Dirty Gerty's Hurdy Gurdy


Only the poem knows what's true

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Much has been said of nature, red in tooth and claw, and the ways in which it provides some sense of inspiration, if not revelation. I believe nature, if anything, provides one re-discovery. Via objectivity, poetic objectivity, mind you, where a person can attribute the wind with human qualities, make a zephyr cough, and actually become it, that such stuff. Or, just an impulse, hidden too long, that birds in the morning can elaborate, or the foam of a wave coming to and being receded from the shore, the way it controls our ebbs and flows, even if all is a function of human interpretation, guiding the thought that life imitates art.
In his defense on poetry, Shelley had a line memorable to every nascent artist, that is, poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. For some time, this mistook me. I didn't quite realize what he meant. But now, perhaps because my illness has made me closer to a "core," or because after my father's death this May, I've been in numerous existential battles, which, I've come to realize, are never won, perhaps because of this I know more about Shelley, and his inclinations via this phrase.
Poetry has the remarkable quality of revealing to us what we already know. It gives the reader an invented instinct. So, Dickinson, her certain slant of light on winter afternoons, oppresses like the weight of cathedral tunes, has the reader come to a rediscovery, about a moment or instinct this light reflects. Even more prominent is Keats' Nightingale. Its immortal song reminds anyone who reads that poem, of their own mortality, and even sets the reader into a frenzy whose climax is "do I wake or do I sleep?" And Baudelaire, describing the air at dawn as a face full of tears having them swiped away by the dawn's wind. Reading that, you're reminded not just how the dawn operates, but how things are so easily wiped away with every day, and that point in which they are destroyed, is the point in which death becomes beauty, baiting the depths of revelation.
I could go on endlessly. When Shelley set forth that phrase, I don't believe he was referring to matters of politics and whatnot. That's just the metaphor. Poets provide us something priceless, that is, setting us the rules and laws not under which we live, but under which we are re-discovered. And the poem does the same thing to a poet. When a poet finds an appropriate form, and the form the poem wants to take talks back, there is s symbiosis at stake. The poet somehow rediscovers an identity via this form; the form rediscovers an identity via the poet's inclinations. And all of this is recycled, re-created when art is given to the readers' eyes.
And, the realization is, this process goes unacknowledged. It isn't recognized by every reader. Is, in fact, assumed anonymously. But this unacknowledged state is what makes it so perfect, and profound. Because, really, the poem acts like nature. Certainly, our interpretations are at the core of its existence; but it's something there, like a zephyr's cough, to remind us how we're rediscovered. If not through the grace of space and time, at least through the grace of an unassuming line.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Delacroix and Ophelia...

I was just looking over Delacroix's Hamlet lithographs, on line, mind you. And one caught my attention, if only for its capability. That is, The Death of Ophelia. So much has been said, can be said, of death and "madness." Where one is a dream that gives us no counterpoint, on which to fashion myth, the other is a myth that gives us no counterpoint, on which to dream. And what we often, tragically, do not see, is that beauty does not flee. It does not go; beneath a shroud even white and unrefined, it carries its heart unto life, and life unto mind. I wrote this poem some minutes ago, not really taking into mind Hamlet's complexity; more having him play with the visions of love, beauty, and mind:



A pall sets over a daisy,
White and unrefined
It carries no scent
No texture,
But that
Set by your mind.

The river's currents stall
So that your hand,
Grabbing unto a branch,
May induce,
All that could ever be,
Summed up in a dream.

But your dream takes me far
Far from fantasy,
I am no counterpoint to my Self
No myth made out of mind,
More the kind of Dream
That imprisons stars in a glass box.

And makes a ring out of flowers
Freshly cut,
All to parade in the parade's end
Some kind of stream that does not bend
To curve or waterfall,
Just takes you still and wanting life.

When your hair touched the river
Was it encompassed in swirls?
Did it dance to shiftless currents?
Was its tendril a gentle curl?
Or was it frenzied by the touch
Of a friendly frigid pall?

You did not want to go
But your mind made it so,
Hand brushed over your chest
Garments washed in rainbows
Beauty has no wish
But to make you think it goes.

I saw him as I see you,
Rex and Iron Mail,
Sword in hand,
Only his was fleshy
And yours a dream
Set in eyes of deepest blue.

With your eyelids shut
Little daisy,
White pall,
Scent and touch
Set by my mind,
I carry you unto my death

Bloodied and yet refined.

I think Hamlet and Ophelia make intriguing counterpoints. To me, both weren't maddened by the loss that came unto them. But the gain. An awareness, if you will, which a more sensitive nature just cannot endure, without falling into "death and madness." If Hamlet's madness was a mask to protect his poetic soul, so was Ophelia's, only hers was the truth there is no soul, something so damning, it carries us all to an unwanted "Gaol."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A la Caravaggio

Although the poem, below, is dedicated to Caravaggio (particularly his famous depiction of Medusa's head), it is much more than this. Medusa isn't malicious, here, by means of turning me to stone. She tempers grief. She is, in fact, the flesh against which I re-discover my stone:

For Caravaggio

On a shield your eyes writhe
Like the trestle of snakes
Whose eyes reach out
From your mane.
One would think your disdain,
Your small mouth
And small fangs,
Were fixed on a certain point.

They do not look at me,
So the blood spilling
From your severed head,
Is like a zephyr on the sea.
Skin not yet ashen,
The flesh of an amber peach
Set against green and copper
A storm against a lake.

But the songs of the snake,
Violin Stings
Weaved into your scalp,
Are the busters of a vacant street.
Your eyes sing more to me,
That point on which they’re fixed,
The soul to which my tears affix,
A marble cutter’s Art.

My face is just a loam
For the chalcedony it hides.
When I see your scream,
I want to hide
From the green rain
Acid upon my skin.
But I can’t,
Because it is your mane

And it is the pain of my flesh,
A bloody loam,
That brings me back
To nothing;
For what am I if not
A snakeless head
Eyes already dead,
Already shaped to ashen stone?"

Much can be said of grief and loss. I think the death of my father brought me back to everything. And, sometimes my "grieving" makes me feel as if I am made of stone, if the loam of flesh I wear isn't just that, an alabaster loam? But then I know, that he's part of something exceeding me. Something, I cannot, for the human life of me, color with human shades. Baudelaire knew about this need, for a particular beauty, for artists and whatnot, only found in death, but he also knew that the difference between life and death is as simple as a breath. They are twins. The flesh/stone, stone/loam I speak of in my poem. Separated by something so small, and yet such a Colossus. So perhaps the only task that makes us wise is building dreams of nothing. And thinking we are flesh, when really we are stone.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Les Paradis artificiels

It seems, to me, any apotheosis, or better yet, any point of sublimation, requires... work. If one is to enhance beauty, within an artistic piece, it isn't something that is a function of morals or mere passion; but a point of reflection. Where one looks into a mirror and sees themselves as subject/object, somnambulist/mesmerizer, etc.,

I admire Baudelaire because he realized this, and in his Les Paradis artificiels, where he pits a comparison between Wine and Hashish, (I'm only just in the beginning of this work), he signifies something that correlates so well to the artistic process. I'll begin with Paganini. It was said that Paganini, prior to fame, traveled with a Spanish guitarist, who happened to be an immense talent, an immense beauty. On one of his travels, this Spanish guitarist came across a marble cutter; the guitarist was slated to give a concert for the bourgeois in town that night, but they found him entirely drunk with the marble cutter, so when he went on stage, many were offended, and left. But those who stayed, were privy to something that really cannot compact to word. The marble cutter wasn't gifted on his violin, but once he started playing, the guitarist provided a contrast befitting every notion of beauty that can be conceived. What Baudelaire was trying to say, in approaching this, is that wine, as opposed to Hashish, produces useful results. Hashish, according to him, is useless and dangerous.

Bear in mind, I'm just in the beginnings, of this work; once I read it entirely, I'll provide a more perspicacious blog. When Baudelaire describes the effects of Hashish, he exemplifies an Objective process. Where an individual's conscious behavior disappears from time to time. So that everything is just that, objective, and the person affected can become a tree swaying in the wind, losing the sense of self command so significant to "reality."

Hashish is antisocial; wine tantamount to the nature of man. At least, according to what I've read thus far, what Baudelaire has said. What I want to pinpoint in this blog, though, which seems to lack focus at the moment, is that we always seem to be in search of artificial paradises. A way to fuse the animal (man) and the vegetable (wine, hashish), so that another being erupts, a divinity, if you will, the holy ghost in an unholy trinity. The question becomes, can we exceed the artificial aims and create paradises of our own, on our own?

I'll quote something from Barbereau:

"I fail to see why rational, reasoning man must employ artificial means to reach poetic bliss when he can, with enthusiasm and will, raise himself up to a supranatural existence.

The great poets, philosophers, and prophets have all, by the free and pure exercise of their will, succeeded in reaching a state in which they were at once cause and effect, subject and object, mesmerizer and somnambulist."

Baudelaire's response to this is, "there I completely agree."

And it's something I've always tended to believe. Wine is wonderful, and I imagine hashish, which I've never tried, opium was never a drug of choice (!), does bring one to what feels like a philosophic and artistic apotheosis. The more sensitive natures, at least. Hashish inspires kef, the point of perfect bliss. Where man literally becomes God.

But if one has the capacity, they are able to become the subject and object of their will, they are able to exceed the artificial paradises, and come to a paradise of their own "Dasein." I really wish I could go back to the Hotel Pimodan (back in time, that is) and see a whole series of Delacroix's Hamlet lithographs... and meet Baudelaire and Gautier and whatnot... but what I really anticipate, in everything I do, is to bring things to their intrinsic possibility. The true cultivation of beauty, by means of a will that makes me cause and effect, subject and object, mesmerizer and somnambulist. That takes me to a point of reflection, so that the mirror I view, isn't Narcissus gazing over his own reflection, but Artemis inviolate by Actaeon's violation. Bearing the "soul" to the world, when really this is a mask of something more infinite, what we're ineluctably grasping (at). So maybe that's why we aspire to artificial paradises, there are too many quandaries to resolve, but perhaps, the key to it all, is will; the will, more importantly, to see that Les Paradis artificiels are always things of our own making. But if we bring our will to full apotheosis, the things of our own making become the things that exceed, and make us. Yes, that primordial yawp of the inimitable Whitman.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Diaphanous Dawn

Much like the gloaming, the dawn wears no mask. Its task is to erase the boundaries of night, into a conception of re-awakening. I woke to the dawn today. Sleep seems a bit inaccurate for me, la somnambule! I've been thinking about something, perhaps best conceptualized in my most recent poem, about the island of Cythera. Cohabiting love/beauty and death:

There is an island where Myrtle and Cypress
Feed each other golden threads.
Near where Leucas gave Sappho
To the surf, and the rocks,
Until her heart was dead.

But here, Sappho’s hair is golden,
Her lips a poppy red,
And the sky,
A face of blemishes,
Has its clouds cleared away,

And the grass grows dewy,
Under a gloaming tent,
And the moon launders its beams,
Over dawn,
And all the anemones bunched like stars
Wait for the feet that would crush them down.

I remember ages ago, when I first read Keats' Ode To A Nightingale, and I couldn't help but cry, thinking about his concepts of his own mortality. Perhaps because they co-mingled with mine. It's interesting, it seems to temper death, we create something immortal, against which our lives can be a vast relief. But being in relief has its disadvantages. Especially when doubt torments us, and we are left with what? Space and time. "The ineluctable modality of form." Even as we dream, feed on the dream of being on Lethe wards drunk, dreaming the immortal Nightingale's song, we only go wrong in attempting to pretend it all amounts to more than nothing. And I do not say this as a nihilist and whatnot, nothingness is beautiful. It's capable, culpable. And makes me realize all the more that even "source" is a mask for something more... infinite.

Is this heaven or is this hell?
She waits for a hand
Soft and white, to break the Myrtle and Cypress,
And fashion them into a crown,
Flowers of Lethe’s thorns.

I don't know why, but dawn seems more diaphanous to me than anything. Even more than the moon laundering its beams over an ocean's horizon. I suppose because in it I find something of a shape shifting Idol, and what are we if not makers and breakers of our own diaphanous Idols? The difference between Keats' Nightingale and my dawn is simple; whereas Keats can set himself in relief, really acting as the source for this creature, I'm the shadow to something endemic. And what could be more endemic than the cusp, the burgeoning of life from sleeping?

Maybe I'll play Stravinsky's Firebird. Just to remind me how in art, like life, everything is a matter of re-creation. An author, like any concept of divinity, is both a known and unknown force, upon which we set ourselves up, to be made, and, ineluctably... broken.