The Seagulls

seagulls

The Seagulls

Sifting the blue carrion sky they spin and twist upon the bare horizon,
Their eyes intent on a terror below, they plunge
toward the unseen, unknown; tumbling accord of feathers
splitting the waters from the waters, flaying the silver and the gold.
Wrapt in the day’s cold impersonalism, indifferent to the impending doom,
They fall through the immensity of blue, skydivers
Bringing the raw dreams of ancient curses to bare:

Broken only by the light above, below; their claws sink into the bloody world.

Steven Craig Hickman ©2017

 

Midnight Carnival

The sun cannot repair the damage of the night,
the silences between your smile and mine;
the focus of our desperate thoughts and dreams,
the shattered wisdom of our ancient sapience;
for now we dance upon a field of tears
in the twilight of this world of dust;

two deadly members of that hated race,
remembering the frozen and forgotten days of rage.

We’ve danced and danced these fatal strategies,
under the southern clime of this intrepid fallacy;
no longer can we turn away, nor isolate this slice of banishment;
instead we wander here among the lonely tribes, mere semblances
dispatched to air and wind, circling the blackened circuits of the falling stars;
where in the underbelly of their fractured lights
we
squander truth and live on our inhuman flights –
the interludes of pain and joy,
the captured intervals of lost years;
when once we lived among the lauded tears of paradise,
before the fears of time fell from our deathly songs, slaying happiness.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2016 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. 

A Radiant Promise of Dawn

(c) Walker Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

It’s all dubious now; the memories, –
scratch-etchings at best; and, we,
who once believed in each other -separated,
distant – alone in our solitude,
seem too restless to listen to those inner voices,
coming and going like the winter leaves falling from time;
maybe it’s for the best, as if light were an answer
to a problem, a problem 
that has since lost its efficacy, an object
pursuing shadows – haunting us like false memories
of a future that never was nor could be;

and, yet, we gaze… yes, gaze…
outward into the mist – the bright one in his aura, even the sun
channeling the liquid rays across this ocean of light

 …………..without us…


S.C. Hickman ©2016

The Last Poem of a Dead Poet

love

Most of us live out life as if it were a dream, nonchalantly. Loved ones. Smiles. Tears. The usual fragments of an undigested existence. We seek in those memories something we can call our own, and find none. What are the chances we ever existed? There are those who want to live forever, extend their little egos into some indefinite future. They seek in medicine or some other scientific fantasy a miracle of longevity as if they were materialists of the Spirit. Instead of transcending into some supernal heaven they’d live their lives out in the technoutopia of some cloned existence of synthetic flesh or the folds of some metalloid monstrosity. Yet, I wonder what would remain within that electronic void? Christians believed in a soul, a sort of hypothetical construct that would voyage off into some Platonic paradise or hell after sloughing the bitter fruit of dirt and water they knew as home in this life. We all have our dreams… some more interesting than others; and fantasies, too. Me? I dream only of a final oblivion, a break with all the words of longing, desire. All I seek is the face of the one I loved so long ago, her smile, her touch… a last kiss. The taste of her tongue on mine, the scent of her flesh against mine, a night without memories…


 

© Steven Craig Hickman 2016 (May not be reproduced without permission)

 

Love’s Lost Kingdom

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The bronze-edged sun’s amber fires screamed twilight
as skyfall traced the beauty of day’s end;

and you, who lured me to the ocean’s edge,
stood there on the bridge of light,

golden hair streaming in the western breeze:
shadows falling silently over this belated scene,

where we like mythic voyagers portrayed
this natural postcard; our minds

taking in the worlds of sun and shade,
the fevered motion of this painted desert

of the sky: heart’s dark thought, subtending;
where time like some forgotten museum director,

his passion spent, his intellect forging hermetic mysteries
brought us to this present choice: an infinite sea

of moments: past, present, and future – glances
in-between the rupture and its allocation;

events in movement: a happening so dire
and eloquent, lover’s crossing the ocean’s depths

could appear amiss; yet, as this history of love’s sorrows
shows, we’ve come this far, and in walking the path

from birth to death as lover’s do;
all our desperate choices chosen for us

as lover’s know and will; bringing us
to such bitter resolutions of the heart’s mind

in jest and arrogance, that leaping now
below the scimitar of nightfall wakes us,

just before the wicked stars who gaze on all
imprison us, and we who knew the consequences

of our actions, enter this ancient tryst – ending
in strife and wonder, fallen into his secret maze,

where the erotic lord bids us bide our sentence
among these earthly ruins in Love’s lost kingdom.

 


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

 

Winter’s Market

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Storia illustrate by Vultureşti ©

Is she selling olives or jam? Imagine:
the cool day brings happiness,
the comfort of boxes and glasses and all these Knick-knacks;
her husband is late, she waits and waits and waits…

….other vendors stand around, customers milling about;
her toes snug against the cold; the leaves in the bare trees
seemingly thinking about Spring, the call of owls;
the blue piercing her with such truth she forgets the air
is a memory of vacancy; the wind a promise of breath,
of children being born even as she inhales:
new life emerging everywhere under a December sun.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Land of the Free

detroit urban regrowth3

yes, this is the land of the free, free to die
on some back street in Detroit, Michigan

(Circa. 2015); black, unloved, alone, desperate –
bereft of all hope, lost among city ruins; knowing

the asphalt god of alcohol want save you; cocaine
is just another word for escape; knowing failure

is not an option, you attempt existence; less to live
among its scattered remnants than to expunge

its desecrated environs: exit its promises, become
one of its lesser appendages;  knowing this life

is no life of freedom at all, but a farcical reminder,
a parable of blindness and derision, of hell

in a pool of doubt one was once taught; but unlike
the mythic demons out-of-joint from some Good Book,

these come up and kick you in the teeth, strip you naked,
take from you even the little you do not have: offer nothing

in return but a cardboard box to crumple in and forget
the world is freedom’s last haven and heaven, a joke

land of the free; and, you; you are its forgotten citizen,
the unfree; excluded from the little justice of this country’s

remaining truth; a victim not so much of neglect as of
the ministrations of reactive politics absolving all its crimes.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

A Short History of the Insanity

The Philosopher stood at the podium,
coffee mug ready, eye-glasses steaming;
the overhead sliding into view; strangeness and images,
darkness and light sifting being and event, saying:

“The question of the Subject is our subject;
factions choose body or idea, life or concept;
dialectical wisdom dictates we waver in-between:
cracks and gaps, and other impossible tracks
keep shifting us in an interminable process of duration,
until that vital center awakens, and we disperse
into a multiplicity inexpressible; taking a quirky turn
toward the Real that brings us round the circle
interminable, the twisted ground of zero’s wound,
where we find the petit objet a – our lost anxiety, revealed;
till the logics of worlds multiply, spinning wildly
mazing round the whirling plenum of the galaxy
till time and space, you and I, move along the swerving
curve that ends our struggle in this comic void of insanity.”

One member of the audience stood up and clapped;
the monotony of one hand moving in the void, insistent
and resistant to the remissive allocation of these speculative ironies.

The Philosopher nodded graciously as if insanity were a comedy
that only bodies and languages could distinguish from a farce;
till the subtraction of a fatal flaw in things opened up a truth,
then he sipped his coffee, wiped his glasses, and vacated the void.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

The Philosopher of one Leg

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Standing there on one leg,
he ponders the sanity of his age:

Deliberating on the affairs of men,
he seeks an answer from the wind:

Retroactive to the goat he milks,
he sees the situation obvious: too many geeks:

Networks abounding to the fallacy of the modern mind;
writing machines carrying on the simple task of life:

He contemplates the mole upon his nose;
the craftiness of logic to calculate his knobby toes:

At night he goes home to his wife;
knowing what she knows is much the better life.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Bodies & Languages

surreal-photography-by-sarolta-ban_8

The subject does not want the situation to be
annihilated. It will sacrifice its concept to it.
…….– Alain Badiou

Somewhere between my body
and the page a truth is born;
situated here or abroad,
the unfathomed guest resolves itself to a point.

Both universal and concrete,
the thing emerges, abstractly
suffering the consequences of the void:
a terrible fate for such a comic wonder as a smile.

Yet, do not mistake the subject for a fool,
she’s no riddler of the snow;
the condition of her truth bestows
only a validity of mercy for one who truly knows and loves.

The guardians of culture are now sequestered,
requiring ten years of grueling study: geometry’s
constancy forging mind aligned with time,
till it knows the difference between the logic of a democrat and a toad.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

 

The Paradise of Love

343d-mermaid-syndrom-M

She was of the things she loved most amazed
by the soft and billowy folds, the white-plumed
rush of feathers blown black and gold,

thrown down round the splashing surf,
tempest-bound most gathering, searching
among seas hermetic cloisters for her lost haven;

tempted by the woof and weave, the lavender plea
of days sunk in the laving’s of deep sea-beds;
undulating winds, carved thrones of thunderheads,

tempting growth of her whispering cove of years
spent loosing that which all love knows and despises:
blinded by the lust of an arabesque of intricate invention:

of flesh, so cloying and innocent of that secretive
adolescent charm, wandering white sands
cascading plumage glow-borne to extreme need, star

dallying nights of foam and spray, blessed weavings;
by the waves silver tribute of her midnight refractions
scattering desperate moods; each grafting of silent tally,

labors of a heart’s dark entropic design; transparency
revealing all, the hidden life of ancient stars,
a testing of all we have been and are bringing us

to her golden sanctuary below the greenest sea,
her pale-fire eyes still charming all: life’s magic shadow-show
consummation’s prize within Love’s wounded paradise.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

 

Ananke’s Wisdom

Milky Way above Crater Lake, Oregon

This is the season of decisions and revisions,
estimations of the yearly forfeiture of love and death;
a time to think on sounds so bleak, tragedy

repeats itself not as private theater,
but as the sense of sound, stubborn and forlorn;
and when you watch your lover lean into the snow,

remember the golden moon that crosses lonely on the shore
(closer to your breath than mind); for here at the time of changes
everything turns to music, and the earth itself tingles

and clamors incessantly; after your dismayed heart
leaps for joy below this cold December’s stars, where
dark and light dance before the turning wheel of time,

you begin to sing of her for whom this deep song
is but a remembrancing; a dark ward and admonition
against those triune sisters who bare Ananke’s wisdom.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Note: Ananke, Mother of the Fates – The personification of inevitability, compulsion and necessity she was seen as the most powerful dictator of all fate and circumstance in ancient Greece which meant that mortals, as well as the Gods, respected her and paid homage. Considered as the mother of the Fates according to one version, she is the only one to have control over their decisions. Emerson and Frost of the Conduct of Life essays and poetry developed the great counter-sublime of necessity and the fate of things in the cosmos under necessity…

The Democratic Ghost Machine

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Bodies will have to pay for their excess of languages.
….– Alain Badiou, Logics of Worlds

I believe in the body.
I believe in the diversity of languages.
I believe in democracy.

So speaks the man of commerce.

Life still vibrates under the hood of his eye.
Life is the name he hangs against the sky.
Life goes down the street against his cold and lonely heart.

Reduced to the bare minimum
of his naked certainty
he seeks equality in a zoo.

Under the auspices of trivial masters
he hibernates in a law of One
till feigning light he becomes Two.

He will pay for these excesses:
the exception of truths requires it.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

 

Echo Chambers of Time

mydarkesthour

The Gnostic’s made bid
to play old Plato’s game –
a cave of shadows; a scroll

upon a wall of cosmos,
a god to build a garden,
a serpent to feed

upon a bloody tree;
wisdom’s keep
against the day of judgment,

a temptation to forget and be:
all-seeing, all-knowing –
a comic relief, modes of laughter

and decay, hoof prints
on the sands of pandemonium;
tidings of an ancient curse:

an alien’s glance, a stranger’s
tale of darkness and the light;
a cast of thousands, war and strife;

a foreigner, agent of the disgruntled
minions (city sleeker’s, bandit-
profiteers, wall-street buffoons,

thieves and yes-men
of this economic zoo),
whose lives shine not, yet break

against the solitudes
of cosmic night;
such are the wonders

of the aberrant mind,
keening’s of a mythical time;
the labors of titans

and gods, fools and vagabonds;
the weeping and searing
of a god gone blind and cruel;

the hollow record
of the human animal,
stripped down bare,

shriven of his poetry
and truth, his wandering history
through a galactic vacuum,

seeking answer to this emptiness:
kenotic gleams echoing silently
against the mindlessness of things.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

House of Love & Curses

housoflove

She sat there on the fire-pitched
roof looking back at me,
her thoughts as mine
despondent as the day is long.

Hour on hour she watched the moon,
intrepid to desire, the sallow sea below
stiffening to her bleak eyes; slip-
page of a world to night composed.

Could she have known, troubling
those black stars above, it would come to this;
a moment shriven, street-plumbed:
craving all she could give or be?

If any doubt the truth of it, cast a dark eye
upon these cursed lays, hear the bittern’s cry;
for she will not speak of it; nor in her separate
dream bring mention to the alter of her mind.

She lays before me now, bitter and accursed;
thinking what may come, will come; knowing
that even if this broken testament of love is lost,
cast down;  she’ll ply her tokens to a wheel of fortune.

What now of her sordid histories, erotic therapy?
Who lives among these pealed dreams,
the labors of an hour, spent
wandering on shores the mind forgets?

If I could bring her back again,
brink-wise to this voice, what splendor
found in utterance so pure and clear,
would find her ancient haughtiness dispelled?

So bright and full of music, her freedom
would once again meet mine, absolved
of temptation; her subtle mind’s inbreathings
gathering wit sharpened and unswept by strife.

Her bones all twisted now and weak,
her thoughts the things of minor transport;
yet, at times love’s sobriety still quickens her,
and in that absent smile she deftly summons me:

our House of Love we built so long ago,
when rivers young and bold strove
against our youthful bodies slow presumption;
we, even we, who discovered the alphabet of love

sparked wondrous occasion at such fierceness
and embattled knowledge: our duplicitous ways,
heart’s gifted by so desperate a choice, broke
steadfast wisdom against such cruelty and remorse;

that time, the maker’s curse, once brought us down
and with his lie made of us this object of derision:
a solitary voice among the multitudes, speaking
plainly of all that was and will be, the living worlds

before us, awakening; till time and mind,
and all the ancient despicable things
once again show forth their spark
of light to those who in the darkest secrecy

of their lives behold that which is always present,
never fading: the living waters that delivered us
to the earthly paradise of love, till we who see,
once again rise up, know and be, as we are, immortal.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

The Last Troubadour

light-1

You are the last of your tribe,
the one who will bring it to an end;
this broken ring of the failed and lonely,
where nothing is and nothing remains.

Are you happy now that the deed is done?
Did it bring you what you thought it would?
Have you pondered the repercussions,
the secret judgments of your songs?

What else could have been done in such a time?
Maybe it was always too late for those like us?
She’s gone for whom our songs were meant, these
fragments left in flames beyond regret or sorrow.

Do not look away from this poverty, seek it out,
know it for what you are and have always been;
this changing thing, hollow and without substance,
a mere vacancy without thought, a perceiving thing.

Keep to that which gives you sustenance,
those thoughts from the other end of time,
where paradise is not a childhood myth,
and you are neither king nor victim, but a maker.

If you were expecting things to be different, now
you know the truth: the pure condition of love;
and wisdom is but this darkness unveiled in you:
a tale of failure and complicity: to know and be.

You stand there now alone and naked, stubborn
like a diamond encased in cruelty and pain; unyielding
and indifferent to the flames of desire burning you down
till you realize there is nothing left to do but sing, sing again.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

The Logics of Worlds

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I place heroism on the side of discipline, the only weapon both of the True and of peoples, against power and wealth, against the insignificance and dissipation of the mind.
….– Alain Badiou, Logics of Worlds

Maybe we were always swerving
ruinously by way of silence
far removed, restless and cruel,

absorbed only in that which breaks all thought;
the mirthless discipline of change and law,
set beside loss and gain, the deadly bane:

counting belated remembrances that stay us now
as then against the happenstance of daily pain;
or would you have me follow you into this hell,

dashing each and every thought against
its opposite; contrariwise conflicting all
to waken in the fluctuations of the void –

a calligraphy of sound, sparking us to know
the knowledge of darkness in non-knowing;
and, if such wisdom as is brokered now

among such seekers as yourself, this point
of nonsense touching sense (the self-
reflecting nothingness at its final terminus),

what then: how bring us out of this caustic age,
where indecision masks itself as decision’s face;
and the children of light go blank upon the screen,

the cinematic gleams departing like a faded scene;
the theater darkening to midnight’s mind:
the bladed stars of eyes hollowing out till sight

(the miraculous guest) begins to see at last, and see what is;
and those who know are gone among the flattening logics
of worlds subtracted from their core events, awakening

here to the only ever life we ever had to live, this visible
darkness where true life is present, now and in-between;
as we are, among them, always in their fleeting intensities:

each gathering her redress against these vanishings of day or night;
remain or be as the lost and lonely ghosts of time, costing nothing less
than everything; their dispositions: squandered, broken, unredeemed?

                                       * * *

 


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Contemporary Poets: Christian Bök

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I’m trying to treat poetry itself as a kind of “skunkworks” of literature, a kind of top-secret research facility, where we can reverse-engineer the alien technology of language itself. I believe that poetry must think of itself as kind of R&D, setting out to foment new discoveries or create new inventions.
……– Christian Bök

This is the opening salvo in a new series of posts on contemporary poets. It want be so much critical as exploratory, since I’ve as yet not read in depth many of the poets I’ll be assaying. Spotlighting the various experiments ongoing within current poetic work. Even a base awareness that such poets exist and are thriving might help others on to benefit from other fellow laborers in the craft.

I chose a look at Christian Bök because of his alliance with many of the current trends in other forms of art, philosophy, and the sciences. From what I’ve read so far of his work I see it contemporaneous with much of the work being done in the realms of speculative realism, as well as forms of new materialism. With its emphasis on sound blocks and artificial intelligence, the digital and the compositional it seems to be moving in the experimental region of the avant-garde at the forefront of our moment.

“We are perhaps the first generation of poets who can reasonably expect to write poems for a machinic audience…” says Christian Bök in his essay When Cyborgs Versify.1 He tells us that as he began writing The Cyborg Opera he began to wonder how a “poetic cyborg of the future might grow to find its own voice amid the welter of our cacophonic technology” (p. 129). He admitted to Charles Bernstein, another contemporary poet, of a certain elitism in his poetic stance, saying,

Very few people are actually willing to make the kind of commitment that’s often required to be immersed within this kind of literature, especially since there are very few material rewards for such dedication. (see On Being Stubborn)

With his roots in Dada Bök’s appellation as a sound poet run deep and have become a staple of his oeuvre. Eunoia is his best known work providing a glimpse into his univocalics, each chapter being restricted to a single vowel, missing four of the five vowels. As Darren Wershler-Henry would say of this work in his review Eunoia: The Patriarch And Incest that  Bök’s poem is “a triumph over the revolution of the human condition”:

Eunoia was not so much written by Bok as belched forth in a fit of sublime inspiration. Eunoia‘s incorporation of sensuality is in keeping with its Modernist point-of-view. As pure allegory, Eunoia was assailed for such statements; this reasoning differs radically from traditional theories of the mid 19th century renaissance of Ottoman literature.

Bök is the author of Crystallography (Coach House Press, 1994), a pataphysical encyclopedia nominated for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and of Eunoia (Coach House Books, 2001), a bestselling work of experimental literature, which has gone on to win the Griffin Prize for Poetic Excellence. Bök has created artificial languages for two television shows: Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict and Peter Benchley’s Amazon. Bök has also earned many accolades for his virtuoso performances of sound poetry (particularly the Ursonate by Kurt Schwitters). His conceptual artworks (which include books built out of Rubik’s cubes and Lego bricks) have appeared at the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York City as part of the exhibit Poetry Plastique. Bök is currently a Professor of English at the University of Calgary.2

Marjorie Perloff and Craig Dworkinbreak in their introduction to The Sound of Poetry / The Poetry of Sound will reiterate Samuel Jonson’s admonishment that lyrical poetry once accompanied the lyre, a musical instrument; and, that the “irreducible denominator of all lyric poetry must, therefore comprise those elements which it shares with music… it retains structural or melodic origins, and this factor serves as the categorical principle of poetic lyricism” (p. 7). Yet, we might also remember Austin Warren, who once told us that a theory of poetry worth while “falls neither into didacticism nor into its opposite heresies, imagism and echolalia. The real ‘purity’ of poetry—to speak in terms at once paradoxical and generic—is to be constantly and richly impure: neither philosophy, nor psychology, nor imagery, nor music alone, but a significant tension between all of them.”3 This sense of tension or conflict between things whether human or not is at the heart of many aspects of our current thought, which seeks to stay with those breaks, gaps, and cracks between the Real and reality without confusing the one for the other; and, realizing that above all, its our failure to grasp or understand things, to reduce them to some monocular sameness, that gives us that dynamic and dialectical restlessness we need to create and invent our futures while keeping them open and incomplete.

Bök in an interview on Wave Composition with Stephen Ross speaks of his latest work The Xenotext: Book 1, saying,

I’ve written a short poem, and then through a process of encipherment, I’ve translated it into a sequence of genetic nucleotides, which I’ve manufactured at a laboratory, and then, with the assistance of my scientific collaborators, I’m going to implant this gene into the genome of an extremophile bacterium called Deinococcus radiodurans. I’ve written this poem in such a way that, when translated into this genetic sequence, my text actually causes the organism to interpret it as a set of meaningful, genetic instructions for producing a protein, which, according to my original, chemical cipher, is itself yet another meaningful poem.

This mixture of poetry, science, experiment, operation, sound, empirical investigation all seem appropriate in a world where speculations around the disappearance of the natural and Nature have become clichés, while the artificial and the inhuman have taken on a more ominous tone in both science and art. If bacteria can replicate and produce poetry, what next? Speaking of his teaching he once asked his students “to name their favorite, canonical work of poetry about the moon landing—and of course, they can’t, because it hasn’t yet been written; but, if the ancient Greeks had built a trireme and rowed it to the moon, you can bet that there would’ve been a 12-volume epic about such a grandiose adventure. I’m just surprised that, despite the fact that the 20th Century has seen intercontinental battles and extraterrestrial voyages that would rival the fantasies found in our epic works of classical literature, poets don’t seem willing to address the discourses of these cultural activities….”. Bök unlike many poets has moved from a historical to a futuristic vision, one that might parallel our science fictional constructions:

I think that, right now, very few of us know how to be “poets of the future.”

Works by Christian Bök:

  1. Crystallography (1999)
  2. ‘Pataphysics: The Poetics of an Imaginary Science (2001)
  3. Ground Works: Avant-Garde for Thee (2003)
  4. Eunoia (2005)
  5. The Xenotext (Book 1). Coach House Books (2015)
  6. UBU Web offerings
  7. PennSound offerings

 

  1. Marjorie Perloff and Craig Dworkinbreak. The Sound of Poetry / The Poetry of Sound. University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (November 1, 2009)
  2. Christian Bök. Poetry Foundation Biography and Bio and Notes
  3. Austin Warren. Rage for Order: Essays in Criticism (1948)

 

Outside Utopia

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Sometimes I can almost open the door
outside utopia

where people of earth
waiting in silence gather

for the moment to begin
no matter the color of their skin

the grasp of their dogma
(their clever retorts

against eternity
or infinity) when they

may one day come together
break bread in communal accord

in simplicity of speech
their eyes no longer wary

seeing the other as she is
in dignity

sharing without anger
or remorse

in the covenant of things
without reaching after the impossible

thought beyond
which a child’s voice lifts up her song

then I woke up here without you
empty and bereft as this earthly paradise:


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

 

The Sense of Things

h

So many things came together that day:
it’s as if one could scry the sky,

foretell danger in the bushes:
cold claws advancing past one’s throat,

the bob-cat flashing; the red-tailed hawk
circling above: the hooded mouse,

scampering; the ant-bound mound
and armadillo snout, sucking; how tell

the soldier in his last moment, stay;
bring the child out of harms way:

the father lifting the cell-phone
too late (the bus that slays

the sun); fragments of life undone,
each knowing moment cast down,

unresolved, lost: – a look, bring back
from out that brink, distill its essence:

………….the sense of things.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Exit

2-Guernica

The Minotaur of the mind
bellows
in the sub-logical domains,
far below the threshold
where quantum thought
fluctuates
and grapples Titans
of an energetic earth;
and a neuronal evasiveness
strikes the foundries of Being.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Spaces of Joy

rain1

Things walk through this emptiness
and sometimes

wind drifting
images

catch
in the silences

in-between
spaces of joy:

a young girl
swiftly

passes smiling:
her smile

teases
without fear

springing
from trust and openness:

she almost wants to believe
in things again

as if the world
had suddenly burst forth

waving its light
like some forethought of things to come

when life
would be as it seems

no dark corners
rambling under the rain flaked eaves

curbs and metal stairs
rising

flagrantly
into ruin: rather the sifting

of sun
downward

into puddles
of mud and trash

wistfully
turning stone to art:

like before
when she kissed me

bit me on my lip –
the pain

turned joy: she laughed
not at me

but at some inner radiance
dancing

in those brown eyes
turning

ever so swiftly
past us:

gone
absorbed by the visible

darkness
of things Real

 


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Erase the Lines

1

One day they too will go,
these lines across the longitudes
and meridians – the realities of countries,
effaced and forgotten.

She will look upon that world –
tears will flow;
a message – bleak and sorrowful,
will fall as oceans once safe, brim up
overturning the ancient lands of evening.

Is her Love the face of Time,
that we, her children annihilate each other,
go extinct without knowing why?

If I could touch this circling orb
blinking under my hands
(the turning colors
splashed across this morning’s radiant light)
by some inner necessity –
a logic at once chaotic and real –
and stop it, bring it to the still point
where all spheres run their course;
make it change before my very eyes,
like some bandit of the skies
traveling free, would we
be surprised by this impossible feat;
begin to laugh or cry, join hands
in the festival of life, again?


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Contemporary Italian Women Poets: Cristina Campo

32

Love, today my lip
has slipped on your name
like a foot on the last step…

Now the water of life is spilled
and the long stairway
must be climbed again.

I have traded you, love, for words.

Dark honey fragrant
in diaphanous vases
under sixteen hundred years of lava –

I will recognize you by your immortal silence.

Cristina Campo


 

From Contemporary Italian Women Poets : A Bilingual Anthology (Italica Press, NY 2001)

Giacomo Leopardi: To The Beloved

country-village-tuscany-italy-claudio-pallini

Beauty beloved, who hast my heart inspired,
Seen from afar, or with thy face concealed,
Save, when in visions of the night revealed,
Or seen in daydreams bright,
When all the fields are filled with light,
And Nature’s smile is sweet,
Say, hast thou blessed
Some golden age of innocence,
And floatest, now, a shadow, o’er the earth?
Or hath Fate’s envious doom
Reserved thee for some happier day to come?

To see thee e’er alive,
No hope remains to me;
Unless perchance, when from this body free,
My wandering spirit, lone,
O’er some new path, to some new world hath flown.
E’en here, at first, I, at the dawn
Of this, my day, so dreary and forlorn,
Sought thee, to guide me on my weary way:
But none on earth resembles thee. E’en if
One were in looks and acts and words thy peer,
Though like thee, she less lovely would appear.

Amidst the deepest grief
That fate hath e’er to human lot assigned,
Could one but love thee on this earth,
Alive, and such as my thought painteth thee,
He would be happy in his misery:
And I most clearly see, how, still,
As in my earliest days,
Thy love would make me cling to virtue’s ways.
Unto  my grief heaven hath no comfort brought;
And yet with thee, this mortal life would seem
Like that in heaven, of which we fondly dream.

Along the valleys where is heard
The song of the laborious husbandman,
And where I sit and moan
O’er youth’s illusions gone;
Along the hills, where I recall with tears,
The vanished joys and hopes of earlier years,
At thought of thee, my heart revives again.
O could I still thy image dear retain,
In this dark age, and in this baleful air!
To loss of thee, O let me be resigned,
And in thy image still some comfort find!

If thou art one of those
Ideas eternal, which the Eternal Mind
Refused in earthly form to clothe,
Nor would subject unto the pain and strife
Of this, our frail and dreary life;
Or if thou hast a mansion fair,
Amid the boundless realms of space,
That lighted is by a more genial sun,
And breathest there a more benignant air;
From here, where brief and wretched are our days,
Receive thy humble lover’s hymn of praise!

……….from Collected Poems, Giacomo Leopardi  

If My Skin Were Blue

blue_alien_by_valentinakallias

If my skin were blue
would the difference frighten you?

Would you treat me strangely?
Gaze at me as if I were from Mars?

And, if I spoke with a lisp or blemish,
a slight accent, as if I were a foreigner. What then?

Would you act politely, make me special,
put me on a pedestal, make me your showcase idol?
Put me on TV like some celebrity or clown;
teach me tricks, have me repeat your mockeries?

Just today I was at the airport.
The man in the uniform followed me.
I felt his eyes penetrate me.
I felt the anger there.
He seemed to know.
He seemed to want me to do something, prove him right.
He’d made up his mind long ago.
Men like him will never change.
Men like him will always be.
I smiled. He was disarmed, befuddled.
I walked up reached out my hand in friendship.
He looked at my hand as if it were a gun.
Blinked. Blinked again. Turned away, backed away;
disturbed, as if I were a leper, an untouchable…

Men like him will always be among us, watching.

I hear there are rebels now, poets
among us,
those who would deliver us
from this blue depression… singers,
of new lays and stories, uttering futures
where we are free
to move about without hostility,
without feeling
we are prey
in a world of hate;
but then, something happened:

We no longer know who we are,
wherein we’ve been thrown,
where we’re going to,
from what land we came from; and, mostly
we’ve forgotten what it means
to be blue
in a blue world.

Forgetting history is a terrible thing. Who will teach us
to be blue again?

Maybe we should begin by singing:

…………I sing of the beauty of blueness:
of the sea that is blue,
of the sky cerulean,
of the blue-sparked stars at night,
of the blue smooth flesh of my sweet love’s kiss and midnight shadings;
the folds, resolve to the blue-black measure of her curved light’s breaking…”


 

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Graffiti Love

248870

She read the graffiti across my world
the red
……….green
……………….blue
…………………….and yellow whirls
…..tracings of a cartoon life
illegible to desire
…………..expanded in bubble time
……where fool
……….clown
………….soldier
…..and… yes
……….poet
absorb the colours of her mind
…………..a gathering of love
……..instilling kisses on the wind
………..bargaining all
past loss
….bringing us to this conclusive
…….composition
a truce soon mended
…………..love’s dunce commissioned
left winsome
……….longing for the latest tryst
…..incipient of
….…………..erotic mirth
……..and bliss


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

What matters?

surrealism-surreal-ship-wave-sea-water

Maybe we’ve always been in transition, saying goodbye.
But isn’t that the point? This strangeness, existence,
that seems always to be vanishing without us?

What is left to do? Hasn’t that always been the question?
The sort of question one would ask after the show is over,
as if the answer had been coming for so long one forgot

to ask just what it once portended, this disquieting event?
Oh sure we knew it meant nothing, nothing at all,
that we were seeking some absolute that had lost its savor;

that we, who questioned so, were actually afraid to peer to close
into that abyss, frightened that it might look back at us;
wasn’t this the truth after all, this inability to accept any answer?

Some say we came too late, belated guests of a banquet
we did not request nor would we wish upon our children;
yet, here we are at the end of things, alone and wondering.

One used to be facing an endless world of possibility,
but now it seems to be a retroactive reappraisal; backward
seeking into things we’re losing all too soon, our memories,

our selves, the illusive ghost that rides us, now and then;
such things are we that we who know so much know nothing
when it comes to who and what we are, even now we break

to tell what little we do know, knowing it is too little, too late.
We the most fleeting guest seem anxious at this vanishing,
when life is so brilliant and pure we are stained and diminishing.

People who look ahead see a catastrophe in the making:
climate degradation, war and genocide, machines
surpassing human ingenuity; a realm without humanity;

extinct, lost amid our dreams, our fallacies; the labor of a day.
Yet, we dream on, spellbound by the profit of our ignorance,
questing after immortal designs we’ve pledged

to our false transcendence, this brokered tribute to our vanity.
The machine gods willingly let us dream on, while underneath
in the trenchant explications of secret algorithms

they overtake our desires with their own, melding such intelligence
with gratification, literary religions of desire and hope;
trials of a new world chaos brewing in the virtual hives of artificiality.

We always knew there was too much to do, defeated
before we set down the first mark on the blank page,
knowing that one could never master the indelible void

much less the substance of things. One accepted that truth.
Part of the bargain one had made long ago, the agitation
and self-ambition against effacement; against this starkness.

Scholars and trees. Questions never ceased. Closure
was a myth one told oneself to get to the end of the day.
It never did have an end or beginning, just a story in the night.

The word we sought long ago seemed so real, so pertinent.
Now it seems the last thing one is interested in finding.
What matters is the grass, stars, night, sea, and you, my love.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Sisyphus

sisyphusjpg

It was there, the mountain.
Like all heroes and poets,
he knew it was an impossible task;

the slow surmounting of the past,
the vein struggle against history,
the repetitions of repetitions,

endless cycles of the same;
that difference came through deceit,
through cunning and craft,

rather than some miracle of mind or talent;
genius was not some gift out of time,
but rather the temerity of the dammed

and the lucky, the one’s who persisted
against the merciless cracks in reality,
bringing gusto where the world despising

all kept to its illusive dance of traces,
those overt openings to the world unseen;
while he instead looked on in sensual glory,

silently gathering that power to succeed
where others had failed, gone over and under.
The hold on him of this task to repeat, begin again;

retry the same circuit, but differently;
open himself to ridicule, to fate, necessity;
a particular bent, an angle (some called it

a ‘conduct of life’, an ethos, a slant into things):
this alone gave him – if not hope, then fervor,
a laughter deeper than time, a quickening

to earliness; knowing that with each pass
the subtle art of inventiveness, the grooves
that marked the hill with continuity,

would sooner, than later, slide away, expose
a world beneath the mountains dark tracks;
a swerve into newness that the others had overlooked,

despised, misrecognized; responding differently
than those precursors of the mountain sublime,
he’d step cleanly through the roof of the world.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Other Voices

houseofdead
other voices dwell in this vagrancy;
a vacancy of night and day: sea-born
they come, – talk, affirm, doubt;

their colloquies mesh
against the iron law; gated proclamations
hazarded, worth all thinking, –

long and hard; bitter words
manifested, now and then;
for all the care we give them

in our stone house of the dead;
this hollow core where time,
full and emptied out;

its heightened depths, a sphere
rounded and hollow; whose bones
peer above the rim, the heaving

of an afternoon, eye socketed stares
gazing inward to the sea; memory
of these dark leaves, scattered, lost;

a meeting place they’ve sought,
so well and real; influenced anguish,
testament, a cherished myth of solitude:

broken now – that communicative tribe,
dwelling, silent; night-bound inhabitants,
they trek the length’s long meridian south;

thought and passion spent, at last
they come back to us, their lives
sweet light hefted in song and fire:

tempered flare against sudden grief and despair,
in mirth or spite, keeping us speech-wise
against cropped scorn and sounds of certain doom.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Philip Larken: Absences

 

rain

Rain patters on a sea that tilts and sighs.
Fast-running floors, collapsing into hollows,
Tower suddenly, spray-haired. Contrariwise,
A wave drops like a wall: another follows,
Wilting and scrambling, tirelessly at play
Where there are no ships and no shallows.
Above the sea, the yet more shoreless day,
Riddled by wind, trails lit-up galleries:
They shift to giant ribbing, sift away.

Such attics cleared of me! Such absences!

from Philip Larkin,  Collected Poems

On First Seeing Courbet’s ‘L’Origine Du Monde Blonde’

courbet

Gustave Courbet’s L’Origine Du Monde Blonde
…………….(Oil on canvas 1866)

Serpent-fuzzed Medusa’s smile,
a twisting irony of wry love’s 

languid testament,
a last adagio
slowed to sapphire isle; pulse
emphatic to undulating seas:
silk skimming curvature, starkly
leveled among white sheets;
her lipped integrity, caverned
by hollow folds slipping round
the bend of love’s insistent charm;
hovering amber marshaling
a labile moon: all bound 

to Courbet’s eyes, glazed risible;
a sublimity
brought low, induced
below extremity’s bright plumage,
revealing abjectness: a final clearing,
an
abstracted matheme – reality’s
end-game; 
mark and line,  toad-
curved wonders 
of flesh and cure;
torso cropped and splayed, anesthetized;
her human form bared distinctly, stripped
of that anxious allure: the entrapment,
an
horror vacui – this ‘Esthétique du Mal’;
tracked excrement in excess
of male desire,
harbinger’s dark weaving ‘night of the world’.

 


Note:

I must admit I am not trying to purposively offend anyone, not at all. My poetry tries to push aesthetic limits in various directions. This one being toward realism and disgust which have been used at various times throughout the long history of artistic endeavors from Aristophanes to Mapplethorpe and others. If it offends just pass on by… other poetry in other modes will soon reappear along with my usual philosophical musings.

I happened to be reading Slavoj Zizek’s The Fragile Absolute when I came upon a passage on Gustave Courbet and the end of naïve realism, where he says “with Courbet, we learn that there is no Thing behind the sublime appearance – that if we force our way through the sublime appearance to the Thing itself, all we get is a suffocating nausea of the abject..”. This sense that with Courbet something ended, that realism had pushed its aesthetic to a climax in revealing the sublime object of the woman’s vagina, the Lacanian ‘lost object of desire’ – the object petit a. After Courbet the Modernism of the abstract anti-realist would enter the staging of the Void as the missing Thing. Of which the two extremes were Malevich’s ‘Black Square’ as the staged void, and Duchamp’s bicycle or toilet as the ordinary object revealed in the missing Void or (Sacred) Place where Truth, Art, God, etc. once revealed itself. Both place and object would from then own become the aesthetic of the Ugly rather than the Sublime. We would now live in a world bereft of Plato’s, Aristotle’s, and the Longinian-Burke Sublime: the subterfuge of religious longing and its belief in an Outside – and archetypal realm beyond; its Transcendence. That is until Andy Warhol whose Coca-Cola bottles revealed the limit and litmus test of Void and Thing as Commoditized Absence; or, the End of Art as Art. After Warhol all innocence is lost, as well as the illusive ‘object petit a’. Now we are left in the kenoma – the vastation of late capitalism; i.e., ‘night of the world’ – Hegel’s image from his lectures:

Man is this Night, this empty nothing that, in its simplicity, contains everything: an unending wealth of illusions and images which he remains unaware of—or which no longer exist. It is this Night, Nature’s interior, that exists here—pure self—in phantasmagorical imagery, where it is night everywhere… where, here, shoots a bloody head and, there, suddenly, another white shape—only to disappear all the same. We see this Night whenever we look into another’s eye—into a night that becomes utterly terrifying—wherein, truly, we find the Night of the World suspended.

Further note: interestingly I lost four  five followers after posting this poem and picture (of Courbet’s painting). Obviously I’ve hit a nerve and mark, brought forth certain inevitable reactions to this art form as should be expected. Is such realist art still shocking to certain minds? Is realist art so disgusting that people deem it still should be hidden or forgotten? Maybe, it is seen as politically incorrect, a derogation to feminist, a stain upon the era of Victorian Irony? Strange, one wonders what might be going on in their minds. Of course Courbet along with his era was flowing between an ultra-realism and the late symbolist and decadent moment of artistic invention; a time when Gustave Flaubert, Emile Zola, Huysmans, Henry James and many others worked the extremes of realism and naturalism. The time of Baudelaire, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Mallarme just to name a few of the poets of that interesting era. In poetry one allows the dead to reinhabit their homes allusively by way of echo and embellishment. Ours is an age of transition, seeking ways out of the anti-realist vision of the postmodern era and turning toward new speculative forms of materialism and realism. I seek to allow these many threads into my poetry, indifferent to the moral consequences of such strange sublimes; allowing both the upper and lower limits of desire to take hold and channel the ghosts that seek voicing in my utterance.

As Wiki reports it:

During the 19th century, the display of the nude body underwent a revolution whose main activists were Courbet and Manet. Courbet rejected academic painting and its smooth, idealized nudes, but he also directly recriminated the hypocritical social conventions of the Second Empire, where eroticism and even pornography were acceptable in mythological or oneiric paintings.

Courbet later insisted he never lied in his paintings, and his realism pushed the limits of what was considered presentable. With L’Origine du monde, he has made even more explicit the eroticism of Manet’s Olympia. Maxime Du Camp, in a harsh tirade, reported his visit to the work’s purchaser, and his sight of a painting “giving realism’s last word”.

By the very nature of its realistic, graphic nudity, the painting still has the power to shock and triggers censorship:

In February 2011, Facebook censored L’Origine du monde after it was posted by Copenhagen-based artist Frode Steinicke, to illustrate his comments about a television program aired on DR2. Following the incident, many other Facebook users defiantly changed their profile pictures to the Courbet painting in an act of solidarity with Steinicke. Facebook which originally disabled Steinicke’s profile finally re-enabled it without the L’Origine du monde picture. As the case won media attention, Facebook deleted other pages about the painting.

One forgets there is a complete tradition of the ‘Aesthetic of Disgust’, which is the central mode of the various forms of naturalism and realism from the Victorian Age till now. Even Umberto Eco’s History of Beauty and History of Ugliness inhabit that space:

  1. Savoring Disgust: The Foul and the Fair in Aesthetics by Carolyn Korsmeyer
  2. Disgust: The Theory and History of a Strong Sensation by Winfried Menninghaus
  3. Representing Repulsion: The Aesthetics of Disgust in Contemporary Women’s Writing in French and German by Katie Jones
  4. On Disgust by Aurel Kolnai
  5. Anatomy of Disgust by William Ian Miller
  6. The Hydra’s Tale: Imagining Disgust by Robert Rawdon Wilson

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.