A Book of Interrogatives
"Writing is like riding a drunken lion through the streets."
— Charlie Bukowski
"Happy? I'd rather put my band on the back of a truck, pull it up to playgrounds, and play for kids than play in these smoky clubs. When something happy happens, I'll cut everybody playing happy. Until then, I'll be playing what's happening."
— Charles Mingus
"The audience...they are the enemy. They are always the enemy."
— Jimmy Buffet
"Thinking is the enemy of creativity."
— Ray Bradbury
"Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then."
— Bob Seager
It must speak of things
Which go quickly
Through shadows of consciousness
Like small animals in the thicket
You cannot quite
Be sure you've seen.
The ideal reader of poetry is a great poet who has made a pact with himself never to write poetry for reasons which are none of my business.
Poetry pays less than crime which is said not to pay at all, and it is not necessary to sell more ass than one will ever afford to buy back.
I am an entertainer, not a bearer of truth.
For me, an image is one of an infinite number of entrances to an arena where something ineffable has always been going on. If the thing I pursue could be stated, probably it would be better said in expository prose. The targets most often chosen by good poetry, fiction, and drama call for use of the silences between and behind words. When attempting to evoke what cannot be said, metaphor and indirection are the best engines.
With each piece, I try to cause a structure, a system of images whose parts belong dissonantly to a whole whose meaning cannot be explained. I mean Stravinsky's dissonance, dissonance as a transitional element. Consonance must be achieved one way or the other: Onstage or inside the audient. I give the reader the "thing" I intend to evoke frame by frame, and ask him to project it inside him in the manner that most entertains him. Different and isolate as each of us is, it seems the only honesty.
Ideally, fifteen intelligent readers will make fifteen very different (and fifteen equally justifiable) poems from a piece I have written. As I'm different from you at any moment, I differ from myself through successive moments; even the most familiar things change with the permutations of the coordinates of space/time consciousness. I couldn't possibly (because of the relationships between time, experience, and memory) recreate longitude and latitude of the consciousness which produced a given piece and thereby tell you "what" it means. I couldn't have told you when I was writing it.
Ideally, a reader would come to a poem or story relaxed, with open consciousness, without preconceptions, and without suspicion that the poem is a locked door and someone somewhere—probably the treacherous bastard author—is hiding the key. The parts of a poem which persist inside a reader arrive there via his personal correspondences. Exterior interpretations remain merely exterior.
Belief in one's own associations is very, very difficult, and demands great courage. But only those associations will translate a work of literature from "mine" to "yours".
Ideally, one would read a poem as if he were the first reader ever to read a poem—and as if no one on earth were reading a poem at that moment. Impossible. Necessary.
After having read everything and transferred it from intellect to blood: Ideally, I write as if no one had ever written before. As if no one were writing now. Ridiculous. Imperative.
Understanding is a sweet, vague Renaissance dream which didn't come true. According to me, works of art are not to be understood, but responded to. Understanding promises universal truth. Naïve. I'm a rare user and no pusher of either reality or its ism. I don't assume a "representative universe." As if one could come to an understanding about such things.
Any measure of art is necessarily negative. Failure is the dark side of art's moon. Regardless the phase or brightness of the moon present to the eye, the cold, lightless hemisphere is everpresent and always in full phase. Inevitably intuition is out of synch with its rendering in form because intuition is alive and in motion and form is a condition of arrest. One continues committing form after form notwithstanding. The challenge the poet places before himself is refinement of fraud. How perfectly can he conceal the terrible differential between head and page?
Poetry is about those things for which there are no words.
In literary art, the first word is arbitrary, all which follow are absolute.
Each piece has its own built-in rules. It plays by its own rules and those only.
Style entails learning the rules perfectly and breaking them magnificently.
A great artist is a puzzle maker, not a puzzle solver, except insofar as he must solve problems to do with the structure of the puzzle.
I am a maker of Swiss cheeses. All exits and entrances.
I have no beliefs. Only hypotheses as classically defined: a working statement subject to change in view of better evidence.
A poet enters maturity when all of his insurance policies against failure lapse and it does not occur to him to renew them.
It is the lantern swinging too slowly between the word and the light. It is the lantern swinging too slowly between the world and the light. It is the light swinging too slowly between the world and the word.
All time to write is stolen time. Ultimately, there is nothing in the landscape of living that does not begrudge time to write.
Inside a small garrison of scarcely tolerable words, I barricade and ready myself for a last skirmish with consciousness. Through the silences between words, much poisonous wind—wind of the merely human—streams in. Breath cannot possibly hold.
The entertainment of others is a side-effect of the narcotic we call "creative consciousness."
Less than world art is far, far less than art.
To become a great artist, one must enter obsession which is a shade of madness. This is not presently grounds for institutionalizing the artist, unfortunately.
Don't jolt the fucking reader by ignorance or by accident.
Madness explains everything. Also, it so baffles those who come into contact with it that it is never noticed that it excuses nothing.
Among elements of form and value, music is the first priority. Resolution of the sensory image next. An idea for a poem may live with me for years, but, usually, the music must declare itself before the real work gets underway.
The world is nouns. The only way you can relate them to one another is with the use of verbs. All else is folly.
There are numberless histories of battles and wars. There are no histories of peace.
War is a game. The most dangerous game is the mind, the consciousness, versus itself.
There is much we can do with electricity, gods, and art without knowing what they are.
Rilke says that a very great poet will write three great lines in a lifetime. Not three great poems, three great lines. I feel I am still pursuing one verb of one of those lines.
How to liberate a sculpture from a marble blank leaving a rubble of chips is one more way of expressing the dilemma of fulfilling the responsibilities of art and living simultaneously.
Part of greatness is patience. About two centuries of patience. It takes that long to determine whether a poet wasted his life.
If you stare long enough into an abyss, it will stare back. After indeterminate patience and silence, it will begin, without words, to speak. Listen closely. Although you will never directly communicate that knowledge, it is the only truth you will ever apprehend in cold honesty.
To grow obsessed by the detail of your environment is to forget that it is there for you to live within.
It is necessary to loosen and warm up the mind muscles before heading for the front to navigate the metaphor machine where true and untrue prevarications meet.
I know better than anyone what language cannot do.
It is much too easy, by accident, to blow out the lantern of what one has learned in the darkness of what he has not.
The greatest of artists die like dogs without ever understanding that they offended. That they looked like humans, talked like humans and therefore were expected to behave like humans but could not.
Every genuine artist is obsessive.
Art is a verdict. It says I want you and I will have all of you anytime I wish.
The metaphor machine creates and perpetuates itself. At the same time, there is a an anti-metaphor machine whose sole purpose is to put logs in the way of writing. The creative mind then creates a device to counter the anti-metaphor machine which counters writing. This regressus ad infinitum occupies the lifetime. Add to this the responsibilities of being human and the game becomes very dangerous: to the sanity of the artist, and to those within his sphere.
The metaphor machine is never off. Invisible fingers test the fabric of all conversation, everything seen, everything perceived.
I never met an artist who didn't experience a sense of outside-ness, of fraud at human occasions.
Our books might be more intelligent than we.
The more I write the more I write.
Everything but the process of writing is prostitution and even that is somewhat in question.
I have always felt that Valéry is probably right in Monsieur Teste: to commit the aurora borealis of association to words is an atrocious falsification of the vision.
With each piece, I try to cause a structure, a system of images whose parts belong dissonantly to a whole whose meaning cannot be explained...I mean here Stravinsky's dissonance. In the Poetics of Music, he says that dissonance is a transitional element; consonance must be achieved one way or another—either in the orchestration or in the ear of the listener. The latter is my way—to give the reader the "thing" I intend to evoke frame-by-frame, and ask him to project it inside him in the manner that most entertains him. Different and isolate as each of us is, it seems the best honesty.
A work of art is not dead until all those works of art it has influenced has vanished.
Long ago I abandoned hope that words might be used in the employ of direct communication. As great sculpture shapes the space around it, I use words only to shape (to frame) silences, to catalyze sense of the ineffable. (to intimate the ineffable)
Nomenclature of great Literature: Threat. The reader must subconsciously fear the depth and width and destructive potential of the mind speaking through the cage of words. Art gives neither comfort, congratulation, nor consolation. Great Art — especially comedy — must summon a weather of danger.
Loyalty to my aesthetic which metamorphoses constantly—is my supreme morality.
The viscera of all art is tension. In the case of literature, this is achieved by the polarity between any two of the above elements of the diagram. The greatest word-art is held together by the arcs firing between all four. We call greeting card verse "sentimental" when the onus is at odds with its vehicle. This pejorative can be taken further. Hitchcock's Psycho is "sentimental" because no other element counterweighs its "Horror."
If Evolution is credible, then all of man's defilement of his own habitat
and those of all other components of mass (both animate and inanimate)
on this planet, we must accept that this is his natural behaviour. As
failure is built into the structures of art, destruction is part of
man's evolutionary nomenclature. It is neither unnatural nor abnormal.
The urge to destroy is as much an evolutionary matter as our mammalian
circulatory system. However, if he were capable only of destruction,
the act would not be called destruction and bear the freight of pejorative
that it does. We notice most readily the unusual. There would be nothing
to notice. Without creation, we would be without measure of destruction.
In the situation of no non-destroying, real and feigned guilt would
be absent; everywhere everyone would be doing the same thing—in pristine
innocence. Curious about the form/chaos, Apollo/Dionysus, Ego/Super-ego,
destruction/creation polarity is that another of man's evolutionary
dimensions is his unfortunate capacity to register his desecration.
If only no conception of synthesis were possible, the species could
continue toward its extinction with perfect peace of mind. Knowledge
that vision of the artificial is but a dimension of the natural is the
difference between intelligence and wisdom.
— The Qualicum Physics
Poetry is most definitely not what was lost in translation. Regardless the consensus of the degree of greatness of a piece, the poem was never in any language in the first place. Poetry is what was lost when the shadow of intuitive motion entered the cage of words.
If to translate is to bring the distant nearer, a literal rendering from one language to another is the opposite of translation. Resonances are never identical in any two languages. Only the Geist of the work may be almost transferred.
That one cannot see at once what one writes and what one writes about is a battleship made of drunken wHite mice.
Metaphor is usually taken up as a weapon against the adversary, absence. Often it takes until the handle of the weapon has worn smooth by the callous it created that the wielder notices the engine itself is the enemy.
...irrealism, not antirealism or unrealism—is all I would confidently
predict is likely to characterize the prose fiction of the 1970's. I
welcome this...because unlike those critics who regard realism as what
literature has been aiming at all along, I tend to regard it as a kind
of aberration in the history of literature.
— John Barth
Discussion of absolutes is poor consolation for being denied their existence, but allowed capacity to conceive them.
Figuratively: Observation of sentimental taboos, of rituals which demonstrate one's "good citizenship," physiological commands, and other detail of physical survival are chattels of one's Supreme Being. The only property of art in which an artist can afford honest interest—process—belongs to dominion of a Supreme Doing. Product necessarily passes into the hands of the other world and there whores away according to the whims of the lords of literary industry.
Process, the eternally astounding, alien, intuitive buzz in the yonder of consciousness which triggers form; process transports a maker to the most intense purity his mental tolerances dare permit—and sometimes beyond to temporary or irreversible disaster. The sanctity of process is fragile from the outset and grows increasingly more so the deeper one loses himself in the labyrinth of consciousness. It can be argued that, for all purposes relating to the artist, a work begins to obsolesce the instant the pen touches the blank page. If an artist consciously allows any exterior judgment, at face value, positive or negative, to alter his aesthetic base, he has profaned his already imperfect purity, broken faith with his only reliable mode of reflexive communication. The lion, traditionally first to feed on his own aesthetic kill, has given ground to hyenas, vultures, and the flies. If he has been, until now, a responsible artist, he has forgotten how to be. Having savaged the integrity of his doing, his continued existence seems to me indefensible. This is not to say that consciousness has nothing to do with exterior phenomena, including judgments from the exterior. It is to say that perceptions and concepts must undergo process before they become the stuff of art. Art does not tolerate aesthetic hand-me-downs innocently, ingenuously. By dismantling an idea and reassembling as though it had never before been synthesized, the artist legitimately puts claim; he has but to translate it from the tongues of intellect to blood-language (dissolve it so thoroughly that intellect no longer recognizes its previous face) and put it to work without awareness that this event is transpiring under his very nose.
At kitsch level, the platitude, "A picture is worth a thousand words" is more or less tenable. Confessing an unzealous bias, it seems to me rather sad that so few pictures are worth even a single silence.
PROPOSITION: The creative impulse can be said to be almost totally original. The same cannot be said of that impulse rendered into form.
A genuine artist, like a resolute suicide, will find a way to find his way eventually.
The cast of the synthetic literary mind should approach the modes of card-catalogue — never those of library.
Anti-art relates to art as anti-matter does to matter. A mirrorism. It must not be confused with the opposite of form. It seems to me the greatest single example of anti-art in literary history is Gongora's "Sonnet on Writing a Sonnet."
Each time another corpse of disastrous event arrives to be chilled among others in my mnemonic morgue, the focal-length of the lens I turn toward the world lengthens. The illusory third dimension withers proportionately.
Less than world art is far, far less than art.
With the proviso that money is not a measure of quality in art—a premise that most will not grant—, an artist becomes a professional the instant he can say so to himself and believe it.
POSTULATE: One attempts to write the literature he would most like to read. From at least one standpoint, I can argue that I disapprove of all the literature I have ever read, including my own. But I must confess rather intense interest in three or four pieces which I have not yet written.
Today this generalizes to my satisfaction: Reading for pleasure is one of the dimensions of the cost of writing. A seasoned writer is unable to suspend the aesthetic radar which guides his decisions in the construction of his own work when the configurations of another mind are before him. He can read the work of others, move among another writer's counterfeit successes and genuine failures in search of triggers for his own material, but this activity does not fit beneath the usual heading of entertainment. Once a piece has been given up and published, it seems to me uncertain that he can use his own work to the same end.
Experience: Most set forth with their few coins of time to purchase the valences of guilt, but sell out to mere innocence of innocence.
And now only death remains between me and my dying.
There should be difference between cardinal and ordinal terminations. One should prefer.
Only death speaks to all questions of freedom. I am death: Freedom is a far more bewildering incarceration than imprisonment.
Black and wHite translate to gray which translates to neither.
An artist who triangulates by what he has made instead of by what he has not: isn't.
The eye misrepresents the seen, the brain misrepresents the eye, the word falsifies the brain, and I had nothing to do with it, despite the false impression that I have survived. I am is not: nicht schültig, alle Punkten.
To those who hope art finds its purpose in cleansing the skunk of time from the uniform of eternity: Our best is translation of scent to sound or sight and, occasionally, one might conceal the stench of one within the stench of the other for a little while.
In the whole of the human experience, only art is of a magnitude of useless seriousness sufficient to warrant what Hesse in Steppenwolf calls "high Mozartian laughter."
It is very important to declare. It is imperative to renounce all declarations regularly. It is far, far too easy to intend an entrance and produce a wall.
It is a very long haul through terrains of present, past, future, variant texts, translators, all philosophy, mirages of the rational, dim phosphorescence of intuitive certainty, Zeno, Bergson, trial, experience (overdeveloped sense of the invulnerable absences) to the intermittent destination that Herakleitos and Parmenides are two names to summon the very same mind.
Art forms are, at best, diversionary engines. Their glitter draws attention from the deadly warfare of consciousness against all limits — all of which, ultimately, reveal themselves self-imposed
If creative consciousness could be measured, it would have to be in terms of its obsessive capacities. If creative consciousness could be measured, it would have to be in terms of its associational precision, the velocity. If creative consciousness could be measured, it would have to be in terms of its inability to accept the textures of experience at surface value.
The young literatus lives in an als ob world. The auditory and visual silences between and behind words and lines do not present themselves to him as tools of communication. "Surely, with time, with mileage, with study, with maturity, words can be taught articulation. Their edges can be forced into the exact of split-image resolution." But it isn't in the cards. Our present languages of science, of the arts, of religion are not engineered to deliver "things as they are." For this, the history of consciousness must answer. Possible confrontation of the thing en soi would overpower and collapse consciousness. Eliot, Rilke, and Stevens were much preoccupied with this hypothesis.
THE HUMAN: Artforms and their raw materials evolve. If that seems obvious and a score for Herakleitos, try this Parmidean equation for size: Throughout history the human = the normal = the practical = the sane. That structure seems to me hopelessly immutable. If the equation is acceptable, for the sake of argument, it is interesting, and no more worthless than other uses of mind, to attempt to try to fit the square peg marked "artist" into the round cavity marked "society". Plato was one of the world's best creative readers. He loved poetry in general and Homer in particular with a passion which verges on the embarrassing. This same Plato wrote THE REPUBLIC and THE ION. On the obverse, Rilke loved wine. But he did not drink. "No wine goes into me because I must be ready." There is an echo of Rilke's reasoning in D.H. Lawrence's STUDIES IN CLASSICAL AMERICAN LITERATURE. I have found Bard-olatry resistible. But my patience is thinning with those who would mobocratize him. The all-purpose writer. Grass roots. Poet of the people. I somehow cannot believe that Shakespeare fills Lenin's bill, and that argument does lead to Lenin, with awesome despatch. I should like to gage the Great Groundling Hope or cause nitwit professors who love that argument to lie in bed with them. I lived for three years in The Queen Charlotte Islands. In that village of around two hundred, it was said (and I first thought this a local joke) that THE social event of the year was the annual PTA meeting. I have never been especially friendly toward adult children who love to play with guns. While in the Charlottes — recreational resources as they were — my wife and I never missed a turkey-shoot. And our involvement was not casual. We shot to win and did win. Our involvement, I think, was a mirror-image of the groundling's relationship to the plays of Shakespeare and contemporaries. And, no, I have not forgotten die Englische Kommödianten.
THE ARTIST, NUCLEAR OR PLANETARY: At apogee to matters earthly, he, like Jean Genet, must be clapped inside a prison or a mental institution. Perigee: a political ornament, a charming, witty, discreetly eccentric (hopefully) dinner-guest to add dash to the well-geared party.
Consciousness and Conscience are two words for the same faculty. It is most unsafe to confuse them. One must segregate them under, and keep them under, close guard. Allowed freedom, they lie in ambush for one another and spring at the centre of all the most unpropitious moments.
In my twenties, any apparent uncertainty was fraudulent. Now, many educations later, my uncertainty is authentic beyond debate.
To write with what I consider responsibility is to place one's sanity on the line. On every line.
If a denominator common to all literary theorists, critics, linguists, scholars, and reviewers is possible, it must, mutatis mutandis, be some permutation of this: All share a mandate to reduce to the lowest possible terms that which the artist has accepted as the irreducible.
CONTAINER AND CONTAINED: The hand of form must clasp the hand of energy as if Dionysus and Apollo had never before made open acquaintance. Primal fusion. It is extremely difficult to ignore knowledge that what we accept as chaos is very distant from perfect absence of form, that we apply form to the stratified wreckages of all previous forms strewn over the dusk of history.
UNCLUTTERED JEOPARDY: Failure as a consequence of a supreme effort is never a disgrace. I prefer that failure to the diminutive survivals which arrive via the offices of caution in reward for low risk existence.
Like amateurs, feckless professional writers are of nuisance value only.
Those humans who are the greatest successes as humans achieve that by learning the ways of compromise. Those who resign their humanity in service of making art make great art because they can make only one compromise: the reduction of supreme intuition to rendered form. And sometimes not even that. Therefore, from the standpoint of Ecce Homo, the eternal human, this man is insane. So insane from the standpoint of average society, any society, they must be somehow cast out. If you do not understand this, read—one more time— Plato's Republic which is perhaps the most pessimistic work of words in human history. There is room for the person who possesses supreme intuition but does not render it. There is no room for poets and by stainless steel implication anyone with the impertinence to render any perception in any form which might threaten the general equation of human=the normal=the practical=the sane which is to say an averaging, a rounding off. Read Baudelaire's Mon Coeur Mis a Nu. Huizinga: Homo Ludens, the figure of the iconoclast, etc.. This lament by Plato, Plato who created the most powerful metaphor in human history: The Cave. As Baudelaire screams: Nations produce great figures only in spite of them selves. In order to insist the presence of one significant idea, one must overcome the objections of millions. This is a restatement of Plato. Cf. Shelley, Coleridge (esp), Opitz, Camus, St. Beuve, Aristotle, Croce, and every thinker who has been a genuine pivot for social direction. Accepting risk that this will seem to suggest that Dante is no more Dante than Virgil (and never was), I think the artist is somewhat Mosaic in that he can never legitimately enter the picture. If he does, then it is appropriate to inquire who is in charge of the camera. However, the signature of his singular composition will be felt by those who possess capacity for response—regardless how few their numbers.
It is healthy for an artist to fear what he most wants. Human imagination is so indigent he stands in dreadful jeopardy of realizing it.
Effectively, a poem is rather poor taxidermy of intuitive event. Like history, artforms are accessories after events. Translation of an intuitive comet into form is to transfer the dynamic to the static. The greatest works of art are those which offer the largest measure of illusory motion.
For most, pleasure pertains only to those lives which go on from the nose downward. It cannot be demonstrated that consciousness exceeds the routine in desirability. Few are sufficiently conscious to note that consciousness and routine are not one. I conclude that the object of consciousness is total synchronicity of circumstance, arrangement and action. At the moment we can only approach this to the point of immediate history.
Great literature and threat: The reader must subconsciously fear the
depth, width, and destructive capacity of the mind speaking in his direction
from a damaged cage of words.
Comedy, especially, must summon a weather of danger.
Art gives neither comfort, congratulation, nor consolation.
Art gives neither truth nor wisdom. The best art fangles silence or space in such a manner that members of a creative audience may invest the form with as many truths as there are members of a creative audience.
I think now that I have shed my last skin of hope that words might be freighted with direct meaning and transport it somewhere. As great sculpture uses mass to shape the space around it (Brancusi: "L'oiseau en espace"), I employ words only to frame the silences. To intimate the ineffable.
Nihilist and Existentialist enter the theatre of war comparably armed, comparable single-minded. An onlooker would declare them identical. And so they are—until destruction of the world has been achieved. Here the Existentialist panics. He feels morally compelled to build the "right" world (invariably along the lines of The Golden Rule) on the very site where he has destroyed a "wrong" one. This, of course, burdens future thinkers with the responsibility (exercise, busywork) of destroying the substitute. A good nihilist is content—or at least resigned—to dwell among his ruins.
There is a fault of anarchy which runs the full length of the creative act. Insofar as it relates to threat, it is occasionally useful.
I have no politics. The well-tailored stuff of History has never presented itself in a pattern which approached the adequate, let alone the satisfactory. I'm astonished at those who belong to and voluntarily work for political parties—nourished by only idealism and water. Politicians, at least, have something to gain—hence their singleness of purpose.
Whether hereditary or conditioned, man has managed to convince himself that the routine is fascinating—to the point that routine and consciousness have become synonyms. Re: Godwin and perfectibility of man: If the nomenclature of consciousness could be set to paper, an excellent salesman might sell it to less than a thousand of the planet's populace.
To do with gravity: with great discipline, consciousness, seemingly, can be achieved now and then. Not always well evidenced in the art which springs from it. The treachery of the intuitive engine lies in its incapacity to remain aloft for the duration of an aesthetic adventure.
Nation: an arbitrarily demarcated geography wherein malcontents suspicious of one another dwell in uneasy exile from a utopia which raps once at the mind's door, then vanishes before anyone can answer.
Commitment to a place: soft, paraeuphoric suicide.
Generally, those most capable of consciousness are those who can—and do—assault it most savagely. I have never understood this. Perhaps because the pain of discipline is unbearable. Perhaps for the love of negotiating treaties between body and mind after the wars: this activity is a marvellous mode of keeping distance between mind and typewriter.
Consciousness at its most treacherous: The mind is vastly more skillful at evading the responsibilities of art than it is at the making of it. The obstacles are numberless, subtle, devastating. Perhaps this relates to the commonplace that what appears on the page will always be inferior to the idea before rendered. One prefers to leave this truth unconfirmed.
The very notion of mortality obliterates the worth of art both as process and product. Especially product.
I admire the work of Arthur Miller. Just one line. In THE MISFITS, Eli Wallach says to Marilyn Monroe: "I can't land, and I can't get up to God." I like the line despite the Duino Elegies smell of it. In my experience, a disciplined consciousness has no intermediate (read moderate) gears. Once blooded to the metaphor, it cannot be recalled until the quarry has been treed or slain. Consciousness is capable of near-absolute inertia of rest and near-absolute inertia of motion. Nothing between those two poles. I think that most artists assault consciousness because there is no switch which reads OFF. Once airborne (beyond a certain stage of consciousness-addiction), the metaphor machine can only crash-land: booze, drugs, sex, exercise, whatever works.
Address to the apparent: Over an horizon to horizon plain of No, an infrequent mirage which resembles Yes.
Dauer im Wechsel, usw.: With the application of consciousness, Heraclitos and Parmenides become interchangeable, become minor variations on a major theme of impossibility.
Imagination is the shadow of a lone gull in passage between sun and the running roof-tops of the sea.
The situation of the contemporary artist is somewhat like that of the builder who attempts to erect structures on artificial property created by compacting refuse for fill. I confess a nostalgic longing for encounter of primal energy and primal form: the first struggle between Dionysus and Apollo against and for one another. Both energy and form have gone diluent. We erect forms not on solid ground but on towering middens of ruined previous forms. There is no place to bury them. As for energy: The quality of energy improves only in direct proportion to the quality of form.
Not only to know, but to know that one knows—then to comprehend the ultimate impotence of knowing. There should be occasional dispensation from this.
I cannot believe any theological structure has ever generated in an individual guilt of a magnitude even approaching the guilt I experience when distanced from my writing tools.
I have attempted to segment my life into DURING and BETWEEN. DURING refers to the application of consciousness in the form of making. BETWEEN accounts for time between projects. Obsession allows no margin for egalitarian proprieties. DURING has invaded BETWEEN irrevocably and established a police state.
At first, a prophet refuses the mission to execute the directives issued by his god. At first. Never in transit. Never at last.
The devotion of thought to thinking is unreasonable.
Ratiocinatives underrate the random. Noah's Ark was built to float, not to sail. It was without sail, without helm, without rudder. No one navigated because the landmarks by which a captain might discern where he is not were gone.
Perfection of effect occurs in direct proportion to perfection of cause. Given the loutish character of intelligence, art, science, and theology are, at best, brute composites of flaw.
If I am created in the image of a god, that god is a jinxed and bewildered herd.
It seems that body lends life to the mind and repossesses without notice.
Ultimate penalty and/or reward is the figure of a dreamer who dreams he is only dreaming.
Rapture of the shallows: the best-loved malady of realism.
All art is pun. Without the walls made of words, images, and noise against which to ricochet, no pun, no art would be possible.
Poetry is an art of mysterious disappearances.
A poet is a double-bladed cryptographer: from great enigmas, he burgles terror (sometimes without injury to the dark, if he is skillful) then suffuses things commonplace with threat.
Every great poet has been an anarch reigning over the thin skin of syllables which separates his cosmos from the other one.
The difference between knowing and the rendering of that knowledge in language is monstrous. Choice is impossible but refuses to go away.
It is easy to agree with Rank and Becker that the present plethora of truth is suffocating. So far as I can determine, there is no authentic preference in me for one truth over another. Only capacity to lurch in the general, imprecise direction of precision—a neon faith with faulty wiring.
For most purposes of consciousness (that of the artist), a literary work dies the instant that the pen-point enters contact with the page.
Valery's Teste refused to write because of his reluctance to falsify the vision. He was gifted with a well-founded suspicion of words. He was gifted with the insight that the dynamism of intuition could/should not be trapped and, in the process, maimed beyond recognition.
I don't regard highly Shelly's postulate that there exist great poets who do not and need not write. But I don't dismiss it. My only defense for bludgeoning words around within the confines of paper is that I seem to enjoy the rain of words falling down the page. I don't write in order to communicate with other members of the species. Most certainly not to glorify nor to vilify mankind. The nascence of experience is miserably over-rated. I'm made of the same parts as others including capacity to perceive and capacity to achieve limited consciousness. Whatever heredity and environment have made of me constitutes my total obligation. No further debt. If one cannot resist assault on empty pages, the next best honesty might be to write near a fireplace and burn each completed sheet. Next: give copies of manuscript to the one or two one knows to be friendly toward literary art. I've never discovered a satisfactory excuse for publication in magazines, anthologies, and books. At best these are tools with which to beg money (like the wHite cane of a blind man), then translate it into writing time. It isn't my own work that I sell. The work which belongs to me has not yet been written. Thus it could be said that I steal and sell the work of an ancestor—dead, younger than I, but who answered to the same name.
Larceny is a high-priority component of every maker's survival kit.
Whence a judgment? The editors judge. No, they are accountable to their sources of funds. They're all dying of democracies: by region, by nation, by Language, by sex, by ethnos, by genre, etc. Then reviewers. No, too ignorant, too whimsical, too easy to corrupt. Fellow writers? Never. Built into the aesthetic of a responsible artist is a necessary logic which declares that if his own poetic is correct, all others must be incorrect. Regardless the resemblance. Family and friends, surely. Honesty is inimical to the concepts of family and friendship. Their bias is lethal. The writer himself. Since he cannot acknowledge peers, it would seem so, but no: he knows better than any his consciousness is prototype, erratic, contrary, and indolent. Better than any he knows that the maker's consciousness is the last faculty to be charged with such an important task.
Since consciousness can rarely be summoned, I must be on call at all times. Prepared for a little clarity to burst through the gray by surprise.
Every powerful religion has been essentially an attitude toward property. Which is to say, toward something. Every powerful aesthetic has been essentially an attitude (as form) toward nothing.
It is necessary for me to believe my lies only until I give them up as impossible and sentence them to the Siberia of publication.
Anyone who would come to me to learn of poetry would research the character of cougar by interviewing deer.
There was a time, possibly, when reason, with sufficient faith and energy could transport me—seemingly— anywhere. But then I was too young to imagine a great deal of anywhere. Now all the voluptuous anywheres have vanished and only the ghost of reason abides—an abused toy to serve idle argument (between projects) when competent conversation lags.
"Detail is the business of scholarship, not learning." I think Kerr said that. To check it out would be to diminish the value of the observation.
While scholars are probably the legitimate custodians (administrators) of the history of literature, these same people (for reasons of pressure, bad education, bad taste, money, worship of obscurity, and indigence of imagination) fashion ways to give many a well-croaked author and many a well-croaked book the appearance of being alive. These life-support systems are extremely effective; so effective, in fact, that there is virtually no space available for living writers on the literary stage. Contemporary writers would work much harder if they knew they were being watched. Pull the plug.
Schopenhauer's trope of genius as a hare; while alive it can only be shot at; it cannot be eaten until dead. All well and good: the dead don't complain when one misrepresents them. Presently, over landscape of contemporary world literature, there hangs a toxic silence. Earlier on, there was gunfire. Rolling closer.
The cast of an artist's mind should function on principles of catalogue, never library.
I've found it very difficult to learn to resist memorization of my own lines. But necessary. Not only does it waste valuable writing time; more importantly, it imperils the impetus to revise. Rote is a loan-shark. It demands outrageous interest for its tiny investment.
When imagination starves or for some other reason subsides, disease sets in. One commences feeding it falsifications of personal history incompetently remembered.
Another choice under the heading of Time: one cannot simultaneously incant metaphor and consciously theorize.
An acquaintance approaches me on the street. I say: Hello. He says: Fine. If I could get to the heart of that event, I might better out-manoeuver language.