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 it analysed 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 prose response to a criticism that he was not a very political writer. I would love to reproduce his response… but I no longer have the book, or have access to it (it is in the new anniversary edition of his Complete Poems).
What my response would be is that Thomas felt he had no interest in putting the social world in order. And that this 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? 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). 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. Our definition of it is a political process, in so far – 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. 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 an attack on 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’ – 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 a 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 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 of being-at-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 prior to 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, are 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?
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…). 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. 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 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. 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. But 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 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).
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 fuck-up 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. And, god knows I’ve tried to read Amiri Baraka! John Coltrane…? Well, there you have me. I’m sold. 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.
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.
But Nietzsche was there first? The Madman.
Seamus Heaney dramatises it, 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 church doctrine. It was this or nothing. 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).
Antaeus deserves the second glance, though. (Levertov, also rejects it; the purely spatial, the un-anchored mind… in her later poetry).
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 poetic 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 the 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).
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 – gazes 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.
There were two serpents… and the sixties was busy discovering the antithesis to the reigning dragon, not understanding the Mosaic consequences that still held them in its grip: the name… Rothschild. deleted, originally, in The Cantos. This was known by Pound as early as the twenties, in purely economic terms, but later he understood it in symbolic, quasi-Biblical terms. It wasn’t until much later that the fragment addenda were made known.
The Evil is Usury neschek
whose name is known the defiler,
Beyond race and against race
τόκος hic mali medium est
Here is the core of evil, the burning hell without let-up,
The canker corrupting all things, Fafnir the worm,
Syphilis of the State, of all kingdoms
Wart of the common-weal,
Wenn-maker, corrupter of all things
Darkness the defiler,
Twin evil of envy,
Snake of the seven heads, Hydra, entering all things,
Passing the doors of temples defiling the grove of Paphos,
neschek, the crawling evil,
slime, the corrupter of all things
Poisoner of the fount,
of all fountains, neschek,
The serpent, evil against nature’s increase,
Written in 1941 this fragment pre-dates David Icke by a half century or more, yet much of it is pure Bible, in a seemingly Gnostic aspect (where Pound and Blake, not always comfortable bedfellows in literature, overlap?)
D.H Lawrence is both problematic and interesting here. He believed that the fallen Lucifer was a pagan entity made evil by mainstream Christianity. Once you build an image it becomes a real presence (as the Torah understood in its will to censorship). So, yes… possibly a reigning entity now… but not necessarily in origin. Satanism is a parasite on the church… so, of course, they really do use this spiritual presence for black masses etc. Yaldaboeth, also. Ba’al is the fallen aspect of Bel, the god known in ancient Ireland (and also known to the Gnostics). What tends to happen is that they take a god and they bring it into fallenness by their own impure intentions, having no creative intention of their own (that they are soulless, in this?) Gods, or spiritual presences, to me, are never entirely earthly… they tend to straddle dimensions. They become ‘lower forces’ via man’s baser instincts. But can become aspects of higher dimensions if the will of an individual, or community, is strongly focussed toward the good.
Bards and seers literally hold the unity of dimensions in place via works of art. And here comes Shelley’s dictum; “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world”. There is a lineage so deep and wide in that word; ‘unacknowledged’ that it would take a book or two to unravel. For me, the whole thing has everything to do with the ‘Flight of the Earls’, the loss of the Bardic and Druidic influence in modern life. Poets are also combatting mendacious influences. Since the Druidic line has fallen into the control of a few depraved bloodlines and their American, African and Asian cousins.
He learns this other writing. He is the scribe
Who drove a team of quills on his white field.
Round his cell door the blackbirds dart and dab.
Then self-denial, fasting, the pure cold.
By rules that hardened the farther they reached north
He bends to his desk and begins again.
Christ’s sickle has been in the undergowth.
The script grows bare and Merovingian.
…from Alphabets (1987). Heaney at his most pre-Renaissance-best. A perturbation in the language itself. The whiff of language-conspiracy. But Heaney, himself, one of the first college boy poets… and a fear, a lack of daring, comes with it. Perhaps his best work is in the translations. He picks, and takes comfort in, similar epochs to myself. I don’t buy the idea that the Irish are really a renaissance-oriented people. We seem to leave that to Southern Europe and its corresponding American elegist. Although there is always the Latin that comes heavily into the Irish and the English, from Chaucer’s language onward, at least. (But McDevitt is right in this; that a wildness has been missed. Whether it be manifest in the modern is a much bigger question. My Surrealism, I believe, is an indicator).
Similarly, Conor MacDari, telling me the word Rome comes from the Irish Language. What I was most uncomfortable with, reading Mein Kampf, was not what our modern age’s mores may have expected me to dislike from the shrieking liberalist perspective… but that Hitler – as with Holderlin, and to a certain degree with Goethe – was holding up the classical age as the be-all and end-all of civilization. Yet, Blake – and the good Celt? – knows Rome was a barbarian culture built etymologically and mythologically, by the regions it conquered, their triumph of worship and belief becomes its parasitic pantheon. One should read and study classicism on the grounding of that fact (and, of course, it doesn’t negate my enthusiasm for the classics, and classically-inspired poetry and literature; the name of H.D comes most forthrightly to mind here). But the Romans were the first to make their thievery dignified by virtue of their civic pragmatism. Blake knew this. Kathleen Raine turns Blake’s deeper search into an older Britain, into a romance of only classical and Greek proportions. In her metaphysics she is reaching in the right direction, yet she’ll only ever find a small portion of the story from that standpoint. Does this connect with the same interest and antagonism Yeats had to Plotinus? Not directly, perhaps, but it sits on the fringes of that debate.
Regardless – moving on, and to return to our mythological serpents: – in dimension-theory, as it were, the reptilian is supposed to hold sway in the fourth dimension… yet much of man’s psychic and spiritual abilities are in the fifth and sixth dimensions. Celtic lineage and metaphysics cannot be divorced from a mythological reptilian theory, and from the very real existence of black magic on the side of our current European monarchs (which is NOT to say monarchs are bad, or that monarchies in the past have not been benevolent… the Celtic Revival, and the Victorian, and Pre-Raphaelite, interest at least understood the value of the concept of a benevolent lineage of the High Kings of British and European antiquity… yet Joyce’s procedures partially negate this, which is another failure embedded in high modernism).
It is just that, behind pure classicism, there is a stolen knowledge, a sequestered – and halted – path the sages of antiquity engendered. This is the history of the last two to three thousand years… its absence just more visible in the last three hundred or so. Parasitism is the formalised endeavour of Elohim in their fallen aspect. These entities loathe the fact that all dimensions are open to the human, and that their powers only allow them to monkey around with very limited facets of our total pan-dimensional reality.
Equally there is the good serpent, Kundalini – and used with differing nomenclature, through different metaphysical traditions – used with moral discipline, and as a servant of life, and nourishment. Eros is its social and political aspect (but only Greek through its most recent form) darkened by most current leaders. Lawrence understood this serpent-dialectic – its clear in his book Apocalypse, and in The Plumed Serpent– but most people, lost in surface conspiracy research, paint the serpent with an entirely negative hue. That could’ve even been Pound’s limitation, also?
Incidentally, Pound uses ‘neschek’ for the modern Hebrew nashah. Though I need to look into this more.
From Lawrence’s Apocalypse:
A hero was a hero, in the great past, when he had conquered the hostile dragon, when he had the power of the dragon with him in his limbs and breast.When Moses set up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, an act which dominated the imagination of the Jews for many centuries, he was substituting the potency of the good drago for the sting of the bad dragon, or serpents. That is, man can have the serpent with him or against him. When his serpent is against him, he is stung and envenomed and defeated from within. The great problem, in the past, was the conquest of the inimical serpent and the liberation within the self of the gleaming bright serpent of gold, golden fluid life within the body, the rousing of the splendid divine dragon within a man, or within a woman.
What ails men today is that thousands of little serpents sting and envenom them all the time, and the great divine drago is inert. We cannot wake him to life, in modern days. He wakes on the lower planes of life: for a while in an airman like Lindbergh or in a boxer like Dempsey. It is the little serpent of gold that lifts these two men for a brief time into a certain level of heroism. But on the highest planes, there is no glimpse or gleam of the great dragon […]
the Logos, the great dragon of the beginning of the cycle, is now the evil dragon of today. It will give its potency to no new thing, only to old and deadly things. It is the red dragon, and it must once more be slain by the heroes, since we can expect no more from the angels
Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell forms the background to Lawrence… and yet Lawrence never really debated in depth the consequences of Blake. The two serpents are implicit here. The man must equal or transcend that dragon, in its evil, energetic aspect… via the dragon. The duty of the Filidh is to inhere, to understand the ramifications of a dualism… to guide the man or woman out of it. A magician, employing and overcoming, by use of triskelia and gyre. To perceive the descent inherent in the dragon’s actions is to perceive, see, beyond him… which immediately brings about its opposite; ascent. To depart, truly, into further exploration. All of Hegel’s dialectic implies this problem (and Icke, and other netizen researchers misuse Hegel in thinking this dialectic is simply a dialectic of descent only. It is what a man does with a dualism. That is the imperative. And it is the most visceral imperative for the Filidh. To be gleaned by him. Abjectly unregarding of social convention. The Flight of the Earls occurred for a reason).
And that Bardic strain; conceptual and Celtic predominance of the magic of the psyche… even before the term had gained currency through the “Celtic” revival a century and a half later. New minds open up their ecstacies and prejudices. No man, aloof from them (and yet, as Nietzsche understood, the ubermensch would be deemed as necessarily aloof, a descendant of Shelley’s expulsion from Oxford… always the distance, the aloofness, of that balancing of reality and justice). Lawrence follows Nietzsche too closely though. He disregards the esoteric to a certain degree (although, apparently, being well read in it… I wonder what would have happened had he met A.E, George William Russell… a poet schooled in avatardom, in a wholly different conception) and can be measured more closely to Freud, without adhering to him?)
The new dragon is green or golden, green with the vivid ancient meaning of green which Mohammed took up again, green with that greenish dawn-light which is the quintessence of all new and life-giving light. The dawn of all creation took place in greenish pellucid gleam that was the shine of the very presence of the Creator. John of Patmos harks back to this when he makes the iris or rainbow which screens the face of the Almighty green like smaragd or emerald. And this lovely jewel-green gleam is the very dragon itself, as it moves out wreathing and writhing into the cosmos. It is the power of the Kosmodynamos coiling throughout space, coiling along the spine of man, leaning forth between his brows like the Uraeus between the brows of a Pharoah. It makes a man splendid, a king, a hero, a brave man gleaming with the gleam of a dragon, which is golden when it wreathes round a man.
The dragon. Red and green. What do I remember of David Jones’s discussion of the dragon in his two books of essays? Not much. But his sense of the dragon obviously applied, symbolically, to a discussion of the Welsh flag. We have more of a positive sense of the dragon there. How is it that shades of nationalism, aspects of the discussion of power, appear in symbolical terms? Which is danger, in the modern western mind, at the point where triskelion turns into swastika (the danger only being where on epoch truly overlaps the nearness and distance of another, modern with post-modern, in this case… that it is only a breath away). Yet my first real sense of that latter symbol appeared, not through the usual eighties’ British school brainwashing, but by a scattering of such symbols in the lining of tatami mats… in a room in Kobe, Japan, somewhere around the summer/autumn of 1999? And, since then, a mark of – not Nazism – but generic East Asian Buddhism. India. Japan. South Korea. But ultimately Aryan and European, given MacDari’s reinstatement of the west-to-east movement; de-exoticizing Asia for the European, to a certain degree of usefulness. There are waves of this stuff, the cross-fertilizings between Occident and Orient; but the take-off was 19th Century, and there will be no landing. Blake, Schopenhauer, Max Muller, Whitman etc each trading on the Atman and the Brahmin, to different degrees.
This is reclamation of an own culture… as Mandelstam pointed out, when asked what Acmeism was: a yearning for world culture. The power structures of the western world, for the most part, attempt to harness and dissipate that yearning’s energy, so as to manifest their power. Whatever powers do machinate under the banner of Illuminism then they do not intend nationalism; their greatest enemy. Through nationalism, through localism, world culture (or maybe worldfeeling might be a better expression?) is realised. Globalism apes it in order to dissipate it. Through an independence of spirit a nation joins the world. And not before. Thus my support for all the independence movements in the U.K (but not necessarily their most prominent mouthpieces. Farage is quite obviously a great man. Just leave the room, or turn off the video, when he starts talking about Churchill, is my one thought in the negative..!)
Is it also prescient that, prior to Orwell, Lawrence died in the company of that great creator of modern western dystopia, Aldous Huxley? Or that the theme of Aaron’s Rod is a Masonic take on Mozart’s The Magic Flute? A Magic Flute with Australian terrorist explosions in its finale. How much; mantic intuition, how much; conscious Luciferian conspiracy…? Lawrence’s writings are so shot-through with prophecy that some have attempted to lump Lawrence in with the progenitors of the future evil he was fighting.
The implosions, then, of modernism. Yet it is not so clear cut. There’s more… more colours, at least:
The dragon of Nebuchadnazzar is blue, and is a blue-scaled unicorn stepping proudly. He is very highly developed. The dragon of the Apocalypse is a much more ancient beast: but then, he is kakodaimon.
But the royal colour was still red: the vermilion and the purple, which is not violet but crimson, the true colour of the living blood, these were kept for kings and emperors. They became the very colours of the evil dragon. They are the colours in which the apocalyptist clothes the great harlot woman whom he calls Babylon. The colour of life itself becomes the colour of abomination.
For me, at least, Lawrence rescues a dignity there, somehow. In my poetry (something gleaned hypnogogically, or half-hypnogogically?) I have always felt an adherence to the active form of the verb living and a worry, a disgust – perhaps – to the words life and live.
(His wife, to himself; did you know the word ‘live’ is the word ‘evil’ backwards? So we all get to be arch-Gnostics… in the negative conception, in the supra-Hebraic conception?) together. The retreat from matter. And yet matter is ours, with Berkeley intact. For good or ill. A world is ours, while we can still admit – with the best mystic – ‘There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy’. And the faux gnostic (Manichean?) brag of the evil of the world, and of the human is always set against Blake’s The most sublime act is to set another before you.
Blood follow’d, but immortal; ichor pure,
Such as the blest inhabitants of heav’n
May bleed, nectareous; for the Gods eat not
Man’s food, nor slake as he with sable wine
Their thirst, thence bloodless and from death exempt
…tells Cowper’s translation of The Iliad. Which returns us to the blood aspect (also reiterated in the work of
In this, could John Lash be correct, in that The Fall was not a human fall… but the fall of the goddess that maintained us, in a holistic sense (it’s just that I don’t see that her name was necessarily Gaia…) And Yeats would follow this (with spiritus mundi) but would have little to do with Wordsworth. Are there gradations? He was wrong about that, in some manner.
Because, why tarnish a holism with the broad-brush? The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals… Yes! Senor DeVere… you may not need to finish that speech (and Mr. Lawrence, similarly, would prefer you didn’t).
Anyway, more serpentine meanderings. The intro to the Gonne-Yeats Letters…
After he left, Maud wrote to tell him a most wonderful thing had happened – ‘the most wonderful I have met in life. If we are only strong enough to hold the doors open I think we shall obtain knowledge and life we have never dreamed of.’ Yeats noted, in the white calf-bound manuscript book Maud had given him for recording their astral unions and visions, that he had ‘made evocation’ on the ‘night of 25th’ and sought union with her. Her letter of 26 July told him of her having seen an Egyptian-like form floating over her, dressed in moth-like garments and with gold-edged wings, which she thought was herself, a body in which she could go out into the astral. She put on his body and desired to go to him. They went somewhere in space, he in the form of a serpent, and they kissed and melted into each other till they formed ‘one being, a being greater than ourselves who felt & knew all with double intensity’. She had this experience three times, each time being brought back by a noise in the house. Afterwards she went to bed and dreamed they discussed this spiritual vision. In the dream he said it would increase physical desire, which she said ‘troubles me a little – for there was nothing physical in that union – material union is but a pale shadow compared to it
The bind, here, is that – in the new century – we’re in the hands of Icke… and yet Celtic mythology (and Ovid, at least in the classical tradition) is fairly au fait with the reptilian, and with shapeshifting (the Hindu tradition, also… ditto The Djinn in The Koran). And yet we’ve not really overcome Nietzsche – never mind Man! – in his throwing away of the gods with the big monotheos; God, himself.
Icke took the reptilian and ensconced it, finally, in a kind of metaphysical cartel for the planet Saturn. It was the earthly evil gone interplanetary. All manner of internet ‘scholars’ have applied the Biblical satan to a new ‘otherworldly’ evil. But somehow it doesn’t jive. We know, at least by Blake’s standard, by his proclamation, the sane rejoinder of… ‘Thus men forgot that / All deities reside in the human breast’. This does not negate God, it enacts his supreme permission; that man create his own morality. That he have permission to fail in the attempt!
We are not conjoined with the Mosaic god because of an abstract worship. He is ours only by the test of a faith, and the important point there is that it is a faith in the singular. Thus secularism, in the west, allows for both faith and doubt… one up on many world cultures. I hear the cry of civilization in that.
In this much, at least, I am a descendant of the Latin. For example, if you want to be set upon the meme of serpent-eyes, and serpent doings… look into the eyes of an Emily Dickinson, an Edgar Allan Poe, or a Manly P.Hall. All Saturnian demons? Surely not. It’s what you do with those eyes that count. Just don’t give me The Prince of Wales or Kathleen Raine, a purely Greek emanation of Blakeanism, for your avatars. We are older and stronger than these.
The triumph of the body is that it is tested by eminently swimming in plurality. It monitors both ideological coherence and incoherence. But here, Kierkegaard chimes in with, often-times, the retort of a pure monotheism (and even Dylan Thomas – on the level of Bardism – would concur, in his preface to The Collected Poems; ‘These poems, with all their crudities, doubts and confusions, are written for the love of man and in praise of God, and I’d be a damn fool if they weren’t). Pagan animism is absolutely allowed for in the western dynamic, and yet it exists inclusive of the established church (now, unfortunately diminished by an in-crowd satanism, a fallen Luciferianism, and the usual accoutrements and exemplars of a very real black magic). Yet! That same monotheos, the fallen Yahweh, blinds the modern Celt to a power rife within its own line of Kings. Which is to say, I do not buy the Welsh Barddas of Iolo Morganwg wholesale. There are pieces here and there. There are reclaimings… a remnant of a system. And it is the Welsh line of Bards, of Druids, that stayed longer than the other Celtic traditions… perhaps with the assistance of people like Williams (pseudonym of Iolo etc) but it is Thomas’s urgency systematised. I wonder what it would look like wiped clean of Yahwism? Probably rather jolly… like Spinoza. But different.
We are witnesses, like it or not, to a takeover within the truest Bardic network… and the Flight of the Earls is its most potent symbol of subsequent degradation. Kant, for good or ill, is the marker. Modernism did NOT recall that very particular philosophical fall (Pound’s, and later, Olson’s, exclusion of the fact of Blake attests to it).
If there is a contemporary Celtic-Aryan understanding of poetry, of the world, it is very much delineated closer to Romanticism, the Neo-Romantic, and to the Pre-Raphaelites. Joyce understood this in his hailing of Mangan. There are other traces elsewhere that lead us further back. Give me Mr. Dylan Thomas any day, but these are fallen Celts (at least in the social sense… Thomas himself admitted that Yeats was the man, but that he enjoyed Hardy more… Pound too, concluded that he couldn’t move beyond Yeats)… we are people overtly of the supernatural… spiritualism and psycho-analysis cannot contain us. But are indication. Always. And, to become little men of a tawdry communism? (another monotheos!) So many stupid Celts of the twentieth century, gone to seed under the faux grace of a Marx or an Engels, these most anti-poetic of men.
Can we even speak of ourselves further back in history… can we say that, for instance, we are not men of the Renaissance, in any fundamental sense. And Yeats understood this when he wished he preferred Chaucer over Shakespeare (and what was Pound reading when journalists came to visit him on one of his visits to a poetry festival in Venice in ‘66? Chaucer, of course).
our wealth, dirty – & beaten into bankers’ rows – doors
stripped clean, ye hands! for stems of poverty’s flowers?
& O cracked mirrors, quiet graves, of white men. (Tend,
childless – we Britishers – a St. George of the perpetual mind…
Or see how the more we go south & east, they say, is
where most money, contacts… clothes, be. (But another hit-piece
in The Guardian,
As John C.Lilly stepped into the sensory deprivation chamber so I got on a plane to Mumbai. That was January 15th 1999. A necessary break from all things western. But exactly what sort of ‘little’ did ye know, pilgrim?
I like to read accounts of westerners abroad. I was even under the impression that travellers abroad – and blessed with a modicum of English – somehow enter a zone of de-conditioning, and that they may be just a tad more worth talking to. And yet everywhere you go, there you are. A tiny tiny minority break out of their set cultural mode. It is spiritual. My appeal to pre-destination sets me wondering on this. So to say, that a visit to The Louvre or to The Pyramids rarely cuts it.
Take a look at John Clare’s grave stone. Reading these few words makes for a sombre, rather brutal –but enervating – brand of frankness: “John Clare. 1793-1864. A Poet Is Born Not Made
(Ah, all those Social Studies lessons, as a sixth former, in front of a teacher mumbling on about ‘nature versus nurture’! Give me Homer’s golden chain of being, anyday…) If there is reincarnation then there is the whole gradation of intelligence one enters the world with. If you are born then you are born experienced already. But how experienced… in this life thing. A poet is born and made. But mostly born. And, when ‘perfected’ then absent (as the Hindu knows?) Before he bows out he commits a crime… a great work of art… the greater it is the longer linear time will take to assimilate it. Death is the greatest work of art. All the best art has this feeling of the penultimate about it. Is that Lev Shestov? It might be.
This, appended to a Jimmy Page interview on youtube; “Jimmy Page, an old soul…”
And the same goes for the traveller; a man prey to conditioning. The walls of scepticism have long been raised in my mind. I was a journalist for a time, I guess. If you’re in with the wrong crowd chances are your preconceptions will get the better of you. News stories, flashing for centuries, across the retina. And no knowledge therein. No truth. You are the scavenging bird on the rock of your faculties of perception and judgement. The presence of the world, its acutely moving silences and moods.
Between 2002-2003 and 2006-2008 I was back in England… apart from these brief forays it has been the long Asian merry-go-round for me. And the steadfast feeling I remember from even those later days (and particularly those later days) was that England is a fucking circus. A shower of well-meaning fools flogging the dead horse of cultural degradation, all the way down into the dirt. (In this I am a foreigner to western man… I often take pains to avoid him altogether. My arrogance is to think that, stripped of his societal conceits, I will advance beyond with just wit, instinct and intuition).
In this, do I take on Lawrence’s post-‘Great’-war weariness?
Witness Lawrence, in the late essay, Insouciance, musing on the difference between what is naturally present and what is politically prescient in the Italy of 1928.
They care! They simply are eaten up with caring. They are so busy caring about Fascism or Leagues of Nations or whether France is right or whether Marriage is threatened, that they never know where they are. They certainly never live on the spot. They inhabit abstract space, the desert void of politics, principles, right and wrong, and so forth. They are doomed to be abstract. Talking to them is like trying to have a human relationship with the letter x in algebra.
There simply is a deadly breach between actual living and this abstract caring. What is actual living? It is a question mostly of direct contact. There was a direct sensuous contact between me, the lake, mountains, cherry trees, mowers, and a certain invisible but noisy chaffinch in a clipped lime tree. All this was cut off by the fatal shears of that abstract word FASCISM, and the little old lady next door was the Atropos who cut the thread of my actual life this afternoon. She beheaded me, and flung my head into abstract space Then we are supposed to love our neighbours!
To hold in a single thought reality and justice. For those that pontificate on what Lawrence’s reactions would have been to the various European political movements leading up to World War II – had he lived after 1930 – we’re left in little doubt here. And yet even to ask that question would be to fall prey to the problem Lawrence describes here. I have sympathy for it. We grow old… abstract caring matters less. A time for engagement, a time for leaisure. Pound’s Tempus loquendi, / Tempus tacendi,
And yet it matters. It matters? Our children would die if it did not? Brute insouciance would make us simply fall into anarchism, a set of notions I feel less and less interested in. Government, regardless of utopias and dystopias, has magnificengt potential. The thought for me, here, is a kindly whisper in the ear of an old soldier; “you care about the lakes and mountains, she cares for something that doesn’t interest you. So be it. Let her care!”
The balance inherent in Yeats’s coinage implies being present to both the lakes and mountain, and the woman gossiping about international politics. I have been that woman. We all have. And one day a friend said to me; “You’re tired”. ‘Nuff said. Get some kip.
The thing I didn’t retain properly in my analysis of surrealism was hierarchy (Breton was not only a political smoke screen but a metaphysical smoke screen… I’d caught him on the family, the nation, community etc… all the other lunacies of his ilk… but I had disregarded Pound’s more sensible sense of aristocracy). As Morris was for Yeats so Breton is for me. An influence, but politically and socially beyond the pale? What is retained? Pound and Olson. Against the Wake. It is easy to buy the no-hierarchy thing if you’re raised vaguely Celtic and, at least, non-committal regarding monarchy. They get confused. But our monarchy is not aristocratic… not Brehonic. It is a clutch of black magicians. An aristocracy of artists? How could that cohere? Every man an artist, or at least artistic. Property is theft??! Property is I! The glory of the hearth, the wonder of lineage. Woman, the home maker.
Time is a cauldron. Presided over by the crone. The crone fell. Her worshippers did not. Yahweh and Yaldaboeth know that we blame ourselves for their evil. And exploit it. Which cannot be Baudelaire. I believe in Yaldaboath as a force of pure evil, present on the earth. Why? I am a power… and yet won’t simply accede to Nietzsche’s ‘this world is the will to power, and nothing besides…’
Only a matter of nomenclature separates myself and John Lash. Gaia, and not the crone? Why not? The Cailleach. And all songs sung to her. I would like a lyrical supermarket. A sing-song marketplace. Entering a cheese shop in Kirkby Lonsdale. A man, at the back of the shop, playing a piano. That’s the cailleach, all right. That’s poetry. My sister, giving birth to a child. The houses my family have lived in. The ghosts, therein.
The resurgence of Christianity, as congregation. But not each man sitting at home reading the Gnostics. People going into a building and singing hymns together. An Oasis concert. Pluralize and traditionalize simultaneously goddamit! The Irisher, returning to his language (Michael Hartnett). The Irisher reaching out beyond his language, and the society an invading language have put in place (Joyce). Simultaneously. Language is just a body. You put it on. You take it off. Important. Centred, tho… not spiritualism, necessarily… not Catholicism. No reward in the hereafter. Reward at the centre. In the midst. The mid-life crises… where all the conditioning wears off…? Whatever you want to do with your language is your own business. Blessed with a body, a man can set up a myriad relations and devotions. Children occur. The wonder of children. In the same way, you can sully your language, your body… your mind. Moloch only comes if you will him. On the other side of an owl is the other owl. The pan-dimensional bird.
Tanolni. The verb, in Hungarian. To learn. That is the usual translation. Hungarians do not properly know when to use the verbs ‘to study’ and ‘to learn’ in English. They conflate in one what we have two for. We know it second nature (Second Nature! Let that sink in!) The predestinational appears again in my life. Why? I conclude that there is something odd about to learn. We learn despite ourselves. The Fates take hold. To study implies intention… we can also learn with intention (learning to swim, learning to drive) but, particularly in the past tense, what I learned is not what I studied. Study is the wilful. (It’s a Wittgenstein jag). Learning crosses consciousness and unconsciousness.
But still Nietzsche took his hold on me. An old debate with an ex-girlfriend, Japanese-American. Californian.
I felt, even then (2000) that there were the weak and the strong. That one must attempt, and pick out, shows of strength. Not the moral, after Nietzsche… but of the personal (which the Barthists loathe). Displays… and presentations… of personal strength. What might they be? Boxing, is one. Why do women flock to people like Mohammed Ali for beating someone to a pulp and then despise, and philosophize on, the awful morality that engenders all forms of violence. I’m with the gun lobbyists. Protect yourself. Write a poem. Shoot an idiot (and if you get it wrong there’s only you to blame). ‘To live outside the law you must be honest’. No… to be the law you must be honest. We do not – collectively – live under any law but God’s. BUT still require a system of law. Just not this one.
Then there is also process. Learning. I am mystified. I was studying but I didn’t know it. My father cannot recall the funeral of my maternal grandfather. It plagues me. To have been alive for it. Yet it has entirely slipped his mind.
Ah, the baby-boomers. A wise man sees not the same tree as the fool. I am dying… when it happens you get to be the wise man.
If I am going to be perfectly honest there is only Pascal and myself. And my wife? And my dog. And a smattering of very few poets. When I lost interest in the American poets I felt, resolutely, like I was turning home. The U.S is home to the truly saintly and the truly awful. They all cry out at about the same volume. We do not have that in England… it is just a lot of Oxbridge idiots in the marketplace, and the mildly intelligent avoiding them like the plague. Brexit changed something though. The problem is that the people with good sense do not have the vocabularies to enunciate their good sense. My family, for instance… they’re grossly mistaken and fearful about a lot of ideas… to me, at least. But they give me strength. One does not get the sense that they’ve strayed from a ‘right path’… but if you ask them about the right path they would not be able to tell you. And they would take the piss out of you for asking. Yet, look out on the mediac sphere and you could quite easily reach for the razor blades without a second thought (a second thought? How is that possible…? There are only new thoughts, then other, lesser thoughts…?)
Whitman called them The Hooters.
The describing of events bores me – ultimately – because I am not merely the body. This is why a sexual revolution is nonsense. There are only so many things you can do with the body… pornography is that bodily aspect set in perpetual repetition. Pornography event-izes. Events are necessary and practical… but they don’t vitalize you.
Language is very violent and amazing. Say ‘I think that the world is flat’ or ‘Hitler was right’ to the wrong person and you will be in no doubt that language has its power.
We talk to each other more than we have sex with each other. And we would never get laid without language… although certain people claim that dancefloors, nods and winks… whisky, beer and weed, can do the trick on their own. When people from different cultures have a tiny vocabulary between them and a great need for sex do they tend to have sex more than they would if they shared a language with a much larger vocabulary? But it doesn’t seem to last long, and the sex might get boring quickly. Similarly, what is happening to a woman during an immense and elongated orgasm is very hard to define in words. If you could describe it adequately there would be no need for sex. Hmmm.
Writing, then, is not a physical thing. It appears… but is not of. Pornography is when a thing both appears and is of its appearance. Writing always implies otherness. If great art is other, in some fashion, then it would be true to say the dimensions exist, as the mystics, and other researchers, have implied… and that writing exists in multiple locations at once, yet, only appearing through the sense organs in a singularity, of some sort. This is why the whole debate about the end of the print book seems dull. The Imperative behind writing, and – consequently – behind the book does not adhere to any formalism. The book, as tekne, simply redefines itself in accordance with its initial spiritual principles.
I think listening to people say musical, poetic things interests me just as much as sex. But this means I am a man who has lost his edge. Here is Mahler 3. Say no more.
Sex, alone, will not also tear down all 15 dimensions to the floor tomorrow. The good serpent knows this. You have to ask him nicely. If I did want to reach another – possibly different – dimensional realm would I die? Disappear. Or would god have me die? The need for drink and over indulgence (a self-destruction of the body) often comes with periods of intense inspiration. Death – mortality – inspires great art more than sex. Dante must’ve known this (and the Beats did not).
That’s what got me interested in Colin Wilson’s ‘The Origin of the Sexual Impulse’. If there was another power above music in Nietzsche’s ‘The Birth of Tragedy’ then it is not anything orgiastic… although mind-orgiastic, I’d be keen on developing. Telepathy, Clairvoyance etc. But that’s old ground for me. (And I find more solace in Nietzsche’s Apollonian than the Dionysian, in that book. Ditto Yeats, apparently).
The internet as training ground for some type of mental channelling. The trees are still singing, though. The senses do not adhere to them, that’s all. If surrealism is anything it is admitting a thing before the senses do…? The true hinterland wilderness. Tir nan Og etc.
I am lucky. Possibly the greatest orgasm one person has in an entire life does not equal the silent gladness I feel sometimes walking along a winter street, or watching the leaves move slowly across gutters. I am sad when I do not pay attention to that (meaning; not because I am not paying attention to it… but my sadness is a not-seeing of something. True-time knows this). That gladness, though, does not generate children. Is sex, then, more important than art? My gladness depends for itself on someone’s else’s orgasm, long ago. But, ultimately, the comparison is poor.
Still, the creator does not give a hoot for my gladness, although I feel I glean him via that gladness. I glean him also via sadness, or via any mood, but only in that mystic gladness do I feel him? There is, in me, an attempt to close the gap between reflection and sensual absorption. There’s ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in enjoying one’s pain, or seeing a certain gladness in grief or pain. How? If momentary, one can have that ‘Beautiful Tears’ moment; livingness-of-pain etc. But this palls after a while.
In my sadness a creator feels me? I have lost him by his feeling of me in my stead, my less-present-ness. I feel possessed of myself most when I am lost to the creator. When I am happy. Which is why Tarkovsky talks about not really reaching for happiness via art.
When a relative dies a pang of sadness appears in your heart. Then you get on the phone? Or the other way around? The animals know.
All my life of writing poetry… it all comes down to wanting to chirrup like a sparrow…? I think if I tried to chirrup like a sparrow for long enough then I could become a sparrow, if only for a very brief time (that is Taliesin, right?)
A sparrow’s philosophy does not include philosophers? Take that, Plato!
But is that altogether true? Perhaps the reason I’m a man is because I already got bored with being a sparrow. Is there a transmigratory hierarchy? I forget what the alchemists say. Aristotle must’ve talked about it. If I’ve already been a sparrow would I, by instinct, want to be one again? After you’ve been all the animals is there only man, gods, and God left to be? Or is that too classical? On Tuesday you might want to be a sparrow. Then, on Thursday, you might prefer to be God. And vice versa. Does God ever get bored of being himself…? OR does the fact that he’s God mean he doesn’t care to be anything else. How would he know to choose to be himself? God happened when men got tired of describing things. He had no choice… at least in our conception.
Does all good art say ‘it is bad, but it will get better?’ Or is that just me? Which doesn’t take into account the Greeks. No, all good art says ‘I felt this’. But is there any accounting for feelings? The ‘accounting-for’ is simply more feelings. Feelings wrapped in vocabularies. Vocabularies wrapped in feelings. Post-modernism thought that the two could be separated. Most feelings are simply not very interesting. Which means I have come this far. If one person says something very heartfelt it can mean nothing… if its wrapped in immensely dull, clumsy language. You can feel it in a person… but do you empathise better when their feeling’s aestheticised. Opera, for example… in the opposite way… it feels very aestheticised, almost unearthly. And yet it comes from the same well as a mate sayin’ ‘she’s a bit of all right’ down the pub. Some people like opera. Some people don’t like opera.
I must admit; I don’t share most people’s interests. And my interests, I think, have gotten fewer as I’ve gotten older. But those fewer things are more intensely felt. These incredibly intense feelings often get me into trouble around people who have a wider palette of interests, and a more variegated feeling for them. Ignorance, then, is a dissipation of energies (or the plasm, as Lawrence would say). Bruckner once said that he was only interested in God. I feel the same. But it is not the God of the priests. It is the god of life. With death at its centre. I am afraid of dying a little. But not of death. But that’s been said before.
There is so much to be said about death. It’s incredibly funny… given that there’s nothing in it. Because there’s nothing in death there’s much to say about it. But not much to be said about sex? Or a sexual experience? I don’t go around talking about sex to people very often. There’s not much point. And that’s not for shyness. It’s because I like sex.
Han Yong Eun’s ‘Love’s Silence’. The Korean patronymic ‘Nim’ is used for Love in this translation. All living human beings can be named with that patronymic. It has also been translated as ‘all things yearned for’. The Welsh; a corollary in Hiraeth? We are not what we are. We yearn for it. We are here to yearn for it. If we were not here we could not yearn for it. The yearning between one lover and another seeks to replicate the first yearning that suffuses the initial breath.
I notice people don’t use that term ‘lover’ much. It demarcates a, for-the-most-part, physical relationship with someone. And yet, when I hear most people use it, I do not feel most dignify that word with the quality of their relationship. In fact, I’m suspicious that most people even know how to have sex properly. I think someone with an incredibly eloquent facility for language usually means they can at least perform. But they must be poets, musicians etc. I’ve always had two constant feelings about this… after being fairly cogniscant of what sex was.
First, why were the people doing all these rather drab activities and spending only a tiny portion of their time actually shagging? That was my first thought… then I also thought that, if it was indeed occurring (which it must be, given new children fairly often appearing on my social horizons) that most people, regardless of the reproductive value of the thing, weren’t very good at it. How did I come to this assumption? Well, because they had no talk in them… no principles… no conceptual eagerness for each other. I’m not arguing for any hippy-esque revolution but, surely, I felt, it would be best if – regardless of whether sex was simply a grappling for the conjugal or in order to produce children – they might organize and create a social order that would most effectively allow this to occur. The buildings that they’d created as places for them to meet didn’t cheer them, and so didn’t make them seem cheering to each other. All the infrastructures, and architectures of a fully functioning civilization would be geared towards this, in my mind. Yet the way most societies are set up seems almost as if they are designed to stop this occurring. A kind of anti-life sensation clinging to people.
Sensual life is a pig in a dress. A necessary pig. But let them get on with it. They most probably do not need you at all. Until a century and a half later. The better you are… the longer it takes…?
“William Blake, an unfortunate lunatic, whose personal inoffensiveness secures him from confinement, and, consequently, of whom no public notice would have been taken, if he was not forced on the notice and animadversion of the EXAMINER, in having been held up to public admiration by many esteemed amateurs and professors as a genius in some respect original and legitimate. The praise which these gentlemen bestowed last year on this unfortunate man’s illustrations of Blair’s Grave, have, in feeding his vanity, stimulated him to publish his madness more largely, and thus exposed him, if not to the derision, at least to the pity of the public… Thus encouraged, the poor man fancies himself a great master, and has painted a few wretched pictures, some of which are unintelligible allegory, others an attempt at sober character by caricature representation, and the whole “blotted and blurred” and very badly drawn. These he calls an exhibition, of which he has published a Catalogue, or rather a farrago of nonsense, unintelligibleness, and egregious vanity, the wild effusions of a distempered brain.”
Robert Hunt, The Examiner, 1809
Then, also comes the feeling that there is something absolutely right and as-it-should-be in people (?)
This is almost the mystical Lawrentian self, in myself, I discover here. Lawrence is a mystic in some sense. But he had a long and hard road… and bitterness set in. But that, even in bitterness, he used it to its uppermost. ‘The Plumed Serpent’, for example. They call it a Fascist book. I don’t see it. The unevenness in Lawrence… that seems somehow correct, also. He was at the epicentre of what became the term illuminism later on.
In a great exemplar, a great artist, all the work ennobles itself… by flaws, also… and thus ennobles those who are witness to it. Also why technique – after early initial struggles by a writer – counts for so little… and, unfortunately, instruction, as well. Dylan Thomas knew this. In fact the Celts know it well. Thomas and Yeats with their fantasy novels and mystery thrillers… their minds become set round pure entertainments… a bodily intuition that the journalistic world, the life-world they were propounding was noxious. In no way the substitute for dreaming. They stop looking for ‘the information’ in a writer. An exception to that might be Pound? Is that a weakness or strength, in this? The weakened American blood-line – at least in its socio-cultural sense – implies the hardnosed gadget-man in Pound. The least fantastical element. But this might simply be the youth Pound, as an American, brought to modernism. There is a theory that any mixing of the blood – or broadening of the cellular waters? – disallows the mystic or shaman direct contact with angel or guide etc (I’ve always had this element in my thinking on poetics, I think… I’ll get to that later).
One learns how to be a writer. One doesn’t study it, ultimately. Although studying helps… especially when one wants to strike up relationships with other writers. Most writers disappoint me immensely. I’m not similarly disappointed by plumbers. In fact, most plumbers amaze me. And they don’t seem to do a bad job… at least – for the time I watch them – they don’t seem to be fucking it up big time. I hear of the results of some plumbing jobs that can be catastrophic. Not so, for writers. They wax and wane like the moon. A catastrophe, for them, might be the non-attention of readers. Also, the great writers have gotten over this, in some sense (and they may well be established in the public mind while inattentions and misunderstandings occur). I’m not sure a truly great writer would give a toss about whether they’re understood, in their writing. They might care if their wife couldn’t give a stuff what they were on about, over the dinner table, but the enclosure of creation – to a great degree – secures them from that. Obviously, for the mediocre, these things are life and death.
Politics is what a writer uses to improve his writing. Or at least he very much is invited to do so. Not so for the plumber. He simply needs the kit. And a tried-and-trusted method. A writer is not limited to location… one of the reasons politics can be useful to a writer is it is not purely limited to location.
A Farage happens in one place, and a Le Pen in another. That is simplified though… since their popularity is what is being stoked. What is dormant one minute springs into life the next.
A website named the ‘The Poem’ edited by a son of George Barker, no less. In the autumn of 2005, after winning third prize in the Essex Poetry Festival’s competition of that year, I was invited to Chelmsford to read the poem. I met a number of different poets, some of whom have come to the fore in contemporary poetry. None of these poets currently interest me… and yet, what does is that shortly after that visit (the night of which saw me sleeping in Chelmsford Railway station while the other poets had gone back to their accomodations) I also managed to have a few pieces published with The Poem and spending much of the following six months haunting the forums on that site. It ultimately ended up in my very vocal criticism of poetry competitions, and specifically that another poem of mine – much more political, a critique on British political reserve – entitled The Luxury of Reticence – had not been seriously considered for the competition. This, and other observations saw me as persona non grata on the site. An addendum to the farrago would be that I also found out that the winner of that competition was the student of the judge, and was known to him via a current creative writing course the judge –Roddy Lumsden – was running in London. This is the poetry-world corollary to the Clintons’ pay to play. The poetry industry. On meeting Lumsden – later on, in Edinburgh 2008-ish – he even had the cheek to tell me that my poem should have won.
No accident, then, that Denise Pickard and 1993 happened to me. Duncan explains his experience of Ms. Keogh. There is one figure who simply starts you writing. A trigger. A trigger that occurred in Bolton. A teenage thing. Up to ’93 I really had no sense of literature. I had very much enjoyed primary school, to a degree… and had done a lot of drawing. I remember a drawing competition in the last year of primary school, which I won. (I went on to create two series of black and white comic series. At least one of them included a cast of characters who strange extra-dimensional beings. I didn’t think about it at the time. But I think I’m from where they’re from. I take childhood fascinations very seriously… not only in myself, but with anyone).
Anyway, we were asked to bring in some books that we’d been reading. I only had a copy of Agaton Sax and the League of Silent Exploders, a novel by the Norwegian adventure writer Nils Olaf Franzen. I don’t think I am high on intellect. I go by feeling, and by passions. I am more like Poe… advancing by intuition.
Pickard, while ostensibly being in a situation of teaching us English Language, sent her students on a discussion course in her own literary fascinations which had very little to do with the standard textbooks. Even my choosing a sixth form course in English Language (the one course that would at least legitimize my professional activities, since then!) is an exercise in high weirdness. I had been away from England between the end of secondary and college and entered those courses a fortnight before they began. Choosing Literature and Design Technology was easy. But you had to choose three courses to have the A. Levels that were within their remit.
She gave us a book list. And I remember asking my Dad for a hundred quid so I could go and get the books she suggested. I even remember going to Dillon’s in Manchester to get the books.
Robert Duncan and Jewry. Reams of Moses de Laon. After Spicer and Duncan have a disagreement Spicer dies. In ’65. The feeling that black magic had a hand in some of Duncan’s arguments with other poets (as with Ginsberg?) His friend, being one of them. The Russian’s doubt regarding mysticism. Modernism will have to go, ultimately. How to equate the sacred in Francis Thompson with D.H Lawrence’s early poetry? It was a watershed moment… and it occurred somewhere around the 1910s. I do not mean that Yeats was a Victorian in any political sense… he was of a treasured era for me. I can read all of his poetry with, hopefully, a fairness. No one has really mourned the death of Swinburne, for example. The fact that Pound was somehow angered by Dylan Thomas (who, apparently, he referred to as ‘the best of the third raters’)… and, I think, it was because Thomas had simply refused to fall under the spell of vers libre and, instead, continued – as a traditionalist – to follow conventional rhyme and form. I follow the traditionalist, in poetic form, but in sentiment I’ll allow, to a minimum degree, an admittance of something that might equate with modernist sentiment. That ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ was an incredibly fugitive book, I don’t doubt.
The two books I remember reading first were William Blake’s ‘Complete Poems’ and Hunter S. Thompson’s ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’. First; the solution? Second; the problem. Thompson’s involvement with the beast, reptiles let loose in a hotel lobby, seen through the L.S.D-goggles of a supposedly crazed journalist. It is a confession of the insider’s world of American west coast hedonism… and, if one reads more deeply, of Satanism and Ickiean reptilia. In the wake of the Bohemian Grove and Johnny Gosh scandals we can see what Thompson was involved in… what I was only to learn later… but the talisman of those two ‘serious’ books I read consciously led very much –and from outside the conventional church – to a religious sensibility that could use the physical body to inform the child’s innate sense of wonder.
What had you wished had happened? In literature… if Nietzsche had read Blake! …if Lawrence had taken Francis Thompson seriously. If Wittgenstein had spent more time watching stand-up comedy. If Olson hadn’t totally dismissed Finnegans Wake? (and Roger Scruton, a great philosopher, against Joyce as well).
Very few philosophers, do I retain. They are angels circling me constantly. But I ignore them, generally-speaking.
Spinoza, Pascal, Whitehead… if Heidegger had read Whitehead? Now there’s one! Heidegger ends in poetry though… while Whitehead ends in theology?
If there is a political war, a war for civilization, then it is the war for good taste, in all things. The most worthy thing to be deeply offended by is a work of art, and thus prove what art is… by the proof of an audience’s hearing. The best hearing required in literature also. Quality of listening trumps quality of speech. Which was Beethoven’s agon?