Archive | July, 2010

Excerpt from “And I love the weeds”

29 Jul
    In as much as they are different, poetry is inexplicably tied to the poet; conversely, and equally, the poet is inexplicably tied to his or her poetry.

William Wordsworth stepped into the fringe of poetry when he originally published his Lyrical Ballads in the 1800s. He further separated himself from the mainstream ideology on the function of poetry and what makes a poet when he published his Preface to the Lyrical Ballads. This essay is concerned with the latter part of Wordsworth’s essay, mainly his question, “What is a poet?”

Wordsworth starts general in his definition of a poet. In fact, he starts so general that his first characteristic of a poet “is a man.” But from this brazen beginning quickly comes a much narrower definition. A poet is: “A man… endured with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, who has a greater knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul (269).”

In Wordsworth’s view, these are the characteristics, not of a general man, but of a poet. It is not an evasive definition in the slightest, nor does it bumble along. Wordsworth, it seems, is confident on what makes a poet. Though those mentioned characteristics are difficult enough to come by in a person, Wordsworth is not yet done with his definition. He continues in quite a heavy-handed, almost righteous way:

    A man pleased with his own volitions, and who rejoices more than other men in the spirit of life that is in him; delighting to contemplate similar volitions and passions as manifested in the goings-on of the universe, and habitually impelled to create them where he does not find them. To these qualities he has added a disposition to be affected more than other men by absent things as if they were present; an ability of conjuring up in himself passions, which are indeed far from being the same as those produced by real events (269).

Is Wordsworth describing a man or a demigod? It seems the entire first paragraph of the Preface is all about directing the world to gaze upon the stars for this mystical poet. It is made clear that the poet is not a common person, but one who, if not a god, has traits that come from the divine.

By and large, contemporary poets are left with only Wordsworth’s carcass when it comes to defining a poet. Surely, in this current society, someone who believes in the ideals that Wordsworth ascribed to the poet would be met with extreme skepticism and perhaps outright contempt. Someone could easily say, “How dare you think yourself better than me.” In other words, gone are the days when the poet has the “comprehensive soul.”

In Wordsworth’s time it wasn’t a stretch, given the history of the poet and the epic poems of Milton as well as the poetry of Coleridge, Keats, and Shelley, among many others, for the poet to have a god-like persona, or as Wordsworth says, “to come down” to the level of the average person. Conversely, today the poet needs to “go up” to meet the level of the common person. This switch has left the contemporary poet in a state of confusion and dismay. For as Wordsworth and even Shelley stated, poetry is about creating things of beauty, which was no easy task then, and it isn’t any easier now. But the poet no longer has a deity-like reverence, and with the role of the poet confused, there is little wonder that the poetry of this time is also lacking direction. The grandeur and elegance is missing, the poetry is now not only written for the common man, but by the common man.

In the poet Gerald Stern’s essay, “What is this poet?” he seems to correctly sum up this state of confusion, “I always have a hard time answering questions like ‘What is a poet?’ (145).” The typical contemporary answer seems to be “evasion and a metaphor and a statement as well about the very difficulty of doing such a thing (Stern 145).”

Poets today take most of their cues from the older generations – especially the Romantic poets. Though they may not realize it, contemporary poets use common language, they discuss and “beautify” the normal, they incorporate the “I” and they (try to) sell to the masses. These are all concepts brought forth by Wordsworth in his Preface. I believe that because poets like Shelley and Wordsworth have done manifestos on poetry and the poet, the contemporary poet seems acquiesced to rest on those laurels – without perhaps even the ambition to know what those laurels are specifically.

When confronted with the question, “What is a poet?” the contemporary poet might even rely on the idea of existentialism, answering with something obfuscatory such as, “A poet… is.” I believe this is all due to, as stated, the unknown role of the poet in today’s society. Where is this century’s Wordsworth to vehemently define for the poet’s place for us?

The interesting question is whether Wordsworth’s view or the contemporary view holds more truth to the real idea of “what is a poet”. The strict definition given by Wordsworth seems confining and innately contrary to the real idea of a poet. However, the contemporary view seems so free and loose as to leave one scratching his head in contemplation on if he even received an answer. Perhaps neither view is wrong – a poet is one thing at one time in a society and then takes on another role at a different time. I think the most important thing is, and on this every poet would agree, that poetry is still around. Perhaps it’s not as popular or as influential in literature or society as times past, but there is a wealth of poetry – both mainstream and underground – in today’s society. That is a feat in a society that focuses mostly on the visual (think YouTube down to the TV) and attributes poetry to “dead white dudes” (is that due to the previous strength and power of their role in society or because we have no contemporary poets as great to study?).

The benefit of the poet in this day and age is that he or she is writing to truly fulfill some role or destiny (largely created individually and not part of a popular manifesto). The poet of contemporary writing can scarcely imagine living off such a pursuit. So unlike other forms of writing or even entertainment, the poet, in today’s world, seems more pure, seems more divine than even that of Wordsworth’s time, where one could attempt a living off of such endeavors. Today’s poets seem more personally fulfilled than monetarily – and that is perhaps the only definition of a true poet, at least as far as beauty is concerned in today’s society.

I’m not saying…

29 Jul

I’m not saying I’m lonely;
I’m not saying that.
Though I see you two cuddling, laughing,
loving.
Though I see the blue background
behind your caresses.
One day is not like another
and I know,
I know
someday something will
change. Obama promised me that.

But today, tonight,
while you’re out dreaming with
him
I’m not saying anything,
I’m listening,
Home pretending,
wishing upon a star – though
it’s still day, warm.
One day, I promise myself
I’ll change
I’ll open up,
and when I do, I hope you’re here too.

I’m not saying I’m lonely,
because that seems cliché
and modernly simplistic,
But I suppose I’m not saying
I’m satisfied either.

Political Kaleidoscope

25 Jul

I am staring down the barrel of a gun today. Metaphorically, of course. I have an oh-so-delicious paper to write comparing William Wordsworth’s idea of a poet (in his preface to Lyrical Ballads) to that of a more contemporary manifesto. I can’t wait. And yes, there’s loads of sarcasm in that last sentence. But before I effectually waste the day on Facebook and YouTube, I realized I have a few things that are irritating me. Thus, this is going to be something of a kaleidoscope blog.

Issue number one:

Dennis Rehberg has joined the Tea Party caucus. This is another step in the direction of Republicans in this state – and nationally. Now, while I agree with the Tea Party people about curbing government spending, I don’t necessarily agree with their redneck tactics or their tendencies towards any type of progress. Rather, the Tea Party seems all about regress. And that’s not a step in any direction. If they were about progress towards the ideals that started this country (aka Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, et al), that would be a different story, and one I think more of us would jump on. But that’s too much thought for the Tea Partiers – who probably don’t know the first thing about tea or the Boston Tea Party.

So what is the point of the Republican party anymore? If you say they’re for conserving money than one could easily side that way with the Democrats. If that’s your only reason for being a Republican, you need to reconsider your ideals. Are you with the Tea Party? Are you a Evangelical fundamentalist? If you’re not, you should wonder why you’re supporting those causes.

Frankly, this is a further side of Dennis Rehberg that I can’t stand. Of course, before he was ever elected I couldn’t stand him. Rehberg has a history of making fun of gay people, voting against any equality, and is all about guns and oil. What is there to like about that man?

He’s up for re-election again this year. And rumor has it he’s going to be running for Senate against Jon Tester in a couple of years. Why Rehberg is continuously voted into office is a mystery to me. Sure he’s liked by the majority of the old people in this state, but that’s because he has a firm handshake.

I hope this is your last year Rehberg. This brings me to…

Issue two:

Term limits. They’re desperately needed in both the house and senate. Anyone who has aspirations to run for more than one or two terms needs to be sent out of office. Why are there no term limits? It’s absurd – most of the problems in this country are caused by the ‘old timers’ who have spent the majority of their years in office and have partnered up with all sorts of special interest groups, corporations and the like. In other words, our country is run by puppets.

Issue three:

Max Baucus bothers me. He’s one of those old timers that needs to be out of office. Yes, he has power; that’s why he needs to leave. And his health care bill was a joke. What side are you on Baucus? Republican or Democrat?

Issue four:

The two-party system is this country is screwed. There needs to be room (and funding) for parties who aren’t inside of a box. Besides, I thought the government was against monopolies?

I have more issues that are bothering me at the moment. Sadly they’re all of the political persuasion and I’ve realized almost all issues come down to this, which is, my basic sore-point in these issues:

conservative = radical fundamentalist = traditional biblical freak = negative thought = puritan restraints for all = oppression =

You can fill in the rest. I am tired of writing about the uneducated, heartless parasites of American public policy at the moment. Where’s the humanity?

The Deep Sublime

15 Jul

I once went to the Aran Islands in Ireland. It was fantastic! On the top of island Inishmore is a cliff. There is no ordered walkway to stay on at the top, no railing, no “designated areas” of safety. There are no stairs, no public bathrooms, no official park guides – is it even a designated park?, there’s nothing but a cliff. I could have easily walked right over the cliff without so much as an obstacle in my path – the only obstacle being the uneven flat rocks and my shoes. Smashing violently below the cliff was the Pacific Ocean – a shot three hundred feet vertically down – crashing along the jagged black rocks: this would’ve been my landing pad. The moist air blew strongly. Out in the distance was rolling waves, a mechanical machine, endless water, the thrashing sea – I had never been so sea sick as I had been getting to this island by ferry. Above the ocean was the most sublime sky in the world at that moment. It hinted color amongst the black and white clouds – the dichotomy blurred together; hinted at grander designs; the blackness teased night while the whiteness played day. Sunlight poured down in spires of light like water lines coming out of a showerhead. The wind howled against my face, pushing me ever closer towards the cliff; all the people I had walked this cliff with were gone. I struggled to turn my face into the windstorm, coming from what appeared to be the direction west. I turned my head back in order to breathe in – the wind was that strong, full of vengeance for ever having to have been misplaced in the first instance. Below my feet was damp grass – not a lawn, but a scruff of grass grown amongst the rocks.

The sunlight beams shifted, the powdery clouds morphed, the ocean waves slammed, the wind shoved even harder, and the rocks below stayed the same; though they didn’t help me stay safe – still inching me closer to the ledge, there is now less than six inches between my hand and nothingness – nothing but stirring air.

If there ever was a safety net or ledge, it was gone. I should be so insane to believe there ever was one in the first place. I got down to my knees to avoid stumbling over ever so easily. If I did eventually fall over the cliff, the wind would have to work yet harder to do so. I was going to put up a bolder fight than the rest –those who were already gone. The sky darkened further, the black clouds were eating the white ones: if they had mouths it would have been quite a site to watch, and I’m sure the wind would’ve taken advantage of my weakness in viewing. The gales picked up further – howling so loudly and quickly I could no longer keep my eyes fully open; only a pinch of light was bubbling through into the pupils. The ocean, aggrieved from being so disturbed by the wind, erupted against the cliffs; mist spraying me on the cheeks; the wind further hateful that it had to suddenly work so hard to push me off – down into the land where I belonged. The ground, however, stayed solid.

I could only hear the sound of the tormented ocean by this point, my eyes were shut; my face felt sprays of mist. I remembered that I was up here alone, that everyone I came with hand blown over already – I wondered if that was indeed true, if I was really the only lonely soul up here. Perhaps it was at this moment I felt my soul shudder; I tried opening my eyes so I could scan the top of the cliff, but the wind still wouldn’t let me, it was trying its damndest to push me over, the bubbling ocean below only too willing to take me in.

Another gone, & the thoughts!

11 Jul

So another person died. I’m not trying to be the bearer of bad news, or the blog of bad news, but really, sometimes it’s hard to extricate oneself from the swirl of daily life. This time it was not a famous person who died, nor was it an old man, but rather, a very young local girl. I had worked with her and developed, at least while we worked together, a friendship. She was outgoing, she loved Christ. I was mostly aloof, I despised Christ. We settled on being friends and on her calling me “fishy” – which, even to this day, I have no idea how she chose that nickname. And she wouldn’t just say it once, but three or more times. Even months later, after we stopped working together, she’d see me out on the town and call, “Hey, fishy, fishy, fishy.” I think she thought it was endearing – I found it somewhat annoying and brandishing on the image. Do I look like a fish? Am I scaly? Or slimy? But really, how many times do we have nicknames that don’t mean a hell of a lot outside of it being special because it is indeed a nickname. Like many presents, it’s the thought that counts. At any rate, my dear friend Rachel died a few days ago near Whitehall, Mont., when her car rolled; she was found dead at the steering wheel. She was eighteen. I hadn’t talked to her for a while (we worked together a few years ago), but she did manage to track me down on MySpace since we stopped working together. Of course, this particular death stung, but more so, it again opened some thoughts that I’ve stowed away for some time; thoughts that grapple me tightly.

On first glance, the following might seem clichéd to the max, but hopefully you will come to view them on more than a surface identity – as the following questions have deep consequences on how we structure and live our lives. First off, I ask myself, What is the meaning of our society? What is the benefit of living in what is invented, set-up and disguised? What really, truly, is the point?

I feel our society has deep flaws and we have missed the point of what it means to be alive. Money should mean nothing; it has absolutely no bearing on one’s birth and death – they’re free and given gratis, but it appears we need money to live. The space between birth and death requires this concept of a ‘note’ – which has no worth other than what we give it. And in fact, if the government didn’t endorse said ‘note’ we would have no faith in it, nor would it be worth more than a scrap piece of paper sitting on your desk. Besides money, we have no concept of community anymore. We are lonely and the only reason sites like Facebook have any push is because we are all longing for that community that our society has forcefully evolved out of; but our individual biology has not reached that point yet. The idea of escaping the capitalist world is pessimistic and flawed at best; we are stuck in a rut, like that of the Grand Canyon, that only gets deeper with time. I fear for our children who are raised on plastic toys and flashing visuals and noise, and made to believe that without these they are missing life.

As a culture, we have de-emphasized philosophy and nature; we are living autotrons doing what we believe we need to in order to survive. By survive, let us be sure I mean the way you think is best in order to make enough money to be ‘happy’. But you’ll never be happy, because what is happy? Simply another construct of our reasoned mind. Happiness is a path after our original actions; happiness is only what we feel after our initial feelings – if we feel anything at all. My cat has never felt happy, merely content, and that is all we can hope for. But how many of us are content? I wager near zero because we live in a materialistic society that makes it seem like if we don’t have the latest iPod, iPad, iPhone, we are losers and we can’t equally contribute to the society. (By the way, think of what that initial “i” stands for – as my fellow writer Tom Hodgkinson so brilliantly pointed out. It’s simply another way to isolate oneself from the community; you are in control, you are the most important.) At any rate, most of us do not feel general contentment, so we work more in order to purchase more to try and attain that feeling. But it’ll never happen; we’ll never reach the top because once you have the iPhone, something else will come out that you’ll have to have. It’s a vicious circle created by our society – money is the maxim, soul is lost.

Quit your job and find your soul. Do something creative.

Of course, do not listen to me, for I am a major hypocrite – getting a masters degree in a field that, when I finally finish the toil of schoolwork, will dictate my set hours, coursework to teach and bosses to appease. And I ask, does all of this work amount to anything? Does our life, after endless amounts of stress, anxiety and toil make the world a better place? Does it matter to the oceans or the sky? I think you know the answer – and I think it should displease you as much as it does me. In the end, we work because we are supposed to, it is what is expected of a proper citizen – all dictated by those few in power.

On your death bed, or as your car is flipping, the soul being sucked out of your body sooner than you would’ve ever hoped, will you be satisfied of your days spent and time put in on this earth? Or will you regret wasting your precious moments on things that do not truly matter, or worse, are harmful?

Perhaps this is why I seem somewhat depressed after hearing of deaths; for they unleash a torrent of thoughts and questions that have no easy answers and only disappointing projections.

Our society is deeply flawed; you have to be in charge of finding your own soul, of being your own person. Unless of course, you are content with living for the system and dying in that same construct – it is, after all, much easier, and we are, after all, meaningless souls to the society that values only a dollar sign. Work on my friends, work on.

[End note: This blog has only scratched the surface, and I have only posed a few questions. There are many, many others – but I think they shall be saved for another day. In the meantime, and for a depressingly second time in such a short time, I regretfully write the words, rest in peace, Miss. Rachel Hyle; may you find the God you loved, for that seems to be only right.]