Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Age of the Auto-Didact: The Form of Righteousness in American Poets: a Complaint and Lament

Nothing speaks to cultural decline with such force as short-sheeted ambition. There is no music so dull and dour as that of the poet who seeks mere restitution. There is no moment so perfectly suited to despair as when an artist wants nothing more than that one set of facts should be replaced by another set of facts.

I for one look to the future, to future generations and those individual voices, who will, I trust, find something in this universe more to their taste - more suitable to desire - than singing songs of blame over matters of dollars and cents. That society should practice equitable laws is a fine and necessary thing. But the form of righteousness that has overcome the American Poets has overwhelmed every other tone or consideration than that of a hurt I cannot bring myself to believe they feel.

I wonder at a generation of artists so attuned to balance sheets in lieu of personal accounts. That one or another entity should possess this or that amount of monies, and that one should pretend shock that individual persons do not - writing it out here, I can hardly believe what passes for meaningful conversation these days, when we are all to blame for the world we live in.

The puerile nature of blaming this or that worldly power for some lack of having served some poetic individual's  finer inclinations - I ask, if this is what writing modern poetry leads a 30/40-something to, then why bother? Why be a modern poet? Why bother at all, and how can we ask others to care? If a feeling is the point - what of critical care?

Where is the insight, the dance? Is complaint-at-power suddenly news? Does this constitute a work? Are you kidding me? Is corporate accountability the stuff dreams are made of? Are our writerly cannons so completely voided? These ultimate "concerns" in matters economic expressed as blame and complaint strike me as misplaced, unbalanced, and, frankly, obnoxious. Or, embarrassing. It stuns me what these people take "seriously" as a solution, when the solutions have been before us for eons. When eons' worth of persons named and unnamed have labored for fairness and balance and, may I say, have gotten us somewhere better than where we were, and by a fair margin.

Children of the obvious, this should appeal mightily to you, who manage somehow to believe that you and you alone discovered the writings of Karl Marx

Drawing a point, building an argument, seems futile where, however one even begins to consider the matter, the subject is prosaic and closed. I can only theorize very generally, and so I offer this observation. Lacking religion, people almost inevitably form one of their own, often (these days) based on personal tastes and opinions, or what suffices to please their friends. This outcome is pathetic, especially when you consider the influence of religion on such expectations and standards as pervade contemporary pronouncements. The likes of Nietzsche and Marx had the intellectual fortitude to do battle with historical forces. But not today's scholar/poet.

And so, whereas religion, philosophy, or critical theory helps to describe the general ambition of "economic equality" (from which one is free to create important solutions) it does nothing to explain the unsophisticated rancor that underlies and really sets into place the Form of Righteousness in American Poets. I don't know that any Americans have ever been so culturally inept. There is a breathtakingly uninteresting and baseless character to the underlying assumptions - that, somehow, all corporations are evil. That capitalism is necessarily evil. That ownership of property is necessarily evil.

Funny. I thought religion owned determinations of what is "evil" and that such judgments were out of fashion. But, no. Ours is the Age of the Moral Atheist, baptized by the function of blame. God is such promptings by friends as support their opinions. There is no work or reality here, no functioning humility or simple, hard-earned kindness, but a dream of the Self blanketing with blame what does not appeal to that same Self.

Auto-didacticism, thy name is love.

What fine, enduring work this is, this temple of nose-blown tissues and stilted doubt. This heaven of NOT. Who can fail to be bored to tears?

I labor, in this time and place, to understand how a person can form such judgments while at the same time maintaining an attitude of utter vigilance with respect to unfair judgments.  As I said, religion has no answer - except where the practitioner has managed to convince him or herself that she or he is utterly right. A business truism might apply here: if you have no competition, you have no market.

But the American Poet is not concerned with business, or markets, or audience, except insofar as his or her friends share the same opinion. That done, success is complete.

American Poetic politics is something like a certain fiction, of some note, where a being arises from dust and conceives that, in the absence of competing types, they must be God. If the futility were provocative or new, we might have something. But from my perspective this is all better gotten over, and as soon as possible. Not that I believe for one moment that this phase will soon pass. I am certain it will get worse. I am certain that it will mature and ripen and turn putrid before some new thing can emerge to save us from ourselves.

I have lamented in this blog my lack of success as a writer. Well, I can say that nothing reassures me in my decisions - to write as I do, to publish my own books - quite like observing certain tendencies of certain of my would-be peers. And so, in unison with anyone who might care to agree with me, I offer these petitions:
  • Let me fail, let me be washed away as one who has never known success in poetry.
  • Let me fail wildly, as one who has no clue.
  • Let me be mocked, derided - or better yet, ignored, as one whose language fell unsounded to the earth.
  • Let me say, I am weak, and partial, and wrong, forever.
  • Never let me blame others for my own failings.
And, finally, let me always celebrate the best we have and have done. Let me live in purpose and profit in intelligent choice. Let me always acknowledge others for their hard work and, while the war will be waged forever on this earth, let me never surrender.

Gladly I will fail, but I will fail well.

In the name of the kind, the knowledgeable, and the founded, now and forever.


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