A brief generalization of modern poetry:
When it comes to poetry (and art in general), we live in a post-apocalyptic world. All of the old traditions and values have been so thoroughly destroyed and rejected that only the ancient ruins of the past remain, and nobody seems to remember the old style. This down-going of traditional Western poetry can be traced as far back as Walt Whitman, but the process accelerated exponentially in the 20th century. It only took about 100 years to complete that decline into the absolute egalitarianism, nihilism, and despair of modernists and modern literary critics, which represented the absolute low-point of Western culture. The world we live in today is a ruin of their making.
What began with Whitman and culminated in the mid 20th century was a complete reversal of the aesthetic values held by Europeans since prehistoric times. Since Homer’s epics, the very foundations of Western literature, the value placed in cleverness, vivid description, the virtues of life, mastery over language, perfection of the crafts of rhyme, meter, and alliteration, and other standards of excellence were upheld by poets and authors as obligatory honors one must pay to the Muses to produce a great work. Now, pathological egalitarianism prevails, where novelty is placed above skill, and trauma is placed above virtue.
This decay and reversal of values is often explained as an outcome of the World Wars and other traumas of the 20th century. The terrible boom of decadent poetry and literature that came in the 1950s and thereafter was just a natural result of how traumatizing and “disillusioning” the Holocaust and Atom Bombs were. This completely ignores the fact that horrors like war, genocide, enslavement, famine, plague, etc. have hit our civilization before, but always we have overcome them, and then afterwards written damn good literature about it. What really happened was the rise of critics and curators who preferred poetry that was vague and demanded some third-party interpretation to make sense of. They needed poetry to be some intellectual exercise in order to sell themselves as the key to it, providing countless pseudo-intellectuals with the sense of being part of the in-crowd, and all they had to do was study what the Greenbergs and other third-party associates had to say about it. This way, the audience “knew they were right” and really felt as though they were truly sensitive lovers of art.
By the mid-20th century, there were still a few truly great writers, poets, and artists who wanted to create art that would reach and affect their audience directly, in the traditional way, but the dye was cast, and from there on out, the most common theme in all of the institutionally celebrated poetry and literature is symbolized trauma or oppression of one kind or another. Any sort of view that signifies health, increasing strength, and an ascending spirit is disregarded and rejected as inauthentic, clichéd, or privileged. Demanding skillful form and truly inspired content is arrogant and unfair. True, authentic, genuine expression must be conflicted, insecure, self-loathing, immature. The more traumatized, marginalized, ostracized, oppressed or put down you are, the more attention it gets from the other victims who have taken over the show, and the more successful the poem is within the community.
Ginsberg defined the essence of what would become a “great mind” in this new anti-culture in his poem “Howl” –
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness,
starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking
for an angry fix,
This has become the standard of a ‘great mind’ in our post-modern world. The picture of greatness is no longer health, strength, vigor, wit, and honor… no, the post-modern view of greatness is to be destroyed by madness, drug-addicted, starving, and hysterical. Ginsberg became the paragon of this reversal in values, and this is by far the most common world-view of “poets” today,
This is not to say that good poetry about inner struggles and personal emotions is impossible to make. But a great poet does not become overwhelmed or consumed by his emotions, and he does not use poetry for navel-gazing; good poetry is not self-indulgent in this sense. The underlying assumption of all great poets has been that a certain combination of words will evoke certain ideas and sensations, and they work to perfect their craft as a means to this end. Poetry connects abstract virtues to tangible emotions, and thus, elevates people by helping them internalize such abstractions. A good poet certainly does not hail madness and hysteria as marks of the “greatest minds of his generation”.
Poetry in the 21st century is no longer even a shadow of its former self. What used to be an essential expression of a culture’s virtues has become something which can hardly be considered an expression. What used to augment and refresh a person’s senses, giving them a new appreciation of their surroundings, is now purposefully confusing, chaotic, and senseless. Trivial thoughts and emotions have been elevated beyond heroic ones. The only expressions taken to be “authentic” are those of smallness, insecurity, depression, or oppression. All of this serves only to alienate people from each other and this is the cost of losing poetry within your culture.
The true power of poetry– that power known well by our pre-Christian European ancestors in the Mediterranean and North Atlantic– is so much greater than what modernism has made of it. Poetry can elevate the soul, unconsciously transmitting notions of virtues and vices, as if it was a spell where the right combination of words instills some supernatural effect upon a willing audience. Poetry can also augment the senses, improving our appreciation for all good things to be seen, heard, touched, smelled, or tasted — description alone can be the difference between something wonderful and something dull, and good poetry trains the reader in good description. Good poetry is like a gift to the senses; like god-like lenses that allow you to see the divine.
The following is a short collection of my poetry. I hope to approach the ideal that I have just described. The people who laid down these traditions were the best there has ever been, and I hope I have learned enough from them to carry it out myself.
AN ODE TO THOSE WHO LED US OUT
Thanks! Give thanks for all that’s good,
to those who stuck around
with watchful eyes and steady hands
to pick us from the ground.
And praise! Lift praises to the sky,
for those who cared enough
to teach us what we ought to know,
and pick us from the rough.
At the bottom, there’s a gutter where the weakest pool up
and run down and out and into to the ocean.
This way goes the nameless, the unlettered and homeless,
this way they are disinherited
and doomed to wander without any guidance,
for every poor soul in the depths is a child;
far from the light of the fire they’re exiled,
and those sad few spirits who lift up their faces
toward the sky ablaze with ancient stars,
can only imagine just a sweet sliver
of how life can be with an immortal Family.
THE TEUTOBURG FOREST
Now, I’ve never been to the Teutoburg Forest,
but I can remember the trees,
gnarled and tall, forming nature’s own fortress,
even the sun yields to its canopies.
There, in the air of the thickest of things,
there, in the night under-bough,
old secret Fires in hidden grove rings,
burn without sources somehow.
Finding those groves isn’t easy for mortals,
the pitiful men who fear death,
down in the hostile haunts of our forebears,
neophytes cannot draw breath.
Now, I’ve never been to the Teutoburg Forest,
but I am no mere mortal man,
and lately, the Mystery Fire’s been calling,
for me to return there as soon as I can.
DON’T GO BAREFOOT
Don’t go barefoot beneath the porch
there’s shattered glass out there,
and while I’m at it, I’ll remind
you also not to take the stair
up to the yard and out the gate
into the alley, if it’s late.
For deep within this civil state
there’s danger everywhere.
Don’t talk to strangers on the train
you don’t know where they’re from.
For all you know, they’re quite insane,
you don’t know what they could become
within a year or two, you’ll find
perhaps you’d like to change your mind
coveting a different kind
like whiskey into rum.
So maybe it was really you
who broke the bulb out there,
and while there’s danger in the world,
so much you conjured from thin air.
But now you sit beneath a tree
and barbed the leaves appear to thee.
Spiked the bark and flowers be,
perceived within your glare.
THE MYTH MORTICIAN
The consummate myth mortician laid to rest at last
Another misconception of the legendary past.
He’s certain of his argument, quoting all the greats
But all alone in his apartment, all alone he masturbates.
I wonder how many young lads and young ladies
Boogied to Beethoven’s ninth, movement four
And ignoring eternal damnation in Hades
Got down with the dirty upon a church floor
Brown is bark and leaf is green,
This I know, for I have seen
Them spring the light forth toward my gaze
And yet, alas! for all my days,
I haven’t seen the colors of
the people whom I’d like to love.
Boundaries are best-set before they are crossed
And love is a shy creature, usually lost
When boundaries are opened or sold for low-cost.
All good change must come in time,
Though we imagine grapes to wine
Is like a step from one to two
Like parting clouds, from grey to blue
But, understand the way things go,
We, like clouds, are very slow.
It might seem quick, gone in a blink
For time is cruel and doesn’t think
But if you don’t take time to change
The things will never re-arrange
And when years pass identically
You’ll pine for change more frantically
You’ll wonder where the decades go
the only change you’ll ever know
Will be your leaves from green to red
And then you blink. Surprise! You’re dead.
AWAY WITH AN ARROW
When the traveller ceases his journey
And the gardener’s garden won’t grow,
When the lights have all dimmed in the city,
And the sun is too weak to melt snow-
Away I will go, far away with an arrow
To the edge where the water meets land,
I’ll bend back my bow and unleash that fair arrow
Away from the place that I stand.
When the heroes are long dead and buried
And the tales that were told are all hushed,
When the very last couple is married
And all that was careful is rushed-
Away I will go, far away from the dead
and the hushed and the unmarried mass
Away I will go where the dead sing their songs
And the past never really did pass.
LAST REQUEST FOR A TIMELESS MIND
I want to feel every muscle wrapped on bone
I want to love everyone I’ve ever known
Before I die, let me wake up in the end
Inside a room with all my lovers and my friends
And let me wake up there again and again and again,
Forgetful, so it’s fresh each time.
Who holds the power in this hall?
Do you, or you, or you?
Who’s brave enough to make the call
And do what they must do?
Who holds the scepter? Wears the wreath?
Upon a proudly lifted head?
Not one preceptor underneath
An obligation til they’re dead
To show a way: a razor’s edge
But also to decree,
“This way to live is virtuous
For anyone, not just for me.”
But who now has that arrogance
Here where all gods are dead?
I’ll tell you what you’re up against
And what’s expected here instead
Of deepest spirit-bonds to what
You value in the world,
Respect the news and not your gut
Is always what we’re told.
We’re sold a story; sickly cloying
Rotting all your teeth
And now that biting’s agony,
Convince yourself that it’s beneath
Your lofty moral-tower’s
cloudy summit in the sky
Where you retain your power
not to be completely shy.
“Be tolerant” but, we all know
There’s so much more here that’s at stake
“To judge is wrong” is just about
The only judgement that you’ll make.
I’ll ask again, who here holds power?
Where’s your per-son-al-ity??
Is nothing sweet and nothing sour?
Senses of intimacy
Are gone. We’re now observers cold
And distant scientists.
Never would we be so bold,
to rank- oh, no! we only list.
FRIERK’S SAGA (A FRAGMENT)
Thrust through fronded forests thrice
Outside Utslag, Frierk fights
Breaking beasts as cats to mice
Skimming living from the ice!
A young king’s son Frierk was born
Yet long before he learned to mourn
His father, King, acquired scorn
From jealous kin, his loyal-sworn.
Frierk’s father’s body rode
The quick’ning current of the lode
That ran from Utslag, clear and cold
Now stained by blood, noble and old.
Frierk, just a babe in arms
Had no strength or wits or charms
Betrayers brought beyond the farms
The baby of the noble King.
As sacrifice to heathen gods
Foes fixed Freirk on the knobs
While trees awoke with shrieks and sobs
For Frierk, rightful King.
And fearing forces from the forest;
Spirits waking, speaking woe,
They turned away and wished to go
On back to Utslag, their stolen home.
Yet just as Frierk came to freeze
The gentle buzz of honeybees
Came to his ears through bark and leaves
The queen-bear found him, wary, pleased.
She took him back inside her coat
Of fur, where neither foot nor boat
Could reach, she knew the way by rote:
The highland path where fairies float.
Urswoda, the Queen-Bear fled
With frightened Frierk on her head
Up and up to hearth and bread
The Queen-Bear changing as she climbed.
And Frierk on his first foray
Up the magic mountain-way
Saw the change to night from day
Yet still the path was lit ahead.
Embers red and blue and green
Flew around them whispering
Void-like, yet like everything
The fairies glow and go by wing.
Yet even as an infant child,
Frierk’s eyes were live and wild,
Enchanted thus, his spirit styled
Itself upon this fair fey land.
Summit reaching, Urswoda
With every step, her tooth and claw
Morphed and made a maiden queen
Of beauty man has never seen.
Higher climbing steps forlorn
She took upon a human form
Near the stars, above all storms
Urswoda the queen can sing!
Then finally, they reached a turn
And facing westward, saw the burn
Of sunlight rising on the ferns
And junipers in Vallengral.
And there beside a waterfall
Stood the Queen-Bear’s timber hall
Where Frierk grew from infancy
To manhood, strong and tall.
YE NEW ANGLISH
What would English look like
if the Romans, Greeks, and French
Never had the chance to add to it
their own two pence?
Well, first of all, ‘vocabulary’
Hails from Latin Rome-
We would instead use ‘wordstock’-
it’s a bit closer to home.
And while we’re speaking Latin,
we can throw out ‘symphony’-
for ‘leethertune’ befits our wordlore
much more happily.
But how could we talk science
without Latinate or Greek?
No more would we say ‘-ologists’
but ‘-loreman’s how we’d speak.
Now, none of this is quite ‘established’
rather it’s ‘rootfast’-
we don’t need words like ‘ulimate’
we’re fine with saying ‘last’.
It might seem less ‘intelligent’
but we’d say we have ‘wits’,
for it’s quicker not to say ‘combine’
and rather to say ‘mix’.
So, as an English writer,
all in all, I’d rather be
working on ‘wordsmithing’
much more than some ‘poetry’.
O absolute unbroken chain,
Eternal sun, eternal rain,
Shapeless shape and weightless weight,
Joy and laughter, loss and pain.
Lifeless life, undying death,
Pounding heart and labored breath,
Brittle bones and homeless homes,
Up is down and right is left.
O absolute unbroken snake,
Like gods you give, and devils
While sitting and watching a red-gold sun
sinking all too quickly,
My vision was suddenly overcome by a waking dream:
Layers of solid ice, long frozen, began to ring and crack
as a great domed temple rose from the sea
while on the horizon, a terrible red dragon spread its wings in a flight not seen for millenia–
Slowly, blazing an oblique path, the beast ascended, fixed upon the temple’s Omphalos which supported the heavenly dome.
All things revolved around this Axis Mundi,
and the peak of the sacred mount climbed with the firey serpent
until all of its entombing ice flowed into four rivers, each into opposite directions,
flooding deeply the world of men.
Only those pious souls who found the celestial pole
and faithfully waited underneath heaven’s pivot,
were safely elevated upon the blessed summit,
spared from certain doom.