Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Poems for Samhain

barrow-god, bower-god

barrow-god, bower-god
mice rubbing in the night

fear-child, fallow-child
that lingers, whispering, in flames

make the stones rustle
leafshadows quiver in no wind

whisper at the end of the hall
dreams of dead things, below-ground

eat the dark heart, your own
barrow-god, bower-god, born again

moon burning

seeds in the darkness growing white moon silver egg sky.
white wolf raising voice bat shrieks night flying.
all whisper here. where blood roars. who would hunt
would kill. moonlight circling in tree bare knives.
branches beat up the clouds kill them whip them defend.
not whole not half. all the dead hours. moon spinning.
magnesium light. watching me I walk under her gaze
her single white eye. see me run. the night burns. I burn.

Two older poems, from the 80s or 90s.

Two from the set of what I used to call "October poems," which were not only mostly written in October, but partake of the autumnal light, the ceremonies of the changing of the year, the ceremonies of remembrance of the dead. A certain mood this time of year, that lingers for awhile after All Hallow's, taking a few days to fade.

Two poems written from liminal states, reflecting liminal experience. The experience of the threshold, the numinous stepping over into other worlds. Worlds: expressed as states of being, as states of consciousness, of the shape-changing of the self and of consciousness.

In poetry of liminal being, I often find myself using non-normative syntax, non-standard grammar. An attempt at depicting the direct perception of the consciousness behind the poem. A way of making the poem reflect the experience. I have a number of poems that are simple transcriptions of liminal experiences, using the appropriate syntax to recreate the experience. I have other poems that seem almost without verbs, like a sequence of cinematic images where in time-binding is generated purely by the sequencing itself.

Is this "experimental" poetry? It seems to me that the definition of "experimental" in poetry usually means non-normative, non-formal, non-standard. It is a term co-opted by most avant-garde movements and -isms to try to describe themselves as different from the mainstream.

But the other meaning of "experimental," the meaning specifically connected to scientific research, is the meaning that I find more applicable: writing as attempting an experiment.

An experiment in consciousness. An experiment in style, in form expressing function directly. An experiment in making the form and style of the writing match the consciousness of what lay behind the writing. What prompted it, what triggered it.

Mostly whenever I discuss this, I receive a ringing silence. It seems no-one else wants to talk about it. To me, it seems the most essential element of poetry, that one that really needs to be talked about. It is not a mode of writing that is foreign to poetry, but in fact lies at its foundation, its origins, and its purpose. Granted, it's far easier to talk about the mechanics of craft and feel certain of one's own mind. I am exploring—experimenting with—realms of uncertainty that make some poets squirm. Even those poets who proclaim that "meaning" is dead, and are anti-linguistic or pro-language while being anti-sense, would rather not talk about consciousness, liminality, and form expressing function.

Similarly, many discussants bend over backwards to find literary-critical ways to make liminality go away. They bring up the so-called "pathetic fallacy," one of the worst dead-ends in critical theory. They bring up their doubts that empathy and unity are even possible, much less desirable. They find ways to dismiss it all. It requires a stern denial to avoid admitting that magic might, just might, be real. And that even ordinary people can have liminal experiences. (Maslow called them peak experiences.) Attempts to deny or make liminal experience go away, though, indicates nothing so much as many readers' desire to have a nice, neat, orderly, non-chaotic, perfectly comprehensible universe within which to exist.

The problem is: The denials ring false. We experimenters in consciousness, and in writing about consciousness, continue our experiments. Many experiments quite rightly fail. But not all. So there is after all something there, deny it how they may.

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