Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Evil Is Going On Wrong

On Evil, non-fiction by Terry Eagleton
Yale University Press, 2010

Thirty years ago if the word ‘evil’ cropped up in conversation I would think immediately of late night movies, Frankenstein, Dracula, zombies, mummies, werewolves, and man-eating blobs. Giant ants, giant sharks, giant lizards, giant women, giant men. Creepy-crawly hands, disfigured serial killers, mad scientists and evil wizards. Except for the implications of social malaise in movies like Invasion Of The Body Snatchers or nuclear technology gone awry in movies like Godzilla Vs Mothra or Them! evil had only one unequivocal political dimension: Nazis. Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels, et. al. But even they seemed contained. Their example had proved so horrific that everyone felt safe: humanity had learned an important lesson. There would be henceforward safeguards against such atrocities. Those who dared could watch footage of the holocaust, turn off their TV, and breathe a sigh of relief that humanity had come to their senses and were now committed to never allowing that evil to occur again.

But it did. It has. And it will continue to.

The first inkling I had that something very ugly had occurred in the zeitgeist was shortly after Reagan had been elected president. The population of homeless people burgeoned. Many of them were psychologically troubled, not your garden variety hobo, or hippy panhandler. There was something very cruel behind their growing numbers in the street. Severe budget cuts and a maniacal hatred of taxation, especially on the rich, had led to some very inhumane conditions.

Vietnam had been a horrible, ugly evil, but had been so vigorously protested by so many people, at least by the early 70s, that one still had a sense of moral victory, a secure feeling that people were fundamentally good. This eroded quickly after Reagan’s immense popularity strongly suggested a very different set of values had taken root in the American psyche.

It did not take long for the utopian triumphs of the 60s to become a trivialized clutter of lava lamps, love beads, scratched Beatles records, and moldy day-glo posters destined for the attic or garage. Martin Luther King’s stellar leadership would become a holiday and the name for a lot of city streets, but otherwise forgotten.

By the late 80s, American imperialism turned very bloody and very ugly in Central and South America. And the labor movement took a near-fatal blow when Reagan fired the air traffic controllers in 1981. The effects of that were becoming very visible in the late 80s; wages plummeted and the disparity between the obscenely rich and middle class became stunningly evident. A cute term was coined to describe this new phenomenon: trickle down economics. The reality was better summed up by Gordon Gekko: “Greed is good.”

In the following decades the world has been witness to such a dizzying number of atrocities, from Gaza to Afghanistan, Iraq to Chechnya, Mogadishu to the Democratic Republic of the Congo that ‘evil’ has lost its late-night-movie aura and become a real… what? What is evil? I realized I had no true idea as to what it was. It seemed as shapeless and ubiquitous as the gelatinous blob that blobbed its way around town swallowing everything in sight in the The Blob. Or, for that matter, the black viscous blobs swallowing the gulf of Mexico and the coasts and marshes of the southern states. And I had a further obsession: what goes on in the heads of people like Tony Hayward when, after destroying an ocean, he skips off to enjoy a yacht race, or the CEO of a health insurance company that has denied benefits to someone dying of leukemia or cancer for utterly bogus reasons in order to bolster the profits of the shareholders? Or the sinister market manipulations at Goldman Sachs and other financial giants? Did Henry Paulson or Larry Summers ever have qualms? Doubts? Ethical tremors? What would five minutes in the head of Glenn Beck be like?

It was time to find out just what evil is all about. It was, therefore, with a great deal of eagerness I opened the cover to Terry Eagleton’s opus on the subject, On Evil, dedicated, appropriately, to Henry Kissinger. I chose Eagleton as my introduction because one, I am not religious, and two, I am not given to the occult. I don’t even like Tarot cards. I wanted a secular view, and one with an eye toward current affairs.

Nor did I want to read Hanna Arendt’s Eichmann In Jerusalem. I was already pretty well acquainted with her notion of the “banality of the evil,” and I have had my fill of Nazis. It’s probably a good thing that she is not alive to see them sprouting up again in the likes of the Christian fundamentalist movement. And if she thought Eichman was a clown, I can’t begin to imagine what she would make of Sarah Palin.

Eagleton’s discussion is erudite, vigorous, and refreshingly non-academic. He writes in a completely lucid, accessible, engaging style. He begins with a discussion of evil in contemporary fiction, then segues, in chapters two and three, into treatments of evil in Shakespeare and Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. His preference throughout is to cite examples from literature rather than current affairs in order to discriminate between what he deems authentic evil from sheer wickedness, or iniquity. It is not a question of magnitude so much as essence. It is a matter of freedom and self-determination. “Pure autonomy,” he says, “is a dream of evil.”

There is Pincher Martin, “the tale of a man who refuses to die,” by William Golding. After nearly drowning in the middle of the ocean, the central character, Christopher Martin, makes it to a rock where he is most certain to die of thirst and hunger. The bulk of the novel is rendered in flashbacks in which we learn that Martin, according to Eagleton, is a “grasping, lecherous, manipulative naval officer was never really alive in the first place.” Spiritually dead and divorced from the sensations of his own body, his slow death on the rock “magnifies the way he has treated other human bodies all along.” “Evil involves a split between body and spirit -- between an abstract will to dominate and destroy, and the meaningless piece of flesh that this will inhabits.”

There is Golding’s Lord of the Flies, in which “the schoolboy’s efforts to build a civilized order on their island are inevitably undermined by violence and sectarianism.”

There is Free Fall, another novel by Golding, which Eagleton cites as “Golding’s most subtle investigation of original sin, a condition which has nothing to do with slimy reptiles and forbidden fruit.” What has to do with “lies in the fact that we are self-contradictory animals, since our creative and destructive powers spring from much the same source.”

Man is Faustian Man, too voraciously ambitious for his own well-being, perpetually driven beyond his own limits by the lure of the infinite. This creature cold-shoulders all finite things in his hubristic love affair with the illimitable. And since infinity is a kind of nothingness, the desire for this nothingness is an expression of what we shall see later as the Freudian death drive.

Eagleton leans heavily on the death drive to explain evil. “Evil, as we shall see, is bound up with destruction in several senses. One bond between them is that fact that destruction is really the only way to trump God’s act of creation.” “The prospect of nuclear holocaust, or of the world being swamped by its own oceans, turns evil weak at the knees with delight.”

He cites, as a literary treatment of this idea, Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus, “a novel in which we hear the music of the damned,” the story of a doomed composer, Adrian Leverkühn, who “deliberately infects himself with syphilis by visiting a prostitute, and does so in order to conjure resplendent musical visions from the gradual degeneration of his brain.” “If,” Eagleton observes, “the artist seeks to redeem a corrupt world by the transfigurative power of his art, then he or she must be on intimate terms with evil. This is why the modern artist is the secular version of Christ, who descends into the hell of despair and destitution in order to gather it into eternal life.”

This is a fascinating idea, but might we broaden it to help explain the baffling waste and futility of persecuting a war in Afghanistan, or killing a country’s economy by outsourcing all of its jobs overseas and gambling away its future on esoteric derivatives? I tend to see it as just plain greed and stupidity, and I’m not sure it helps to frame the destruction of so many lives in terms of a psychoanalytic theory. I don’t see a Pentagon general sitting down, slapping his hand to his forehead and saying “wow, I hadn’t thought of that. Maybe we need to figure this thing out, before we kill any more people.” I’m pretty sure the war, like all wars, has more to do with Moloch than Thanatos. “War is a racket,” said Smedley Butler, “it always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”

It is hard to believe how any individual could be so callous and egotistical as to make money off of a war and sleep peacefully at night. The devil himself must puzzle over this.

In Chapter 2, titled “Obscene Enjoyment,” Eagleton cites Arthur Schopenhauer’s theory of evil, distinguishing it from “ruthless egoism or fanatical self-interest.” “By evil,” says Eagleton, “Schopenhauer meant more or less what I have been meaning by the term. He saw evil deeds as motivated by a need to obtain relief from the inner torment of what he called the Will; and this relief was to be gained by inflicting that torment on others.”

The Will, for Schopenhauer, is a malignant drive which lies at the very heart of our being but which is callously indifferent to our personal welfare. It ordains suffering to no end. In fact, it has absolutely no purpose in view other than its own futile self-reproduction. Men and women under the sway of this force, Schopenhauer writes, find one gratification after another wanting, so that “when at last all wishes are exhausted, the pressure of the Will still remains, even without any recognized motive, and makes itself known with terrible pain as a feeling of the most frightful desolation and emptiness.” Only when we cease to desire something in particular are we overwhelmed by the sheer painfulness of desire as such, desire in its purest state.

Or, as Keith Richards and Mick Jagger put it, “I can’t get no satisfaction. Cause I try and I try and I try and I try.”

It could very well be I’m obtuse, but I did not come away from Eagleton’s book with a satisfactory definition of evil, at least not one that helps explain what goes on in the head of a Tony Hayward, Richard Cheney, Rush Limbaugh or Arizona governor Jan Brewer. Or why Republicans do evil with so much more flare and demonic glee than Democrats. Not that democrats are strangers to evil. Not by a long shot. Or what it is that led seven male American contractors in Iraq to lock Jaimie Lee Jones in a container under armed guard and brutally rape her? And the corporation that hired her and the seven men, Halliburton/KBR, to block legal action, thereby creating a climate of impunity and encouraging further atrocities? Again, I see the devil shaking his head in dismay. What is the point in provoking God with unabashed evil when humans are so much better at it?

Eagleton did not stint on definitions of evil. He calls it “unintelligible… a thing in itself,” “supremely pointless,” “boring because it is lifeless,” “philistine, kitsch-ridden, and banal.” “It defends itself against the complexities of human experience with a reach-me-down dogma or a cheap slogan… If it believes in nothing, it is because it does not have enough interior life to be capable of doing so.”

The opposite of evil, of course, is good. “For Thomas Aquinas,” Eagleton observes, “the more a thing succeeds in realizing its true nature, the more it can be said to be good. The perfection of a thing, he argues, depends on the extent to which it has achieved actuality.” Within this context, evil is “a kind of deficiency of being.”

There are those who feel uneasy about this way of viewing evil. How can one possibly speak of Mao’s monstrous purges, or those who perished in the Nazi concentration camps, as victims of a simple deficiency? Doesn’t this risk underestimating the terrifying positivity of evil? It is here, I think, that psychoanalytic theory can ride to the rescue, allowing us to maintain that evil is a kind of deprivation while still acknowledging its formidable power. The power in question, as we have seen already, is essentially that of the death drive, turned outward so as to wreak its insatiable spitefulness on a fellow human being. Yet this furious violence involves a kind of lack -- an unbearable sense of none-being, which must, so to speak, be taken out on the other.

I felt unsatisfied at the conclusion of this book. But I think I made a mistake in expecting far too much from it. It is best to appreciate it as a primer, not as a geyser of enlightenment. Its subject is far too large, too complex and too unwieldy to fully comprehend by any author, no matter how perceptive or talented. Maybe what I was hoping for was a rant. Some fire-breathing rage. A passionate slam against the criminality of the Bush administration, which the Obama administration has not only allowed to slither back into the shadows without so much as an investigation, but has gone forward perpetuating, and in some instances escalating.

Eagleton’s tone throughout is even-tempered. His treatment of the subject does more to promote reflection and intellectual evaluation than encourage people to take to the streets with pitchforks, blazing torches, and guerrilla tactics with the hopes, however deluded, of bringing the evil empire of unchecked capitalism and its monsters down. His solutions are sobering, not enraging. This is a book you can bring to the beach without putting yourself at risk, wading into the surf to drown yourself or throw rocks at the first person to come along wearing a conservative t-shirt.

Eagleton cites numerous sources, all of them neatly noted, and so provides a rich vein of further pursuit. And so I will. I will continue my search and no doubt find quantities of the black viscous gooey stuff called evil running in my own veins.

At present, my most fervent hope is to merely understand what it was that went on in Tony Hayward’s head when, after the company for which he stood as captain and CEO decimated X number of pelicans and dolphins and manatees with gooey black oil, polluted for decades, perhaps centuries, the pristine white beaches of Florida, permanently disrupted the lives of thousands of people who depended for their living on the waters of the gulf of Mexico, and killed eleven men in an inferno of oil and steel, all of which could have been easily prevented by using a little wisdom, prudence, and pittance of money, he went skipping off to enjoy his life.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Celebrating Margins

Collected Poems, by Gustaf Sobin
edited by Esther Sobin, Andrew Joron, Andrew Zawacki, and Edward Foster
Talisman House, 2010

Proust compares the writing of poetry to a form of procreation. We bring the essence of ourselves, our fullest, most exquisite perceptions from the depths of our being to the surface of a sheet of paper, or embody them in words with the sound of our voice, distillations offered to whoever might be willing to absorb them, and create, in the margin between writer and reader, a world of ineffable beauty. These essences are fleeting perceptions of the sublime, moments of intense awareness, in which a mysterious energy emanates as light from incandescent matter, or heat from a volcanic vent in the depths of the ocean. In the effort to reproduce such fleeting and volatile moments in words, there is a careful effort made not to break the trance. “And when, behind closed doors, he has begun to get to work on it, with his invention every minute tossing him a new set of words to breathe life into, a new balloon to blow up, what a hallowed and dizzy labour it is! For how he has exchanged his soul for the soul of the universe.”

I find this description particularly apt in the case of Gustaf Sobin. Imbued throughout his work is not only a sense of mysticism, sublimity and transcendence, but a strong fascination with the emulsions that make an image visible, the inner force that gives life and muscle to a word. Its tissue and blood. Its ghostly penetration when it leaves the mouth.

The word ‘breath’ crops up frequently in Sobin’s work. “Breath-calyx,” “breath’s gold,” “breath- / invested intervals,” “the tissue of each breath in its entity,” “scribbles lost / in the breath-prints of the tracking,” “a breath-nail / being beaten into air,” “and this breath of ours, ground backwards,” “frail breath-combs,” “our breath / heaps,” “boned to / an emp-// ty density / by our / breath,” “breath // dragging- / body,” “the / breath / breaks / into petal,” “the / wedged // breath issues,” “the breath we’d drawn, still threaded, out of our buried mirrors,” “eyes gazing into what the breath would eviscerate,” “breath-holes draw / me,” “our breath: reflected past us,” “breath / reach rooted // into / the radiance it breathes,” “our breath’s // slipped bells,” “held / only // here, in / these / sudden // ver- / tebrae / of // breath.”

It is clear that the poem is driven by a life force that is both invisible and vital. Breath is apparent only as current, a stirring that agitates mist, passes over our skin as a wraith of warmth, or coolness. We take air in, and we blow it back out. It connects us to the world. We live in a medium, an ocean of air, just as fish live in a medium of water. We are at the bottom of a sea that is roughly 62 miles deep. A word, without a medium such as air in which to propagate its vibrations, would be silent. Dead.

Sobin adds to this a paradox that is central to the phenomenon we call language. In part III of an extended theme called “Shadow Rattles,” is the line “the poem moves // through the death of its making … is death, / its crushed vapors, that keeps it // alive.”

This echoes a remark Maurice Blanchot made with regard to Mallarmé: “the word has meaning only if it rids us of the object it names; it must spare us its presence our ‘concrete reminder.’ In authentic language, speech has a function that is not only representative but also destructive. It causes to vanish, it renders the object absent, it annihilates it.”

This is why one is able to find such powerful interrelations between the imaginary and the empirical in Sobin’s poetry, lines like “the scrolled // wet volutes of metaphor,” or “the / bone of a / breath / over the / wind-/ pitted ridges.” The word both conjures, and expels. We feel the volutes of a column that isn’t there, isn’t actual to our senses, but is somehow keenly felt by our intellect. It is outside of reality, empirical reality, yet experienced, quite keenly, quite fully, as an imaginative construction.

Words need to be visible. Need to be apprehended as substance. Not just agency, not the breath that conveys them, not the ink or pixels that gives them a modicum of visibility, but actuality, muscle, sinew, blood. They are like ghosts craving to live again. Ectoplasm craving protoplasm. Rhyme, assonance, alliteration, cadence. Everything that makes a word stand out from mere representation, mediation, and become hardware.

“Words,” observes Mallarmé, “of themselves, are uplifted into myriad facets, each acclaimed as the rarest or of value to the mind, a center of oscillating suspension, which sees them external to the ordinary sequence, projected, onto the cavern walls, for as long as their motion or principle lasts, and that is the element in saying which is not said: all of them ready, before extinction comes, to take part in the reciprocal acknowledgment of light by light, at a distance, or sidelong, as a picture of contingency.”

I remember years ago in a poetry class Michael Palmer taught at San José State Michael’s reference to Zukofsky as a “poet’s poet.” It was the first time I’d heard that phrase. I liked the sound of it, it made Zukofsky seem like some primary source of poetry, but I puzzled over it. Did it mean its essence eluded the ordinary gaze of the public? Did it mean that in order to fully appreciate its essence one had to come to terms with the essence of poetry itself? All these things were pertinent to Michael’s statement. I also took it to mean that Zukofsky’s books were not selling very briskly, and would most likely not become a best seller. I also understood this to mean that the sales of a book had nothing to do with its essential value. And that there was not a little defiance in seeking such a high level of artistic merit. It went against the spirit of commerce, against vulgarity and easy appeal, and offered an antidote to banality, a species of spiritual endeavor outside religion and its more institutionalized forms. Consequently, if I refer to Sobin as a poet’s poet, I do so with some reluctance, as I do not want to suggest to anyone new to poetry, “don’t bother with this book, it’s going to be way over your head, you better read, I don’t know, Billy Collins or Mary Oliver first.” Rather, what I want to suggest, is this: herein lies resonance, at last, “wrapt in the / taut knot of its own teased re- / leases.”

For Sobin is, indeed, a “poet’s poet.” His writing tends toward the abstract more than most other poets. He seeks what Mallarmé termed a “central purity,” a volatile dispersion that is its own magic, set free from the dust of reality. Sobin quotes Mallarmé in the epigraph at the beginning of The Earth as Air: An Ars Poetica: “This is the whole mystery: how to establish the secret identities existing in a ’two by two’ that eats away at things, and wears them down in the name of a central purity.” This is why, in Mallarmé, the world of images is a constant vanishing, a negation rather than an affirmation of images. He creates sensations, not photographs.

It is much the same with Sobin. It is why his poetry is at once so ethereal and so precise, and his images seem more like ideas than palpable objects, and his words more like palpable objects than ideas. The poems are fragmentary. They never begin with a full sentence, a predication. They begin, as it were, in medias res, as if he had been meditating on something for a while and had, midway into a thought or perception, decided to write it down. Which is not to say there are in anyway offhand or sporadic. Quite the opposite. His lines are generally very short, quite often a single word, which gives the impression of intense concentration, as if he were examining the word on a microscopic slide. One senses a poem that is ongoing, uninterrupted, segmented only by periods of silent rumination.

Here, for example, is the beginning of “A Flora Beginning With Vineyards”:

        over the
        rolled vineyards, lilacs
        pinch light.

        hold the
        morning’s swell, that
        image, those

        images strung, like
        wire, and running singed
        into hair, heat,
        the white

        rooms the


This is marvelous stuff. Fragile lilacs pinching light, the ineffable, the impalpable. Exquisite handling of alliteration in rolled, lilacs, light, hold, swell, skull, and hair, heat, white. The “rolled vineyards” is arguably the strongest image in the poem (Sobin, originally from Boston, spent most of his adult life living in Provence, France). The fullest sense of the poem is in its play of intangible qualities, quale, such as “morning’s swell” or the white rooms “the skull keeps,” an intriguing metaphor for thought, albeit thought of a special kind. White is associated with cold, the clinical and detached. With, who knows, Eric Clapton and Cream. But “white rooms” evokes in me a feeling, too, of the infinite, of the infinitely pure, or a place where purity might be housed in contrast to the messy, chimerical world of shifting lights and shadows, mercurial appearances and disappearances.

The Collected Poems is a big book. It contains the bulk of Sobin’s published books of poetry, beginning with Wind Chrysalid’s Rattle, and ending with a collection of new poems. There is also an introduction by Andrew Joron and Andrew Zawacki, who refer to Sobin as a “somewhat minor, mandarin poet, claiming a venerated group of admirers and apologists but lacking the wider public that many writers, uneasy descendants of Kafka’s hunger artist, often welcome even as they abjure its intrusion.”

Kafka’s hunger artist is an apt allusion; to take the world stage in the guise of a poet is almost automatically a renunciation, a via negativa. Unless, of course, one seeks the embrace of academia, still a risky career move, but by no means an abnegation of worldly concerns. And please, let’s leave slams and rap out of the picture; it ain’t poetry. It’s Lady Gaga.

Andrews and Zawacki go on to describe the world of contemporary poetry in the United States with blunt candor, situating Sobin within a milieu that has become sadly corroded by careerism and the drive for prestige. The paragraph merits reproduction here as a concluding statement:

Sobin’s writing, unusually attentive to the natural world, language’s spoors and spirals, and the mysteries that ligature one to the other, is a subtle form of communication that has refused to beg for attention, demanding instead the patient, voluntary hospitality of the reader. This is an exigency not easily heard, let alone answered, by participants in an increasingly careerist American literary milieu, where prizes and pedigrees, university prestige, and divisive politico-aesthetic loyalties have come to dominate the would-be poetic discourse. On the contrary, as Theodore Enslin once lauded, Sobin was an amateur, in the highest sense of the word: a lover of the thing itself. Sobin’s was a lifelong investigation of, investment in, and vigilance toward the tiniest, most peripheral of objects and abstractions; he sought to glorify them like Hopkins, whom he claimed as his favorite poet, and offered antiphons to “the psalm, burnt / to a glass / whisper,” that Traherne had penned with a similarly quiet profile. “My entire work,” Sobin once confided, “might be seen as a transcript of sorts, celebrating margins.”

Thursday, June 17, 2010

And Gargoyles Ride The Deep

Innocence is an engine of bronze, tin drops in a skull of yellow excursion. A stem of fire on a ship whose light has an interior shore.

The worst evil is the innocence of evil. The highest innocence is in a sense hideous. It strips the world of its soft deceits.

There is a candle on the sideboard. Light it with your breath.

Exalt the implicit fencing in since. The elbow, pushed into infantry, insults the contrasting nouns.

It is how a string undulates in the underworld.

The clarity of lines turn fickle behind the hum of a greed assembled from mushrooms and glitter. It all comes down to glue. Nakedness elevated to stone.

A pink contraption fights a close shave. Papier collé and a riveted philodendron teach the necessity of knocking. It grinds the eyeball toy into a cuticle of overly indulged knowledge.

Knowledge is the gauze and effect of zinc. Stir once to materialize a prophesy. Stir twice to catch a sleeve.

Pepper is but greet and room. A liberation pyramid drifting through a forklift. The cloud holds a life. The belladonna dazzles a bruise.

A finger without knots is less than a knob but more than a balloon. Kaolin mosquitoes glide by opposition. Emotion boosts a bald astronomy. Metamorphism is the job. The parlor is the afterlife.

The gape door is garnished with sunlight. The tower has been modulated to reflect a cantata. It was medieval England. Everyone carried a pulley.

Shine with distinction. Demand piles. Unnatural umbrellas. The breath of bedbugs. A catalogue of nebulas. A book of pain. Brushes for the great voyage of the pickle. A harness more skin than ocher.

Let us, therefore, freely build the puddle. Grace is an operation whose garish doctrines warrant a little electricity.

Let us create sonnets with flickered anonymous lips. Shatter change to an energy with limousines. Tailor the concertina to multiply its sounds into cheese. The hothouse intent was out walking. It moved with a clumsy improbability.

Punctuation bites.

If the house has to pack there is a skulk in it. The reticence grazing along the obscurity rubbed the sneer to miscarry a hungry soap. Its nimbus was soothed by absorbing a snake.

Pushing is pretzels to furnish independence with a pharmaceutical. The herd bleeds zippers. Lightning veins travel the power being.

Phenomena turn gluttonous. They swallow one another. They swallow the world. When everything is swallowed, the swallows swallow the rest.

Nipples are respectable. They are soaked in the work of the dimple. The dimples of sperms. The dimples of worms. Dimples in tests. Dimples in guests. Dimples in the sheen of consciousness.

The spine precedes its neural paths. The haunted chrome of ambivalence exceeds the cinnamon embodied in the oddity of blisters.

Apollinaire sips the words of the painter and reproduces them in fish, the flapping of flags, the sandwiches of nerve and trial, and the cartilage of alligators.

The bones of argument are oracles of metal.

For it is the Etruscans who marked the world with ceremony.

And it is sleep that troubles dreams, not dreams that trouble sleep. When the whale turns wife, volume unbuttons the sky, Cate Blanchett dresses in armor, and gargoyles ride the deep.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Eshleman's Ekphrastic Anticline

Anticline, poetry by Clayton Eshleman
Black Widow Press, 2010

Scholars often identify Achille’s shield, as it is described in Homer’s The Illiad, as the first ekphrastic work in western culture. I do not dispute this. But the appearance of art in western culture is far older, and invites speculation about literary engagement. The Upper Paleolithic art of the caverns and grottos of the French Dordogne have been estimated to be as much as 32,000 years old. Clayton Eshleman, who has devoted decades of his writing to the Paleolithic renditions of bison, rhinoceros, mammoths, deer, horses and stags of Cougnac, Lascaux, Abri du Cro-Magnon and other underworld galleries of primordial art, has so completely incorporated it into his work as to make it new. It ceases to be historic. It becomes immediate and real. Juniper Fuse, named after the hand-held lamp wicks used to illumine the cavern walls, stands as a monumental piece of scholarship and imagination devoted to Ice Age cave art. He surmises its meaning, its shamanic vein, and renews the pulse of its being in his poetry. In Anticline, his most recent collection of poetry, he revisits ice age art and expands his verbal palette still further with artwork ranging from different times and continents.

Ekphrasis comes from the Greek: ‘ek,’ meaning out, and ‘phrasis,’ meaning to speak. It means to speak out of another work of art; to base one’s own creative vision on an engagement with another work of art. Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess,“ William Carlos William’s Breughel poems, John Ashbery’s “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” and John Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn” are all examples of ekphrastic poetry.

For decades, Eshleman’s poetry as engaged the work of a huge variety of artists, notably Willem de Kooning, Frida Kahlo, Caravaggio, Nora Jaffe, Chaim Soutine, Leon Golub, Matsutani Takesada, Francis Bacon, Jackson Pollock, and quite recently, Hieronymus Bosch.

Charles Olson called it a “saturation job:” “… by the techniques of total research, to crack down any events or person so completely that you can, in the minutiae of the facts, find the elements of which the event or person are made and which make them significant to other men.”

Eshleman is a man of deep immersion. He adopts a work, treats it as his own, draws essence from stone and paint and recrafts it in words. He reinvents. Part of his task is scholarly, interpretive and probing. But the energy at the core of his poetry is inventive and photosynthetic: he absorbs the light of a painting and converts it to words. His writing is not strictly interpretive. It explains a work in words that mirror the work stylistically, and often going beyond style, to incarnate the spirit of the work in the flesh of his poetry.

There is an inevitable friction at the heart of this. As James A.W. Heffernan remarks in his book Museum Of Words, “To represent the technique as well as the content of a work of graphic art, the poet must reckon with representational friction, with the conflict between signifier or material medium of representation and the signified -- the objects or figures represented.” How, for example, take the daubs and swoops and energetic splashes of color on a canvas by Pollock, and recreate that in a poem? There is going to be resistance. One is primarily a visual medium and the other is a medium of sound and image, a representation of experience tethered to a clutter of consonants and vowels. One is a process that is intensely physical, the other a process that is primarily cerebral. One is a process that breaks from figural representation to concentrate on the medium alone. The paint. And the man doing his odd dance with a paintbrush around the canvas on the floor. Flinging, flicking, smearing, rubbing, scraping, pummeling, thumping, spattering, splattering, sprinkling paint. The other is a fabric of cadence and contemplation, an abstraction drawn from the spinnerets of deep rumination.

In “Pollock Pouring,” a poem in Eshleman’s recent collection of poetry, Eshleman pulls the stoppers and lets fly with a tumult of metaphor:

       To cage you blizzard, to purify
       your gizzard while disemboweling
       the lizard in its bower. To make these millipedal
       feelers mill, to pedal eels, white elvers,
       or are they elves? If so, turn piranhas on them
       to exacerbate any penetralia
       which may have coagulated in my rage.

It is a telling figure to begin with the idea of a cage and a blizzard. One cannot, obviously, cage a blizzard. The bars could not hold it. A blizzard is neither an object nor an animal. It is a phenomenon of wind and snow and temperature and isobars. You cannot cage weather in an isobar.

Eshleman spins dizzyingly on an array of entomological and fabulous creatures, feelers milling, eels and elves, piranhas, a stranger menagerie which ends, interestingly, with rage, rhyming with cage. And not just rage, but rage as a coagulation, a scab of dried blood forming from an initial cut or injury. Which is the effect of rage; it brings us into collision with the world. The wiser coarse is to seek redemption by other means: in the transmutations of vision and art, for instance. In order to recreate in the poem the energy of Pollock’s creation means the poet will have to break free from the malignant energies of rage, which contract and enmesh, and sublimate into a being of regenerated vitality.

The last line of the poem, “In the Cunt of the Celestial Crocodile I solarize as a Hadal sum,” Eshleman merges so completely with his aesthetic experience as to have intercourse with a Celestial Crocodile. The crocodile, in Egyptian mythology, was deified. They repaired evils that had been done, and were sometimes adorned in jewels. The evil done to modern humans is the separation from our bodies brought about by industrialization and technology. Pollock has so renewed the primordial in Eshleman’s experience that he is having sex with it. He emerges solarized, as a Hadal sum. Hadal refers to ultra-abyssal fauna: Porcellanasteridae, Brisingidae, and Umbellula. You can’t get more primordial than that.

“Goya Black” is inspired by a group of fourteen paintings executed by Fracisco Goya in the later years of his life (1819-1823). He was 72 and had moved into a two-story house outside of Madrid called Quinta del Sordo, or “Deaf Man’s Villa.” Goya had been rendered deaf since age 46 as the result of an illness. He had witnessed mayhem and massacre during the Napoleonic war and rebellions that flamed and thundered across Spain, conflicts of spectacular cruelty and barbarism, and had grown embittered against humankind. His black paintings reflect his negativity with visions of horrific power. Among these is Saturn Devouring His Son in which a maniacal, demonic giant eats a significantly smaller man, whose head has already been bitten off. The painting is inspired by the Greek myth of the Titan Cronus who, fearing that his children would overthrow him, at each one upon their birth. In Goya’s painting, however the child is a mature man. This painting has had significant influence on myself. I refer to it whenever I try to describe what capitalism is doing to humanity, or corporate America is doing to its citizens.

Eshleman’s language is generally quite colorful, richly metaphorical, full of bizarre images, neologisms, conflicting passions, and twists and turns. Here he uses that language to recreate the horror and macabre flavor of Goya’s paintings. “Text of shadow gore,” it begins, “Cowherds/ with leg stumps sunk in mud, cudgels flailing. Roving colon of mankind.” The disfigurement, disembowelment, and muck Eshleman conveys in these three lines compasses a range of brutality which comes alive in the abbreviated, telegraphic syntax used to convey the images. ‘Colon’ is a pun on column, as in a column of soldiers, and brings home the sense of disembowelment even more graphically. It’s as if Eshleman himself were daubing reds and blacks on a canvas, depicting horrors in the silence of a room full of shadows and flickering candlelight, not unlike the shamans in the caverns of the Dordogne 32,000 years previous. Significantly, Goya did not paint this series on canvas, but upon the walls of his room.

“Earliest Cinema,” written for the Vanitas issue on Cinema, is a twofold ekphrastic approach. Its subject is the outlined animals and paintings at Cougnac, a cavern full of ice age artwork in the French department of Lot. Included among the paintings is the depiction of a big megaloceros deer with its huge antler, ingeniously represented by taking advantage of the natural relief of the wall. Above it is painted a small ibex, in red, and to the right a black human figure with darts in his backside. Eshleman also references cinema, and the dramatic parallel between the paintings rendered in the subterranean chambers of Cougnac and the dark, otherworldly charm of the movie theater. There is also a parallel between the flickering light of the shaman’s handheld lamp and the beam of light issuing from the film projector, splashing movement and drama on a large white screen. “A group can gather,” Eshleman remarks, “as in a theater, and gaze!”

Eshleman extends his metaphor further than a lamp/projector configuration, and references the mind of the shaman as the source of images:

   Wall contours and flutings evoked a megaloceros chest and neck,
   thick ibex belly hair, animals partially
   submerged, encased imago,
   a pupa Cro-Magnon eyes released, in the depths of limestone
   there were different kinds of beasts --
   wall as screen over which their mental projectors played.

The centerpiece of Anticline is the series of poems that comprise Tavern Of The Scarlet Bagpipe. In 1979, Eshleman states in his introduction,

I visited the Prado Museum in Madrid and spent half an hour before Hieronymous Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. For the past fifteen years, I have had framed reproductions of that painting and the Lisbon Temptation of Saint Anthony on my workroom wall. They have hung there, steely challenges, over the years. I have collected books and articles on Bosch, waiting for the right moment to engage at least one of these masterpieces.

In 2003 I proposed a one-month “Bosch project” for a residency at Rockefeller Study Center at Bellagio on Lake Como in Italy. My idea was to spend two months going through my materials and then, while at the Study Center, write into the Garden of Earthly Delights. My residency was accepted in May 2004, and my wife Caryl and I left for the Center on October 18.

The scope of this project is immense. There are thirteen separate poems in the main section, followed by a collection of notes, less formal treatments which read very much like poems themselves, in the appendices. Also helpfully included are some footnotes.

Ehsleman breaks his study down into sections. To the right of each poem is a directional, such as (for “MONKEY CROUCHED ON A WHITE ELEPHANT), “Eden. Left Wing, Middle & Lower Sections.”

The first line of each poem functions as its title, and is written in majuscules. BOSCH’S EDEN POOL OF SPONTANEOUS GENERATION

is a kind of Cenoté with scarlet-rust cisternal limestone walls.
A pheasant exposes her anus as she sticks her head into the
       pool’s cypress-black sheen.
A male pheasant stares at the female’s anus.
A stump-legged otter drags its fish-end up on the bank.
A black crayfish-headed bird prepares to spit a supine black frog on its
       scissor-beak (while a shore bird with skeletal peacock tail        prepares to gut the frog).
A cat walks away from the pool, eyes glazed, mouse nape in teeth.
A clack-billed ghoul-bird grips twitching frog legs between its fever-
       beaded “lips.”

The pool tunnels out of Eden and leads to pools in Paradise, Apocalypse:
       these are the subterranean waterworks of the triptych.

As can been seen, Eshleman revels in the graphic details of Bosch’s exquisite lens. The vision, transferred from the paint of Bosch’s canvas, and framed in words, acquires a fresh palpability. It goes directly to the mind. The water of its “cisternal limestone walls” sloshes around in our heads. Reflects a primordial realm. What is it that so fascinated Bosch, that so motivated him to depict animals as they truly are, truly behave, sniffing one another’s anus, eating one another, in what is supposed to be an Eden, a place of innocence? Perhaps it is our notion of innocence that is limited. Eshleman’s drive toward the primordial has found a rich vein in Bosch. It allows him to push his language further, to dilate its capacity for capturing life’s weird burlesque. Strange “creature constructions” and “image rhythms” “between Paradise and the foundations of being.”

I have not touched on everything in this book. Eshleman’s work grows with the years rather than wanes, and this is one of his fullest achievements. One could spend a huge amount of time in his galleries and feel as though one has not come near to penetrating its deeper chambers. One sees its animals, feels its words, and each time comes a little nearer to understanding our own Font de Gaume.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My New Friend

I have a new friend: rage. It is with me morning, noon, and night. It is immense, it is lethal, and it is intense.

If it had the ability to travel through my eyes I would be burning holes in the wall. If I could distill it and turn it into fuel, I could sell it to NASA. Hell, I could sell it to Texaco.

I used to experience rage periodically, and rarely. Usually while driving. Road rage. Drivers that drive you crazy by moving like molasses. Drivers that make your hair stand on end when they weave in and out of traffic on the freeway at 90 mph. Drivers that blab away on cell phones while they nearly decimate toddlers and dogs on their way to the supermarket.

After the BP oil spill, rage has become my toxic oil slick. It is subsuming all other emotions. Starving them from oxygen. Blocking them from nourishment.

And yet it feels like a friend. We have a kinship. A propinquity. A bond. We share something: a powerful disdain for negligence. For ignorance. For incompetence. For deceit and greed and selfish narcissistic complacency.

The sheer incompetence of BP and all other corporations is enough to drive you crazy. But it is the apathy, the utter indifference to the destruction of thousands of species of animals, frail ecologies and jobs that has brought me this new found affinity with rage.

Where do these people come from? These executives. These administrators. These bureaucrats. These lobbyists and politicians. These tea partiers and Fox propagandists. These deluded progressives who refuse to entertain the notion that Obama might be another corporate shill, despite his evident charm and intelligence. How did they get like this? How did they become so delusional? How have they so effectively managed to shut down inside? Is it any wonder that zombie movies have become so popular? Did anyone who saw Zombieland not think for a second that it was an accurate reflection of every day life?

If you watched the Rachel Maddow show recently (“How Not To Respond To An Oil Spill”) you saw how negligently the booms were laid out to protect the shores and wetlands and islands on Caminada Bay on Grande Isle off the coast of Louisiana. They looked pathetically useless as BP oil drifted ashore in blobs and chunks and thin blankets of olfactory-burning slicks, creating a dead zone of black gooey sludge. Did BP give a shit at all? They stuck long bamboo poles in the shallows to keep the wind from blowing the booms away. Did it work? Fuck no. Why did they even bother?

I am a stranger to guns, and a stranger to killing. So what can I do? Join all the other impotent bloggers. Vent my rage in pixels. And wish and wait for the revolution to start. And wish and hope that it doesn’t start.

It would be so much easier to be a Tom Paine of the Blogosphere. Write something that evokes a certain nobility of behavior, helps set benevolent, enlightened policies. But people, for the most part, have ceased listening. Ceased reflecting or thinking or digesting. Thought has become onerous. Repugnant. Thought requires effort, and sometimes a little courage. It’s so much more gratifying to fantasize being a superhero. Or rock star. Or a boy in an ivy-clad English school who makes magical things happen by waving a wand. If I had a wand, I wouldn’t wave it. I’d stick it up Tony Hayward’s ass.

Has there ever been a time when communication has been so reduced and cheapened by tweeting and other inanities? How did people become so stupid? Why are they doing such stupid things? Why are they believing and saying and such stupid things? Are people being zapped by stupid rays from Mars? Are we under a stupid attack?

I obsess constantly about executives at BP and Haliburton and Transocean and their utter indifference to human life. All life.

I have grown ever more mystified, perplexed, by human consciousness. How, on the one hand, can it produce a great body of poetry like The Illiad, or Gilgamesh, or the Bible, and yet have such a weird capacity for cruelty? For sadism? For torture and killing? How can a group of seemingly affable young men erupt into laughter and joy at seeing a drone missile blow a group of men, allegedly terrorists, to red mist? For them it is a video game. For the survivors, it is the excruciating pain of flesh ripped from a face, a jagged bone extending from where an arm used to be, a leg shattered to a bloody, gooey pulp.

Yes, not ironically, The Illiad, the Gilgamesh, and the Bible, are full of war, gallantry in action and swords smoking with blood. It might be said that The Illiad glorifies war. This is a paradox for which I do not have an answer. War, admittedly, does it have an aspect that lends itself to heroism, high emotion, and beauty. What I find so distressing, so profoundly evil, is indifference to suffering. It is one thing to face an enemy nobly in war. To do battle face to face. It is another to kill aimlessly, blindly, with no feeling whatever for the sanctity of life.

Human consciousness is vast and unthinkably complex. It is capable of making equations that explain some of the most intricate workings of the cosmos and land a tiny satellite on a potato-shaped asteroid softly enough to take pictures. It is stupefying that an organ of such momentous size and capacity for analysis can be so easily tricked into believing such bald deceits as BP‘s statement that “there is no evidence that huge amounts of oil are suspended undersea,” or Obama’s claim that his administration has "always been geared toward the possibility of a catastrophic event." It does not seem possible. And yet if BP sends a young, congenial man wearing shorts and a backpack to tell a Florida community that BP will see to it there will be no damage to their beaches, they laugh, sigh with relief, pat the fellow on the back, shake his hand, and go home to watch American Idol.

Henry Giroux employs the term zombie to describe the grotesque and ethically comatose society in which we, the still living, now find ourselves. “The zombie - the immoral, sub-Nietzschean, id-driven ‘other’ who is ‘hyper-dead,’ but still alive as an avatar of death and cruelty - provides an apt metaphor for a new kind of authoritarianism that has a grip on contemporary politics in the United States.”

“But the new zombies,” he goes on to say, “are not only wandering around in the banks, investment houses and death chambers of high finance; they have an ever increasing presence in the highest reaches of government and in the forefront of mainstream media. The growing number of zombies in the mainstream media have huge financial backing from the corporate elite and represent the new face of the culture of cruelty and hatred. Any mention of the social state, putting limits on casino capitalism and regulating corporate zombies puts Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh into a state of high rage.”

High rage did he say? Does that mean I actually have something in common with Palin, Beck, and Limbaugh? It is a sobering thought.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Adventures In Aphasia

Floats Horse-Floats or Horse-Flows, a novel by Leslie Scalapino
Starcherone Books, 2010

“There is no lid or limit on sensation,” remarks the mysterious narrator of “zoom in black,” a chapter in Scalapino’s mind-storm of a novel. This occurs during a horrific scene of poachers bringing down silver antelope in the Himalayas, “four or five hundred corpses on the floor of night desert are skinned at different times, their rib cages illumined in the pool amidst feeding buzzards.”

No lid or limit on sensation explodes the opium of reading into a peregrination of liquidationists, paregmenons, and the Melbourne tennis opening. Reading ceases to be reading and morphs into something else: a deeply focused meditation. A lexical gymnastic maneuver. A cerebral activity akin to mountain climbing, or bronco riding. It is, at once, difficult and exciting. But please. Don’t let the word ‘difficult’ put a crease in your brow; Scalapino is a dish served with piquant flavors, not all of them familiar. But it is tasty and it is digestible. And it’s good for you, too! It is high in protein and low in carbohydrates.

Scalapino has revealed that she based the writing of this novel on a form of language disorder called alexia, which refers to an acquired type of sensory aphasia where damage to the brain causes a patient to lose the ability to read. It is also called word blindness, text blindness, or visual aphasia. I find this deeply ironic, considering the richness of Scalapino’s text, and the inherently futile task of devoting one’s writing to a form of aphasia in which reading has been seriously incapacitated, but one cannot help be mindful also of the social, ethical, and political blindness by which we find ourselves surrounded here in the 21st millennium. And that reading, even among the population of people who do not suffer an aphasia, or illiteracy, is at risk.

Alexia may not mean total blindness. Sometimes comprehension is ok, but there may be some difficulty matching semantic interpretation to a sentence. An example is a sentence like “the water gushed from the pump,” which may be interpreted as “the pump gushed from the water.” In other words, an unintended poetry emerges. We see the world differently. Subject and object relationships become discombobulated. Control of the words feels tentative. They feel dazed and unsteady. Consequently, we find relationships between things and ideas that are often bizarre, creating novel perceptions, extraordinary images, such as “laced with swine jelly,” “flexing blue metal water,” “crocodile teeth spread in hatred,” or “an ear unfolds in hot night.” As bizarre as the associations can be, a peculiar, unexpected vividness arises, grips the attention, shows the world in a flare of brilliant hyper-reality.

Neurolinguists refer to a phenomenon called N400 (Negativity at 400 milliseconds) discovered by Marta Kutas and Steven Hillyard in 1980. This was a measure of how people respond to unexpected words in sentences. The N400 is characterized by a distinct pattern of electrical activity that can be observed at the scalp. Kutas and Hillyard used sentences with anomalous endings (i.e. “I take coffee with cream and dog”), to test their subjects. A positive or negative deflection in voltage indicates how the subject is responding to stimuli. A negative deflection indicates a delay. The subject is confused, and pauses to assimilate the semantic anomaly. The mind is hard-wired to make sense of things. Everything. This is what makes art, good art, so challenging and stimulating. And this is what makes Scalapino’s writing such a difficulty, and hugely rewarding.

We are not talking physics equations here. The sentences are odd, aberrant, screwy, the syntax eccentric, the words often large, exotic, and orchidaceous, but there is nothing so enigmatic it throws you off entirely. He peculiar phrasing very often has an exquisite sapience, a sharpness of perception that drives into you with the burning suddenness of a jalapeño pepper, or electrifying cold of an alpine lake. A phrase like “nerves inside muscles,” for instance, embodies a very real, proprioceptive circumstance, or “Anything has once been memory and can be placed beside anything” sends swirls of reflection spinning through the brain. Frequently, she will disrupt the waters by tossing a difficult, rarely used word into an otherwise familiar or pastoral context, such as “orexis is the waterfowl.”

Orexis is a male sexual enhancement product with “guaranteed results.” These must be very busy waterfowl. Or possibly frustrated male fowl and very pissed off female fowl.

Quite frankly, I’ve never read quite such a strange and invigorating book. We are beyond surrealism here. Scalapino appears to have figured out a way to access the entire world and make all of its beauty and hideousness, its violence and sublimity, its joys and indiscriminate burs, its pompous bureaucrats and toxic bullshit, euphoric buoyancies and defiant meadows, simultaneous.

Simultaneity is at the core of this book. It is a collage, but a very dynamic collage that feels harnessed to a team of very powerful horses. Consciousness rides each sentence with a handful of mane and the frenzy of unbridled energies. Each pulse of existence achieves its fullest expression as a part of the overall synthesis of creation, but without a concomitant incongruity, synthesis turns stale. We don’t know we’re moving if we don’t move against something. Hills, fences, mailboxes, doors. Simultaneity means everything happening at once which is what life is. All things are interrelated. There is propinquity between a milkweed and a swordfish. "But," observes Whitehead, "though there are gradations of importance, and diversities of function, yet in the principles which actuality exemplifies all are on the same level."

Simultaneity also means there is no plot. Not a linear plot anyway. Scalapino has taken Gertrude Stein’s aesthetic of a continuous present to its maximal level of synchronicity. “Synchronicity,” the narrator remarks, “as determining characteristic doesn’t exist in that all actions are random as synchronous anyway.”

This is an aesthetic that begins, at least in the western world, with Cézanne, and was developed to its fullest in the Cubism of Picasso and Braque. Stein was Cubism’s most salient literary exemplar. Tender Buttons stands as one of the first examples of literary Cubism. In four years it will be one hundred years old. That makes me feel old. For me, Tender Buttons is still a very new and modern work.

Tender Buttons also makes me grateful that such an accomplished writer as Scalapino has carried that Cubist aesthetic of simultaneity into further excursions, and has left so many wonderful books behind her.

However enigmatic its plot may be, and I do feel there is something of a plot plotted among its pages, Floats Horse-Floats or Horse Flows does read very much like a novel. It has characters, many with strange, colorful names: “powder monkey,” “Chrysanthemum,” “Detective Grace Abe,” “Fujimori,” the “orphan girls,” “Violet,” and “Sister Serena,” who appears to be the tennis champion, Serena Williams.

And they do things. The powder monkey pops “the air of the edge of forest’s flocculation but in his speed on the horse ship the forest-edge almost an osculation of him leaving it closes in its quiet.” “Red chrysanthemum not having a realistic sense of time or mortality usurps it of others wasting them.” “Grace mumbles walking lying in the trees. Looking down she sees, having followed the poachers at night, the forest mirrored in green, red, and black corpses, dermoid without skeletons or organs.”

There are numerous references to cattle, “the black guiltless cattle are like dogs in someone’s description,” “the cattle née dogs with a wah-wah muted bawling sound begin to wander budwoods,” “Guiltless black cattle are only half-winged.” Sometimes an invented species will emerge: “Wallables, some no larger than rabbits, grazed on the orange mail…” The animals, as they do in the so-called real world, feel under constant threat. “Driven to extinction, the few elephant-herds remaining are pressed to the surface the outskirts of cities where the jockeys sleep in trees, in which the elephants feed.” With the exception of a “white wolf,” who has dazzling, hyperphysical powers, the animals occupy a world full of poaching, theft, cruelty, and war. There are also numerous references to corpses floating in the Euphrates, an obvious allusion to the war in Iraq, and drones “cruising and killing citizens née insurgents’ resistances have sounds they halve the people running.”

The real antagonist of this novel is capitalism. “Capitalism’s separating us from reality,” says the narrator. She identities conventional narrative with the noxious delusions of capitalism:

Separated oil burns 4 as another day begins on water they’re speaking it’s seen by being that’s slowed as if they’re removed from their actions’ occurrence and there’s only just as it occurs. Ron had (friend who’s feudist) blistering the hides of others said abridgement or any plot means “transparency” as a negative wherein all interwoven seems real. The individual is consumed in capitalism by their actions being (and seen by them in) the outside’s delusion of a whole reality as the individual sees events fed to them in as [while] [being] the outside’s ordered certainty. The origin as authority. In a given, a plot is or transpires as this transparency, he says silkworm, in which wired only receiving we’re quiet. In mine, a plot is only later, is events to see, a vehicle unplanned any actions unknown [going on] before their being known 2. But he says plot is any action, in it is already description (even if known before it occurs?) and creates this delusion of our being contained: capitalism’s separating us from reality.

How do we regain reality? How do we regain a sense of ourselves being alive, structured in bone, enveloped in skin, capable of movement, closer to our own actual needs rather than those imposed from without by a mechanized, totalitarian society? For “totalitarian,” observes Herbert Marcuse, “is not only a terroristic political coordination of society, but also a non-terroristic economic-technical coordination which operates through the manipulation of needs by vested interests.” To actualize an opposition may entail the employment of a pathology, i.e. an aphasia in the production of poetry. Perhaps poetry itself has become an aphasia. There is a vital element in all artwork that works contrary to the volition of the artist. It is what makes the work alive, a living pulsing breathing entity of words or paint or stone or clay. A Pygmalia. A fast horse. Which carries our sense of inner connectedness. As a being. As an opening. “As one’s waking mind.”