THE GREEN DOOR
MARY ANGELA DOUGLAS After the Gaelic to Turlough O Carolan for his songs in Heaven (1670-25 March 1738) I could not see through the crystal page I was ever that lost and wandering through the dream you dreamed how could I spell the moon, the starslet it not be said I wandered there in vain when Christ was on my left and on my right when bright through the thickets of dim sleep his kindliest name appeared all candlelit in reels of rose, in my own skynever to be forgotten. it was then I saw through the crystal men called poetry straight through to the guardian green of abiding song-then I knew there is no farewell to music. and God gave me the names of the moon and stars and the harp of perfect stillnessjeweled 12 july 2011
JEFF HARISON Gracchus A precipice drew down Actaeon flying Artemis. Henceforth, incessant harbors. Aboard, Actaeon eyes unwaveringly a delineation of Orpheus down Hebrus, his lyre his barque. Star, stellify The hindmost of Miss Deerfont’s handmaidens subaquesces; upon her back, the L’étoile a pleuré rose of Rimbaud. This Actaeon A lyrist makes of absence a hound. His pack of hounds increasing, is this Actaeon more accurately likened to Marsyas or The Sorcerer’s Apprentice? What challenge in sight, what lyric — exultations, these, or queries?
Ithaka You’ve got to start out from wherever you are, to arrive at the end of the road which has led you to where you are now. Those island dreams, of the barebreasted virgins who sang with skulls at their feet, and the dangerous craft of the witch, whose calling could not be denied, and, deadliest of all, the shining girl who smiled on the opulent shore, where the trees dropped apples into your outstretched hand, and the amorous vines grappled your feet as you trudged to the palace that could have been yours, with its heartless wealth and shallow-eyed retainers, — all these lures were only starting-points towards your goal, having no purpose but to be left behind. You had a destination: it was yourself; and though that self was hewn from anger, nursed on slaughter, like the dead who sent you back to stand revealed as father, husband, son, fresh from the gore of fools whose last mistake was not to know you, still, the choice you made was not the choice of that great predator who bartered life for pride on those bleak plains and starkly summed the choice that breaks us all; and if his bitter ghost recanted, choosing the living homeless wretch above the warrior famed in death, you, that come as both, must know there’s more than what is ultimate, that life, while never fair, is always just, since justice is what we are. Now leave behind those twenty years that heaven has robbed you of, and let your anger fade into the mists that shroud the grey horizons of the dead. It’s done its job: it brought you to your home, this undreamed isle, awash in the sensual sea, whose undulant hills recline against the bays and, crowned with eagles, gently challenge the sky. She is the core, the hugely rooted pivot, whose branching blood so deeply grips this earth no wrath of storm nor insolence of men can budge her from the birth she testifies or shake the love like iron in her breast, flutter her foliage in what light breeze it may.
No random winds delayed this homecoming or blindly drove you finally to this shore. The gods know what they’re doing. So set your hand to whatever they send you today, you mysterious stranger, for they at last will ripen all desire. Vines curl among the rocks; the air is sweet with thyme and droning bees; the drowsy clang of goat’s bells drifts from ridge to ridge: perhaps you’re only beginning your setting out, perhaps when you finally understand what such a place means, then wherever you are will be the end of the road.
Anacreontea from the Greek i The women tell me, “Man, you’re old; don’t be so bold. Look into a mirror to make it clearer: your hair ain’t there.” But I can’t see what lies above my eyes. I do see more reason to play the game, when Death takes aim. ii If wealth with all its money could make us never die, I’d give my life to earning, and then, when Death came by, I’d pay him and forget him. But there’s no way to spend yourself into forever. So since my life must end, what good does money do me, or why then should I mourn
the certainty of dying, which comes with being born? My riches are in friendship and drinking wine at ease, and moon-lit celebrations of Love’s solemnities. iii Old Gyges had a ton of gold when he was Asia’s king; his treasure houses leave me cold, I don’t grudge him a thing. What counts with me is scented hair, rose garlands, and today; so let’s drink while the weather’s fair: tomorrow’s far away.
Simonides: Epitaph for the Spartans at Thermopylae from the Greek Stranger, report to the Spartans we lie here, mission accomplished.
Ovid: Love in the Afternoon It was very hot. The day had gone just past its noon. I’d stretched out on a couch to take a nap. One of the window-shutters was open, one was closed. The light was like you’d see deep in the woods, or like the glow of dusk when Phoebus leaves the sky, or when night pales, and day has not yet dawned. — a perfect light for girls with too much modesty,
where anxious Shame can hope to hide away. When, look! here comes Corinna in a loose ungirded gown, her parted hair framing her gleaming throat, like lovely Semiramis entering her boudoir, or fabled Lais, loved by many men. I snatched her gown off — not that it mattered, being so sheer, and yet she fought to keep that sheer gown on; but since she fought with no great wish for victory, she lost, betraying herself to the enemy. And as she stood before me, her garment all thrown off, I saw a body perfect in every inch: What shoulders, what fine arms I looked on — and embraced! What lovely breasts, begging to be caressed! How smooth and flat a belly under a compact waist! And the side view — what a long and youthful thigh! But why go into details? Each point deserved its praise. I clasped her naked body close to mine. You can fill in the rest. We both lay there, worn out. May all my afternoons turn out this well.
Callimachus: Credo from the Greek I hate political poems. Not for me, the human wad that clogs the great high way. A love that’s everyone’s business? Forget it. A drink from the common trough? No, thanks. The public: yuck.
Plato Plato was dazzled by the numbers’ dance. Their interlocking rhythms made a song which must have come from God, since they alone stood unmoved in the welter of the world. The flushed and youthful flank, the glancing eye articulate with desire, and quick response to fly or flutter near, that so engaged passions so deep they had to be eternal, all withered to the slack and fusty dugs of each day’s lying truth, that drip the sour after-mockery of joy gone stale. But in the reasoned frenzy of proportion, strong as steel and delicate as fire, he found a lust refined of all corruption, the rapture of the body in the mind.
Oedipus I could not bear to see that nothing had changed, that the world still rolled along its trivial round and day rose up and yielded to the stars and all the trees just stood there. If the earth had swallowed me or demon visions claimed my mind’s clear understanding for their own, I might have veiled the truth behind the horror and kept the blindness other men call sight. But I have looked too nakedly upon the sun and know the light for what it is.
Yet neither may I pierce again that pit from which so long ago I fell unwilling, and into which I later fell unknowing, by entering the void through my own choosing. Action itself is foul: I must accept. Thus I indeed am fortune’s child and toy, my helplessness once more my sole protection. Now neither life nor death is what I need, but only to be of use. I may yet know where I belong and learn what I am for.
Sappho: To Aphrodite from the Greek Aphrodite, immortal, enthroned in wonder, Sky-daughter, webstress of schemes, I entreat you not to break my spirit with pangs of anguish, Queen, Lady, Mother, but now come to me, if in the past you ever also heeded me when I cried from afar, and, leaving behind the golden house of your father Zeus, you descended borne in a chariot yoked to a flock of lovely sparrows flying fast over earth’s black richness, thickly fluttering wings leading you a passage through bright mid-heaven, soon arriving, and you, O supreme in blessing, eternity’s smile gleaming from your expression, asked me now this time what again I suffered, what did I pray for, what beyond all else I would want to happen with all my love-maddened heart: “Who now needs persuasion to be led back to your affection? Who is it, Sappho, who hurts you? Though she now may run, she will soon pursue you; now she may spurn gifts, but she soon will give them; now she feels no love, but she soon will feel it, even unwilling.”
Coming this time again, act as my deliveress; unwind this mastering pain; become fulfiller of everything that my passion hopes for: take your stand as my ally.
The Archpoet His Confession: A Recasting from the Latin Seething over inwardly with savage indignation, in my bitterness of soul I make this declaration. My substance is an element refined of all pretension, a plaything for the fluttering breeze, a gossamer invention. You’ll find among the good advice with which The Bible’s filled, to dig right down to solid rock before you start to build. That sounds too much like work to me: I’ve built my house on air, and like a soaring wind-borne dove, my home is everywhere. I cannot bear austerity, and, since I am confessing, the gravity of saints has always struck me as depressing. Virtue is a tedious job, love’s work is sweet as honey; the riches that Queen Venus gives mean more to me than money. So down the open road I go, exulting in my youth. I flaunt my weaknesses with pride, and if I search for truth, I’m likelier to encounter it in one beguiling face than all the monkish breviaries imploring heaven’s grace. Bless me, father, I have sinned, or curse me if you’d rather.
Our fate is ashes, dust, and night; theology is blather. What fun can an angel have? The flesh is sweet damnation, so let me glory in its joys, and you can have salvation. Each creature needs its proper food to keep it flourishing: our youthful flesh requires the same for proper nourishing. The world is filled with lovely girls, our prime will soon have ceased: with such a splendid banquet spread, why not enjoy the feast? Hold a hot coal in your hand: you think that it won’t burn you? If you think you’re chaste, Pavia’s fleshpots soon will learn you. There, each day’s a holy day, the Feast of Saint Carouse; the streets are lined with palaces, and every one’s a house. Take a youth so pure, he looks on sex as an infection; set him in Pavia and he’ll be one big erection. There, Venus smiles from every door: Pavia! where you’ll see a monument to every vice, except virginity. A further accusation lodged is that I like to gamble. Well, what do you expect from one whose whole life is a ramble? And if I have to pawn my cloak and shiver in the cold, that gives me the asperity to keep my verses bold. The third indictment, please. Ah yes: it’s that I’ve got a thirst. The tavern is my second home, they charge. No, it’s my first. They tell me to abandon it. I say, “don’t hold your breath.
Can you think of a better place to wait around for death?” And when he comes, I’ll greet him as a friend should, with a toast, and may my fellow drinkers cry, when I give up the ghost, “Our comrade’s gone to his reward, so throw him on the wagon, while we drink to his memory. Innkeeper, a flagon!” Now I have done: I have confessed to what’s been charged of me, admitting guilt of every sin, except hypocrisy, so judge, my lords. I have no more to plead but this alone: consider what’s in your own heart, before you throw that stone.
Bertran de Born: Youth and Age from the Provençal I love to see the previous order turning, when the old leave all their property to youth: it’s this, not buzz of bee or flowers returning, that makes me feel the world has found its truth; and if a man produces sons enough, the chances are at least one will be tough; and a younger loyalty in love or war will make the heart and sword arm young once more. A woman is old who sets no warrior yearning; she’s old, if she keeps faithful to her spouse; old, if she uses black and sorcerous learning, or lets more than one lover in her house. She’s old, if her hair’s a mess of ragged stuff, or if she takes a lover who is rough. She’s old, if she thinks that music is a chore, and she’s old when all her talk becomes a bore. Women are young, whose hearts remain discerning, whose actions show the values they espouse, who do not look with scorn on merit’s earning,
whose virtues are a light no scandals douse. A woman is young, whose manner is not gruff, yet gives impetuous youths a wise rebuff. She’s young, if her figure’s nothing to ignore, and she doesn’t pry and listen at every door. I call a man young who’s passionate concerning jousts and courts, considering thrift uncouth. He’s young, when he thinks that money is for burning; when, ruined, he smiles without a trace of ruth. He’s young, when he stakes his fortune on a bluff, and feels that no extravagance is enough. He’s young, if he is skilled in lovers’ lore, and he’s young, if he judges risk what life is for. Though a man be rich, I say that he’s old, if, spurning pillage and war, he wastes away his youth piling up bread and beef and wine, then turning monkish, serves eggs, as if we’d nary a tooth. He’s old, if he muffles himself in woven stuff, and can’t command a horse and ride him rough. He’s old, if he rests in peace when battles roar; old, if he shirks the field and bars the door. Poet Arnaut, go take this song of youth and age to Richard, that he may feel its truth and never wish to heap up worldly store, since youthful daring enriches honor more.
Ezekiel From a whirlwind of fire, the Lord has made my forehead an adamant harder than flint and filled my mouth with the honey of his word. I loved you where I found you naked. I washed the blood off you, fed you to flourish strong with honey, flour, milk, clothed you in silk, adorned you with gold, silver, and jewels. But you forgot. You pointed to rubies while I slept in your heart. You thought you could hoard my music like silver. You dazzled yourself with golden mirrors.
Lord, your people are a stubborn stone. Forge me in your fire and make me your chisel.
The rose from the Greek anthology The rose blooms only briefly when it’s born, but when it’s died, you’ll always find the thorn.
Nonbeing from the Greek anthology Kiss my ass, world, after I’m dead and gone. No reason I should care what’s going on.
DANIEL Y. HARRIS & DAVID BECKMAN
Office Light after Beowulf, Lines, 2100-2114
I morph as ascendant and collect accolades from a tailgater, who, prostrate, drives into the American River with a mouth full of cyclamens. Bled of its fury, my heart is a trumpet pitch above the steroid smoke. At the party, I eat hamantashen, shake hands and kiss cheeks. Then, the instant prism of spoils perfects the verge. I meld. Others, clap. “More mass, less volume,” one of them chants. Cigars are passed and lit by thick matches. “To draw off satire,” they cheer, and my fictive shape blends with the airflow. Oneself as them, for one full minute, blissing out in the dim, neon hum of office light. —Daniel Y. Harris
Gimme song after Beowulf, Lines, 2100-2114
Retro music joint, Meat Packing District, bridge and tunnel crowd. Velveteen chairbacks, faux bamboo-topped tables. I limp in, eyes clawing for the old axcraft and trial chanter who’ll sing me of ossification and soulspangle. He lounges between sets, mother of pearl-decked mandolin strung and gleaming. Chips and beer bowl. I flash cash, fanning blue flame in his skull, reddening his eyes. He rouses to recount misdeeds: this one tamed a rogue zebroid, that one took a berm barn and its store of cut filaments. But it’s my past I lust to hear etched in ballad so I can pretend (that past being fictional) that I was a hearty warrior, swell all-around jack, maybe maker-shaker; hell — nation founder! Ah, the burlesque ego and hubris rampant. They boil, they burn. He riffs and croons. —David Beckman
Mr. X Meets Mr. Y after Dante Alighieri, The Inferno, Canto 1, 59-74 Mr. X’s pivot is skewed, mentored by oblique angles, sparer than curves, scaling tiers to greet the mythic Mr. Y. Levels
shrink and collapse inward like planks in a burnt attic. Mr. X’s view is a vortex with pink, fiberglass batts, transforms
into spin, that its inward arc is a base from which low instincts like fear and hate constrict out and blend. “I come
from stink and blur,” said Mr. Y, “that no decay smuts nor fringe roughs to an end.” “No, not automata,” cried Mr. X.
“No, Mr. Y, I’m infecting The Canon with Mr. Z, the Troj/ZBot of tercets, whose rapture decreates a newer hell. —Daniel Y. Harris
I meet nobody after Dante Alighieri, The Inferno, Canto 1, 59-74
False gods own our towns and fetid waters. Checking their credentials is taboo. No Matter. We suck up to them as if they love us.
Today one comes, face blank, hands slotted spoons. His memory is spent fuelrods and a neutron regulator. I cry: “Desist, or fess up on all counts.” Face a silicon
screen, he says “I was the poet of fissile material, the minstrel of Strontium-90 when I lived in the time of Oppenheimer.” He holds his hand, filled with gadolinium
nitrate, above mine, and lets his liquid siftings fall. I catch and revere that freight and so with voice of steam and sprouting sacred tumors, I search and wait. —David Beckman
Funeral-Brain after Emily Dickinson
Ash-cells—slicked axons—my bobbing brain is a phenom—afflicted—till it hits a rote to soil and spin—
when they are comatose, a prosody of broken dactyls— keeps droning— droning—till my brain explodes—
I see one cock a 9mm parabellum with speedloader aim at my head, arms flayed
to a still—ends darker,
as if night were an alias, and I, a daemon with a bullet in my face, cut down, they say, for the Mark of Cain—
not a mark, the eczema of nerve—not Cain, Mr. Harried, with a wife and two kids, exhuming the graves of the living— —Daniel Y. Harris
Funeral after Emily Dickinson
Death spidered in like some post-traumatic ghost seeking my – being, to be screwily retro — and I bowed and scraped to it
before grabbing the #4 bus to the cemetery where five who knew me gathered and strolled, glancing
askance at the cinder sky fearing coming rain might drive them in early, and I stopped fully to suck in this scene — all
B-movie, mime and tent show. The bad theater of it, the minor-key spectacle of it, aroused and
rankled me and so I became – this rankles most – one of them — and blew off my passing as a fleeting thing. —David Beckman
Flashmob/Worm Siege after Arthur Rimbaud, Excerpt from Old Coppées, 15. State of Siege?
The recluse in the infernal machine, Rematerializes as a nematode worm With an 802.11b/g tracking devise as a mix Of implant and lubricant. He is JeAn/NiColaS,
Pastiche of protest song, agitprop, twitter Spam and paragon of the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine. The face-warping tab is linked. In the hot June Sun, filters and sirens. Satellite dishes spin Their signals in humid air. The last revolution In repose, vibrates its hand-held partisan. â€”Daniel Y. Harris
Messenger after Arthur Rimbaud Excerpt from Old CoppĂŠes, 15. State of Siege?
The discordant messenger from Belleville clamors along Boulevard St. Germain in a white Mini Moke/4-cylander Austin motor/failing hand break. While, head enfracted with anti-pizzazz of storm-streaked sky, hunger, and forced bonhomie, another, of ill-defined outer reaches, descends to the Metro beneath the Odeon. Unreadable faces and disfiguring chill of money courting money compel him to retreat screaming up the escalator to another street. â€”David Beckman
Ephemeris after H.D.
Hellfire of polar axis, theirs the blue azimuth—true north in the grid as 0° of null, i.e. 0° = sin-1(y). Say Emanuel Swedenborg’s Daedalus Hyperboreus
as case study for Ezekiel’s chariot, or, say Icarus as Perpetuum Mobile—either one in this flight of havoc with its skulled
wings. The ecliptic tilts a pliant ridge and shrinks to a speck of ray. Salience and periphery revert to flux as form breaks from form and recedes up. —Daniel Y. Harris
Better stars than sun after H.D.
Orange star stays stasis and becharms zestlinks. Orion’s belt’s a triad-toast while Venus clothes her vulva with ocher headhair. The Hunter trucks in fresh meat from Canis Major. Daylight’s a scourge but our
will and wanting glee the night sky. Pass Vespers to collect. Sisters, bring us the seven boons. Aldebaran, soothe us, bathe our eyes with unguent. The stardark refills our buttery while sunlight drains us. Why?
It’s the dayblight we’re born for: we pigmies strut our stuff in mirrors, war best on others’ myths and gods when cameras click sans flash. Fear buggers us where eyes see. Skew us toward night. —David Beckman
Death by Screen after T.S. Eliot
Luria the Safedian, dead at thirty-five, vetted the creosote of spike, olive wings lifted to the next angle of site. In desert air, the metempsychotic eye. Mount Meron’s lilacs and graves. His inception was split. Adam or dirt. You who log into prayer, he’s in the pixels of malware. —Daniel Y. Harris
Death at Antarctic Icecliff after T. S. Eliot
Ian, ex-Navy Seal, Zodiacs eco-tourists within 100 yards when mile-wide iceshelf falls, spiking 60-foot wave to starboard, upending them.
Down they go, discovering that gods of water revel in own absence while sharks, awaiting penguins, masticate bone and rubber.
Sailor or landman, you who raise a glass at Joeâ€™s Seafood, Miami, remember Ian, who ate here often, favoring raw oysters and jumbo crabclaws. â€”David Beckman
May I of my own self
Truth’s song reckon, Tell of my traverse, How I oft endured Days of hardship Times of trouble, Bitter the breast-care That I suffered, Known at my keel
Many a care’s hold, Dread wave-fall When wary night-watch Found me often There at the ship’s stem, Wave-tossed, by cliff-wall. Cold-fettered My feet Frost-bound In cold clasp,
Where cares seethed then Hot at the heart; Hunger within tore The sea-weary soul.
This knows he not Who on land Lives lightly, How I care-wretched On ice-cold ocean Weathered winter
In ways of exile, Bereft of my brethren, Hung with ice-shards; Hail showers flew. There I heard naught But sea roaring, Ice-cold wave. Whiles the swan’s song Had I for pleasure; Gannet’s clamour, Curlew’s crying, For men’s laughter; The mew’s singing For mead-drinking.
Storms beat on stony cliffs Where spoke the tern, Icy-feathered; Full oft the eagle screamed Sea-foam-feathered;
No bright companion There to comfort The careworn soul. For he treats as light, Who drinks lifeâ€™s joys, And bides in burgh, Far from baleful journey, Wine-proud and wanton, How I weary oft On brine-paths Must abide.
Night-shadows neared, Snow from the north, Rime bound the land, Hail fell on earth, Coldest of crops. Now are they troubled, The thoughts of my heart,
That I on high streams With salt-surge
Should strive â€“ Mind-lust urging In every moment, That spirit fare onward, Seeking afar The fastness Of foreign folk.
For thereâ€™s none so proud-minded No man on this earth, Nor so generous of goods,
Nor so bold in his youth, Nor so dread in his deeds, Nor so dear to his Lord, That he in sea-faring Has never a care As to what Fate May will for him. Not for him harp-hearing, Ring-giving, Wife-winning, Nor worldly glory, Nor ever aught else
Lest it be wash of the wave; But he ever has longing, Who strives on the sea.
Grove bears blossom, Burghs grow fair, Fields show fruitful, World seems new. All spurs on
The eager-minded Spirit to sail, In one who seeks On flood-ways His faring. So cuckoo admonishes With sorrowful voice, Sings, summerâ€™s guardian, Boding sorrow Bitter in breast-hoard.
This he knows not, The well-found warrior, What some must endure, Who, wretched outcasts, Widest must wander.
For now my heart writhes Out of my breast, My mind’s gone Mid mere-flood, Over the whale’s path,
Widely wandering All earth’s corners. Comes oft to me Greedy and eager, Lone-flyer screeching Whets for the whale-road The heart unwearied, Over the sea’s hold.
Far brighter for me Are the joys of my Lord, Than this dead life Lingering on land. I’ll not believe That the world’s weal Will stand. Always, ever will one Of these three things Ere a man’s ending Turn towards doubt:
Age or sickness
Or sword-hatred, Tear the frail life From the fated.
So for every man After-praise Of the living, Last word and best, He must work for, Before he be gone; Fearless in fold
Against fiendâ€™s malice, Daring in deeds Against devil, So menâ€™s sons Shall praise him after, And his fame ever Live with the angels, On and forever, In life eternal A joy among many.
The days are gone, All of the glory
Of earthly riches; Now are no kings Nor Caesars Nor gold-givers As once there were, When the most among them Marvels performed, And lived in majesty
The most lordly. Gone are the old watch Their joys are over, Now wane the weaker And yet hold the world, With sweat, they enjoy.
Fled is the glory; Earthâ€™s nobility Ages, grows sear, As so mid earth Now does every man. Age fares on him, Pale grows his face, Grey-haired he groans, Knowing friends past, Men nobly born,
To earth now given. Nor may he nourish his flesh, As life leaves him, Nor taste the sweetness
Nor feel the painfulness, Nor raise his hand high, Nor think with his mind. Though the grave With gold he would strew, Brother, for kinsmen; With the dead bury Masses of treasure; Naught shall that win. Translator’s Note: This is an abridged version. I have concluded with line 99, as did Pound, for artistic coherence, and from lack of sympathy with the undistinguished ending of the manuscript. Instead of displaying the caesura between half-lines of the original Exeter Book (which is dated prior to 1050AD), or running the two halves of each line together as in Pound’s translation, I have preferred, for clarity and impact, to give each half-line as a separate full line. The original Old English text may be found online
RIMBAUD : Extract from the ‘Voyant’ Letter (Lettre à Paul Demeny: Charleville, 15 mai 1871) ‘Romanticism has never been properly judged. Who could judge it? The Critics! The Romantics! Who prove so clearly that the singer is so seldom the work, that’s to say the idea sung and intended by the singer. For I is another. If the brass wakes the trumpet, it’s not its fault. That’s obvious to me: I witness the unfolding of my own thought: I watch it, I hear it: I make a stroke with the bow: the symphony begins in the depths, or springs with a bound onto the stage.
If the old imbeciles hadn’t discovered only the false significance of Self, we wouldn’t have to now sweep away those millions of skeletons which have been piling up the products of their one-eyed intellect since time immemorial, and claiming themselves to be their authors! In Greece, as I say, verse and lyre took rhythm from Action. Afterwards, music and rhyme are a game, a pastime. The study of the past charms the curious: many of them delight in reviving these antiquities: – that’s up to them. The universal intelligence has always thrown out its ideas naturally: men gathered a part of these fruits of the mind: they acted them out, they wrote books by means of them: so it progressed, men not working on themselves, either not being awake, or not yet in the fullness of the great dream. Civil-servants – writers: author; creator, poet: that man has never existed! The first study for the man that wants to be a poet is true complete knowledge of himself: he looks for his soul; examines it, tests it, learns it. As soon as he knows it, he must develop it! That seems simple: a natural development takes place in every brain: so many egoists proclaim themselves authors: there are plenty of others who attribute their intellectual progress to themselves! – But the soul must be made monstrous: after the fashion of the comprachicos, yes! Imagine a man planting and cultivating warts on his face. I say one must be a seer (voyant), make oneself a seer. The Poet makes himself a seer by a long, rational and immense disordering of all the senses. All forms of love, suffering, madness: he searches himself; he consumes all the poisons in himself, to keep only their quintessence. Unspeakable torture, where he needs all his faith, every superhuman strength, during which he becomes the great patient, the great criminal, the great accursed – and the supreme Knower, among men! – Because he arrives at the unknown! Because he has cultivated his soul, already rich, more than others! He arrives at the unknown, and when, maddened, he ends up by losing the knowledge of his visions: he has still seen them! Let him die charging among those unutterable, unnameable things: other fearful workers will come: they’ll start from the horizons where the first have fallen! …………… I’ll go on: So the poet is truly the thief of fire, then. He is responsible for humanity, even for the animals: he must make his inventions smelt, felt, heard: if what he brings back from down there has form, he grants form: if it’s formless he grants formlessness. To find a language – for that matter, all words being ideas, the age of a universal language will come! It is necessary to be an academic – deader than a fossil – to perfect a dictionary of any language at all. The weak-minded thinking about the first letter of the alphabet would soon rush into madness! This language will be of the soul for the soul, containing everything, scents, sounds, colours, thought attaching to thought and pulling. The poet would define the quantity of the unknown, awakening in the universal soul in his time: he would give more than the formulation of his thought, the measurement of his march towards progress! An enormity become the norm, absorbed by all, he would truly be an enhancer of progress! This future will be materialistic, you see. – Always filled with Number and Harmony, these poems will be made to last. – At heart, it will be a little like Greek poetry again.
Eternal art will have its function, since poets are citizens. Poetry will no longer take its rhythm from action: it will be ahead of it! These poets will exist! When woman’s endless servitude is broken, when she lives for and through herself, when man – previously abominable – has granted her freedom, she too will be a poet! Women will discover the unknown! Will her world of ideas differ from ours? – She will discover strange things, unfathomable; repulsive, delicious: we will take them to us, we will understand them. Meanwhile, let us demand new things from the poets - ideas and forms. All the clever ones will think they can easily satisfy this demand: that’s not so! …..
SARAH SARAI Buñuel’s Magic Arrow
Place thumb and forefinger on a baby’s ankle. So pudgy! Obtuse Rex-es and the gods plague my self-esteem. Hard to keep them separate: gods; Rex-es; me. Penelope was tricky herself. Laura primped for genteel callers while a thousand putti wept. Job loved too much, perhaps, and was bewared of gifts. Philoctetes needs a good talking to. I’ll escort him to a showing of Simon of the Desert. Simon stood on a pillar in a bright Bibley landscape. Philoctetes is a study in shadow puppetry. A lot of people are forsaken then learn a craft. The Greeks don’t have “that goddam Bide-a-Wee Home heart of [Franny's]” do they. Life would be gentler if gentlemen wore make-up. For the discothèque, St. Simon Stylites and Philoctetes might rub a Hercules beetle exoskeleton before its blue is black. Is everything subject to change?
PETER DALE SCOT
OCCITANIAN SPRING To Susan Burgess Shenstone
A half-century of silence and now thanks to a friendâ€™s email I can write to you for the first time
about our bicycle trip together after that freezing winter in Paris when my new friend P went insane and I myself my socialist faith having foundered in the intrigues of post-war Europe between the Communist graffiti and chars blindĂŠs in the boulevards was reading the letters of Van Gogh waiting as I thought for my own inevitable madness to kick in
when two Americans proposed a tour
of the churches in southern France I was ambivalent from guilt at my many absences from Sciences Po and you who had just gotten engaged only joined reluctantly because Chuck and Lute would be there as necessary chaperones
We bicycled from PĂŠrigueuxâ€™s cathedral so restored a century earlier by Viollet-le-Duc it looked like a railway station to the cave of Lascaux opened just three weeks before where we all stood in darkness until the tour-guide lit his match so that we too could discern the galloping silent bison hidden away in this cave for twenty thousand years
Then our eyes opened to the art of the Middle Ages
Beaulieu where the angels danced above the opened coffins of the dead the basilica at Conques crammed into a small canyon we looked across as the dawn sun came down the opposite hill through blossoming almond and crocus to where they opened for us the crypt of the tenth century gold virgin whose stiff imploring arms were for better or worse encrusted with Roman cameos and gems
We biked unwittingly down the same narrow roads where Eliot and Pound had walked together only thirty years before us the wave pattern cut in the stone to Albiâ€™s fortress cathedral austere outside sumptuous within memorializing the struggle of the church against the Cathars in an inscribed world of saints heretics suppressed cultures
and sublimated adoration I had never conceived of in my Protestant corner of Quebec
And then disaster â€“ the missed rendez-vous at evening with our chaperones simply gone us panicked at being alone and you red-eyed insisting we must return at once to Paris but there were no good connections
so we didnâ€™t We took a bus up up to the high bare causses of the Massif Central with crags like agonized dolmens barely sheltering the sheep and down to the warm paradise of LodĂ¨ve and Montpellier for me at least an entrance into a new and menacingly fragrant Mediterranean world
of flamingos landing in the Camargue the courses de taureaux in the Roman arena at Arles the ruined abbey at Montmajour we explored alone at sunset whose stairwell I descended into darkness step by step until suddenly there was nothing more to step on
All my life I have tried to recover this. Next spring I at La Pierre Qui Vire
walked among jonquils once again After that with my first wife I hitch-hiked through the Dordogne en route to Bosnia Finally with my second wife I toured Provence in a rental Lancia It could not be the same
as that first awkward trip with fumes of diesel and cherry
over wet tarmac or crushed thyme on the hillside and the hot breath of the mistral in our face as we struggled back north (towards the broken bridge at Avignon and the inevitable train station back to our Canadian lives) pedaling by the columns of a restored Roman city and the very olive groves which unbeknownst to us Van Gogh had painted from the small nearby asylum
When you left I was still as inhibited as when we began We never even kissed good-bye nor did I receive any hint if your heart had melted like mine and Bernartâ€™s at the faint falling cadences of the skylark tumbling overhead after the sunny rainburst still heard after decades
B. de Ventadorn
of teaching Bernart here out west
Can vei la lauzeta mover When I see the skylark beat With joy its wings against the sun Till he forgets to fly, and falls From the sheer sweetness in his heart Ah! what envy I have then Of those whom I see rejoicing I marvel, that from desire My heart does not melt at once
as I a self-made medievalist came slowly to realize I had not been ready at twenty-one for the deepest mysteries in life but was blessed to have suffered intense Petrarcan yearning with pains I cannot now conceive of to open my eyes and heart in that miserable first year of my supposed adulthood and disengagement from my private past I would not now change for anything in the world.
Renvoi (From Susan Burgess Shenstone)
We had stopped for a rest above the side of the road. with the hills behind us, hills which had sheep grazing it was after we had missed the train
and we heard this sweet haunting voice singing Il y a des moutons blancs Belle rose du printemps Nor could we see anyone near us It just seemed to float down from the hills as the day was ending. It was quite magical.
I remember only that I sang it afterwards for years on the road by myself â€“ Belle rose du printemps. 1950, January 2007
A.S. KLINE (POEMS FROM ST JOHN OF THE CROSS)
Song of the Soul that Delights in Reaching the Supreme State of perfection, that is, the union with God, by the path of spiritual negation.
Upon a darkened night on fire with all love’s longing – O joyful flight! – I left, none noticing, my house, in silence, resting.
Secure, devoid of light, by secret stairway, stealing – O joyful flight! – in darkness self-concealing, my house, in silence, resting.
In the joy of night, in secret so none saw me, no object in my sight no other light to guide me,
but what burned here inside me.
Which solely was my guide, more surely than noon-glow, to where he does abide, one whom I deeply know, a place where none did show.
O night, my guide! O night, far kinder than the dawn! O night that tied the lover to the loved, the loved in the lover there transformed!
On my flowering breast, that breast I kept for him alone, there he took his rest while I regaled my own, in lulling breezes from the cedars blown.
The breeze, from off the tower, as I sieved through its windings with calm hands, that hour, my neck, in wounding, left all my senses hanging.
Self abandoned, self forgot, my face inclined to the beloved one: all ceased, and I was not, my cares now left behind, and gone: there among the lilies all forgotten.
Verses on the Ecstasy of Deep Contemplation
I entered where there is no knowing, and unknowing I remained, all knowledge there transcending.
Where no knowing is I entered, yet when I my own self saw there without knowing where I rested great things I understood there, yet cannot say what I felt there, since I rested in unknowing, all knowledge there transcending.
Of peace and of holy good there was perfect knowing, in profoundest solitude the only true way seeing, yet so secret is the thing that I was left here stammering, all knowledge there transcending.
I was left there so absorbed, so entranced, and so removed, that my senses were abroad, robbed of all sensation proved, and my spirit then was moved with an unknown knowing, all knowledge there transcending. IV
He who reaches there in truth from himself is parted though, and all that before he knew seems to him but base below, his knowledge increases so that knowledge has an ending,
all knowledge there transcending.
The higher he climbs however the less heâ€™ll ever understand, because the cloud grows darker that lit the night on every hand: whoever visits this dark land rests forever in unknowing, all knowledge there transcending.
This knowledge of unknowing is of so profound a power that no wise men arguing will ever supersede its hour: their wisdom cannot reach the tower where knowing has an ending, all knowledge there transcending.
It is of such true excellence
this highest understanding, no science, no human sense, has it in its grasping, yet he who, by self-conquering grasps knowing in unknowing, goes evermore transcending.
And in the deepest sense, this highest knowledge lies, of the divine essence, if you would be wise: his mercy so it does comprise, each one leaving in unknowing, all knowledge there transcending.
Song of the Soul in Intimate Communication of Union with Godâ€™s Love
O flame of living love, that at its deepest centre wounds now my soul with tenderness! Since you no more remove,
end then, if you intend to; tear now the veil of mutual sweetness!
O cautery so sweet! O woundâ€™s caress! O soothing hand! O delicate the touching, that signals life complete, pays every debt, changes death to life in its ending!
O fiery light, in whose resplendencies deep caves of purest feeling, that once were eyeless night, with rarest beauties shed warmth and light on the loving.
How lovingly, how gently you return now to my breast where you live all secret and alone and filled with virtueâ€™s glory how your sweetest breath delicately pierces to the bone!
Seeking love always with hope that cannot falter I flew ever higher till I overtook my prey.
So I might seize the prey in this divine venture I flew ever higher from sight was forced to stray, yet love so far did fly that though in my flight I faltered in the height I caught the prey on high.
As higher I ascended so the hardest conquest came about in darkness, all my sight was dazzled:
yet since love was my prey from blind dark a leaper I flew on ever higher till I overtook the prey.
In this highest game, the further I ascended the humbler, more subdued more abased I became. â€˜None attains itâ€™, I did say. I sank down lower, lower, yet I rose higher, higher and so I took the prey.
My one flight in strange manner surpassed a hundred thousand for the hope of highest heaven attains the end it hopes for: there hope alone did fly unfaltering in the height: hope, seeking in its flight,
I caught the prey on high.
Song of the Soul that Delights in Knowing God through Faith
How well I know that fountainâ€™s rushing flow though it is night! I
That fount eternal is a hidden thing. How well I know where its waters spring, though it is night!
Its source I know not since it has none, and yet every source from it does come, though it is night.
I know that nothing is as beautiful, of it earth and heaven there drink full, though it is night.
I know that it is endlessly deep, that none across those depths may leap, though it is night.
Its clarity will never be obscured, I know all light there has its source, though it is night.
I know its streams so greatly swell it waters earth, and heaven, and hell, though it is night. VII
The flood that flows from out this spring, I know is full, and conquers everything, though it is night.
The flood that from these two proceeds I know that neither its deep flood exceeds, though it is night.
And this eternal fountain is concealed, in the living bread our life to yield, though it is night.
Here it cries aloud to every creature, to drink of it, though dark its nature, for it is night.
That living fount that I desire, within the bread of life, I now admire, though it is night.
A Gloss with Spiritual Meaning With no aid, yet with every aid, without light, in darkness truly, I see myself swallowed wholly.
My soul is now severed from each created thing, raised on its own wing to a life of joy forever, God alone succouring.
The thing I most value, from this it can be said, is that it sees itself, my soul, with no aid, yet with every aid.
Though darkness I endure
in this my mortal life yet that is no strife: though the light’s obscure I have celestial life: for love such existence, if blinder, grants more fully, the soul held in subservience without light, in darkness truly.
Since I’ve known it, I confess, love has worked so within me whether all goes well or badly all’s touched with a single sweetness, transforming the soul inside me, and so in its joyous flames, those flames I feel within me, swiftly, so naught remains, I see myself swallowed wholly.
Verses of the Soul that Pines to See God
I live without life in me in such manner longing
that Iâ€™m dying of not dying.
In myself I no longer live without God I can live no longer himself, myself, having neither, what can it mean to live? A thousand deaths I believe, for my one true life longing and so dying of not dying.
Not life, but deprivation, is this life I am living, and so a continual dying, till meeting is our union. Hear me, my God, as one, for this now I have no liking, that Iâ€™m dying of not dying.
If I am absent from you
what life shall I know here except this death I suffer the bitterest known, it’s true? I have pity on myself too, since my fate is such, enduring, that I’m dying of not dying. IV
A fish that leaps from the water its relief comes swift and sure, by the death it must endure, it is healed in death hereafter. What death is equal to mine here? In this pitiful life I’m living, the more life the longer dying.
When I seek for relief too find you in the Sacrament, deeper sorrow to me is lent, I cannot delight in you, pain grips me through and through, not seeing you in my sighing, and so dying of not dying.
And if my Lord I delight in hopes of seeing you knowing that I may lose you doubles my sorrow quite living in such deep fright and, as I hope, still hoping, I die through my not dying. VII
Raise me from this death my God, and grant me life: nor condemn me to this strife in bonds that stifle breath: how I long to see your face, my wretchedness so trying, that Iâ€™m dying of not dying.
Now for death I cry and my life lament while in imprisonment
here for my sins I lie. O my God, when will I hear myself truly saying: now I live beyond all dying?
1 Some things are self-evident that certain wounds in the earth will not heal, that an assemblage of shadows and swans can shape a life In innocence, or foreknowledge of such innocence, I am the vagabond of my life in which I expect to find (Or if needs be create) my Germany of the soul.
2 Streets – old cities, old streets – where are you now? Once you were Jerusalem now you are nothing Of what you once were: a mockery, a mockery more than a comfort.
A memory survives your masonry –but that is all. Your memories and ghosts (I see how they are active yet) Prefigure our condition in these atrocious times.
See -already I am speaking in the past tense. Your absence conditions even the language of the future. What is it that will not die? I ask what I cannot answer
Then ask it again of water and wind but there is no reply
‘Another day’ they call it –as if there was such a thing There is no such thing. There is memory and absence And they are one in this place which used to be beautiful Because you once walked here.
3 Yes, I know the proposition:‘Once there were gods’ I believe it, I accept the fluency of that argument – But I, as you already suspect, Am an exception to the age I live in.
(This neither shocks nor thrills me – A poet must inhabit whatever landscape is given And any one age may be as bad as any other To which we are exposed)
However, now we must ask: friend, did we arrive too late? Did we come with solutions to problems already beyond fixing? Now accusations of nostalgia are made against me – and why? Simply because I insist a simple fact that though we work in the muck Of history and its aftermath it is only by poetry that we live at all.
The storms of god treat us as angles or fools: the fact that he Is both near yet difficult is already well known –what is less Well-known is that being angles and fools is his gift to us And having a foot in both camps we are the better for it. Out of this double-necessity we pass wisdom from generation To generation – but that is enough of polemic for today.
I would rather dumbfound this generation than explain it To itself. Eventually this will be regarded as “my legacy” Yet I am more interested in, and moved by, the fever-touch Upon my mind that says –look: ‘there is the lightning of god Coming over the mountains to be reflected in the river’
Transmit that into verse is the command I give myself An example of which you are now reading – another of which Will follow, but what that will be I cannot yet say: I only know as much as the poem allows me to know.
4 Thus the life I live conditions the life I used to live And what I remember of it. Do you want to know what I know? Will I place my memories before you in their naked simplicity?
The child that I was (and somewhere still am – as you also are)
Was one who played among the kindness of flowers and trees. Who in moonlight paid court to the older names of trees and stars -
My true teachers, not those scribbles of a schoolmaster On a blackboard which made no living sense to what I knew Of the woods. So see me in moonlight –but see yourself also
We who said the woods were our instructors, we who danced With gods as if some godly grace touched our feet and minds! Yet you have forgotten your minds and distrust mine yet mine
Is the one which remembers. I grow old, will grow older But will not forget what you have chosen to deny. I remember The words we spoke, the promises made, the initials carved on a bark:
See: the old affirmations still exist and we are no less star-struck Then the stars themselves. Whatever you remember this is what You must remember as the lightning strikes the river in your mind.
5 As it strike mine. As it calls up the immutable laws of earth. Cycles and gyres –we understand, but understand nothing Yet if that Wind, that Fire, that Élan, that ‘Something’ We call God strikes the river, then water is compatible
With the fire in which we live. Seeds are roasted In the pots and pans of kitchens. This is also an obedience To the one law. And no matter how true it is that snakes Are dreaming on the hillsides of heaven, or that horses Are slipping on stony paths –this changes nothing: The burden is like a burden of wood on our shoulders But what can we do? I cannot cast the wood aside For there is no fire to accept it. Sometimes I’m steady But sometimes I’m shaky on my feet. Also a law. As if the laughter of heaven at our human condition Was the most constant of our companions.
No, I won’t offer you false comfort. If you come with me You will carry your load and curse the fact you came with me So be forewarned: steadiness is essential – all the more so When what you carry you cannot let fall. You are unsteady And the wood is a weight: somehow you hope the laughter Will one day explain the joke.
6 Of course, in the lean years (and it seems they are upon us Again) there is always some cynical joker who asks: “Who needs pots? Who needs firewood? Why bother
With something for which you have no name? As for a good joke – if you want a good joke then tell me: What is the worth of wisdom?”
I’m tempted to answer with foolishness where prophecy Is required, yet when the lightning struck the river An old vision re-awoke in my mind with such authority That neither prophecy nor foolishness can undo it.
Gods live where men could not live. In scripture they call that The great world yet I’m beginning to ask myself if this is not The truest world of all? Its not that I doubt the gods It’s just that I prefer being human. Let them live in their shadow-giving World above this world. Let them be what they must be to themselves Yet this is also a right I claim for myself. Adam’s story Begins with a handful of clay – yet with what water Can it be mixed to be the one who carries wood on his shoulder To the hill of crucifixion?
Every particle of the believer I am is equalled by one Of a heretical faith. I have no false comfort to offer you: I ask these questions only on my own behalf But so far have no answers. (If history is God’s great joke Then at least we serve some necessity).
I think that when I die a tradition will die with me. I began in the simplicity of an age which led to the complexity Of an age knowing too much but knowing too little To satisfy itself. Love will be replaced and the whole edifice Of poetry undergo a radical shift. I have no argument with this But doubt that the new scepticism will satisfy our natures or our needs. Only when the lightning strikes the river can a new fission enters the world. I set myself to achieve that â€“ for my sake and for yours.
7 What science must now investigate poetry has long held a fruitful dialogue With. Thus it insists that the heavens remain; that the archetypal world Subdues us into wonder; and that even if the gods ignore out plight This wonder cannot be done without; and that sometimes human clay Is strong enough to absorb godly water. It is a Greek condition We have never moved from â€“ and perhaps never will: as if science Will argue for the primacy of numbers while the poets, those disciples Of the Wild One, will continue to walk over moonlit fields In obedience to a duty that can never be abandoned.
8 Now you see why I insist what I insist though I do so In the most mild-mannered of ways? What I have to say I say However, is contained in poetry –not dogma (Understand it as such but do not discredit it on that account).
‘Once there were gods’ The new history, whatever it will be, will never replace this truth With anything so satisfying. Regardless of whatever elegance Comes into the world (and already such truths are gathering On the borders of my life) nothing will be as elegant to the soul As the healing of Apollo. No, this is not a dogma but a truth With a number no other number will replace. Everything begins With the One and thereafter separates into fractions; From a necessary simplicity all complexity will emerge.
The weight of this wood cannot be replaced by any other wood. The hill you walk towards cannot be avoided. There are few, If any, who are willing to walk with you. Yet from among the onlookers a woman rushed forward To wipe your face – so what mark will you leave upon that clothe? What shadow has entered your life so as to enter history?
There are no simple answers nor should there be. Love is As complex a weight as any tree and either Christ or Judas Hangs there. This is hardly mild-mannered but needs to be said So as to keep faith with the first intention of this poem. I have no other credo, no other way of saying what must be said: The tree is green in the new spring of the world of bright shadows A fate which I must master to this art.
9 But ‘bright shadows’ – you see an inherent contradiction? There is none, not in the woods I walk in, finding the Germany Of the soul I always hoped to find is the one I’ve always known.
10 A wind. The northeast. My favourite. The promise it brings is that of the spirit of fire Foretelling a good journey for sailors. This is no small promise given the turbulence of the world In which if I have not been a sailor I have always been a voyager With memories of Gargonne, memories of gardens in Bordeaux, Of a path beside a river, of a stream running into a stream,
Also of particular oaks and poplars – in other words, Of memories enough to populate a world with.
A world of gardens, and Presences, wisdom reshaping foolishness, An Arabian delight in the context of Europe – a text which says Dark women walk from solstice to solstice with golden dreams Their lovers must waken from the flesh by touch of flesh. Thus the erotics of the poem are born and shaped. Nothing is more Natural and nothing as pleasing. A cup of light auroral-dark is handed To the dreamer. He moves through every human thought. He does not understand the meaning of the word ‘forbidden’.
Yet as beautiful as this is, as satisfying, life-give, affirming, The heart –oh the heart is nostalgic for those absent ones Those friends who made certain moments meaningful So that memory feeds the source from which it springs Like a river returning to a pool so as to acknowledge The simplicity in which its complexity began. If this is not The true country of the soul then what is? If this wound Will not heal then what would ever will? Thus I dream A reconciliation of wood with wood; of Christ forgiving Judas, Of a kiss exchanged, of history handed a cup of dark-light To show the names of its numbers. Childish? Naïve? Let it be so –but in those gardens the shadows showed to me The true festivals of song, and dance, native to the soul
So that if I expressed doubt or proposed outlandish questions I did not do so as a cynic.
Let the sea give what only the sea can give. Let memory give what only memory can give. The poem endures, survives, lives in, whatever is expected of it.
11 Spirits Holy in light on soft earth A sweet god-wind blows Like a womanâ€™s hand Might pluck the strings Of a stringed instrument
The breath of heaven Moves upon me Without scheme or calculation â€“ An innocence which Also in innocence I must achieve
Falling like water From height into depth
From turbulence into stillness Year after year Growing towards what I only know as
12 That the night shines in astonishment at its source and purpose Is no surprise. Astounding? Yes. Astonishing also – but not I repeat, a surprise. This is its nature, its gift, and I am a recipient.
The moon shadows the earth as if it were its mirror. An undemanding beauty covers the city. The illumination seeps into the golden dreams of the lovers To find its perfection in flesh. If I know nothing else I at least know That much, yet I make no demands of what I know beyond what Poetry demands of me. ‘Perhaps sadness carries its own splendid Beauty when the night is full of stars carrying music even if unconcerned By our human condition’ Who can say? Perhaps the wisdom is in The not knowing, in living with it, in making it as splendid as a city In starlight? It is true the marketplace is empty of flowers and birds But shadows remain to insist a life of flowers and birds in a life Other than this. What can I share with you but what I have of shadows?
The birds flutter above a city we cannot even begin to imagine Where a watchman, mindful of time, calls out the time as if to warn That even time itself will pass into the shadows. I know There should be sadness at this but there is not. The wind Comes from a harbour which proposes that we depart To where winds and shadows issue from A place where the words ‘bread and wine’ assume a meaning No lesser meaning can usurp.
13 Night, being night, foreshadows its own infinity. How many years has it taken me to make this simple statement? Or to acknowledge that I would offer up an entire tradition for one Moment of pure vision? That darkness, the one night comes from, The one that shadows the world with shadows, what other glittering Does it keep to itself as if jealous that we might come to a knowledge It wants to keep to itself? Yet if night conspires I conspire. Flesh and poetry have formed a lasting alliance. Reasonable minds Love the day but only the glittering can offer a true satisfaction. The mind lays siege to the dark with songs and glittering seed. See –the lovers are sacred in their beds! Dark cannot undo What they have come to know. Reasonable minds are frightened Yet this is the way the race achieves what is expected of it.
At such moments it seems the damned walk in sunlight While the redeemed travel the dark. Nothing is more human Than this oddity. The world, or we, are upside down And this imbalance accounts for everything we do. So how long Has it taken me to make This simple statement? Perhaps I have come late to know what I know yet I know this: That the dark is glittering; that a tradition has no justification If it does not lead to a pure vision; that in your flesh Atlantis stirs Towards the purest of pure moments; that this is my tradition, My true country of the soul.
14 “Wherever I go Greece keeps wounding me” A hundred years from now a poet will write that. Until then I guard a truth which finds no expression. Travellers go to Athens and Delphi but what do they find? Nothing. They see the masonry of old cities and streets; They remember scraps of schoolbook ‘facts’ – But they see nothing. Athens and Delphi are no longer where they were. And, unless you bring them with you, you will only see Some stones and broken statues . Stones speak But if no one listens nothing is transmitted.
In a hundred years the wounds of Greece will not be healed And perhaps there will be a generation for whom this means nothing As a hundred years become another hundred years and the wounds Of the earth prove to be beyond all healing. The caves of prophecy Are empty. Pilgrims, masters, apprentices shuffle from site to site But I have a better idea. To each of us something personal is granted So let us look at the obvious day, let us greet mockery with our madness Granting it access to holy night. Will we go to Isthmus? Yes! We will go to Isthmus, to Delphi, to Olympus where the new god comes from As he always has. As for Athens, we will leave that to those who desire it. The caves are empty, the cities are empty, but prophecy must occur. I see no better purpose for a poem.
15 (Yet if the wounds will not heal If a hundred years becomes a hundred years but nothing happens What choice will there be but to be fully human to ourselves Or abandon the project entirely? Mine answer is already formed And built into this poem –what is yours?)
16 Yet if citizens and tourists have abandoned Athens and Jerusalem The believers have not. Do not however confuse me with ‘the believers’
My heretic heart demands a freedom the priests despise. The traditions I espouse they seek to put out; the shrines I have knelt at They want to desecrate. The battle is on. Indeed, is on and on-going Though (and only a few understand this) there is no final outcome. Christ and Judas hang from a tree. You can free one but not the other. You stand before them and realise there are oppositions you can never Reconcile.
So, will you shuffle in daylight or go towards the glittering dark? This question could be added to or framed in a thousand other ways But the essence would remain the same. Daylight or glittering dark – There is no other choice; there never has been; there never will be: The daylight drives against the dark, our poetry drives us onwards.
Everything we have ever heard of Greece is true – The sunlight, the islands, the dolphins at play in sacred waters So that the heart rejoices that such things Are But If a new Greece should come If some new Athens enters the world, If some new ‘Plato’ seeks to shape the State to please his name Will it be that of a wise king or that of the thirty tyrants? The future ferments its name which I have no name for Yet Greece endures, survives, outlives our expectations –and see: Here, upon the page, as on every page hereafter, shadows move
Across an acropolis of light.
“Wherever I go Greece keeps wounding me”? From this wound, this wound, this lasting wound, May there be no healing which outlives the pain.
Now a shadow falls upon the threshold of my door. Glory commingles with fear A name I do not know the name of speaks my name
You want more? You think there should be more? As if it were a demi-god poetry tolerates such questions With its silence and its smile?
Some things are self-evident Yet I only know as much as the poem allows As I watch shadows and swans assemble Where lightning strikes the river of this town.
Child of a harbour – I arrive, then depart, so as to create
My homeland of the soul. Call it Germany, call it Greece:
The godhead tolerates us with its silence and its smile.
MARY ANGELA DOUGLAS ttp://angelidicuoremare.blogspot.com
I am very concerned about what I perceive as the devaluation of the pure lyric voice in world poetry and I pray for its renewal and enhancement throughout the world because I believe its loss is also in a deep sense the loss of the human soul to darkness and to senseless Information. I also believe in the principles of artistic devotion as enumerated by Kandinsky and I completely believe in the reality of Divine Inspiration in the creative process
JEFF HARISON (no biographical information supplied)
JON CORELIS http://sites.google.com/site/jcorelis/ Jon Corelis was born in California and grew up in and around Chicago, where he earned a degree in Classical Languages and Literatures at the College of the University of Chicago. He later took a doctorate in Classics at Stanford, and taught Classics and Humanities at Stanford, the University of California, and the University of Minnesota. After a subsequent career as a software specialist in Silicon Valley, he moved to Northeastern Wisconsin, where he lives with his wife, Suzanne Mills. His poetry, criticism, essays, reviews, and translations have been published in books, magazines, newspapers, and web sites in eight countries, and he has given lectures and readings by invitation in America and Europe.
DANIEL Y. HARRIS & DAVID BECKMAN Daniel Y. Harris is the author of Hyperlinks of Anxiety (Cervena Barva Press, 2011), Paul Celan and the Messiah’s Broken Levered Tongue, An Exponential Dyad, with Adam Shechter (Cervena Barva Press, 2010; picked by The Jewish Forward as one of the 5 most important Jewish poetry books of 2010) and Unio Mystica (Cross-Cultural Communications, 2009). He is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee. His poetry, art, and essays have been published in BlazeVOX, The Café Irreal, Convergence, Denver Quarterly, European Judaism, Exquisite Corpse, In Posse Review, Istanbul Literary Review, The New York Quarterly, The Other Voices International Project, The Pedestal Magazine, Poetry Magazine.com, Poetry Salzburg Review, Stride Magazine, Tarpaulin Sky, Wheelhouse Magazine, Wilderness House Literary Review and Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture. He lives in Northern California with his wife and two sons. His website is www.danielyharris.com. David Beckman holds degrees in literature from Brown University and Edinburgh University. He is the author of Language Factory of the Mind (Finishing Line Press, 2011) and Under Pegasus (Derrynane Press, 1996.) His poetry and short stories have been published in The Blue Jew Yorker, The Continent of Light, From the Hills, Kickass Review, North Atlantic Review, Present at the Creation, Shaking Magazine and Western Friend. His full-length play, Becoming Walt Whitman, was produced at the Sixth Street Theater in Santa Rosa, CA, in October, 2010. His short plays have been produced in both New York and California. In New York he was a poetry mentor in public schools. He has also taught fiction writing at the Chautauqua New York Writer’s Conference. David lives with his wife in Sonoma County, California
Tony Kline Poetry In Translation lives in England. He graduated in Mathematics from the University of Manchester, and was Chief Information Officer (Systems Director) of a large UK Company, before dedicating himself to his literary work and interests. He was born in 1947. His work consists of translations of poetry; critical works, biographical history with poetry as a central theme; and his own original poetry. He has translated into English from Latin, Ancient Greek, Classical Chinese and the European languages. He also maintains a deep interest in developments in Mathematics and the Sciences. He continues to write predominantly for the Internet, making all works available in download format, with an added focus on the rapidly developing area of electronic books. His most extensive works are complete translations of Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Dante’s Divine Comedy, both published electronically, with a comprehensive in-depth index fully hyper-linked to the text. These have also been published in printed book form by Borders Classics. Contact the Author directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
SARAH SARAI http://my3000lovingarms.blogspot.com
Last December I was asked to write a poem for a series on on Sophocles’ Philoctetes. I was excited to be asked and read three different translations of the play which intrigues but is no match for drama of Oedipus, Jocasta and Antigone. I was stumped. Finally I planted myself at the Mid-Manhattan Library, open to 11 p.m. (at least then it was), wrote and refined–the usual. Then became involved in a ten or so emails back-and-forth with the guest editor (who had come up with the Philoctetes theme and was going to post a poem a day for a month). He was very young and this was his first run at editing. I trashed my draft and wrote a new poem, trashed that, revamped the original. Writing a poem on a deadline was new to me. Articles, reviews, yes, but a poem? When my poem was published online, I was bowled over to see no mention of Philoctetes. Instead of telling me the other writers had sent in whatever they wanted the editor had kept up the pretense with me. Man, I’m naive and studious. I posted a comment following the poem with a note about the play. He was furious and said I was insulting his editing. What the . . . !#?!X! But the poem is fun with its references–my life history in lit–to Buñuel’s seared-in-my memory film Simon in the Desert, Penelope in the Odyssey, Laura in The Glass Menagerie, Job. To a Franny & Zooey quote I’ve remembered since, what, junior high? Of course baby Achilles’ pudgy ankle (oh, once it was). And my long-held belief that men would be improved by wearing make-up. Enjoy, PLEASE.
PETER DALE SCOT http://www.peterdalescott.net/ Peter Dale Scott, a former Canadian diplomat and English Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is a poet, writer, and researcher. He was born in Montreal in 1929, the only son of the poet F.R. Scott and the painter Marian Scott. He is married to Ronna Kabatznick; and he has three children, Cassie, Mika, and John Scott, by a previous marriage to Maylie Marshall. His prose books include The War Conspiracy (1972), The Assassinations: Dallas and Beyond (in collaboration, 1976), Crime and Cover-Up: The CIA, the Mafia, and the Dallas-Watergate Connection (1977), The Iran-Contra Connection (in collaboration, 1987), Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America (in collaboration, 1991, 1998), Deep Politics and the Death of JFK (1993, 1996), Deep Politics Two (1994, 1995, 2006), Drugs Oil and War (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, March 2003), The Road to 9/11 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), and The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War (Ipswich, MA: Mary Ferrell Foundation Press, 2008). His chief poetry books are the three volumes of his trilogy Seculum: Coming to Jakarta: A Poem About Terror (1989), Listening to the Candle: A Poem on Impulse (1992), and Minding the Darkness: A Poem for the Year 2000. In addition he has published Crossing Borders: Selected Shorter Poems (1994), published in Canada as Murmur of the Stars. In
November 2002 he was awarded the Lannan Poetry Award. A new book of poems, Mosaic Orpheus, will appear in Spring 2009 from McGill-Queen’s University Press. An anti-war speaker during the Vietnam and Gulf Wars, he was a co-founder of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program at UC Berkeley, and of the Coalition on Political Assassinations (COPA). His poetry has dealt with both his experience and his research, the latter of which has centered on U.S. covert operations, their impact on democracy at home and abroad, and their relations to the John F. Kennedy assassination and the global drug traffic. The poet-critic Robert Hass has written (Agni, 31/32, p. 335) that “Coming to Jakarta is the most important political poem to appear in the English language in a very long time.”
MARTIN BURKE http://burkedelphicghent.tumblr.com/