Moral Panic and The New Didacticism

New rules of conduct are popping up everywhere, and in many cases, that’s a good thing, e.g. reduction of the harrassment of women in the workplace, expansion of civil rights for minorities, and so on.

This zeitgeist for updated ethics has spread into the arts, and that can also be a good thing, if it results in changes that reduce predatory behavior within institutions, as when two male dancers were recently fired from the New York City Ballet for alleged sexual misconduct.

On the other hand, now everyone is empowered to leave a comment on everything, and any asshole with a smartphone can take down somebody else with a bad review. People nit-pick anything and everything, leading to an infinite regress into social atomization.

Reorganization of codes of conduct is periodically necessary for societies to move forward, but at this point there is so much social media-fueled uncertainty, division, and vitriol in the air that it is bleeding over into the work itself, often with less-than-satisfactory results.

Of course artists can’t disconnect themselves from current events, and a political work can sometimes have the power to transcend its time and place. If all art and poetry are fresh responses to experience, then that must include the social and the political.

The problem for me with didactic poetry and artwork is more form than content. It’s tonal. We can and must respond to the world around us through our work, but the preachy tone and the black and white, all or none, baby with the bathwater attitudes will go away in time.

I just hope it’s sooner rather than later.

Unity Paradigm

The Unity Paradigm (UP) is a framework in which all my work - past, present, future - may be placed so that it may exist within a common context. It is a function of Harmonic Theory, and attempts to reconcile various structures, some of which are apparently at odds, through juxtaposition and hybridization.

UP is an attempt to define, demonstrate boundaries, and on occasion dissolve them. It is essentially Buddhist and poetic because it seeks to identify analogous forces, parallels, parities, comparisons, metaphors, and so on, and show the relative oneness or sameness of disparate, often seemingly contradictory, contrasting, or paradoxical things. It is also a Daoist thought structure, or even Manicheanist, as it is sometimes a bringing together of opposites, and shows essentiality of all things, and the impossibility of polarities to eliminate each other or achieve some final victory over one another.

To approach work through the UP is to have a skeleton on which to hang all the organs, the muscles, and the skin of said work so that it forms an organic whole in terms of form and content in poetry, fiction, music, photography, philosophy, video, assemblage, sound art, graphic design, and so on.

It should be noted that successful unity between forms is neither universally sought or desired. At times, the unity displayed may be the contrast itself, or often a deliberately incoherent, dissonant effect.

In a fundamental way, the UP is an application of the musical Drone Principle, meaning that a single things is presented for a duration. In music, that means a recurring or sustained tone, as in the music of the Indian sitar, or Western Drone music, which begins with LaMonte Young. The monotone is also applied to ostinato figures and vamps.

The Drone has within it the implication of the mathematical and spiritual infinite. Under UP, I permit myself sustained monomanias. In this way it is also a framework for creative behavior patterns - indulgences and deprivations, and the attempt at balance between them.

I have sustained a monomania for poetry for half a year, leading to rapid development and learning. I believe I have reached a true breakthrough via this method of sustained attention, having increased my comprehension, close-reading technique, and facility with a few technical methodologies. I have read more poetry as well as criticism, which has deepened my hermeneutic practice. I feel as though I am now on the cusp of producing actual poetry.

All that being said, the most natural course to pursue at this, the beginning of a new year, is to leave the intensive and extensive practice of poetry momentarily.

To clarify, I won’t quit writing poems, but I will pause my study of poetry. Instead I will produce poems to the best of my current ability and focus my learning elsewhere, specifically on image-making, treating it as an aspect of the core pursuit of writing poetry.

Now the real poetic practice may begin. I will study again in the future, but for now I must apply all that I have learned and direct my curiosity to vision, a fundamental aspect of poetic experience.

High flown poetic stuff, volcanoes, etc.

Poetry has suddenly and mercilessly erupted into my life and consciousness, much like Irazú and Arenal, active Costa Rican volcanoes I once visited on a trip there. Lava bombs ravage the countryside of my soul, demolishing every ramshackle structure in sight, making way for new ones. I say suddenly, but long did the poem’s magma stream below my life’s surface, slow effusive eruptions in the form of songs and photographs while the pressure below the surface mounted, waiting for its moment to explode.

All this is to say that along with this drive to find poems comes the desire to improve the writing in terms of effectiveness and craftsmanship. To do that, I need to read poems more extensively and intensively, and supplement that reading with fresh experience and study of other subjects. I’ll look for instruction and feedback from better poets, more established poets.

When the work begins to succeed in invoking the intended emotions in the reader, I’ll seek publication. As it is I believe that I possess a certain linguistic dexterity, but my use of it feels out of proportion. It seems sometimes bit too effusive, at other times a bit too explosive, perhaps too volcanic overall. I need to write enough and get critiqued enough to get into the groove of an assured voice and methodology.

My entrance into the house of poetry has only just begun, but the upward path toward it has been long and slow and inexorable. My arrival at its door feels inevitable, like a homecoming.

MISERICORDIA

Let this be a prayer for mercy.

For though we do not deserve it, that mercy is only yours to give.

You visited us and left empty-handed again and again.

We ask that you stay away until you mean it.

.

EN ALGUNA PARTE

The air was thick as donut glaze;
     It was about to rain.
The sky was nothing but a haze
     The grasses stood to gain.

Hot and dewy nights like these
     Are few and far between
Somewhere less friendly to fleas,
     Somewhere a bit less green.

.