Postmodern Collage Poetry

A blog about writing collage poetry, post modern poetry, multi lingual poetry

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Mysticism and Poetry

Recently at Chicago's Myopic Poetry Series Peter O'Leary, via John Tipton read from his work and translation that come out of the Byzantine Tradition of Monasticism. These lyric works are not what you would expect normally from an avant garde experimental poet like O'Leary and for this I was moved. It was followed by a poetry reading by Murat Nemet-Nejat Turkish poet who read from his marvelous translations of Turkish poetry EDA. The combination of these poets led me to think again differently.

As a Postmodern experimental poet who is also a Catholic rooted in the 5000 year tradition of Mediterrannean mysticism I am unwilling to give up on the tradition that starts with the Greeks, Romans, and Christianity these are fertile fields of origin for me and my poetics. Yet I do not feel free to use the full richness of this, my tradition because of the fact that so many in the poetic world are hostile to these forms- O'Leary has torn that door off the hinges and I am personally in his debt because he has the guts to do it and be open about it.

Most poets who are in the experimental camp of which I myself and Peter are 'members' have chosen not to look at the poetic traditions to develop their artform. For most experimental poets poetry began with Pound or LANGUAGE. The lack of Richness in many contemporary writers and the need to use so much irony is making allot of poetry taste like weak coffee.

Poetry is argably the oldest artform, it has been argued that while they were painting the caves at Altamira the stories that were being illustrated were being sung in verse by bards. There is an unbroken tradition here and it is one that includes these modes ignored today. The situation today is that much of the rich heritage of poetics is looked at as source material but not as living art.

Painters would never discount Giotto because he used religious themes or mystical ideas but in poetry, unless it is Buddhist or Sufi (Current Acceptable Forms of Mysticism). The times when a poet uses Christian or Monastic poetics in his/her work there is a marginization that I think is unfortunate and shows a lack of reading among many poets. No one would for example question Asians use of Buddhist themes or forms but the use of monastic, or other poetic forms from the Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant traditions is immediately pushed to one side and I think this is a mistake, whether or not you believe in God or not.

There are so many writers from these traditions who need to be read by postmodern poets; here are some of my favorites, Ephraim the Syrian (Orthodox), Bernard of Clairvaux, John of the Cross, (Catholics) Dante, Issac Luria (Jewish), Meister Eckhart, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and many others. There has be a moda recently of reading Hildegard Von Bingen I would urge poets to read Teresa of Avila as well, or Catherine of Genoa or many other women writers who dwell in a tradition that most poets ignore or are hostile to.

This is not an argument for Conservatism, it is an argument for inclusion. It is essential that we give everyone a place in the sun, Jerome Rothenberg has done this so well with his ethnopoetics. But when you go out to read mystical texts do not forget those that come out of the tradition of
that encompasses Christianity, even if you are an atheist.

I will take Peter's reading as a challenge to bring into my own work more of these traditions into my own work and I will eagerly await more of Peter O'Leary's fine translations of Anatolian Monastic Poetry that is lost in a sea of noise.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Poetry that is Just Bad

Well- while i should be talking about the election I have decided to return to poetry. I was at a meeting last night and we were talking about Poetry and I really began to think.

The fact is that so much of the poetry created is garbage. Because Poetry lacks the critical infrastructure of Visual art and Fiction allot of 'poets' and 'poetry' is allowed to grow unchecked like a Cancer on the body poetic. Poetry so needs a critical culture to develop and people need to feel free to criticize weak and bad work without fearing for their poetic lives. I am going to publish on an interview in November with Marjorie Perloff and I wont reveal too much but I must say that she is right on and worth reading and so refreshing.
She is an artist of a critic.

The fact is that allot of poetry is weak and not well written and allot of this is done in the name of 'relevance' . Chicago has to endure the slam culture which started so well 20 years ago and has degraded into a skin cancer on the hip hop world, lacking art and lacking craft and rhyming to a weakness that is commercially driven. In the end I think that Poetry is Art, not therapy and that poets need to be adept on their art and their craft. Too many poets do not read and do not know enough and as I write I ask myself the question where does art begin in poetry?

Long Live Pound, Dante, Neruda, Olson, Williams, and the rest!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Activism and Faith/A Scoundrels Refuge

Recently I was net surfing- just putting in names of people that I used to know and seeing what is up with them.

and up came Cathy Breen's name.

Cathy is one of the people who I have known in my life who had a profound impact and who remains an important image for me .

I met her in Cochabamba, Bolivia when I was a Franciscan Lay Volunteer from 1993-1995. She is the real deal. She truly lived with the people- advocating for people and challenging the structures that oppressed their lives. She was also a prophetic person someone who channeled the prophetic radical Christ that way Martin Luther King did- by challenging the power of oppression non violently and prophetically.

I recently read that Cathy was a witness for peace in Baghdad, living with the Iraqi people during the recent war- being with them while we destroyed their nation to fulfill W's oedipal problem. Cathy is a prophet and is the best image of the prophetic radical Jesus that I have ever met. and GW has never met.

The real issue in this election is the question of faith- which God do we want to have ruling our affairs? The prophetic radical God that is embodied byJesus, Martin Luther King, Cathy Breen, Dorothy Day, and Gandhi or the Small petty violent God embraced by George Bush, there is only a difference of degrees between Fundamentalisms the mentality is "I have all the answers"

But in reality Fundamentialism is easy it does not require real sacrifice- it requires following rules, - The reality is that real faith and real belief are not what Fundamentalists want
because that would challenge power and that is not their goal. So we spend our time talking about a 'personal Jesus' which is one line in the Bible and then we ignore the hundreds of passages that call for us to live radical lives of service and social change.

Why don't George Bush and his friends live the Gospel? Because there is no money in it. The Gospel requires radical change- giving all to God by being in service to our neighbor-not killing our neighbor-loving our neighbor and making our neighbor our brother or sister.
But George Bush and his friends are not Christians, unless the Trinity is Power-Money and Greed. They put on the Christian clothes to dupe the comfortable and salve their hearts with lies. The Bush Jesus is comfortable playing Golf, being housed in a Mega Church he is not the Jesus who hung on the Cross.

Jesus was a revolutionary pacifist as was Buddha, Gandhi -they did not call us to be comfortable they called us to be radical. When I begin to hear GW's Fundamentalist claptrap I ask one question, why is the Sermon on the Mount ignored? How can these people who have caused so much pain and death call themselves "christians".

Why is radical love that Jesus preached ignored?

Because they are not Christians they are fakers.

I think that Jesus will vomit them out of his mouth. " Get away from me you Hypocrites" " when I was hungry you gave me no food, when I was naked you gave me no drink" Now to the fires with you.

So I look at Cathy Breen, in awe of the truth, that we should do more and live prophetic lives of radical non violence and make that our testament to the millions who die every year from Fundamentalisms of all kind rather than more war, more violence and more death.