Season of the Fire & Ice

Skalds of old sang of dark days and battle courage,
Of sea-ways holding man-life under a moon-dim curse;
When troll-bones shook the night as dragon-surge
Rose in fire-breaks and ice-crags fell beyond the abyss.

………………..Moon-wise the banshee cries,
And all mortal thralls squirm in a wasted world,
As the dark fire-brood gleam in the night!

– Lays of Fire & Ice

The old man felt the sea-crush in his bones, the fetch of days long gone in the great patterning. He’d wandered the barren wood-watch day, as fire-slur cradled among darkening flames in the sky above, till the only token left in this wild faring’s waste: one small wisp of smoke in a hollow rising, spelling human warmth in a fire-hearth nearby. He nodded as he heard the troubling cries abroad in moss-spawn lakes and mud, as the softening night-glow spun its delicate web across the marish. He stopped for a second to hear the bladed blackness surrounding him, reached in his bag pulled out a single white stone, rubbed it in silence till it glowed like a new born star. Attached it to his gnarled staff, and continued on step by step, moving closer to his final destination in the dark woods ahead.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Opening paragraph into a fantasy novel that’s been sitting there in me for a while. Does it hook you? Would you want to know what comes next? Does the language feel right to the scene? I discovering that one could archaize too much, or find a balance that seems to bring both a sense of the old and new. I always think of the Dying Earth series by Jack Vance… of what it would be like a few hundred years into the future if our civilization depletes oil reserves and energy resources: Will we fall back into chaos, create cultures on the edge of a world of extreme weather? Will we fall back into certain medieval ways or will we create new collective forms? A lot of questions to ponder in such an undertaking.

A Bit of Fantasy: Cloud & Ashes

Once in a while rummaging through the treasures of the fantastic, grotesque, macabre: all the earthy, biting, tongue-cleaving tales of the sodden people, of the times when people were in the midst of spangling language, cobbling it out of the patchwork of foreign wordsounds into the birdchattering of gossip and pubs one comes upon an author that suddenly dips down into that old world where the English tongue brought forth its life.

Greer Gilman, in Cloud & Ashes: Three Winter’s Tales awakens the earthy tones of a world that still exists somewhere deep inside our bones. I love wandering into such linguistic treasure vats in which the true magic of language suddenly juts up out of the loam of another age through a mind so attuned to the rhythms and marks of the nuggets of older tongues that something so difficult to attain is made easy and full of an almost uncanny naturalness, as if one were listening to the voice of some travelling tale-teller from another age:

A marish man: he speaks with a reedy lowland wauling, through his beak, as they say. He calls Cloud crowland. How you squall, he says, you moorland ravens; how you peck and pilfer. He speaks like a hoodie crow himself, all hoarse with rain, with bawling ballads in the street. Jack Daw, they call him. A witty angry man, a bitter melancholy man. He will barter; he will gull. In his pack are bacca pipes, new ones, white as bones, and snuff and coney-skins and cards. He plays for nothing, or for gold; packs, shuffles. In a game, triumphant, he plucks out the Crowd of Bone, or Brock with her leathern cap and anvil, hammering at a fiery heart, a fallen star. (It brock, but I mended it.) Death’s doxy, he calls her, thief and tinker, for she walks the moon’s road with her bag, between the hedges white with souls; she takes. Here’s a lap, he says, in his shawm’s voice, sharp with yelling out for ale. Here’s a blaze needs no bellows. Here’s a bush catches birds. He mocks at fortune. The traveller in the inn forgets what cards he held, face down, discarded in the rings of ale; he forgets what gold he lost. He’d none in his pockets, yet he played it away, laid it round and shining on the sanded board, a bright array. On each is stamped a sun.

– Greer Gilman, Cloud & Ashes: Three Winter’s Tales

Poet of the Day: George Darley


O BLEST unfabled Incense Tree,
That burns in glorious Araby,
With red scent chalicing the air,
Till earth-life grow Elysian there!

Half buried to her flaming breast
In this bright tree she makes her nest,
Hundred-sunned Phœnix! when she must
Crumble at length to hoary dust;

Her gorgeous death-bed, her rich pyre
Burnt up with aromatic fire;
Her urn, sight-high from spoiler men,
Her birthplace when self-born again.

The mountainless green wilds among,
Here ends she her unechoing song:
With amber tears and odorous sighs
Mourned by the desert where she dies.

– George Darley, Nepenthe

George Darley,  (born 1795, Dublin, Ire.—died  Nov. 23, 1846, London, Eng.), poet and critic little esteemed by his contemporaries but praised by 20th-century writers for his intense evocation, in his unfinished lyrical epic Nepenthe (1835), of a symbolic dreamworld. Long regarded as unreadable, this epic came to be admired in the 20th century for its dream imagery, use of symbolism to reveal inner consciousness, and tumultuous metrical organization.

It would be some of these lesser known Romantic Era poets that poets such as William Butler Yeats and Wallace Stevens would find certain allusive echoes to harbor within their own poems. One can find in Thomas Stoddart, early Alfred Lord Tennyson, the Spasmodic poets and Algernon Swinburne.

Other poems by George Darly…

A Glimpse of Possibility

There always was something missing
In our love, a
n incompleteness
That could never be described;

As if I could open up her mind,
Reveal the atoms i
n her thought,
Reach down into that uncertain world

(waves and particles of her brain’s
quantum self), s
ee in the drift
Of neurons some strange power,

An answering call, a glimpse
Of possibility, forming and shaping
Itself in secrecy; a
Against the decay of time,

A hope in quantum openness
Beyond illusion’s lie, r
In an unfinished symphony of life
Our one and only ever love’s delight.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.


Two Fair Things in the World

Due cose bella ha il mondo: Amore e morte.
— Leopardi, Canti*

He’d remember those lovely passages
In Lucretius – “Death is nothing…”
The dark is a lover too keen on covering
Him in kisses, yet in all the bright world
There is only one kiss that remains
To comfort him: the beauty of the moon
In her eyes; the glow upon the shore,
The waves incessant cry, the gleaming
And motioning spume and spray: unweaving
All the names, the lives, the hidden thoughts
That turn us bitter and remorseful;
All that remains now is the lips of her
Who blessed him with one solitary kiss:
Paradise itself is not a myth,
She is sitting next to him even now, and it is bliss.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

*(“There are two fair things in the world: love and death.” from Canti XVII Convalvo – in this poem Leopardi in acute foreshadowing envisages his own coming death.)

The Antithetical Life

Every work turns against its author: the poem will crush the poet, the system the philosopher, the event the man of action. Destruction awaits anyone who, answering to his vocation and fulfilling it, exerts himself within history; only the man who sacrifices every gift and talent escapes: released from his humanity, he may lodge himself in Being. If I aspire to a metaphysical career, I cannot, at any price, retain my identity: whatever residue I retain must be liquidated; if, on the contrary, I assume a historical role, it is my responsibility to exasperate my faculties until I explode along with them. One always perishes by the self one assumes: to bear a name is to claim an exact mode of collapse.

– E. M. Cioran,  The Temptation to Exist

The Voices and the Silence

To every reason there is a failure,
A time to hold or let go, or believe;
A momentary truce between wars,
When old bones in motley surrender
To the voices and the silence, else
Wander along the glass-sea’s edge
Pondering the receding footprints
In the mind; t
he faltering waves
Green puddles d
eclare another year
has passed: t
he blood-moon tide
Corrupted, a
nd the broken pledge
Of sun abating; w
hile we who listen
In the night stillness h
ear the music
Of the universe returning in our song.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Harold Bloom: Internalization of Romance Quest


What allies Blake and Wordsworth, Shelley and Keats, is their strong mutual conviction that they are reviving the true English tradition of poetry, which they thought had vanished after the death of Milton, and had reappeared in diminished form, mostly after the death of Pope, in admirable but doomed poets like Chatterton, Cowper, and Collins, victims of circumstance and of the false dawn of Sensibility. It is in this highly individual sense that English Romanticism legitimately can be called, as traditionally it has been, a revival of romance. More than a revival, it is an internalization of romance, particularly of the quest variety, an internalization made for more than therapeutic purposes, because made in the name of a humanizing hope that approaches apocalyptic intensity. The poet takes the patterns of quest-romance and transposes them into his own imaginative life, so that the entire rhythm of the quest is heard again in the movement of the poet himself from poem to poem.

The movement of quest-romance, before its internalization by the High Romantics, was from nature to redeemed nature, the sanction of redemption being the gift of some external spiritual authority, sometimes magical. The Romantic movement is from nature to the imagination’s freedom (sometimes a reluctant freedom), and the imagination’s freedom is frequently purgatorial, redemptive in direction but destructive of the social self. The high cost of Romantic internalization, that is, of finding paradises within a renovated man, shows itself in the arena of self- consciousness. The quest is to widen consciousness as well as to intensify it, but the quest is shadowed by a spirit that tends to narrow consciousness to an acute preoccupation with self. This shadow of imagination is solipsism, what Shelley calls the Spirit of Solitude or Alastor, the avenging daimon who is a baffled residue of the self, determined to be compensated for its loss of natural assurance, for having been awakened from the merely given condition that to Shelley, as to Blake, was but the sleep of death-in-life. Blake calls this spirit of solitude a Spectre, or the genuine Satan, the Thanatos or death instinct in every natural man.

There is no better way to explore the Real Man, the Imagination, than to study his monuments: The Four Zoas, Milton, and Jerusalem; The Prelude and the Recluse fragment; The Ancient Mariner and Christabel; Prometheus Unbound, Adonais, and The Triumph of Life; the two Hyperions; Don Juan; Death’s Jest-Book; these are the definitive Romantic achievement, the words that were and will be, day and night.

– Harold Bloom, The Romantic Era



She’s gone, my love is gone

I come in the night to the old oak grove,
Where shadows cling below the wood,
Knotted as earth’s cold and deadly trove,
I gaze to see a wingless moon in a hood.

She’s gone, my love is gone, into the blackness,
Where lover’s go into the bleak heart of agony;
Where the bladed stars are born to darkness,
And the white-crone moon above is bound in melancholy.

Our meeting is out of time, a chance occurrence
Or design, the chastened tempest hollow guest,
Whose semblance chafes my bold deterrence,
Where I’m seeking the drear tower of my quest.

She’s gone, my love is gone, into the blackness,
Where lover’s go into the bleak heart of agony;
Where the bladed stars are born to darkness,
And the old pagan gods wander in forlorn melancholy.

The oaks are empty now, the leaves are ash,
The wounded king is sleeping, the black knight
Is leaning next to him; and, I, even I thrash
Against the blighted chains in a bone-mad night.

She’s gone, my love is gone, into the blackness,
Where lover’s go into the bleak heart of agony;
Where the bladed stars are born to darkness,
And the quickened dead follow her in silent melancholy.

Her brow is white as snow, her lips dewberry red,
Her eyes soft sea-blue cradle me in my sleep;
And as I wake to hear her laughter, she’s fled
the leafless oaks in a shadowy deep.

She’s gone, my love is gone, into the blackness,
Where lover’s go into the bleak heart of agony;
Where the bladed stars are born to darkness,
And I who in longing seek her am blind and melancholy.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.



Winter’s Lover

“Come now and learn how delicate is the nature of images.”
– Lucretius, On the Nature of Things

The falling leaves, the last wren’s call,
The absence I have felt in these pine cones;
The first signs of winter’s freeze, the pall
Of gray days and barren ways of stones.

All remembrances not of nostalgia’s feint glow,
But a fierce spark of numinous life that burned:
The winsome moon, the summer’s vivid shoal,
And the lusty lips of her blessed, not spurned;

And, yet without her here to share this moment,
The crafted plenum of my hopeful chanting
Breaks triple-cleaving in my mind’s bereavement:
The hour of our love gone: the doves past flitting;

But if they stopped, invoked her breath against silence,
discover winter’s curse in a deep sound of blackness.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Death in the City

(Sad Flower – from Matt on Not-WordPress)

She’d suffered tremendously, the dank world
Accosting her, the lack of sun, the decay
Of humans surrounding her (grey stone
gone black, graffiti spun out of lack),
The blank s
ky full of fragile clouds
That would not shed tears of love;

She felt the pressure of the city life fading
From her – as a lover will darken from the heart
After years of neglect and abuse, in somberness;
And in the moment of her waking, died, sorrowing:
Her tangerine skirt of petals bleeding into earth.
She was too fragile for the world, the human veil,
the dark and lonely ways of time: the blackest night of love.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Walter Pater: Quote of the Day!


We have an interval, and then our place knows us no more. Some spend this interval in listlessness, some in high passions, the wisest, at least among “the children of this world,” in art and song. For our one chance lies in expanding that interval, in getting as many pulsations as possible into the given time. Great passions may give us this quickened sense of life, ecstasy and sorrow of love, the various forms of enthusiastic activity, disinterested or otherwise, which come naturally to many of us. Only be sure it is passion–that it does yield you this fruit of a quickened, multiplied consciousness.  Of such wisdom, the poetic passion, the desire of beauty, the love of art for its own sake, has most. For art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments’ sake.

– Walter Pater, The Renaissance: Studies In Art And Poetry

Love’s Despair

What but love plunges us into despair,
The mask and dare of one who desires
To gain the sphere and horizon of the mind:

Who plunders down the ages of our lives,
Instills t
he memory and the task, the wheel
And spinning ginny of the stars, the gyre
That shapes our vision to the compass
And the mirror: a darkness in the eye
That springs below retrieving images
That mark us with a purchase on her light;
Match the night and moon within her heart,
The slow voice that evokes from fire and ice
The silent daemon of her wisdom’s crown;
Bringing cycles of the void to a rapid close
And offering each to each a secret repose
Within the circuit of the wayfarer’s darkening
Eyes, where one can catch a glimpse of her
For whom your song is but a desperate gleam
Upon an isolated shore’s endless sorrowing.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

W.B. Yeats: Quote of the Day

We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry. … Nor has any poet I have read of or heard of or met with been a sentimentalist. The other self, the anti-self or the antithetical self, as one may choose to name it, comes but to those who are no longer deceived, whose passion is reality. … He only can create the greatest imaginable beauty who has endured all imaginable pangs, for only when we have seen and foreseen what we dread shall we be rewarded by that dazzling unforeseen wing-footed wanderer. We could not find him if he were not in some sense of our being and yet of our being but as water with fire, a noise with silence. He is of all things not impossible the most difficult, for that only which comes easily can never be a portion of our being, “Soon got, soon gone,” as the proverb says. I shall find the dark grow luminous, the void fruitful when I understand I have nothing, that the ringers in the tower have appointed for the hymen of the soul a passing bell.

-William Butler Yeats,  Per Amica Silentia Lunae

House of the Deaf

La Leocadia

She would stand there almost bored,
Overseeing the nightmare world
Just beyond her framed extravagance,
Veiled in night among rocks,
Eyes blown back inwardly, lost
In an abyss of time, remembering
Her newly departed husband,
Dead among these infernal regions,
Her soft flesh meshed in blankness
And blackness, watching
The old painter feverish who kept vigil,
Even Goya moving between black and black:

Saturn Devouring His Son

An old king devours his children,
His eyes emptied of their light
Are black as night, and all the sins
He eats are more than he can know,
Banished as he is from self and self,
All knowledge of his former life, gone:

Judith’s Slaying of Holofernes

She almost relishes this beheading,
Her knife held high, her tender face
And eyes seducing this warrior lord
To his secret rendezvous with death;
Even the prayers of a saint fall silent
In this darkened temple of delight:

The Sabbat

The gran cabrón, horned and bearded speaking
To the throngs, their hunched visages lowered
And listening intently to the songs or sermons;
A melancholy prophet or shepherd, lost
Among black thoughts, a demon menace
Teaching his flock the ways of blackness
To the rhythms of a woman playing
An accordion in apathy of all unruliness
As the black one instructs his children
In the dark arts of sex and violence:

The Pilgrimage of Saint Isidore

Serpentine and slithering along in procession
Moving to an inner rhythm of necessity,
Night and stars and black sounds abound,
And the melancholy throng sings ecstatically
In tragic tribulation in an infernal saturnalia:
Festive of the farmer’s pledge of dust
Turned bitter in a black season, blackly barren:

Two Old Men

Toothless grimaces, grinning
At the misery of existence,
Carping vittles from fool’s labor,
Listening to the laughter intent
On disastrous replication of curses
And lamentations for a brewed soul;
Clasping flesh like boned wisdom
To the fetid stench of an abyss
Encompassing them in its silence
Till their lives fold into a black thought:

Goya wandered in an infernal maze
For years and years, his agon
With the demons of his self kept
Competing in his brain for outlet;
And in the surrounding blackness
He found his inner genius: cloven
Fabrications of a blackened heart
Released at last into a dark world.
Necessity’s child come home at last
In a black destiny of night and chaos.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

She Was Here To Say Goodbye

I felt it in the dream, or half-dream between
and waking: the cold flesh, smooth ice
gainst my cheek, and I saw her standing there
At the side of my bed, h
er eyes black fire
Full of another light than light when she said:
“Hello, lover, I came to say goodbye.” Her lips
Moved, b
ut the sound was in my head,
Not as words traveling in air to air,
But as a thought will touch one’s mind
Out of some blank world; a refinement
Of some dark language of intellect or heart
For which there is no motion of the tongue;
And, then she was gone, gone in a wisp,
Hazy t
o my waking mind that could still see
Her there a
mong the morning shadows, spreading.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.


The Grotesque in Art and Poetry

(Artwork by Chris Mars: The Puppeter)

“I learned it first from my Brother. He didn’t teach me; I watched it. They will pin a word on your chest and use it against you. They will create a word that’s excuse to take your humanity away.” 
– Chris Mars

Coming upon Chris Mars works suddenly jolted me back into the hyper-grotesque worlds that seemed to pervade my youth and young adulthood. The grotesque has always been associated with disjunctions between the vile and the comic, disgust and irony, provoking incongruities and uncertainties arising out of the irreconcilable dimensions of the grotesque in life and art. In describing his long journey into the grotesque artistic forms in which he works Chris Mars began with his brother who at a young age was diagnosed with schizophrenia. As he tells it “my brother Joe was fifteen years old, he was institutionalized for schizophrenia. He saw things, he heard things. Were these monsters? Was he?”. Living in such a culture as ours the world of people that do not fit into this tightly interlocked realm of commerce and the madhouse of capitalism are often labeled with erroneous epithets, closed off from society then become a part of a scientistic system that tends to treat them as objects with disrespect and indifference. This is not in all cases, and as Mars admits in his own descriptions of his bother’s incarceration “Through some thirty years of his treatment, he encountered compassionate souls, both fellows and caregivers. He was also neglected and exploited by individuals and a system more interested in commerce and statistics than his very well-being. Were these exploiters monsters?”

It was out of this confrontation with the realm of asylums, hospitals, madness perceived or real that Mars own work would congeal into the grotesque journey to know and understand takes place. It was a journey to understand the monstrous, the reason why we’ve developed such categories and labels in the first place, and to understand why lies within and below in the hinterlands of such realms that society is so fearful of and tries its best of both demonize and moralize into terms of ‘evil’:

“I have great empathy toward Monsters, or more accurately, Perceived Monsters. To me, Monsters are more like misfits, people who are physically deformed, or rather, uniquely formed (as indeed we all are, each of us); or, people who are mentally on a different plane than the majority. By this definition, might I be speaking even of you? I am sympathetic toward Perceived Monsters, because I have known and loved perceived monsters, and have felt this way myself.”

My reason for involving the forms of grotesque in my own art is that it offers a creative force for conceptualizing the indeterminate that is produced by distortion, and reflecting on the significance of the uncertainty that is thereby produced. As Justin Edwards and Rune Graulund tell us in their work Grotesque this means that the discombobulating juxtapositions and bizarre combinations found in grotesque figures in literature and the other arts open up an indeterminate space of conflicting possibilities, images and figures. A grotesque body that is incomplete or deformed forces us to question what it means to be human: these queries sometimes arise out of the literal combination of human and animal traits or, at other times, through the conceptual questions about what it means to deviate from the norm.1

It is the abnormal, the deformed, the freakish that seem to arouse feelings of disgust and strange revulsions in us that have over time become associated with false moralizing creeds in our cultures and sub-cultures to the point of marking such abnormalities as ‘evil’ which to me needs to be overcome. First off: What is normal, anyway? As Umberto Eco in his two excellent volumes on History of Beauty and On Ugliness notes, most of our notions surrounding normal/abnormal are not due to aesthetic criteria but more often can be attributed to socio-political and cultural norms in any particular era. As Eco recognizes after a few hundred pages on the History of Ugliness we all live with deformities of mind or body in one form or another now, our age itself is monstrous; and, yet, it seems we still castigate the most obvious deformities an lock them away from sight as if we could hide from our own monstrous selves. Eco ends with a parable from Italo Calvino another Italian master whose character in the story notices that the monsters (as he terms them) in a specific asylum are being given the opportunity to vote in a local election, yet because of their inability to do this their caretakers are able by proxy to do this for them. He wants to object to this, but realizes in the end that the caretakers who live so close to these deformed ones of mind or body should in fact be allowed to vote for them since they know like no others the knowing truth of those for whom they care. Eco ends saying that the grotesque opens onto the tragic through the comic and shows by way of compassion the resistance of the caretakers as they endure and help those they serve and who are in their trust.

Yet, there is the other side of the monstrous, the reality of the true monsters in our midst. As Chris Mars tells us:

“There are Real Monsters that walk this earth, cruel, evil people; oppressive, dehumanizing beliefs. I despise Real Monsters, because of their nature and their acts; and because of a public willingness to have this label, “Monster”, shared between those that are ‘different’ and those that are evil. The word Monster in its original application describes a child born with a physical deformity. What does it mean that our society has taken this word now to mean “evil”? Where is that leap between appearances, either physical or emotional, and the specifically dark nature of one’s soul? All of this speaks of a shallowness I seek to conquer. My work is about looking beyond the outer to the inner, and finding with this the true definition of Beauty – which is beyond form.”

 The Grotesque since the early Gothic novels of the macabre and grotesque associated most closely with the work of Poe and his progeny has typically been about the vile and excessive violation of the laws of natural existence. The word ‘grotesque’ is linked to the word ‘grotto’: the English word derives from the Italian pittura grottesca, meaning a work (or painting) found in a grotto and refers to the rooms in ancient buildings in Rome which were excavated to reveal murals in a grotesque style. Indeed, the grotto is, like the labyrinth or the crypt, a disorienting and threatening place that inflames anxiety and fear. It is also a potential place of spatial internment that echoes the state of being confined within the physical limits of grotesque bodies. (Edwards/Grauland, p. 5) For grotesque bodies are , at times, incomplete, lacking in vital parts, as they sometimes have pieces cut out of them: limbs are missing, to be replaced sometimes by phantom limbs, and bodily mutations become dominant traits. (ibid. p. 2)


The Laocoön and His Sons in the Vatican is described by Camille Paglia as showing “the theatrical perversity of late style: heroic male athleticism strained and bursting, strangled by serpents. Beautiful and grotesque conjoin. Late-phase art defiles high classic form with mother nature’s sex and violence . Dionysus, bound down by Apollo, always escapes and returns with a vengeance.”2

This sense of the defamation of the high styles of culture by the raw power and force of the natural forms of sex and violence seems befitting of our era in which war, famine, disease, decay, and the dark systems of capital and communism have joined in a crossover forms to lock our world into a grotesque and tragic-comic realm all to real and full of sex and violence as the natural world, too, begins to reek havoc upon her children. We seem to deny the very things in front of us as if they would all go away, as if we could just look the other way as we do those poor souls with deformed bodies and minds. But the deformed body of the planet will not hide, will not go away, and will not be denied. The old notion of Anima Mundi or the World Soul also seems to be making its way back into our consciousness with such strange meshings as Gaia and Science in of all places as Bruno Latour in his Gifford Lectures. The world soul (ψυχὴ κόσμου, anima mundi) is, according to several systems of thought, an intrinsic connection between all living things on the planet, which relates to our world in much the same way as the soul is connected to the human body. For Latour:

Gaia is not half science and half religion. It offers a much more enigmatic set of features that redistribute agencies in all possible ways (as does this most enigmatic term “anthropocene”). Thus, it is far from clear what it means to “face Gaia”. It might require us to envisage it very differently from the various divinities of the past (including those derived from nature).

As the theme in those lectures would have it there is a reemergence of  ‘natural religion’ which explores what it could mean to live at the epoch of the Anthropocene when what was until now a mere décor for human history is becoming the principal actor. They confront head on the controversial figure of Gaia, that is, the Earth understood not as system but as what has a history, what mobilizes everything in the same geostory. Gaia is not Nature, nor is it a deity. In order to face a secular Gaia, we need to extract ourselves from the amalgam of Religion and Nature. It is a new form of political power that has to be explored through a renewed attempt at political theology composed of those three concepts: demos, theos and nomos. It is only once the multiplicity of people in conflicts for the new geopolitics of the Anthropocene is recognized, that the ‘planetary boundaries’ might be recognized as political delineations and the question of peace addressed. Neither Nature nor Gods bring unity and peace. ‘The people of Gaia’, the Earthbound might be the ‘artisans of peace’.
(see: Bruno Latour – download a text version: pdf )

My own poetry more and more tends toward this grotesque conjoining of the sublime and the ridiculous, the beautiful defiled by the sex and violence of natural order and the artificial orders of the human. If we are to rehumanise our world it will be only by way of incorporating the inhuman element both within our own lives and the life of earth around us. We need to break the molds of the old humanistic worldview and create something new out of the old, not the destruction of the old but its metamorphosis into new worlds where the inhuman becomes our humanity. As Latour suggests we are living in the Anthroposcene era in which humanity is having an effect upon the base survival strategies of not only ourselves but of all organic life, Gaia being the focal point of that: and, the need to demystify her symbolic relations to both the older forms of the Greek Gods as well as the conceptions of Nature as a System or Order of Things guided by strict laws that can be reduced to some mathematical description to be dominated and controlled. This form of order of scientism is of no use, and is actually one of the principle and concerted problems we face in overcoming many of the natural catastrophes ahead. We need new forms, new conceptions or concepts; yet, most of all we need new poems, new images to guide us into this time. Poetry bring all of the worlds together in ways that descriptive science, history, and all other forms of writing cannot do. We need to believe in poetry again.

Chris Mars site:

1. Edwards, Justin; Graulund, Rune (2013-05-29). Grotesque (The New Critical Idiom) (p. 3). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
2. Paglia, Camille (1990-09-10). Sexual Personae (p. 99). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

The Folorn Desolation: A Faulkner Quote

Some days seem to be Faulkner days, moments when the forlornness of things, the vastation and desolation surrounding us suddenly juts its old head up and one is reminded of the darkness in the plummeting fold of the universe. Even when describing the mundane worlds of machinery he brings a sense of the decay and death of things, of the ruination toward which all things in this bright universe tend:

But some of the machinery would be left, since new pieces could always be bought on the installment plan— gaunt, staring, motionless wheels rising from mounds of brick rubble and ragged weeds with a quality profoundly astonishing, and gutted boilers lifting their rusting and unsmoking stacks with an air stubborn, baffled and bemused upon a stumppocked scene of profound and peaceful desolation, unplowed, untitled, gutting slowly into red and choked ravines beneath the long quiet rains of autumn and the galloping fury of vernal equinoxes .

– William Faulkner,   Light in August

Will They Discover Love

(Painting: Chris Mars)

What else are we but our utterance, our songs?
If some future critic disturbed my tomb, the dust
Of fact and history, what would she find
But a renegade soul, a
nomad with no place
To call his own, a traveler in a circus of time,
A local joker, a fool and drummer, a wisdom
Seeker in the cursed and terrible lands of laughter
And forgetting, son of a deadened thought of love;
A walker between worlds whose only crime
Is being open to all life and death a
Foreign and closer climes, a creature seeking
Nothing less than the best the mind ever was
Or could be i
n the potential of its life
On this blessed earth; else troubling
The shifting ways of those who follow me into
This void of nothingness, where joy is acceptance
Of the failures and the losses we accrue in life
With no fear of death nor dark thoughts above,
Below, or beyond the universe: time is all,
And we are here once around to enjoy it,
and live it. I
f they shook my bones, broke
My skull open, w
ould they find the truth
They seek, a hidden spark within the folds
ancient tears and heartless fears, else
The substance of my poems; o
r pick up
The traces in some artifact of lost time,

And like that poet of the shores and waves,
Discover in me a seer, a
 man whose mind
Blazed into earth seeking only figures
Of sadness and sorrow, fractured minds
So full of pain and doubt of all they’d known
Or been, a
 swerve toward madness to keep
Them and the explications o
f the human
Condition, the finitude and derision
Of our kind and place; o
r break my heart
In half and see in my dead life a joy, else
he victims and the crimes of humanity,
The strangeness and the lies undone,
The lonely tribe of solitaires who even now
Seem to wander in a maze of sorrow,
Both in and outside time seeking an answer
to the oldest questions: are we real or illusions,
A fractured fragile myth of decaying light in time,
Or a semblance of some gnostic formula:
An Archons black dream of chaos and night?

Will they ever realize I’m not the one
Their looking for, he’s gone and a
nother one
Peaks out of these darkening eyes in a living fire:
A maker and a seer of the earthly visions and songs,
A striver after
 forces of the universe that give
Us back our lives in a darkened sphere of love. 

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

A Siren’s Song


The skeptical heart believes in solitude,
A separate path, a lonely hill; a cave
Or wilderness of light bereft of human will,
The measure of a mind against the self.

A separate peace is unheard of in this place,
A swim among the loosening rocks breaks
Thought from shallow moments of confusion,
Weaving threads of sight beyond the darkness.

Some will know me when I come, and cause me harm.
The diffident ones shall rise among the siren cities
Casting doubt upon our migratory flights as we show
That what is difficult is best served cold and strange.

Most will turn away, go down, consider the lesser powers,
But those few that strive for the foremost place will know,
And in knowing be known among the higher lights of love;
Cost all they are to be, and be unbound by sorrow’s tribe.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.


The Fury’s Madness

Bittersweet the day she wept and fell:
Motherblood bereft, a child gone prey
And all the fool day long he slayed;
Casting what may come to murderous
, darkening pride finds a solitary
Fury waking in the night to judgment:
Winged and bladed, silver-steeled
Motion of justice blindly singes Hades
Breath, flies and flies till all is known;
Let’s loose upon the slayer’s mind,
And all his unlikely crimes of night:
The battle-maiden’s cry, vengeance
In the eye, and the broken wisdom

Of nightmare furies of the claw
And serpent; q
uick to light the darkness
Of his soul, s
he falls quickly on him
From above, w
hite-toothed hag sucking
Love that comes, b
rings slow pleasure
to degraded ecstasy in a black thought;

A victim of his own fractious designs,
Unspoken thoughts yielding no defense.
The once proud sky emptied of all sorrow:
Silence remains, and these dark brooding
Furies fulfill a destiny, unruly witnesses
o ancient debts of earth: a furious madness
Done and undone before the spinster moon
Spins the web of light against the cloven sun,
And all that is known and unknown in the mind
Fades to ruin in a unsung void of redressed loss.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.


After Virgil: A Lucretian Meditation


Should I believe in the myth of leaves,
The soul’s oblivion leaning into black waters;
Fingers stretching beyond the shore,
Cast off, blackened on the deadly sands;

The desperate anchorage, the ferryman,
The lonely gaze toward the distant sands,
Corruption’s slow leak of misery and pain:

The Stygian gleam far removed that stills
All temporal despair; the caged desires,
Beached a
nd soundless, milling about
For a hundred years; t
houghts of sorrow
Flashing across blank eyes
 turned inward;
Of time, the furtive guest: m
Anguish and a darkening fall into love?

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Merleau Ponty: The Life of Things


Our perception, in the context of our everyday concerns, alights on things sufficiently attentively to discover in them their familiar presence, but not sufficiently so to disclose the non-human element which lies hidden in them. But the thing holds itself aloof from us and remains self-sufficient … a resolutely silent Other.
– Merleau Ponty, Phenomenology

Knowing & Known As We Are

There is a heaviness, thick and full of menace,
An unreasoning at the heart of utterance: slow,
And methodical, a churning into rather than out
Into the great expanse of being; a sharpness,
Cutting inwardly, taking place of all the efforts,
Lacerations of the heart and mind, the torsions
Of the darkened soul before its laconic gestures;
The cause of being and becoming more, excess
In all things that language can never inscribe
Or horde, the hidden life of objects out of mind:
The invisible that touches us by other means
Than sense or eye, the indirect causation
That attends the miracle of flesh disembarking
From the turbulence of air and sky, tumbling
Toward a gravitas, a center and circumference
That can never in the momentary influx be;
Yet, is in what it means to be a becoming all
In flight of flight and light which causes us
To know and be in atonement of this judgment.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.


After We Fall Shall We Rise

They stood there on the threshold: a new earth
Appearing in phenomenal relief,  t
he bright
Shadows from the old garden casting feint glows
Upon all the deathly hues of vegetating nature
Seen below them in this silence of natural order;
The changing disorder and metamorphosis
Of raging seas and weather, rocky mountains
And the fires of thunderous volcanoes breaking
Over all the curtain of this unbidden realm
Before them that seemed their unchosen
Destination; t
heir faces full of tears and loss,
A Covering Cherub s
winging in the light above:
His flaming eyes and sword, his chastening
foreign to this green earth of love
Cast doubt u
pon the scene, saying,
“Be gone children of fallen time, n
o more
The hidden chambers of his love, the enchained
Wonders of his paradise; move on, fall down
Into this world m
ade by you who partook
Of pride and flesh, subdue t
his kingdom
Of pain and sorrow; for it is all that is left

To you who in broken pledge to him who gave
You life, d
isturbed the timeless hours
Of changelessness, for a motion and a quest
Toward all corruption and its cycles of earthly
Pleasures y
ou so needed in your lack
And poverty of imagination.
Be gone, I say;
the gate is closed to you forever and a day.”

They did not look back, those two whose minds
No longer gave thought to that curse, but headed
Down the path into the never-ending night of life
Knowing what that angel did not know: this is
As it should be, the way, the truth, the life
Of all things under heaven, a natural realm
Of life and death, of love and sorrow; the order
Of things in their continuous disharmony of being.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.


The Mad King Rides Again

(Image Credit: Marcela Bolivar)

My old bones shake upon this tree: I fall,
Rattling the cage, splayed upon this frame
Seeming to bend toward a namelessness:
A shifting in my head begetting images
Of her whose cold ways still ride among
Colder stones below these cracked bones,
Absolving flickering stars above and outside
All responsibility for wayward truth or lies;
While in hinterlands within the darker
Territories of the enchafèd brain
A strange and terrible war rages on:
Fierce warriors roam the ashen hills,
Their faces painted chalk blue, tattooed
And frizzled: white hair electrified by rage
Presents a tribal slippage into universal memory,
Where time and space resolve in martialed
Nightmare sequences of doubt and dismay
At cowardice on this green earth; and, we,
The sleepers in this dream begin to rise, awake
And die upon the strand, our ghosts wandering
In exile from our lives, while she to whom
My inner quest tends still roams free beyond
The edges of this frayed and fragile horizon
Of broken myths and mysteries, lost among
My thoughts: a blackened and decaying memory
Of her former self, alone and sorrowing, unblessed
And stained, corrupted by the very love I harbor.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.


Mad Song

I kissed a stone tonight,
it bled life. What beget
the images that find us,
make us, cast us out;

that stir the blood to moan
and sing; the moon
and rain to hate us so,
against the grey world
of want and poverty.
A madness in the mind
moves the tidal hive:
the sea escapes
its loaded dice,
and casts

upon the shore
a darkened thought
of her;
and I,
even I, begin to wake

to break and fall.
Stallions of the sea
are rushing
through me now:

the wild and free

of nothingness

inside my mind:
a banshee
cold and fierce,
 singer and her fright,
the lonely wail
and pain
of her black heart;

and her sister

follow us
into these hills,

where foraging
on his hands
and knees
we find

the old mad king
in his memories
for you and I,

and singing
ditties to the beasts

of love and sorrow,
and of the dark
that calls us all
to its final overthrow in light
beyond the light.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.


Love’s Bankruptcy

Having faced this once before, I understood the passage:
The slow appeal to all one has suffered, the sudden freeze
Of green upon the seamless surface of the lake; a cause
Less sure than it was before: yet, in the solitude it comes
As a relief, a way forward seen past the icy quay’s cracked
Ironies, w
here Winter’s rooks fight for Spring in a mad clash
Of feathered anxiety, and the waking guests spy two lovers
Wandering through an imaginary sea framed by a burst
Of froth upon the cosmic shores of an enclosed room of stars,
Where gulls assemble clouds and bridge two worlds of lust;

And I touch the face of light that bends into the afternoon,
Remembering her gold-flecked life whose bankruptcy cost
Me not less than everything I am or was in a sudden dare.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.


Old-Timer’s in Hell

Was this the promise of a better life:
Part-time work in a world you owe
More than you do or say, brought down
Punched out, a time-clock life
Without the hope of other ways
And means, the good life gone
Into the sink, the dregs of day
And night, the unsung hymns to a
(shall we name it or let it go down)
Forgotten dream now gone among
the roaches scrambling in your kitchen,
And the festering wounds – and, no insurance:
Bosses that should not be bosses
Tyrannizing and enforcing strict lines of pain,
Their eyes no longer human speaking
As if they were all King’s and Queen’s
To be obeyed like immutable gods of steel;
While your paycheck is less than the sum
Of effort s
pent barely for the subsistence:
A woman or a man, old and without recourse,
Greeting people who could care less, smiling
As if they truly cared, the sorrow in their eyes
Hiding in the light that once lived inside a real life.
Is this the dignity of old age and the motions of love?

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.


Clueless in New York City

All those sophisticates
In New York City
Think we’re trailer trash,
Fit for tin-can alley;
They have no clue
What a working man’s blues,
And a troubling few do here:
Might be in struggling
Against their bigotry,
With their uppity noses
in the blasted sky;
Pigeon-holed and
Dove-tailed too,
They assume we’re fools;
But like everything
We live our lives
Beyond such foolishness
As smart-phones, thousand-
Dollar watches, hair-dos
And coiffeur to a rich man’s gaze;
Instead we have love,
And simple values: dreams of fish
And freedom, with no need
Of fancy Porches or Lamborghini’s;
Only time for our lady and children,
Our taste in beer and whiskey,
A boat on the river and a rod-n-reel;
Take in a dance on Saturday night,
Listen to the roar of NASCAR
Or football on the tube; else blare
The country music station till we smile.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.


Visiting the American Ruins

Cities are dirty, filthy things full of open sores.
One sees the signs, the blatant lies, the ruins
Of buildings crumbling in shadows on the slide;
The movement of our lives, migrations from
And too, like herds of cattle trailing jobs:
Out with the old, in with the new; but new is out,
And never will return, and only a great darkening
Shall haunt these regions of steel and iron, rust
And the crush of concrete myths against the night:
The people with empty eyes sit inside their ghettoes,
Waiting, waiting for something, someone, a way to go.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.