Tag Archives: mysticism

U.G.

In English, it sounds just the same:
a senseless string of words
embued with some sense of mystique
used to convince and tame you;
to teach you follow and not lead;
that first impulse is evil.
If what you seek you have right now,
then why the mad gyrations,
austerities, and endless rules
to curb now’s inclinations?

What higher purpose would you serve
that others claim is worthy?
A thousand saints are born and die
each day, and yet it makes no difference:
if an altered state of mind
could change the world,
it would be changed by now.

Who has convinced you that the truth
is out there for the finding?
If they possessed an ounce or two,
what good is that to you?
They are no different, save for this:
when someone gave them manna
they asked after the recipe
and did not stay for dinner.

What meal can satisfy your urge
that has no form or substance?
What is the point of starving, then,
to merely birth a vision?

The gods, if they exist at all,
have no need of your mantras;
they will enlighten who they will.
Your efforts make no difference.
In that case, why expect reward?
Instead, just go on living
as if this one was all you had;
and nothing will be missing.

31 JUL 2006

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The Element Book of Mystical Verse

Covering the poetic ground, so to speak, from the Vedas through Stevie Smith, this is a book that I picked up on a discount rack at Barnes and Noble about a year ago. Recently, I dug it off the shelf, looking perhaps for something to link myself as a poet to the ages. And I discovered something — modern Poetry tends to the concrete, to examining the trivial as if it were somehow majestic and universally enlightening — which it is, of course — and treating anything that touches on greater themes, on the piercing of the veil, reaching through the “Cloud of Unknowing” as some kind of wishy-washy, meaningless search for existence outside of the existential quagmire that we have created with our technology. Most of the Poetry I read lately from modern sources seems to be like our cultural bias — absolutely materialistic, with little or no spiritual significance to the reader. Most of it deals with our fascination with cynicism, and disregard of something more elemental.

Who has the time, most would ask, to delve into the dark night of the soul? After all, the darkness has been artificially illuminated by night-lights, television sets, street lamps and glow-in-the-dark alarm clocks. We are as a culture surrounded by the white noise of our own busyness. And that, I think, is our greatest tragedy. That regardless of the spiritual path we think we are on, we seek to remedy symptoms not recognizing the cause of our sickness.

When did we, as artists, become so useless? Where are those touchstones upon which the future can be solidly constructed? I realize that EVERY religion, regardless of its temporal might, is always only one generation from extinction. But we insist that the precepts and underpinnings of those religions can be passed from generation to generation with laws, edicts and some kind of controlling mechanism that will direct the energies of youth into suitable pursuits, with the spectre of eternal ostracism as the deterrent to aberration.

There is a sobering lesson to be learned from reading such a treasury of “mystical works”. Mysticism is about absolute personal and individual interaction with something larger than yourself — however you choose to define it. Ultimately, that is freedom and liberty — and perhaps anarchy. But it is absolutely essential to the development of humankind. To their evolution into something more than parrots who regurgitate upon command the experience of someone else and pass it off as their own interpretation of reality.

What we as a culture suffer from is spiritual plagiarism. And rather than fight against it, advising the individual to seek their own truth, based on where their feet are actually on the path, so many of our so-called elders rely upon the convenience of control to shape the world to be. No wonder there is “nothing new under the sun.” It is because we instruct our young to seek within the box that we ourselves are constricted within. So few wonder what is beyond the confines of the cardboard — so that when the natural elements deteriorate the boundaries, there is great shock and concern that the actual SKY can be see through the remaining wisps of corrugation.

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Outside the Morphology of Poetics

For about two years, I have immersed myself in the classic forms of Poetry, forcing myself when I write to use common stanza forms with their dictates of rhyme and meter. I felt this was a necessary exercise to “formalize” my training as a poet – after all, one can’t begin except at the beginning. The imposition of form, particularly with respect to the traditional Welsh meters, I felt was essential in determining whether or not I could in fact have qualified as a “bard” in the traditional, Celtic Druid sense.

And I feel that I have achieved a certain degree of success in this endeavor, not the least of which is the creation of roughly a poem a day for two years – some of which have been collected into a manuscript that is currently under consideration for the Walt Whitman award.

It may seem strange that a collection of sonnet forms is what I submitted for this competition, particularly since Walt Whitman himself was a champion of new forms, so to speak, and did not adhere to the sonnet, or any other form, on a regular basis. But the point was that Whitman, although one of my earliest poetic influences, was not the only luminary on my horizon. There have been others who used form that heavily influenced my development, although my real impetus to focus my writing was my discovery (really, at the age of 28) of Henry Miller, who I owe a great debt of consciousness regarding writing, and Allen Ginsberg, whose biography by Barry Miles I am currently reading, and jazz by virtue of attending Berklee College of Music.

My initial attempts were to create my own beat Poetry – and being under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, various hallocinogenics and other mind-altering substances and conversations only served to fuel that fire. It was later, in Memphis, where the drug of choice was coffee, that my real experimentation began – using form as a vehicle for modifying sentence structure, creating new words, stringing thoughts Joyce-like in endless streams of consciousness, playing with the sound of language as integral to its meaning, and so on. And so began the manic creation of reams of paper filled with words. At the time, too, I considered myself a songwriter; so to contrast the freeform, Ornette Coleman style of “free jazz” Poetry, there were structured songs that used, like Willie Nelson is wont to do, ten-dollar words. And the constant abstraction wrought by needing to write regularly, in order to have something to present on a weekly basis at readings, to discuss among fellow poets, and to keep my mind (racing on caffeine) occupied.

Now, I find myself weaned of the frantic pace of living that ultimately deteriorated my health to a degree, and while I still write manically at times, these episodes are more structured. I use smaller words, I discovered the other day; so today I deliberated introduced the word “sinew” into a poem. At times, Robert Frost is like a lighthouse – a clear signal in the storm, and at the same time, a marker at the end of a dangerous shoreline. And Blake. One of my earliest influences, I discover by reading Ginsberg’s biography another parallel to that mystic soul. It’s like my appreciation of David Crosby. Ginsberg, Crosby, Yeats, Dylan, Joyce – with each of them there are aspects of their childhoods, their philosophies, their paths, that are mirrored in my own, but not mirrored or traced, because I had no foreknowledge of their presence on them; more like we sought for Truth using the same instinctual guides.

But back to Poetry. The point of all that is that while my work has been shaped and honed and pointed by form and meter, and these things will always affect, influence and inform my work, that they are merely lines to choose to color within, or blur, or ignore altogether.

BTW, can anyone recommend a good overview of the theoretics of modern Poetry? Besides, say, TS Eliot’s commentaries, or Stevens’ A Necessary Angel?

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