“In older myths, the dark road leads downward into the Underworld, where Persephone is carried off by Hades, much against her will, while Ishtar descends of her own accord to beat at the gates of Hell. This road of darkness lies to the West, according to Native American myth, and each of us must travel it at some point in our lives. The western road is one of trials, ordeals, disasters and abrupt life changes — yet a road to be honored, nevertheless, as the road on which wisdom is gained. James Hillman, whose theory of ‘archetypal psychology’ draws extensively on Greco–Roman myth, echoes this belief when he argues that darkness is vital at certain periods of life, questioning our modern tendency to equate mental health with happiness. It is in the Underworld, he reminds us, that seeds germinate and prepare for spring. Myths of descent and rebirth connect the soul’s cycles to those of nature.”
~ Terri Windling
How to Speak Poetry
Take the word butterfly. To use this word it is not necessary to make the voice weigh less than an ounce or equip it with small dusty wings. It is not necessary to invent a sunny day or a field of daffodils. It is not necessary to be in love, or to be in love with butterflies. The word butterfly is not a real butterfly. There is the word and there is the butterfly. If you confuse these two items people have the right to laugh at you. Do not make so much of the word. Are you trying to suggest that you love butterflies more perfectly than anyone else, or really understand their nature? The word butterfly is merely data. It is not an opportunity for you to hover, soar, befriend flowers, symbolize beauty and frailty, or in any way impersonate a butterfly. Do not act out words. Never act out words. Never try to leave the floor when you talk about flying. Never close your eyes and jerk your head to one side when you talk about death. Do not fix your burning eyes on me when you speak about love. If you want to impress me when you speak about love put your hand in your pocket or under your dress and play with yourself. If ambition and the hunger for applause have driven you to speak about love you should learn how to do it without disgracing yourself or the material.
What is the expression which the age demands? The age demands no expression whatever. We have seen photographs of bereaved Asian mothers. We are not interested in the agony of your fumbled organs. There is nothing you can show on your face that can match the horror of this time. Do not even try. You will only hold yourself up to the scorn of those who have felt things deeply. We have seen newsreels of humans in the extremities of pain and dislocation. Everyone knows you are eating well and are even being paid to stand up there. You are playing to people who have experienced a catastrophe. This should make you very quiet. Speak the words, convey the data, step aside. Everyone knows you are in pain. You cannot tell the audience everything you know about love in every line of love you speak. Step aside and they will know what you know because you know it already. You have nothing to teach them. You are not more beautiful than they are. You are not wiser. Do not shout at them. Do not force a dry entry. That is bad sex. If you show the lines of your genitals, then deliver what you promise. And remember that people do not really want an acrobat in bed. What is our need? To be close to the natural man, to be close to the natural woman. Do not pretend that you are a beloved singer with a vast loyal audience which has followed the ups and downs of your life to this very moment. The bombs, flame-throwers, and all the shit have destroyed more than just the trees and villages. They have also destroyed the stage. Did you think that your profession would escape the general destruction? There is no more stage. There are no more footlights. You are among the people. Then be modest. Speak the words, convey the data, step aside. Be by yourself. Be in your own room. Do not put yourself on.
This is an interior landscape. It is inside. It is private. Respect the privacy of the material. These pieces were written in silence. The courage of the play is to speak them. The discipline of the play is not to violate them. Let the audience feel your love of privacy even though there is no privacy. Be good whores. The poem is not a slogan. It cannot advertise you. It cannot promote your reputation for sensitivity. You are not a stud. You are not a killer lady. All this junk about the gangsters of love. You are students of discipline. Do not act out the words. The words die when you act them out, they wither, and we are left with nothing but your ambition.
Speak the words with the exact precision with which you would check out a laundry list. Do not become emotional about the lace blouse. Do not get a hard-on when you say panties. Do not get all shivery just because of the towel. The sheets should not provoke a dreamy expression about the eyes. There is no need to weep into the handkerchief. The socks are not there to remind you of strange and distant voyages. It is just your laundry. It is just your clothes. Don’t peep through them. Just wear them.
The poem is nothing but information. It is the Constitution of the inner country. If you declaim it and blow it up with noble intentions then you are no better than the politicians whom you despise. You are just someone waving a flag and making the cheapest kind of appeal to a kind of emotional patriotism. Think of the words as science, not as art. They are a report. You are speaking before a meeting of the Explorers’ Club of the National Geographic Society. These people know all the risks of mountain climbing. They honour you by taking this for granted. If you rub their faces in it that is an insult to their hospitality. Tell them about the height of the mountain, the equipment you used, be specific about the surfaces and the time it took to scale it. Do not work the audience for gasps ans sighs. If you are worthy of gasps and sighs it will not be from your appreciation of the event but from theirs. It will be in the statistics and not the trembling of the voice or the cutting of the air with your hands. It will be in the data and the quiet organization of your presence.
Avoid the flourish. Do not be afraid to be weak. Do not be ashamed to be tired. You look good when you’re tired. You look like you could go on forever. Now come into my arms. You are the image of my beauty.
On Friday, January 20th Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as The President of the United States of America.
This will be a very sad day indeed. And as poets and writers everywhere we need to speak up and say what needs to be said, and share those words with our nation and the world.
So here’s what we do.
At EXACTLY 8pm on the evening of Friday, January 20th I’m asking all my friends and fellow writers and poets to simultaneously all post a poem or prose piece against the election and presidency of Trump. Post it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, WordPress …
That’s it, that’s all we need to do but we must all be united in this protest.
No matter who you are, what country, what race or what nationality this is the moment to Stand Against Trump.
All I ask?
Tag the bottom of your posts with these words that say we stand together.
Please join me, spread the word and invite all other writers and poets.
Join Us On Facebook:
“Not as we are but as we must appear,
contractual ghosts of pity; not as we
desire life, but as they would have us live,
set apart in timeless colloquy.
So it is required; so we bear witness,
despite ourselves, to what is beyond us,
each distant sphere of harmony forever
poised, unanswerable. It is without
consequence when we vaunt and suffer,
or if it is not, all echoes are the same
in such eternity. Then tell me, love,
how that should comfort us-or anyone
dragged half-unnerved out of this worldly place
crying to the end ”I have not finished.”
From ‘Funeral Music”
~ Geoffrey Hill, Collected Poems
Till this very moment, by being the one who shall not fall nor rise, I have stood my ground in the kingdom of desire. No matter how bright the sun is, I seek no shadow. No matter how dark the moon is, I seek no fire. I hold my breath in a place where all should be received with gratitude as nothing is granted. I now live, for should a single leaf of mine fall or rise, I shall be no more.
Although I’m not the first poet to ever write a book of post-apocalyptic poetry (The Bones of Our Existence) I can happily say that I have been preceded by such poets as the likes of Paul Dehn and even by a poem by Lord Byron called “The Darkness”. Here’s a great article on Paul Dehn’s book, a collaboration with famous artist Edward Gorey entitled “Quake Quake Quake”
I can’t teach you how to write, and anybody who says they can is full of shit.”
— Hank Moody
George Sterling (1869-1926); King of Bohemia and central figure in the Californian literary scene of the early twentieth century. Pupil of Ambrose Bierce, whom he called “The Master,” mentor to Clark Ashton Smith, friend of Jack London, Robinson Jeffers and Nora May French.
Perhaps best known for his epic poems The Testimony of the Suns and A Wine of Wizardry (1907), to which Smith’s The Hashish-Eater would forever be compared, his prodigious output of poems, plays, essays and the occasional story appeared in twenty one volumes, numerous magazines and newspapers.
His work covered a broad set of themes and philosophies – from the romantic, in the tradition of Shelley and Keats, to the morbid gloom of Poe passing through the mystical and fantastic on the way. He tackled the (at the time) taboo subjects of incest and homosexuality while covering the current political and sporting news of the day.
Sterling committed suicide by taking cyanide in his room at the Bohemian Club on November 17, 1926.
As all good poets should be, he was a drunkard and a womanizer.
~ Boyd Pearson
ART & LIFE
The children of the flesh of men,
They pass from night to night;
They weep and laugh and labor, then
Are lost to human sight.
Musing on such a fate, the mind
Stirs with a tragic sense-
So brave they walk the stage assigned,
So soon they hurry thence.
The children of the artist’s brain
O’er them Time swings his scythe in
Till time no more shall be.
In many hearts, in many lands,
They live again their tale,
As, young or old, the Future’s hands
Arise to give them hail.
As here the crafts of men assure
Their presence to the years,
So too shall Memory’s bronze endure,
With all their smiles and tears.
Such lives within our lives can be;
Such comrades Art can give.
Are men but shadows? is it we
Or they who truly live?
A Wine of Wizardry
"When mountains were stained as with wine By the dawning of Time, and as wine Were the seas." -AMBROSE BIERCE. Without, the battlements of sunset shine, 'Mid domes the sea-winds rear and overwhelm. Into a crystal cup the dusky wine I pour, and, musing at so rich a shrine, I watch the star that haunts its ruddy gloom. Now Fancy, empress of a purpled realm, Awakes with brow caressed by poppy-bloom, And wings in sudden dalliance her flight To strands where opals of the shattered light Gleam in the wind-strewn foam, and maidens flee A little past the striving billows' reach, Or seek the russet mosses of the sea, And wrinkled shells that lure along the beach, And please the heart of Fancy; yet she turns, Tho' trembling, to a grotto rosy-sparred, Where wattled monsters redly gape, that guard A cowled magician peering on the damned Thro' vials wherein a splendid poison burns, Sifting Satanic gules athwart his brow. So Fancy will not gaze with him, and now She wanders to an iceberg oriflammed With rayed, auroral guidons of the North— Wherein hath winter hidden ardent gems And treasuries of frozen anadems, Alight with timid sapphires of the snow. But she would dream of warmer gems, and so Ere long her eyes in fastnesses look forth O'er blue profounds mysterious whence glow The coals of Tartarus on the moonless air, As Titans plan to storm Olympus' throne, 'Mid pulse of dungeoned forges down the stunned, Undominated firmament, and glare Of Cyclopean furnaces unsunned. Then hastens she in refuge to a lone, Immortal garden of the eastern hours, Where Dawn upon a pansy's breast hath laid A single tear, and whence the wind hath flown And left a silence. Far on shadowy tow'rs Droop blazoned banners, and the woodland shade, With leafy flames and dyes autumnal hung, Makes beautiful the twilight of the year. For this the fays will dance, for elfin cheer, Within a dell where some mad girl hath flung A bracelet that the painted lizards fear— Red pyres of muffled light! Yet Fancy spurns The revel, and to eastern hazard turns, And glaring beacons of the Soldan's shores, When in a Syrian treasure-house she pours, From caskets rich and amethystine urns, Dull fires of dusty jewels that have bound The brows of naked Ashtaroth around. Or hushed, at fall of some disastrous night, When sunset, like a crimson throat to hell, Is cavernous, she marks the seaward flight Of homing dragons dark upon the West; Till, drawn by tales the winds of ocean tell, And mute amid the splendors of her quest, To some red city of the Djinns she flees And, lost in palaces of silence, sees Within a porphyry crypt the murderous light Of garnet-crusted lamps whereunder sit Perturbéd men that tremble at a sound, And ponder words on ghastly vellum writ, In vipers' blood, to whispers from the night— Infernal rubrics, sung to Satan's might, Or chaunted to the Dragon in his gyre. But she would blot from memory the sight, And seeks a stainéd twilight of the South, Where crafty gnomes with scarlet eyes conspire To quench Aldebaran's affronting fire, Low sparkling just beyond their cavern's mouth, Above a wicked queen's unhallowed tomb. There lichens brown, incredulous of fame, Whisper to veinéd flowers her body's shame, 'Mid stillness of all pageantries of bloom. Within, lurk orbs that graven monsters clasp; Red-embered rubies smolder in the gloom, Betrayed by lamps that nurse a sullen flame, And livid roots writhe in the marble's grasp, As moaning airs invoke the conquered rust Of lordly helms made equal in the dust. Without, where baleful cypresses make rich The bleeding sun's phantasmagoric gules, Are fungus-tapers of the twilight witch (Seen by the bat above unfathomed pools) And tiger-lilies known to silent ghouls, Whose king hath digged a somber carcanet And necklaces with fevered opals set. But Fancy, well affrighted at his gaze, Flies to a violet headland of the West, About whose base the sun-lashed billows blaze, Ending in precious foam their fatal quest, As far below the deep-hued ocean molds, With waters' toil and polished pebbles' fret, The tiny twilight in the jacinth set, The wintry orb the moonstone-crystal holds, Snapt coral twigs and winy agates wet, Translucencies of jasper, and the folds Of banded onyx, and vermilion breast Of cinnabar. Anear on orange sands, With prows of bronze the sea-stained galleys rest, And swarthy mariners from alien strands Stare at the red horizon, for their eyes Behold a beacon burn on evening skies, As fed with sanguine oils at touch of night. Forth from that pharos-flame a radiance flies, To spill in vinous gleams on ruddy decks; And overside, when leap the startled waves And crimson bubbles rise from battle-wrecks, Unresting hydras wrought of bloody light Dip to the ocean's phosphorescent caves. So Fancy's carvel seeks an isle afar, Led by the Scorpion's rubescent star, Until in templed zones she smiles to see Black incense glow, and scarlet-bellied snakes Sway to the tawny flutes of sorcery. There priestesses in purple robes hold each A sultry garnet to the sea-linkt sun, Or, just before the colored morning shakes A splendor on the ruby-sanded beach, Cry unto Betelgeuse a mystic word. But Fancy, amorous of evening, takes Her flight to groves whence lustrous rivers run, Thro' hyacinth, a minster wall to gird, Where, in the hushed cathedral's jeweled gloom, Ere Faith return, and azure censers fume, She kneels, in solemn quietude, to mark The suppliant day from gorgeous oriels float And altar-lamps immure the deathless spark; Till, all her dreams made rich with fervent hues, She goes to watch, beside a lurid moat, The kingdoms of the afterglow suffuse A sentinel mountain stationed toward the night— Whose broken tombs betray their ghastly trust, Till bloodshot gems stare up like eyes of lust. And now she knows, at agate portals bright, How Circe and her poisons have a home, Carved in one ruby that a Titan lost, Where icy philters brim with scarlet foam, 'Mid hiss of oils in burnished caldrons tost, While thickly from her prey his life-tide drips, In turbid dyes that tinge her torture-dome; As craftily she gleans her deadly dews, With gyving spells not Pluto's queen can use, Or listens to her victim's moan, and sips Her darkest wine, and smiles with wicked lips. Nor comes a god with any power to break The red alembics whence her gleaming broths Obscenely fume, as asp or adder froths, To lethal mists whose writhing vapors make Dim augury, till shapes of men that were Point, weeping, at tremendous dooms to be, When pillared pomps and thrones supreme shall stir, Unstable as the foam-dreams of the sea. But Fancy still is fugitive, and turns To caverns where a demon altar burns, And Satan, yawning on his brazen seat, Fondles a screaming thing his fiends have flayed, Ere Lilith come his indolence to greet, Who leads from hell his whitest queens, arrayed In chains so heated at their master's fire That one new-damned had thought their bright attire Indeed were coral, till the dazzling dance So terribly that brilliance shall enhance. But Fancy is unsatisfied, and soon She seeks the silence of a vaster night, Where powers of wizardry, with faltering sight (Whenas the hours creep farthest from the noon) Seek by the glow-worm's lantern cold and dull A crimson spider hidden in a skull, Or search for mottled vines with berries white, Where waters mutter to the gibbous moon. There, clothed in cerements of malignant light, A sick enchantress scans the dark to curse, Beside a caldron vext with harlots' blood, The stars of that red Sign which spells her doom. Then Fancy cleaves the palmy skies adverse To sunset barriers. By the Ganges' flood She sees, in her dim temple, Siva loom And, visioned with the monstrous ruby, glare On distant twilight where the burning-ghaut Is lit with glowering pyres that seem the eyes Of her abhorrent dragon-worms that bear The pestilence, by Death in darkness wrought. So Fancy's wings forsake the Asian skies, And now her heart is curious of halls In which dead Merlin's prowling ape hath spilt A vial squat whose scarlet venom crawls To ciphers bright and terrible, that tell The sins of demons and the encharneled guilt That breathes a phantom at whose cry the owl, Malignly mute above the midnight well, Is dolorous, and Hecate lifts her cowl To mutter swift a minatory rune; And, ere the tomb-thrown echoings have ceased, The blue-eyed vampire, sated at her feast, Smiles bloodily against the leprous moon. But evening now is come, and Fancy folds Her splendid plumes, nor any longer holds Adventurous quest o'er stainéd lands and seas— Fled to a star above the sunset lees, O'er onyx waters stilled by gorgeous oils That toward the twilight reach emblazoned coils. And I, albeit Merlin-sage hath said, "A vyper lurketh in ye wine-cuppe redde," Gaze pensively upon the way she went, Drink at her font, and smile as one content.