Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Behold! A new poem, a tonality-fluidity-imagery is building up pressure. It struggles to be born. It is dilating the cervix of your limbic system. It is a bloody, fragile thing, encased in a little sac, carried through conversation, through class and ratiocination, throug shitting and pissing, through waking and sleeping. It feels those rumbles and awaits its midwife. Its midwife need not be here, or now, or ever. But I guarantee one thing: It Will Find A Way. Somewhere. It cannot abide. It must develop, for it is nothing but movement, framing, following. It is chance itself: it is a grabbing, a hoarding, a taking of what is here and the making of it something more. It glimmers, but not in brightness. It needs no light.

If we had a worked-out science of what sustains it we would be the most satisfied human beings in the world. It has to do with many things: safety, feeling felt, simply feeling, subconsciosness, holes in the hypnagogic wall, personality, weather, contingent events, flashes, twitches, dispositions. All this to say: we don't know what is going on. Or, rather: we don't hold it well. It's like a fluid putty.

And it seeks an outlet. All you have to do is choose the right receptacle: freeform? Prose poem? Elegiac lament? Concrete? Musical? Meditative? In this you have been too lazy. But you know what it is outlet for. The feeling of being infinite, the fragility of that feeling, the impossibility of that feeling in a creature of flesh and bone. Think about it: dreaming meat!

Consider: "I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars or that a cat should play with mice... On the other hand, I cannot anyhow be contented to view this wonderful universe, and especially the nature of man, and to conclude that everything is the result of brute force. I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance."

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Olduvai (Part II)

What's Olduvai? This is a self-referential answer. If it doesn't strike your imagination on a deep, thrilling chord, then you are dead inside. I don't mean that. What I mean is that you should probably listen in more closely. What is it? The cradle of humankind. That--to your primate brain--is the closest thing to home we've ever had. Since then we've seen unfathomable serenghetti plains, alluvial flood plains, mountian gorges, ice sheets, pacific islands, moonscapes, office buildings, jungle thickets, tundras, stadiums, highways, lecture halls. But these things never touch our inner wealth--or should I say our inner wounding? The Buddhists would have you think that bare nature, our instinctive self stripped of the accumulation of development is inherently wonderful. I have difficulty accepting this from a Darwinian point of view. But maybe we are both right. The answer might be sought in Olduvai. Not by studying its rocks and fossils, but by the feelings it evokes, just as someone going to their roots--the old country, the childhood home...

Lately I've been on a big kick of integrating my history and making sense of it, making my narrative mean something. Wrestling with it and wresting from it something to motivate, to get me out of bed in the morning. So why not go to the root? That distant root? That root we're so separated from that it can't move us unless we make it move. But that's where we were of ourselves moved one time. Group proto-songs of proto-lament, proto-worry, proto-joy, Homo Ergaster Buddhas, Caligulas, Catos, Macchiavelis gathered around a proto-hearth. It's where we were all born and we all died. Our bones piled on our grandparents' in a gorge cutting off sight by mountains.

We're in a similar place right now. We think our sight is unobstructed--we see so clearly into our motives. And maybe we have gotten better at looking out. Radio telescopes touch quasars; arguably we've touched the background radiation that is the "soup" of the universe. But we haven't looked within enough, And maybe what we'll find inside is a valley enfeamed on all sides by truths tought unmoveeable. Unmoveable like the geocentric theory of the universe, like the four elements, like phlogiston, like the aether.

Intellectually, I have no problem with descending and breaking into Oldivai as a human living 2.5 million years later. But the strangeness of that place, and all place,s, tohugh intellectually acceptable, may be more than I can bear. But there's the beginnings of a strange project here.

Consider: "When power leads men towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment."