same generation. It is the ghost of departure, the empty departure… the empty confrontation. Ginsberg is necessary to liberalism because he maintained that empty gesture of political confrontation so that others could get on with other things.
The performance aspect of the thing is so abnegating of the truest political struggle at that point that it almost makes me laugh. Nietzsche is taken to the most performative conclusion that that sense of the wrongdoing of mass man is magnified without, somehow, being truly witnessed. The excuse, in a more supportive reading of the poem, I guess… would be that Ginsberg is simply aping Pound, he is seeing his own performative and protesty element in The Cantos and projecting that out onto the reader. And providing… generalities? (If you are going to kill someone, name them! Do not name their type. You would have a bloodbath on your hands and still there would be the rumour that you may not have brought your enemy to justice).
Interesting… all this… but still somehow a dissolution of Pound’s original intent. If it were me, as reader, I would expect a true meeting. A meeting of twin-Justices.
There also seems to me to be an absence of the jovial, not only in this, but in the heave of the social after the war (a book would be needed to do justice to this, and the names McClure, Ginsberg, Dylan, Olson would have to be up there for crit)… so that where the artist can carry Ginsberg with them, the researcher can take their Chomsky. Both men can feel truly accommodated in a false intelligence while the true naming can be permanently stalled…. the jovial – in life – by the saintliness of the newspaper, the information… in flux constantly, and without any depth of instinct and intuition. My way out is John Pilger, gentlemen.
But compare late Ginsberg with Goethe. You really get to see the true descent of western literature. Hollow, juvenile, Buddhistic platitudes with the most careless of journalistic investigations. It is an example of fake Gnosticism that was appalled by all that is physical. Ginsberg’s ethos of the body is almost pornographic (to expect anything else, by a confirmed supporter of NAMBLA?) and the individual, reduced to an end in itself. The heart lost somewhere behind the mires of ego avoidance and, contradictorily, a faux exemplar of the informed intellect. A paradox in descent. (And Hughes’s latent Manichean elements thrown in…? That is possibly for another essay).
But, to return to Kirsch on Yeats, in the light of War Profit Litany;
…there is also a cost to this way of writing poetry, which you can see in some of Yeats’s other poems from this period. For if the world as it should be is all that matters to a poet, the world as it is can’t help looking a little contemptible—and that goes for all the people in it.
To hold in a single thought reality and justice. The world as it should be… the ideal, justice. The world as it is… reality. And yet there is no penetration, no dreaming toward justice… it is too much with the world, as Wordsworth would say. What Kirsch is really saying is that Yeats’s methodology sits in the purely ideal realm… and that reality – somewhere downwind from it – is garbage because of it. The essence being; because you live in such a high pitch of the ideal, my ‘real’ is disturbed and looks to be awful because of it. This is loss of respect. Reality -twinned to the ideal – impaired because only a shallow form of justice sought. A saint of only the real. Blunt badness of the world. Bedfellow of The Information.
The Celts solve this by being able to glean beauty in another’s efforts toward the ideal; a sometime-correction of the real. In Kirsch, thought – the real – is contemptible because the critic gathers it into himself, in the face of the invasion of that poetic ideal. What is that mode, then? To be blunt, it is a nihilistic, envious criticism, a mode that envies, and sees the real, as hellish, and other… in the face of beauty, and of the ideal. And that has been the reigning mode since 1945… its seeds planted much earlier, as early as the switch from the Victorian age to the modern age (and I say ‘modern’ only in the literary sense). Criticism against the highest tone, then… instead of the complement. Which does not necessarily imply ‘With’, or ‘In Agreement-with…’ Criticism must complement, and can quite easily complement in simultaneity with opposition.
While surrealism was subjectivity gone to the nth degree counterculture was subjectivity simultaneously destroyed and energised by The Information, the journalistic approach. Loss of elegance. The transcendental without a body… or if the body exists it is masturbating in a corner over a copy of The New York Times. And when Ginsberg said he was obsessed by Time magazine he meant it. It reminds me of this little sliver from Thomas’s ‘…Long-Legged Bait’. Time, and her other way, or to metaphorise the literal:
Time is bearing another son.
Kill Time! She turns in her pain!
The oak is felled in the acorn
And the hawk in the egg kills the wren.
(This meets any rule of the prophetic mode any Poundian could throw at it. Human nature as form of nature turned in on itself. Penultimate entropy).
Interesting, then, conspiracy fans… that the great critics of Ginsberg, in Beat literature, all seem to end in absence, in early deaths. Spicer. Kerouac (who, not unintentionally, named Ginsberg ‘Marx’ in his fiction) and Cassady.
His American Asia
Between Obama’s inaugeration and somewhere around 2011 or 2012 I would have been happy to have left that instinct against what I had perceived occurring between the hand-over from Pound to Ginsberg for someone else to look into and criticise. I was also busy reading into a lot more of American poetry than I’d hitherto taken account of. Robert Duncan. Charles Olson. Robin Blaser. Jack Spicer. Robert Kelly. Clayton Eshleman.
For a long while Eshleman lay closest to me somehow, perhaps only because he had, like me, spent time in Asia… I was fascinated by the connection between him and Cid Corman (who was still around, living in Kyoto, just a 40 minute train ride from my place in Kobe, Japan). I attempted to get Eshleman published in a small English language magazine in South Korea.
The thing didn’t last long because I actually perceived that my role as editor would be taken seriously, not realizing that all foreigners are editor-puppets of Korean bosses, these in turn, beholden to government funds that came through the largest university of that town, and did very little for any conception of true journalism in that scene.
(I’d even go further and say any foreigner – in the face of a political and cultural majority – tends to turn into a pet fairly swiftly. I am sceptical of minorities – and I am most sceptical of them when I am racially living amongst them… they will do anything to raise the eyebrow of a fresh majority figure… so weak is the human soul in our times. Always, and always, the foreigner is simply parsley on the wider cultural agenda of any given country… his language – in my case, English – absorbed into whatever fashion is then current in that other country. In this way, I generally distrust the members of any minority in a country… as they are always quick to appeal to the current social mores of the majority. Innovation and ‘the unknown idea’ always come from out of a majority, though – though in a different way – often exiled. This implies the idea that one is only of use to the people of one’s own racial heritage. The Celt does seem different, however… at least in the western world, his lineage is prized as possibly superior and separate. In so far as other races are aware of the Celt, they are pulled into knowledge of them by a fundamental sense of respect and curiosity, regardless of the various stupidities and political backbiting that quite happily goes on in Celtic countries… the fundamental oikos in western man toward the antediluvean, and yet his total shunning of it at the conscious conversational level).
But, regardless, the magazine was simply a way for rich Korean business owners to promote their wares, and to be a voice for foreign and Korean visiting political dignitaries’ vapid pronouncements on domestic and international affairs. Satan gets around…?!
I was fighting wars on all fronts… the cowardly foreign sub-editors who would do anything to bolster the opinions of the Korean bosses, and trying to soothe the always-fragile egos of real writers, who I perceived Eshleman, at the time, to be one. The Korean editors, poorly instructed in English/Konglish/Korean eventually managed to fuck up the type and spacing in the magazine, an immense problem which Eshleman, from his distance, could not get his head round. I lasted a few more weeks at the magazine, trying to work with an idiot co-editor (some local American communist ex-pat who was related to George Schultz somehow) then called it quits. Shitty, happy, not-so-happy days.
Copernicus, The Keening, or To Take a Metaphor Literally, To Mis-take
Where I beheld my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: it was the Spirit of Gravity – through him all things are ruined.
One does not kill by anger but by laughter. Come, let us kill the Spirit of Gravity!
I have learned to walk: since then I have run. I have learned to fly: since then I do not have to be pushed in order to move
Nietzsche against gravity (as with the flat earthers). The danger of taking metaphors literally. The enjoyment of taking metaphors literally… absorption into the spiritual and social other. Do-able, with balance. Gravitas. The child, smirking at the adult’s seriousness. The child’s total dependence on the adult. (Thomas’s absorption into childhood – by any schema of theory on art – again, as with Joyce, shuns the socially explicable forms of contemporary art).
Kant performed a Copernican Revolution. The spirits said the same to Yeats. Don’t keep retreating into philosophy, mate. Between Agatha Christie murder mysteries he kept getting wrapped up in it. Hegel. Kant. I have just started reading McTaggart. Now there’s a man that interests me. Hegel, possibly.
I’ve written of Kant’s noumenon elsewhere. It appeals to the mystic, the Parmenidean, in one. As with the eye of the needle… But what if Kant was simply saying: I’m tying the philosophical up – at least for the western mind – right… here! Fuck youse all! Now go and swim in the categories for eternity… never mind faeries and Tir Nan Og.
We know -being more sensible – that the attack on pure reason was not exactly natural science or enlightenment… and yet why a Copernican revolution, folks? Do we distrust a man who never left his home territory? (as with Dickinson?) I’ve no evidence, but Kant was writing in a Europe festooned with Jacobins and Weishaupt disciples. Why but why did he apply his new philosophy to a cosmological concern? Modern European philosophy has always been intensely gunshy of cosmology, particularly given its research – and great reading – in the ancients. The Chaldeans would shake their heads in dismay. Particularly given that Kant’s appeal is so misplaced. The Alt-Right, bar a small number of modernists, may also make a similar error. It is shy of art… but this may be that its social conceptions are simply so young that only a few artists can forge a new power of the inexplicable within this new political attitude. Which begs the question; which comes first, a remaking of the divine under the purview of the artist, or an artist traversing the socially and politically new?
We have also been shy to accept the racial element in philosophy. I like certain things because it is in my blood to like them. But is that to confuse things? The racial absolutely is involved with philosophy. One can read outside of one’s race, but one’s tastes are simultaneously forged by it. Why do Spinoza, Whitehead, Heidegger, Schopenhauer, McTaggert appeal to me over so many others? These – despite their appeal to classical mores – are really the barbarians of European philosophy… and if they had been living in ancient Europe I assume that Plato and Aristotle would’ve put them in their place. We are critical of these, from instinct, because the philosopher king is inadequate. For the same reason Heidegger appeals to Heraclitus and Parmenides. Heretics to a republic, surely? More poetic than Plato could ultimately acknowledge. Heidegger’s End of Philosophy at least implies a return to artistic fervor, and the societal rule -in some format – of the artist. Except that he has no historical blueprint to lay out the theory properly. Why? Because he is stuck with purely classical forms of thought, and does not see the Greek as an essentially fallen being. There is not really fault in that. Except to say that forms of law would need to take into account earlier systems of social arrangement. The Irish, in ancient epochs, can solve the vagaries of Heidegger’s attempt by example of the Brehonic – and earlier – systems. I have not yet read into Schelling extensively… but from the little I know of him he suggests something very different in post-Kantian thought. I only know of Evola – and now Tsarion – who take Schelling incredibly seriously.
2004? I am climbing up the side of a hill that is the ancient tomb of some Chinese king in Xian. It is a big deal. You can look it up on the net. I have become friends with a German couple, and the guy seems to have talked to me about Kant for nigh on a whole day. I like the Germans… the only problem is they’re the only bunch of people to be more brainwashed than the English. Nietzsche would be proud of me, I guess. (And yet, O’Donnell… I’ve seen you sneaking a peek at that Modern Library edition of Kant from time to time… how dare you?)
(But… again, why a Copernican Revolution? Kant was a philosopher… not a cosmologist! Let the numinous be your projection, the theoretical crystal ball… and wrap yourself in the categories for 200 and some odd years… all the way up to that cold 2004-Chinese night, pilgrim.
Gravitas & Revelation
2015? Well… Eric Dubay is all over the internet telling us the world is flat. I can handle it. Can you? There is no gravity. All those attendant theories I hold in my mind with a certain neutralised passion. Counterculture, there goes yer Einstein. Monotheism: the search for anti-relativity. And here, also, the wrath of Blake’s identification of Urizen as supreme scientistic malevolence. The names are known in this anti-pantheon; Locke, Bacon and Newton. It is all pretty straightforward. They are named, at least. Still, why not add the names of Kepler, Galileo, Bruno and Einstein to that mix? Again, this is harder to unpick, and I would be a little shy of putting Bruno in there without much more research… and yet what we do know is De Vere’s utter contempt of Philip Sidney and his circle, the same circle that most wooed Bruno. We know less of what the general public may have thought of Bruno around the time he was in England, and after. Could Rome have intentionally created a martyr in order to forward the heliocentric model? Yet, simply, that it wouldn’t entirely close until a good way into the 19th century? And that between those two eras, begun with Bruno’s death, sits Immanuel Kant.
Still, I am not building an argument, for example, against astrology necessarily. I am — though — interested in its use by people like H.P Morgan and Ted Hughes, for instance. Further, I am aware that both Gaia, or what we are now familiar with as the known universe, is an unreal fallen aspect of God mirrored – in Christian tradition – with the fall of Lucifer. The consequence of this is that we should study, in tandem, both the working facets of that dokos; the stars, and thus move – by intuition – to an understanding of what God, outside of dokos, is. To exercise the unknown senses that lie beneath the known five, we must proceed by the road of laughter, nonsense, wordplay and glossolalia. In a not-dissimilar way to Rimbaud’s proclamation: Je dis qu’il faut être voyant, se faire voyant. Le poète se fait voyant par un long, immense et raisonné dérèglement de tous les sens. And the purest racial soul’s nonsense will seem more sensible than that of the artist pouring out a world from pure concepts and maneuvers of theory? (And yet one would want the mind – that prickly word – to be part of that process, too).
But does Nietzsche also contribute to the drama of gravitas and geocentrism, with The Madman? Seamus Heaney, strangely, also provides a parallel, unconscious of that fight, in his poem, Antaeus. Heaney remains a convert of the earthly… in many ways it is advisable (!) All of the art of the early twentieth century has been a tension between the earthly and the divine. After WWII, however, we are stuck with the earthly; Heaney, in essence, follows Hardy in this. Hardy – that great cataloguer of folk event and folk wisdom and attitude – takes on something of Heaney’s poetic imperatives (remember also, that Yeats got nothing from Hardy… Hardy – at least for me – is something to be gotten out from under… why? Because, again, in his era, he produced art against the strictest forms of religious doctrine… he fell into a dualism. You could also argue against Browning for the same reason. The angels visited only through the receptacle of earthly pastime. It was this or nothing… ? an absence of the other, yet commendably within the right mode and tradition. In modern times we see, in a highly hermetic manner, the angels of the Gnostic – and other writings – re-entering the minds of those conventionally religious, or writers enthusiastically of a folk tradition of a sort).
Antaeus deserves the second glance, though. (Levertov, also rejects it; the purely spatial, the un-anchored mind… in her later poetry).
When I lie on the ground
I rise flushed as a rose in the morning.
In fights I arrange a fall on the ring
To rub myself with sand.
That is operative
As an elixir. I cannot be weaned
Off the earth’s long contour, her river-veins.
Down here in my cave
Girded with root and rock
I am cradled in the dark that wombed me
And nurtured in every artery
Like a small hillock.
Let each new hero come
Seeking the golden apples and Atlas:
He must wrestle with me before he pass
Into that realm of fame
Among sky-born and royal.
He may well throw me and renew my birth
But let him not plan, lifting me off the earth,
My elevation, my fall.
I recall the little lightning conduction rods that used to hang behind the rear wheels of cars in the 80s. How suspicious we all were… the vengeance of Zeus wrought upon some delicate Fiesta or Mini. But the vehicle, always reassuredly earthed. The lifting of man, in the crush and rush of the planets. A necessary fiction? Still, there an epoch ends, an aperture closes in the pyschic accretions of The Aeons, in order to allow the myth to be seen afresh. It can even be seen in the pure-planetariness of Icke’s new ‘Saturnian’ evil.
And, in opposition, why the Russians could not, via Solovyev, approve of wholehearted mysticism… they could see what havoc the long slide between Aleksandr Blok’s Poems to The Lady (John Lash’s Gaia; Sophia, in another aspect?) and his pre-eminent error of The Twelve could do. The poem that Christianized Bolshevism, and also had Hitler reeling over Christianity as its manifestation? Blok’s poem, more a threat to literary unrest than twelve Mayakovskys lined up against a wall denying mythology, denying folklore… or the rose of futurism placed in the barrel of a gun that will ultimately blow them away? Mayakovsky, destroyed by a same lack of insouciance. I do not see him as the great humorist… he is something of a kiljoy, his laughter had network, social conscience and the whiff of theory about it. The same has been levelled at Lawrence, particularly the complaint of his Nettles. But elsewhere we see much satiric humour, biting wit. In his poetry he divides himself too much as time, through the twenties, proceeds. In prose his insouciance continues unabated, and yet in poetry he becomes more earthly and pitiable… at least in patches. Perhaps why he and Joyce seem the most opposite.
As Richard Aldington, contemporary of both Lawrence and Joyce, writes, in his 1932 introduction to Lawrence’s Last Poems and More Pansies:
At two opposite poles of modern literarature stand D.H Lawrence and James Joyce. Lawrence, no doubt, is more widely read since nearly all his books circulate freely and are kept in print. Joyce has been much more the prey of the swarms of imitative writers who want to appear original, and this is because he has made numerous technical and verbal experiments which can easily be copied. The contrasts between the work of these two men can be elaborated almost indefinitely. The great difference I want to touch on now is that Joyce’s writing is founded on the conception of Being, and Lawrence’s on the conception of Becoming. It is not merely the difference of Catholic and Protestant (though, of course, Joyce is as essentially Catholic as Lawrence is Protestant) because this fundamental dilemma was stated long before Christianity by pre-Socratic Greeks.
How best to perceive differences in two of the great modernists…? In line with Heidegger – and with Joyce – we see the acting out of Being, and in literary expenditure… with the latter. In Heidegger it is the explaining of Being, in Joyce it is the embodying – via myth’s seizures – of Being. And that this is simply an elegance refuted by Lawrence. Is there any reflection in Joyce. The memories stand in their glass jars. Unhurried. Breathing. Lawrence allows for an admittance to failure… a thoroughly anti-philosophical stance.
And again, why did the instructors refute Yeats’s immersion in philosophy? It is because it would impede his own creative impulses. In the same way, then, Lawrence enters the fray. Philosophy – possibly shorn of the more humanistic assertions of Nietzsche? – always centres itself in System (and Nietzsche’s response to Schopenhauer’s system-building would confirm that, to an extent). System – child of Plato – demands at least a semi-pliable will toward rightness of assertion. Its intention is civilization. The philosopher destroys himself through that same assertion. Lawrence’s inelegance of Becoming treats system to forms of constant openness, and to self-paradox. Contrary to scholarly wisdom on Lawrence, this is an extremely humorous position to put oneself in.
Ulysses is static and solid, logically planned, smelling of the lamp, a sort of unchristmas present to the Lord in Whose sight a thousand years are as a day, a day is as a thousand years. It is a little static cosmos, like a huge rigid glass bubble blown out of the top of a head. It is, and there is nothing to be done about it. A strange, perfect, rather awful product of man’s will and mind, a sort of literary Frankenstein which has devoured its creator.
Now turn to Lawrence’s work – how fluid, how personal, how imperfect, a series of inconclusive adventures only related because they all happened to the same man. There is nothing static about this – everything flows. There is perpetual intercourse with the Muse, but the progeny is as surprising to the parent as to anybody else. Lawrence’s writing was not something outside himself, it was part of himself, it came out of his life and in turn fed his life. He adventured into himself in order to write, and by writing discovered himself.
Aldington then; correct… in that same invocation of panta rhei πάντα ῥεῖ… everything flows (Heraclitus). The emphasis on Lawrence’s work as a poetic of Becoming. And right… in his understanding that this is an old pre-Socratic jag replayed. Yet we know that – dated to 1932 – he is somewhat out of the loop regarding what Joyce is currently up to. A couple of decades in the making, Joyce’s prima materia is yet to be unveiled… writing this statement he is not entirely aware that we at least partially live under – and are ensconced in – that Joycean shadow. What Joyce made, to become mingled with the ethos of pure concept, pure intellectuality; the post-modern ressentiment, of Nietzsche’s phrasing… Adorno and Derrida, its most potent exemplars? If Joyce could be maintained in holarchy perhaps only Kerouac, in later popular literary culture (and another Celt, removed slightly… in French Canada) would be a child of his moods of playfulness (yet the political landscape has changed irrevocably, and no longer could a writer maintain – in the same manner – the level of insouciance the earlier modernists studiously managed to achieve). By 1961, regarding The Joyce Industry we have this quipping response to what the world has done with Joyce, by Flann O’Brien:
The Irish Government would be in order in refusing a visa to any American student unless he had undertaken, by affidavit on oath, not to do a ‘thesis’ on James Joyce and subsequently have it published as a book. All literature has been defaced by so many abortions
…and of Joyce himself, he says
He often committed that least excusable of follies, being ‘literary’. His attempted demolition of language was his other major attainment. What would you think of a man who entered a restaurant, sat down, suddenly whipped up the tablecloth and blew his nose on it? You would not like it — not of you owned the restaurant. That is what Joyce did with our beloved tongue that Shakespeare and Milton spoke…
History as we know it, and history as Joyce configured his work to be an emancipation from, though, is intended to fall away in an attempt at retrieving information from the unconscious that reveals the pre-diluvian miasma we were racially born from. It begs the question how linguistically explicable is moral and para-historical consciousness. What is explicit in all this is that the human paradiso did occur, and that history, through a series of floods, became base and sundered by greed. (Paradiso and Tir nan Og being synonymous with each other?) It is the old Biblical magnetism (or in Lash; The Fall of Sophia). Yet Joyce did not simply wish to be a Blavatsky or a Rudolf Steiner. He chose to remake the pre-conscious world as dream utterance, by sheer fact of the magic of wordplay. If God is utter permission, then to immerse oneself in the Wake, is to understand no public or social law, other than biological drift and joy’s invitations. If life is made up of a series of utterances, a stack of languages for social transcendence then the implication – via Joyce’s Wake – is that no explicable public or social voice will ever allow for civilization, that only language mysticism will out. His antidote to history is curiously historical, in that, with any attempt at summary, comes the embarrassing idea of a thing rendered somehow ludicrous; irreal. In detail it is important… from a distance it seems somewhat opaque and meaningless. But still, this resurrection of a mind Homer’s gods could recognise and interact with? Utterance of the Bicameral Mind, the bringing of a counter-dream into life, to instill something of the sting of the unreality, the dream, of waking life?
I think again of McKenna’s machine elves… the idea of all materiality being made out of language, out of Logos, somehow. That man singing is somehow parallel with God’s bringing the world into being. Of the standing stones and dolmens, lifted with a technology literally in tune with that urge toward singing. But how possible? Between Aeons and Archons the singer brings pieces of the world into being. For world to utter a magnetism of disbelief. The mightier the artwork the longer it takes to be accepted (400 years for us to fully interpret Shakespeare’s plays and poems properly, and identify the men behind them. 200 years to get our heads round Shelley etc). In the meantime this dimension is busy with its timely sub-speech contained by bodily and psychological fear. Prose. Journalism. And – in line with this sense of the materiality of words – the dimensions, also, are sung into being. By God. The singer or Fili becomes extra-dimensional in perceiving and acting out the truth of each dimensional space. If Joyce’s Wake has any validity, it is an indicator of the dimensions as functioning on the basis of high forms of play and pun. Seeing one thing in another. Meta-phor. If it has any weakness it would be that social order, communally established forms of language, needn’t have any place in art. Though I’m sure Joyce would defend his choices by saying that social order comes about as a consequence of art despite art’s incoming formal investigations, and despite the social order’s changes and reformations… that the connection between them need not be explicable.
The other consequence of The Wake is that it renders the soul’s developing nature as inexplicable, in its inception. The inceptive! And in Christian tradition; the glossolalic. A rendering of the source into World. The child, sitting close to the babble of source… Robert Kelly’s thesis; that The Wake is most real to children, and most enjoyed by them. The childhood of the world, being Atlantean, antediluvean? The philosophical in Blake becomes a creature of purer linguistic invention in Joyce. Paradox is the essential framework of Lawrence’s sense of Becoming. Paradox, in Joyce, shunned… because dualisms flicker and switch; mental efforts and choices are more constringed, more thickly present. In the title itself; the elegance of kenning, of punning. Delineation of a man deemed to be dead, actually immortal… and simply, in humour, resisting death’s touch (as Yeats says; Man has created death). Lawrence appeals to the ideological in man, Joyce – closer to source – despite all intention, attempts to abolish all paradox by virtue of a mystic joy. The ancient Kabbalistic preservative holds that all is revealed in a name. Joy for Joyce. Pound for pound, for financial and social economy. Law for Lawrence? Yet these are only partial disclosures, methinks.
Between Freud and the present, then, enters Joyce’s stalwart experiment. And out of Nietzsche’s madness. Pound’s Silence, Mishima’s ritual seppuku. Fractures in what became the neo-liberalist armour. Charles Olson, ‘drunk, and drinking…’ at the 1965 Berkeley Reading. Talking, out of turn, out of time, about Ernst Zundel, of all people (go back to the recording, people)… many found him infuriating… some found him inspiring.
Lew Welch walks out into the mountains of California with a pistol… his body, never found.
Say something very true. And we will take the piss out of it. All as it should be… syntropy, entropy.
“No, I ‘m David Irving!”
Fringes. Lovely cornices. We are the adultchildren – toroidal! – and we have come to save you… for you know not what you do. Oh, for a group-soul that could roll back the mind-control of the 60s. There was never any 6,000,000 folks. It is very complicated. The numbers keep shifting. Every time Amschel Rothschild’s ghost has a bowel movement strange noughts shrink and expand. (Death, thank goodness, is not racial, though soul is?).
And then there was Eisenhower, leaving god knows how many soldiers and civilians (Jew and gentile alike) to starve in death camps after the war. The museum pieces of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, to maintain the legend… and keep Theodor Adorno in work for close to another quarter century. (The works of Herodotus and David Irving burned in a pyre on Trafalgar Square).
Meanwhile, in Waterstones, a naive student purchases a copy of a Will Self novel with the first of his new semester’s Student Loan which he will pay back – when his hair turns to its first of many shades of grey – with his pension? The novel will not last as long… neither in his possession, nor in his memory.
Or ‘Meanwhile, Jack Kerouac, naive alcoholic, tells a journalist he thought Eisenhower, a good man… – a kind man…‘ Or… Angela Merkel – mid-meeting – gazing serenely out of her office window, toward… a dim grey corner of The Bundestag… The Reichstag? While the spectre of Stalin – as in Being John Malkovich – ingests her business luncheon on her behalf.
Aindriú Ó Domhnaill, Dec ’16 – Feb ’17