Poetry as Expectancy: Angus Fletcher – Quote of the Day!

Whitman is always waiting, peering ahead, testing his own expectancy…” . Like Wordsworth, the inaugurator of modern poetry, he celebrates “something evermore about to be.” On this account Ashbery writes with a special way of paying close attention. You will say, all serious activities, including the activity in and around a poem, are surely attentive. But in fact most poetry is deliberately inattentive. It dwells in memorized formulas (ballads); it dwells in romantic exaggerations and hyperboles (“My love is like a red red rose”); it dwells in the great generalized traditions of myth, those stories appearing everywhere as the loosely ordered structures of poetry and literature; it dwells in a studied indirectness and obliquity which are the very opposite of attentively observed reality. Poems seem to be elsewhere, as booksellers know. Inspired, the poets’ minds drift or fly to the horizon. . . . Even neoclassic poets like Ben Jonson or John Betjeman are less haunted than might be expected by their societal facts; they are playing with societal principles. So it seems that a strictly attentive poetry is unusual, and will need a proper definition. But again, attentive in what sense? If there is something measuring and medical as well as meditative about Ashbery’s verse, then there would have to be an underlying order to it, something like a search for health, or the self-examination of a body that is working well or not, perhaps the first stages of a diagnosis. Some rule of order operates here, albeit mainly hidden from sight.”

– Angus Fletcher, A New Theory for American Poetry

 

 

 

Poetic Thought of the Day: On the Inevitability of Poetry

Decided it was time to start up something new. Each day I’ll try to come up with a short post on poetic terms or thoughts connected to poetry. It want be a full blown essay, more of a daily meditation on poetry and poetics. Something to make you sit up and think about things. This one will post for today and tomorrow. I have readded the menu to my top navigation bar: Poetics & Daily Thoughts on Poetry. This will hold both my essays and these new daily thoughts on poetry. Enjoy!


 Inevitability

Today is on the inevitability of a great poetic line. What makes a line memorable. We’ve all come across such lines that just seem irreplaceable. Christopher Marlowe, in Doctor Faustus (variously dated between 1590 and 1604), referring to Helen of Troy, or as Marlowe had it ‘Helen of Greece’:

Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.

All three of Marlow’s lines are memorable, but the one that even school kids seem to know by heart is “Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships / And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?” As many know Christopher Marlowe was Shakespeare’s only true rival in theatre, and it was against his influence that great Shakespeare himself would do battle to the death to become the dramatist and poet that he became. Of course I do not mean literally that Shakespeare killed Marlowe, of course not, Marlowe was killed some believe in a bar brawl instigated at the behest of spies whom he was keeping an eye on. No Shakespeare was so enamored of Marlowe’s witchery with words, his hyperbolic use of phrasing and memorable lines that inevitably this would have a deep impact on the young Shakespeare’s own plays as in Richard III.

Yet, the question for most common readers is: How can I tell that a poem I’m reading maybe for the first time possesses the quality of authentic inevitability, that it is authentic poetry? Several questions arise:

  1. What does it mean, and how is that meaning attained?
  2. Can I judge how good it is?
  3. Has it transcended the history of its own time and events of the poet’s life, or is it now only a period piece?

I want to use one poem as example from Wallace Stevens Of Mere Being:

Of Mere Being

The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze decor,

A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.

You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.

The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird’s fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

Reading this poem almost forty years ago I never would have thought what lay behind it. I felt the power of it, something inevitable in that last line, but for the life of me could not think why it made such an impact on me to the point that it was etched into my soul. Sometime later it came to me. Two poems by William Butler Yeats that have over the years haunted me: Byzantium and Sailing to Byzantium. From the first this:

Miracle, bird or golden handiwork,
More miracle than bird or handiwork,
Planted on the starlit golden bough,
Can like the cocks of Hades crow,
Or, by the moon embittered, scorn aloud
In glory of changeless metal
Common bird or petal
And all complexities of mire or blood.

From the second this:

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Both invent an artificial bird to displace a sense of death into immortal mortality, both gather in this sense of the inevitable battle against the natural fate of humans. In Yeat’s we see an almost grotesque menagerie of baroque and decadent imagery, while in Stevens we get a delicate almost Paterian or Willdean ethereality for this same process. Yet, both become inevitable in the sense that once the poems were spoken and written they have become a part of our inheritance. They will last because they are inevitably great poems that we cannot forget, nor even want too. They challenge us to a greatness that has yet to be overtaken by other poetry, and may well not reach it that way again. They make us reread them over and over through the years because as our knowledge grows the meanings we gain from such poetry broadens and deepens, opens up new vistas of thought and feeling. Against the poetry of what I call throw-a-ways that once written might be fun to read once, but once read their meaning is instantly known and remembered, filed away in one’s memory like so many other facts that can be used or not. Great poetry on the other hand keeps us returning to it, it is inevitable, and forces us because of its changing meanings to change with it, and grow into its world, its heterocosm of strangeness.  This is the inevitability of poetry.

The poems by Yeats and Stevens seem to feed into each other, as if they had tapped into some common stock of poetic power or pool of imagery and figures, as if they both were coming to us from some alternate world of thought and being as if inevitably. This tip of the hand comes in Stevens “In the bronze décor, / A gold-feathered bird / Sings in the palm, without human meaning”, which with its sense of the artificial atmosphere and the inhuman bird pointing to nihilistic universe, and with it using the “palm” as a staging device instead of as in Yeats “golden bough” transforms the metaphor from the one to the other in an inevitable masking of the Yeats’ metaphors into the “palm at the end of the mind”. Yeats coming before Stevens in the modernist appeal and power of the era was for Stevens the inevitable rival against which this poem was invented as a way beyond the relations encompassing him. In this I think Stevens in his Lucretian mode won the battle, although I must admit to a liking of the grotesque and macabre to which Yeats is the inevitable player and master of a late romanticism and high-aesthetic stylization. Yet, behind both poets stands the poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson the English poet whose high-aesthetic poetry was so elegant and refined, so full of sorrow and embellishment, almost crystalline.

1. Stevens, Wallace (2011-05-04). The Palm at the End of the Mind: Selected Poems and a Play (Vintage) (Kindle Locations 10908-10920). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
2. Yeats, William Butler (2008-06-30). COLLECTED POEMS OF W.B. YEATS (Kindle Locations 5158-5162). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

The Art of Reading Well: Poetry as an Art & Craft

My voice goes after what my eyes cannot reach,
With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds and volumes of worlds.
– Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

The Art of Reading Poetry is just as important – and maybe even in the long run, more important that learning the craft itself. Why? Simple: to write a poem is to learn the difficult art of interpretation, or misprisioning, or echoing other great poems we’ve remembered consciously or without even the knowledge that we are doing so. And, by poetry I’ll include the great books of cultural reference from the Mahabharata, the Bible, the Iliad and Odyssey, the poems of Greece and Rome, India and China, down through whatever other cultural horizon you might share.

Poetry is both evocative and expressive, it is a compressed and concentrated form of what scholars term figurative language. All the major tropes of rhetoric go into this figurative language and can be seen in every poem in one form or the other: alliteration, hyperbole, imagery, irony, metaphor, Onomatopoeia, Personification, Simile, metonym… and on through all the little turns of the linguistic mill.  Kenneth Burke the great rhetorician of the twentieth-century narrowed the focus of figuration down to just four basic: irony, synecdoche, metonymy, and metaphor.

Irony typically commits one to figurations of presence and absence, or in simpler terms the use of irony is to say one thing while meaning something else or its exact opposite.

Synecdoche is what most of us know as “symbol” in which the figure is typical about the substitution of part for whole, or about the use of the notion of incompletion of something within the poem pointing to something outside the poem. One might think of the old haiku or zen notion of the “finger pointing to the moon” a symbol of mind dependence, etc. Or in Hart Crane in which the Brooklyn Bridge becomes a synecdoche for the bridging power of the mind to fuse human insight and the transcendent in a symbolic form that resolves both into a symbol that is both concrete and clear.

Metonymy is a figuration that unlike a symbol is not based on resemblance but on contiguity, in which the name or prime aspect of anything is sufficient to indicate it, provided it is near in space to what serves as substitute.1

Metaphor is simply the transference of meaning or association of one word to another to allow it to emphasize a meaning that both reinforces the original intent and also allows for certain ambiguities, playful puns, and alternatives that take the word out of its common stock or cliché notions and gives it new life. One example is Hart Crane’s line “peonies with pony manes” which uses a pun on “peonies” and “pony” to bring about a typically unassociated meaning to awaken the mind to alternative sounds, pitches, and a strangeness that was not there before. It makes the line memorable.

As Bloom says in his short little book on The Art of Reading Poetry “figuration or tropes create meaning, which could not exist without them, and this making of meaning is largest in authenticate poetry, where an excess or overflow emanates from figurative language” (Bloom, 3). One of the better books on the study of craft is Owen Barfield’s Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning which illustrates and details out much of the forgoing.

One could almost say that figuration is the concealed truth of poetry, for it goes on for the most part unrecognized as such as one is reading a poem; only later after one has finished reading the poem and begins to wonder how the poet was able to combine language in such a way to give meaning to the words in the form she did. Then one begins to analyze the poem, break it down into its linguistic units, its meter, its figures, its tropes. This takes time and patience and is not easily mastered overnight. It comes from careful study of past masters. Think of it this way: if one was to take up painting, what would be the first thing we’d need to do? Would we want to know about paintbrushes? What about the various easels, oil cloths, oils or acrylics or pastels, and the different approaches to either buying oils and pigments that had been prepared or whether one wants to learn the way the masters made oils on the spot, grinding down pigments from plants, seeds, etc. and mixing them with various oils, etc.? What about technique? Would one need to be apprenticed to someone who knew something about painting like the old Renaissance masters? Say a painting shop with other painters who share techniques and styles, or a school where a teacher can pass on the available knowledge of these various schools of painting and their history?

The point is that one could presume to take up painting and just say, “Oh, I’m just doing it as a hobby to have fun; I’m not out to perfect or know all the details of the craft.” Well, that’s fine, but would one ever grow? Would one have to stumble through most of the lessons of painting the hard way, have to reinvent the boat so to speak? Well, the same goes for poetry, one doesn’t just sit down and begin to write a poem as if -“Oh, that is so easy! And so fun, too.” Of course one could do that and have fun and all, but would one necessarily grow? Or would one begin to notice that one’s thoughts and rhythms didn’t seem to match up very well against the poetry one so much loves? One would begin to wonder why? Why is these poets seem so different? What is their secret? Well just like painting poets must learn the technique and styles of certain masters, depended on the traditions and valuations, cultural references and appropriation, etc. out of which one’s stock of language allows one to enter this realm.

Beyond figuration and craft is something even more important. Memory. “Memory is crucial for all thought, but particularly so for poetic thinking. Poetic memory… allows recognition, which is regarded as – Angus Flectcher tells us “the central modality of thinking, for literary purposes” (Bloom, 9). The point of this type of poetic memory is the way in which other poets or poems are hidden within poems. What I mean here is that as you read a poem there may come a moment of recognition, when something in the poem suddenly awakens a memory; yet, your still on the brink of discovery not quite able to place what it is this poem reminds you of, and then it dawns: it brings back a remembrance of another poem one had read, maybe in high-school or college or earlier/later. It’s images, metaphors, metonymies, ironies, synecdoche’s,  etc., and even the rhythm of the meter, echoes or allusively alludes too or is evasive of some other poem. It’s this sudden recognition that is poetic memory. We all do it. We all have moments when reading poetry when we think, “Dam, I’ve read something or heard something like this? Where or when was that? Who was it said that?” Then we begin a little quest, or let it sit there bugging us till we finally wake up and a light goes off and the eureka moment happens… dam, I got it!

The whole art of reading poetry is just that: the mastery of this allusiveness, of discovering in a poet one is reading the figurations that lay hidden in her work, and then of tracing those through other poets or poems until that spark of recognition suddenly unveils the truth of it. This haunting of poetry by its long tradition is what we now term the state of being belated, of having come late into the game of language, of not being at its beginning, of having coined all the words, or discovered all the turns of phrase and figuration. So what is a poet to do? She in our time masters this subtle art of figuration through allusiveness, through a conscious grasping of the past, its memory of itself and making that her strength. That’s the key.

A great many poets have the feeling that if its all been done then what of me, why should I add more to the world of words if its all been done? Truth is that it hasn’t, poetry is always new, and evolving, ever-changing as is language, and will never be done with as long as people are free to speak and think. This is another key. Everything remains to be done.

What is a poet’s voice? In some way’s I tend to agree with Seamus Heaney’s estimation in which poetry is a form of divination, or revelation of the “self to the self, as restoration of the culture to itself; poems as elements of continuity, with the aura of authenticity of archeological finds, where the buried shard has an importance that is not diminished by the importance of the buried city; poetry as dig, a dig for finds that end up being plants”.2 The notion that one digs down into the traditions of poetry as if it was a sunken treasure, or city buried in the sands and once found the poems that one begets become bound up with that past and sprout seeds from it. Even the most mundane of poems might actually have a long heritage in the deepest worlds of lost traditions. Each poem worthy of the name will have a hidden spark, a small gathering of meaning, a knotting into rather than out of that pulls you in, lures you into its heterocosm, it’s own life and world. Within these alternate worlds of poems one discovers one’s inheritance and one’s voice. This is the loam of power and freedom, of love and death, of all the little things that awaken you to becoming a poet(ess).

In my next essay I’ll begin with the notion of the poet’s voice. All poet’s that become a part of that illusive tribe that people feel the ever apparent conflictual emotions over is the Canon. Yet, there are poets that seem to last. What this means is that certain poets seem to be republished and read over and over generation after generation while others seem to fall away and disappear without ever being heard of again. Why? Is there something unique about a poet’s “voice” that puts them into this special category? And, who decides this? Some critics? No. It’s the common or uncommon reader who returns again and again to these poets. And, it is also the poet’s themselves. Poet’s keep the traditions of poetry alive in the present of their poems. So the canon is built up out of our past confrontations with great poetry and hiding it or masking its presence in the present of one’s poetry through figuration and trope. What the greatest poetry does is to give you back your own voice, to allow you to find it, to enable it, to augment it into those poems that are your own unique being.

I’ll talk more on this next time. Stay tuned!

1. The Art of Reading Poetry. Harold Bloom. (Harper Collins, 2004).
2. Finder’s Keepers. Seamus Heaney. (Ferrar, Straus, Giroux, 2002)

When The Green Night Sleeps

 

Nature032

We came to the House of Love.
She was elegant; he was a fool.
Both in twain had common weal.
That night time left its holy wheel.

She stood there a gracious queen.
He came to her a Pauper king.
She bestowed on him constancy.
He bent to her; gave up discordancy.

No one reads love’s dark braille.
Yet, all have lived its bright tale.
It is the primal Origins that fled,
when love like a green thought bled.

The minstrels sing of its fierce life.
Spring doves release it to the fens.
Father’s know it’s pitiless and rife.
Mother’s know its deep song wins.

Sounds as black as night’s lost task;
else day’s thrum is slovenly brash.
Remember it holds you in its clasp;
that gives you sustenance to last.

Look into her eyes so wild and black,
her touch so cruel, her nerves gone slack;
her velvety skin you find so fine,
the crease below her nested spine.

When you wipe away her tears
sing a small lay; allay her fears.
Remember her, your paramour;
wake to sweet caresses and amours.

The ocean swirls within your ear,
the mountains on your brow;
the lava flows beyond your care
and follows you into this lough.

Thank that sprite and his spell,
the one you castigate so well;
for he is your evil spirit’s duel,
the death you know is so cruel.

When its time to meet your lover,
to cross that bridge of light;
remember who found the clover,
and brought you to this green night.

When the green night sleeps
upon the hill, and you as befits
a jealous lover fall below this crevice,
dream, dream of your dark mistress

till the dance that brought you here
returns you to that place, those stones
of fire, where she is dancing on the moon’s
white fang waiting to begin again my seer.

– 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.

 

 

 

Erasing the Traces

– ‘Erace the traces!’ – Bertholt Brecht

The future is piled up around us like a ticking bomb,
Every step we take leads us into pockets of resistance.
Glass towers scurry across sparse zones like alien beings,
Seascapes trailing their descent on our earth, silent and alone; fractured.
We are all traces of traces; our memories vanish into dark alcoves of being;
Even our habits break if left for too long in the curves of white divans.
New architectures escape our gaze flowing into communicative geometries;
Their time slicing processes modeling our mobile minds lines of flight:
Accelerating thoughts move ahead of us along vectors of freedom,
Erasing the traces of our lives as we outrun the world that would catch us.

– Steven Craig Hickman (2013)

Author’s note: strange how phrases intertwine in one’s memories… I had forgotten about reading Erdmut Wizisla’s chronicle on the friendship between Benjamin and Brecht where I came across this passage of interest: “In discussing his ‘favourite topic’, that of ‘inhabiting’, Benjamin repeatedly refers to Brecht’s saying in A Reader For Those Who Live In Cities: ‘Erase the traces!’ A note in Benjamin’s journal of May 1931, which recorded a conversation with Egon Wissing, reads as follows: ‘leaving traces is not just a habit, but the primal phenomena of all the habits that are involved in inhabiting a place.’ This phrase recurs in Benjamin’s sketch, ‘To Live without Leaving Traces’ in the text ‘Experience and Poverty’, and finally, modified, in his Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century: ‘to inhabit means to leave traces.'” Yet, it haunted me and recently came back to me after studying many of the new parametric architectures being developed around the world with their unique complexity and curvilinear surfaces and lines of flight that seem to describe strange alien worlds emerging out of our earth’s land and sea scapes like exotic animals drifting on the shores of time. I was thinking of Berardi’s withdrawal from the political disasters of our world when I first composed my poem, but then was haunted by the phrase and had to reseek its original derivation… and, found it again! Strange how the mind weaves such images from scattered references across the span of a lifetime. The secret influences that spur one’s thoughts like accomplices on a journey into freedom.

If you haven’t visited Jeiphler’s Art Blog…. go now! Her work, at least for me, brings a new materialist and vitalistic dynamic. Like this painting…..

I love this one… reminds me of the great forests of the Northwest. Washington, Oregon, etc. of the Canadian bush country, the wildness… (and, that, only the bottom section). The topographic section above brought to mind images of jesters, clowns, the dance of acrobatics… a wild abandon of geometric figures and flows, quickening steps between sensual creatures arising out of immanence. The duplicity of the central line drawing reminded me of both animal and bird, a shamanistic unfolding, a mathematical entity crosswiring the world with dream and light, giving birth to replicative machinic organelles. The thread descending to the World Egg, the graph wave form below of the cosmic wave patterns of being and becoming twisted within the fabric of reality. The whole assemble awakens from a morning in early winter to spring, a transitional dance of life without us, a movement of things in their own light doing what they have always done. Thinking of Latour’s Gifford Lectures this painting reminds me of Gaia: the pulse of the earth, intertwined with the physics and ethical that we as humans must awaken to before this dance is ruined for us and all those other creatures we share this bright earth with…Michael over at Archive Fire has an excellent intro on Latour’s ‘Politics of Nature’.

Fragrance of Mauve
    a new poem for Gaia and life …

dangling down
   immanence
rising

birthwise from mauve forests
  winter’s fruit
    pulsing

 jesters dance among the clouds

a sun flows along this thin line
  a world
    in the moment of its awakening
  silently poised

pulsing, breathing, alluring

animal or bird

   firedance
  or light
 vibrancy of new life

– S.C. Hickman (2012)

Jeniphler's Art Blog

This started life as a post it… absent mindedly doodled, and i thought it looked interesting, so it got transfered adapted from a simple line drawing. The colours are muted, maybe because it is really a drawing. I am not sure. It reminds me of a heart monitor signal thing, one heart beat one breath one instant. There is a feeling intense, and then it is no more, you dont really remember the whole wave only the journey up to that point , the rest is a bit of blur, no concentrating attention no reflecting, until the moment is gone. The high is always about the journey there, the peak, the point of it. What happens after that is well, whatever the impact the effect of reaching this new point. I wonder if creating something is like this. You dont know what this new thing will bring, life beyond is…

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Quote of the Day: Simon Critchley

The poem of the mind in the act of finding
What will suffice.

– Wallace Stevens, On Modern Poetry

I think Stevens’s poetry allows us to recast what is arguably the fundamental concern of philosophy, namely the relation between thought and things or mind and world, the concern that becomes, in the early modern period, the basic problem of epistemology. It will be my general claim that Stevens recasts this concern in a way that lets us cast it away. Stevens’s verse shows us a way of overcoming epistemology. … I am not mining Stevens’s verse for philosophical puzzles and aperçus in pleasing poetic garb. Nothing would be more fatuous. On the contrary, I am trying to show two things: first, that Stevens’s poetry – and by implication much other poetry – contains deep, consequent and instructive philosophical insight, and second that this insight is best expressed poetically.

…Stevens’s late poems stubbornly show how the mind cannot seize hold of the ultimate nature of the reality that faces it. Reality retreats before the imagination that shapes and orders it. Poetry is therefore the experience of failure. As Stevens puts it in a famous late poem, the poet gives us ideas about the thing, not the thing itself. The insight towards which I see Stevens’s verse making its way is an acceptance of both the necessity of poetry and its limitation, the acknowledgement that things merely are and that we are things too, things endowed with imagination. Far from any otherworldly sophism, in a language free from mysticism, Stevens’s poetry can teach a certain disposition of calm, an insight into things that comes from having them in sight. Stevens can teach a thoughtfulness in the face of things and encourage a certain humility and nobility. In the face of overwhelming pressure of a reality defined by the noise of war and ever-enlarging incoherence of information, the cultivation of such a disposition might allow us, in Stevens’s words, to press back against that pressure of reality with the power of poetic imagination and keep open the precious space of reflection.

– Simon Critchley, Things Merely Are

Wisdom’s Lover: The Philosopher and the Poet

In those eloquent passages of the Phaedrus on the divine madness of prophets, mystics, poets, and lovers, Plato’s mentor Socrates with subtle irony and elliptic elegance, his own madness notwithstanding,  once offered this advice to the poets:

If anyone comes to the gates of poetry and expects to become an adequate poet by acquiring expert knowledge of the subject without the Muses’ madness, he will fail, and his self-controlled verses will be eclipsed by the poetry of men who have been driven out of their minds. 1

(Translated by A. Nehamas and P. Woodruff)

That this divine madness was a divine gift not to be confused with physical disease the ancients knew well. As E.R. Dodds in his excellent study The Greeks and the Irrational reminds us it is not clear in what this “given” element consists; but if we consider the occasions on which the Iliad-poet himself appeals to the Muses for help, we shall see that it falls on the side of content and not of form.2

The idea of poetic knowledge coming as a reliable gift of the Muses is central to poetry – as Dodds reminds us, for in an age which possessed no written documents, where should first-hand evidence be found? Just as the truth about the future would be attained only if man were in touch with a knowledge wider than his own, so the truth about the past could be preserved only on a like condition. Its human repositories, the poets, had (like the seers) their technical resources, their professional training; but vision of the past, like insight into the future, remained a mysterious faculty, only partially under its owner’s control, and dependent in the last resort on divine grace. By that grace poet and seer alike enjoyed a knowledge denied to other men. Dodds mentions that it is recent scholars who have emphasized that it is to Democritus, rather than to Plato, that we must assign the credit of having introduced into literary theory this conception of the poet as a man set apart from common humanity by an abnormal inner experience, and of poetry as a revelation apart from reason and above reason. Maybe this is another reason Plato hated Democritus and never even mentioned that great progenitor of materialism. *(Kindle Locations 1606-1609)

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For the fallen in NewTown, Connecticut

There is a sadness in America today.
To say anything at all is almost too much.
An irreparable loss darkens us all.

If I had the power to restore life,
To turn time back, to reach into the depths,
Return again to that stark moment

Before violence like some broken thing
Sundered all from those innocent eyes
And forged in chains a terrible burden

That even the Fates wailing break.
Would I do it? Would I reach down
grasp the tender flowers of the dead,

Raise them up to the light,
Return them to that bright life,
Give them once again their sight?

What black paths we tread in time
That like old gods from troubled myths
We allow this world to be, and be so full of hate?

– S.C. Hickman (2012)

The Imperative

Wisps of fire bubble up,
a windless spectacle of reds
and greens, bursts of force;
faces emerging out of the darkness
(an imperative that holds me in terror:
idol and fetish, images commanding me
with their overpowering presence),
luring me out of my stupor, entranced
I follow the flow of lights
driven by an unknown task:
where secret things live
to manipulate or enslave;
yet, also share their wealth
as wanderers of that devastation
of ancient suns and silent novas;
and, then, one spark descends,
a mask both comic and full of sadness,
contorted and twisted by life’s powers:
a refraction of all things distinct:
frog, eagle, sphinx, wolf, zebra, whale.

– S.C. Hickman (2012)

The Face of Change

It is not what is seen that matters,
but what is unseen in the seen:
the grafting of a thought upon a thing,
undoes the object’s semblance to itself;
that slow accumulation, properties inundation
cannot give us back again the promise;
only that which is beyond all thought
can weave its magic into words
that no longer signify a something,
but are that something in itself that is:
between the thought and thing,
a dance renews the drummer’s pledge,
the child’s liquid laughter and the mage’s wedge:
the quick step in and out of fire,
the silence between the stars,
the river’s course, vulcan’s pyre:
part and partial of the void:
the gathering tribe, the bellows hold;
objects outer frozen light piercing:
daring all till change its face creates at last!

      – S.C. Hickman (2012)

Proem: Extinction

Gliding on the edge of time watching the death of suns, listening to the black noise: the abyss, droning, drumming  – rage of angels, a black decay; voices rising, – bleak, metallic: full of desperate hymns, following the light that is into the whirling void that is not – choirs of luminescent being thronging the avenues like broken monuments to a universal catastrophe; each flying into the depths never gazing back, – falling forward, touching the face of the real; jubilant and free of unreality!    

          – S.C. Hickman (2011)