"Mother Water"

This is a bit more of my creative writing. And yes, I have been published in literary journals, in case you were asking. I published a short story in a single literary journal. There were a lot of  unknown names in there, but there were also a couple of big names – Gary Snyder and Allen Ginsberg. I remember at the bar afterwards Gary Snyder said he liked Journey Through the Zone. That was my story.
Anyway, is this better as prose or as a poem?

The sea. Once again the sea. Again and again the sea. Always again the sea. The sea from which we came. The sea to which we will return. Our mother. Mother water.

Or:

Mother  Water

The sea
Once again the sea
Again and again the sea
Always again the sea
The sea from which we came
The sea to which we will return
Our mother
Mother water

It does make a neat little very short poem. As prose it would have to be part of a larger work or possibly a microfiction or flash fiction story.
And if you are looking for influences, check out Samuel Beckett. Maybe James Joyce too, who knows? Beckett for sure though.

"Sad Song"

This a bit of my creative writing here.
Is this better as prose or as a poem?

The years. The long years. The sadness of the years.

Or:

The years
The long years
The sadness of the years

If you make it poetry, it’s almost a perfect little encapsulated haiku. If fiction, it would have to be part of a larger work or it could be a three-line microfiction flash fiction story.

Pio Baroja

Where’s this guy been all my life? The name sounds familiar, but I didn’t really know anything about him. Another Generation of ’98 writer who barely made it through the Spanish Civil War.
Federico Garcia Lorca, the doomed gay poet, one of the finest poets of the 20th Century, of course was assassinated in this war, but he was from the next generation of Spanish writers, the Generation of ’27. They were much more avant garde than the ’98’ers.
The Generation of ’98 were a whole new crop of Spanish writers who popped up at the turn of the century in Spain. Spain was still a monarchy back then and these were times of fervent. The monarchy was trying to balance between the desire of the people to modernize the humanize their country and the desires of the Church conservatives to keep things as static as they were.
At the same time, in 1898, Spain was reeling from its defeat in several wars around the globe. Thousands of Spaniards were dead, and Spain lost all of its colonies. This was a time of great upheaval in Spain. The ’98’ers attacked traditional culture and the monarchy which they say as conformist and undemocratic. In this sense, they were like the liberal protest movements that arose in Germany after World War 1 who attacked German culture and ways of thinking in the light of their painful defeat in the war.
These liberal movements were met with a conservative backlash or mostly demobbed soldiers who formed gangs called the Brownshirts who fought socialists and communists in the streets of Germany. These conservatives felt that the liberals had “stabbed the country in the back” and been traitorous during the war, leading to the nation’s defeat. One of these demobbed soldiers was an angry, wounded soldier named Adolf Hitler and it was from this Right vs Left firestorm in the streets that the Nazi God of Destruction arose a decade later. The Phoenix rising from the ashes, the regeneration of the illustrious nation of blood and soul, which is fascism in a nutshell. Fascism can best be seen as palingetic revolution of the Right. The word palingetic brings to mind the Phoenix rises to glory from the ashes of defeat.
Baroja was a liberal like most of that generation. He grew up in the Basque Country. He wrote a number of trilogies, including The Sea, The Cities, The Struggle for Life, The Basque Country and a few others. The Struggle for Life is a gritty, harsh trilogy about life in the slums of Madrid. John Dos Passos was very fond of this series. Probably his most famous book is The Tree of Knowledge. Baroja was a pessimist and a nihilist who soured on life at a young age.
I do not mind reading downbeat authors though, even if I am an optimist. Really the optimistic and pessimistic views of life are both true and equally valid.
Baroja was influenced by Nietzsche, but below almost looks like Heidegger. I like the elaborate, ornate, very descriptive prose of the 19th Century. I love the long, fancy sentences where the tail of the sentence almost seems to be the head. I don’t mind getting to the end of a Henry James sentence, commas and all, and then wondering what the start of the sentence was about. It’s fun to decipher fancy writing. People don’t write like this much anymore as it is considered to be too elaborate and difficult for its own sake. I believe some of the finest writing in English was done in the 19th Century though. I can’t get enough of those $64,000 sentences. They’re so good you could almost take them to the bank.
Most of Baroja has not yet been translated into English, though he has been famous in Spain for a century.  Hemingway was heavily influenced by Baroja, although this fact is little known.
Isn’t that some fine writing?

The individual is the only real thing in nature and in life. Neither the species, the genus, nor the race, actually exists; they are abstractions, terminologies, scientific devices, useful as syntheses but not entirely exact. By means of these devices we can discuss and compare; they constitute a measure for our minds to use, but have no external reality. Only the individual exists through himself and for himself. I am, I live, is the sole thing a man can affirm.
The categories and divisions arranged for classification are like the series of squares an artist places over a drawing to copy it by. The lines of the squares may cut the lines of the sketch; but they will cut them, not in reality but only in the artist’s eye. In humanity, as in all of nature, the individual is the one thing. Only individuality exists in the realm of life and in the realm of spirit.
Pio Baroja, Caesar or Nothing, 1903

Reading List (Anyone Else Read Like This)?

I am a voracious reader, and lately at least, I am often reading between 20-40 books all at once. I pick up one, read 20 pages or so, and put it down. Then I pick up another one, read another 20 pages or so, and put it down too. It’s not really a problem for most nonfiction books and it works fine for books of essays and short stories. The poetry I read is often long narrative poetry where you have a single poem that goes on for an entire book of 200-300 pages. This method works well for these poetry books.
It is a bit of a problem with novels. I will admit it. You do tend to lose your place a bit and sometimes I just have to go back and start all the way over again. I think I am going to need to restart War and Peace and the Brothers Karamazov because I forgot what I read.
I do not know if this way of reading is stupid and sensible. It’s just the way I do it. It’s actually rather fun to read this way.
The list:
Total

  1. 33 books

Novels

  1. Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
  2. Feodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
  3. Robert Stone, A Flag for Sunrise
  4. Joyce Carol Oates, Because It Is Bitter and Because It Is My Heart
  5. Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
  6. Tom Robbins, Still Live with Woodpecker
  7. John Rechy, Bodies and Souls
  8. John Updike, Until the End of Time
  9. Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim
  10. Herman Melville, Moby Dick
  11.  Chuck Pahalunik, Invisible Monsters
  12.  Franz Kafka, The Trial
  13. John Irving, Son of the Circus
  14. James Joyce, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man

Short Stories

  1.  Joyce Carol Oates, Night-Side
  2.  Alice Munro, Too Much Happiness
  3.  Ernest Hemingway, The Complete Stories of Ernest Hemingway
  4. Flannery O’Connor, A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories
  5. Daniel Francis Howard, The Western Tradition: An Anthology of Short Stories

Poetry

  1. John Milton, Paradise Lost
  2. Steven St. Vincent Benet, Western Star

Essays

  1. Loren Eisley, Night Country (science)
  2. Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire (nature)
  3. Edward Abbey, Down the River (nature)
  4. Adam Gopnik, Paris to the Moon
  5. Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tuscon
  6. Doug Peacock, Grizzly Years (nature)
  7. Malcolm Gladwell, Blink (cognitive science)

Unclassified Nonfiction

  1. Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or (philosophy)
  2. Showan Khurshid, Knowledge Processing, Creativity and Politics (political science)
  3. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy (philosophy)
  4. John Colapinto, As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl (gender studies)
  5. John C. Greene, The Death of Adam: Evolution and Its Impact on Western Thought (science)

Love and Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy of course is the great Victorian novelist, short story writer and lately appreciated poet. Many of his works deal with men and women and their love affairs. If you have never checked him out, I urge you to do so. He is well worth it. He was admired by writers like D. H. Lawrence (who wrote a book about it), the great John Cowper Powys, W.Somerset Maugham, and the great misanthropic poet Philip Larkin. He was a follower of the Naturalist School made famous by Emile Zola.
The Naturalists were a follow-on to the Realists such as Gustave Flaubert (proto-realist) and Anthony Trollope (classic realist). It was supposed to be an improvement upon realism, but I am not sure how. Both of these were reactions against the overly florid, unrealistic and overwrought stories of the time. Zola in particular sought to be almost scientific in his descriptions of the people in his books. Both sought to simply portray characters, humans and scenes as they actually are and let readers draw their own didactic or moralistic conclusions if they so wished.
As far as Hardy himself in love, he was famously married a couple of times. He was described as an unhappy husband. When his second wife died in 1912 after they were estranged for over 20 years, nevertheless, Hardy become a distraught widower and produced some of his finest poetry in Satires of Circumstance published two years later. These are considered to be some of the saddest, most powerful and finest poems about death ever written in English.
And so we have Thomas Hardy:

  • Unhappy husband, and then
  • Distraught widower

He was miserable while he was married to her, but he was even more miserable when she was dead. There is a lesson in here somewhere, maybe:

  • The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, or simply
  • People are never happy

I prefer the latter.

Robert Burns, "Tam O Shanter"


This poem was written in and is being read in a language called Scots, which is not a dialect of English as many people think. Scots split off from English in ~1500, or 500 years ago. This is approximately what two languages sound like when they have been split apart for 500 years. I listened to this, although I can make out some words and even phrases here and there, honestly, I do not have the faintest idea what he is talking about, and I am missing most of this language. I can hear ~25% of it, if that.  However, a good friend of mine from England listened to it and she said she could make out ~70%. So there you go. See if you can make heads or tails of this stuff.

Keats

Do any of you like John Keats? Famous English Romantic poet who lived in the Romantic Era. Born 1795, died young of tuberculosis in 1821 at age 25. He led a pretty sad life. Other Romantic poets were Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sidney Lamb, Thomas Carlyle and William Wordsworth. There sure was a lot of great poetry around back in those days. Except for the tuberculosis and doctors who tried to cure you via blood loss, it was probably a great time to be alive.
I have wandered through quite a few of Keats’ poems, but that doesn’t mean that I understood what was going on in all of them. Keats’ poems are often hard to understand. But even if can’t figure out what the poem is about, they often feel real nice to read due to the beauty of the language. However, Ode to a Nightingale seems pretty straightforward to me. It’s beautiful stuff!

Ode to a Nightingale

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute last, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.
 
O for a draught of vintage! That hath been
Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Floa and the country-green,
Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South!
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth,
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim-
 
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness the fever and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs;
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.
 
Away! Away! For I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards.
Already with thee! Tender is the night,
Clustered around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.
 
I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hands upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild –
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast fading violets covered up in leaves;
And mid-May’s eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
 
Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Called hi soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain –
To thy high requiem become a sod.
 
Thou wast born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
 
Forlorn! The very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! The fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is famed to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! Adieu! Thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near-meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now ‘tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music – Do I wake or sleep?

The Hell with Quiet Desperation

Carpe diem!

One hour of life, crowded to the full with glorious action, and filled with noble risks, is worth whole years of those mean observances of paltry decorum, in which men steal through existence, like sluggish waters through a marsh, without either honour or observation. – Sir Walter Scott

“And then I can die happy.” That is one of my favorite saying. Not that I want to die now, but considering how I have lived my life, nothing much could happen between now and death in the next 30 years, and I could still die happy. That’s how fun my past was. Of course I want the present and future to be just as fun, but it doesn’t have to be. If I never have sex again, I can still die happy. I’ve had my fun.
PS Do you any of you like Scott? It is fashionable to hate him as some sort of a hack, but I am reading some of his poetry now (he wrote book-length poems) and I must say, it is pretty awesome.
In recent years, Scott has come somewhat back into favor as the academy has found some grounds for appreciating him. About time.

Of Dogs and Men

With apologies to John Steinbeck.

Boatswain

When some proud son of man returns to earth,
Unknown to glory, but upheld by birth,
The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And storied urns record who rests below;
When all is done, upon the tomb is seen,
Not what he was, but what he should have been.
But the poor dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, the foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his master’s own,
Who labors, lives, fights, breathes for him alone,
Unhonored falls, unnoticed all his worth,
Denied in heaven the soul he held on earth.
While man, vain insect, hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole, exclusive heaven.
Ye! Who behold, perchance, this simple urn,
Pass on; it honours none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones rise,
I have never known but one – and here he lies.

Lord Byron, “Boatswain”

Who says that we have souls and dogs none, anyway? The Bible? What kind of religion is that, then?

"Drunk and Disorderly: The Joys of Ranterism and Other Topics," by Jacob Bauthumley

For white English or American readers of this blog, a question.
Who went to church this morning? Go on, own up. Nobody?
Coming home on the bike I passed the Catholic church on the corner of my block (West Earlham). Everyone was of Indian origin, speaking Indian languages! In white Norwich! Not a white Caucasian in sight.
This morning I was up extremely early, and at first light I was worshipping at the church of my allotment, delighting in the alchemy of all life. Yes really! Just enjoying it.
Then, I went scrumping windfall apples, and gathered 150lb of different varieties, which I moved on my bike trailer in an old plastic cistern back to my friend Ruth’s place. I am so knackered now that I have to go back to bed. I’ve been up since 4am, and I’ve had three hours’ sleep. What the hell. Sleep it off, baby. It’s a Sunday!
I rang a friend, a local poet, and he put me in touch with a local cider maker with a press, out in rural Norfolk, in Old Buckenham. My friend John and I plan to turn the apples into ten gallons of cider and sour the cider to make ten gallons of cider vinegar.
Religious views are a very tricky area, aren’t they? The two things you are not supposed to discuss in polite English society are religion and politics. It is clear that I do not have the manners of an Englishman, since I talk about both.
My nom de guerre Abiezer Coppe gives his views on the Christian religion at the end of the piece.
I have been at times an Marxist atheist, an Marxist agnostic, and a Marxist with Christian leanings. In the next phase of my life I shall settle for a Marxist gnosticism, marrying the rational materialist dialectic of Marx, to the otherworldly insights of the Christian Gnostics, starting with Valentinus (3rd Century AD). I am in good company. Ernst Bloch (1885-1977) was also a kind of Marxist gnostic. True, he was a Stalinist, too, but Stalinism is not the main thrust of his remarkable magnum opus on Hope, Das Prinzip Hoffnug, or of his biography of the 15th Century revolutionary peasant leader, Thomas Munzer, which I found in French translation.
Spiritual search: should I give it up entirely? I have tried the Cheshire Cat Buddhists at the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (I swear they all had the same smile) but they gave me the creeps, as every religious group does.
Experiential spirituality is the only type I can connect to: I learned Vipassana meditation once. Ten day silent retreats in Herefordshire, no speaking, no eye contact: it takes a lot to discipline a wild mind. I’ve always been poor, and even the poor can afford it: I gave service instead of cash, and went back and worked in the kitchens on another retreat.
Vipassana was good, and it works, but who wants to spend two hours a day sitting on their arse meditating? It certainly chills you out like nothing else does, the ten day retreat. You come out feeling clean, really clean. A good friend of mine called L–a came on a Herefordshire retreat with me (I drove my totally illegal French taxed, French MOT’d and French insured Citroen BX from Norwich to Herefordshire and back, and around on the roads of the UK for 2 years, and the police never stopped me once). She’d smoked dope and tobacco, and drank alcohol all her life. After the 10 day retreat she just stopped, without even a struggle. No alcohol, no drugs, no tobacco. She just didn’t want them anymore.
Buddha was really onto something, then. Buddhism is a practical spirituality centered on the practice of compassion, and the meditative practices of Buddhism actually renders one more compassionate. It can’t be a bad thing.
I’ve met atheists and Marxists who are – or seem – spiritual, and plenty of Christians who are not. It’s about the being, the beingness of the person, the kind of love they put forth into the world. I’ve met Muslims with a spiritual energy to die for.
Spirituality is? – taking the risk in every moment to be honest, to connect with other beings (it might be a frog, my favourite amphibian) and live and love from my deepest sense of whom I am, from my wild and untamed self. And damn the consequences. It’s difficult. We are English. We are fairly shy. We like dissimulation and subterfuge; it is what, as a nation, we are more comfortable with. At least the chattering classes, the bourgeois, the middle classes. I can only speak for my own class, and I am not Jay Griffiths, though I admire her guts. I am more comfortable with Latins, personally, than the emotionally repressed public school Englishman (I did that. I went to a small private boarding school in Suffolk for six years).
WYSWYG: What You See Is What You Get, in my experience with people of Latin  extraction.
If they don’t like you they come straight out with it. I respect that. In fact, seriously, who would WANT to live any other way once the inner wild being in each of us is brought to light? Who then would settle for the psychic equivalent of suburbia?
Read Wild: An Elemental Journey, by Jay Griffiths, to get an idea of what we have lost touch with, our mammalian, our animal nature, our inner wild being. Once we were wild beings, too.
Wild: An Elemental Journey is a magnificent book, and the woman has bags of courage, lots of cojones, as the Spanish say. Maybe we need to “re-wild” ourselves a bit (if a return to barbarism is all that’s in the offing, barring a socialist revolution: Socialism or Barbarism, Rosa Luxemburg), like Jay, sing from the rooftops, dance naked, and masturbate on a rock in the sun, as Jay describes doing in her book: she was doing a bit of Deep Ecology that day, connecting with nature, worshipping the sun and giving her all to the big O. Her account is in the book.
People are rarely so frank. In fact she was intensely lonely, in a wild place, far from human company. The orgasm brought her back to her sense of self, and reconnected her with her surroundings. Orgasm as sacramental act; I like it. Spirituality is not about going to church, it is not about which imaginary friend you have: it’s about love, love and respect for yourself, love and respect for your neighbours too, even the little frogs who come and visit me when I am harvesting vegetables I have grown.
Social revolutions are carnivals of bacchanalia, festivals of the spirit and festivals of the oppressed (Lenin), explosions of creativity and joy (it is not nice being oppressed, is it? It is often fearful, too): or they are boring barracks socialism, and end in Five Year Plans, the Fulfillment of Quotas, the Meeting of Production Targets, and the ruination of nature. And ultimately, a return to capitalism, consumerism, conformity and fear: China now. So revolutionary politics must include this spirit, as it will inspire the people of this land to rise against their oppressors.
Leftist political parties can be hard work emotionally! I didn’t see much joy and revolutionary fun in the 1970’s British Communist Party: it was a bit dour, a bit too serious, and very English. Yet there was also a real warmth among the comrades. We were en route for a better future, or so we thought…And when we stood up at District meetings and sang Jerusalem, by William Blake, it warmed my heart to sing the words of the greatest English gnostic poet, just as singing the Internationale in French to anyone who will listen does now.
Which Communist country kills 600,000 workers a year from overwork, and has a flexible working day of anything between 20 and 35 hours? China, the West’s new slave empire that produces all our electronic goodies. Someone died of exhaustion on a production line somewhere in China making my laptop…that thought does cross my mind (more here on Chinese workers).
I still identify as a Marxist, but as a Marxist Feminist Gnostic, which is totally unacceptable to the comrades! I’ve done the Communist Party (CPGB, PCF), done the Socialist Workers (SWP), but I couldn’t hack it, organised male Marxist politics (yawn…), so these days I work for the Green Party, campaign for them, but I won’t join. I’ve stopped being a joiner.
At least the UK Green Party do not have the one thousand hang-ups about the Soviet Union that the Communists had, and all that bloody coded language… They mean the things they say, too….it’s prefigurative politics, of the type I’ve always believed in. You carry the changes you want to see into your personal life. If you’ve rubbed shoulders with Stalinists for several years, as I have without ever being one of them, you’ll know how refreshing that is.
Where’s the Libertarian Marxist Feminist Gnostic Party?
That’s what I want to know. I haven’t seen one yet. When I do I’ll sign up.
I struggle with the materialist epistemology of Marxism. I have had a go at being a philosophical materialist, read the books (back in the day it was Maurice Cornforth, now completely and deservedly forgotten, and Emile Burns)  but found it kind of miserable…back in the day I read a lot of Marxists. The only ones I could go for were the outliers, the non-conformists like Ernst Bloch, a German Marxist who wrote a thousand page book about dreams, day dreams, hope and the place of utopia in the human imagination (Hope The Principle, 3 vols). Bad Marxists, utopian dreamers. William Morris and his News From Nowhere. Nowhere is where I live – the name of Utopia!
Philosophical materialism, in the forms in which I have encountered it, rules out as nonexistent that which palpably exists!
I have yet to meet a Marxist, for example, who takes homeopathic medicine at all seriously, and I trained as a homeopath, so I know it works!  They parrot the standard line. One would think that a revolutionary would have had a little more insight than that. If I had breast cancer, for example, a homeopath would be my first port of call. See Dr A U Ramakrishnan’s work in that area: consistent success across many types of cancer, with five year follow-ups, and none of the extreme toxicity and immune devastation of chemotherapy.
Mr Abiezer Coppe was, I imagine, a Christian gnostic sans le savoir, and inspired William Blake, who I think knew he wrote in the gnostic tradition (see historian E P Thompson’s last book, Witness Against the Beast: William Blake and the Moral Law, which is a brilliant study).
That is why I identify with Blake, too, and especially with The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1793), a text on the dialectic before Marx and Hegel. It is a lot more fun to read than Karl Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach, too!
The English Ranters rejected all forms of spiritual, sexual and religious authority, and insisted that the only church was the human body. They were good chaps, religious anarcho-communists before communism, and more libertarian than Gerard Winstanley’s more puritanical Diggers, the only other Commies on the block at the time.
The Ranters had a endearing habit of preaching naked (if their enemies are to be believed) in the open air, on heaths, and drinking ale and fornicating at religious meetings. Very endearing. The Ranters did not believe in sin. Ranter women are said to have looked for sin in men’s codpieces, and on being unable to find any, declared there was none. That’s a kind of healthy materialism I like. So they didn’t believe in that superstitious shit the Church teaches, either, the Virgin Birth, Original Sin, or the sexual perversions resulting from the Christian, especially Catholic, strictures on the priesthood.
The Ranters were not feminists, but you can’t have everything, and in any case, who was a feminist in 1650? Ranters believed everything should be held in common, including women; they weren’t keen on the legal union of marriage and, I guess, just as in the 1960s, these 17th Century anarcho-hippie Ranter men enjoyed their sexual revolution and their sexual libertarianism while Ranter women got pregnant, had the babies, and were left holding them on the heaths of England, bereft of the men who had sired them. Maybe the Ranter males were indeed “only around for the conception”. Nothing new there, then!
So much for sexual liberation in 1650s England. Did they know about satisfying a woman in bed?
Funnily enough a feminist historian (Alison Smith) of early modern England told me that that there was a generally held view at the time that if a woman did not have an orgasm during sex with a man, then she could not conceive. So, in the beliefs of the time, no female orgasms equaled no babies…Quite progressive really, but did condoms exist then? I doubt it – condoms came in later…18th century, I think. Any condom historians here?
English Ranterism and the Digger movement represented a political dead end. With the Cromwellian Thermidor of the English Revolution after 1649, and the general persecution and ostracism of the Ranters, a lot of them recanted their beliefs, including Abiezer Coppe, stopped railing against the rich (one of their specialties!) and settled down to become Seekers, or Quakers (who are very much in the Gnostic lineage – no priests, no service, no dogmas, no crap, just the Inner Light of Not-God, etc…) or even Muggletonians…see E P Thompson’s book on William Blake (1993) for more. He interviewed the last surviving English Muggletonian. How about that?
More on the Ranters below:
Discussion of the Ranter historical context, and Ranter views.
– Extracts from the writings of Abiezer Coppe
My comments, writing as Abiezer Coppe, on Christianity and gnosticism:

Virgilio Giotti, Triestine Venetian Poet

Repost from the old site.
Let’s take a look again at Triestine Venetian.
Virgilio Giotti was a famous poet who wrote in Triestine Venetian. He was born in 1885 in Trieste, a child of Riccardo Schonbeck and Emilia Ghiotto. He died in Trieste in 1957. He is considered to be the most important Triestine Venetian author. For this, he was honored in 1957 by the Accademia dei Lincei.
Highly-regarded critics such Mario Fubini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Gianfranco Contini, Cesare Segre and Franco Brevini enthusiastically described Virgilio Giotti as one of the most important Italian writers in Italian “dialects” of the 1900’s.
From 1907 to 1919 he lived in Firenze. In 1912, he met Nina Schekotoff, a Russian from Moscow, the only woman he ever loved. In Tuscany, she bore him three children – Natalia, (Tanda), Paolo and Franco. Sons Paolo and Franco both died in Russia during World War 2.
Giotti first book was Piccolo Canzoniere in Dialetto Triestino, published in Florence in 1914.
He became famous in 1937, when the great critic Pietro Pancrazi, in a review in Corriere Della Sera pointed out the anti-dialectal character of Giotti: his poetry was described as écriture d’artiste (literary writing) or patois de l’ame (the language of love).
Pancrazi described Giotti as a poet who wrote mainly in dialect, but he differed from the usual poetry of Italian “dialects” that was often folkloric, standardized, generic, etc.
Giotti spoke Tuscan Italian as his principal language, and he considered Triestine Venetian as “the language of the poetry” only – that it only had a literary and cultural value, but was not useful beyond that.
Giotti’s Triestine Venetian lexicon was impoverished and full of simple words, with only a very sparse use of idioms. Giotti’s Trieste was far from the Trieste of Svevo, Saba and other writers: there’s no Port wine, no psychoanalysis and no Mitteleuropa.
Giotti’s world is one of sensations, little places, family and friends, the arcana of quotidian existence. He was a romantic poet of everyday life.
Let’s look at one of Giotti’s poems, With Bolàffio, in classic Triestine Venetian, then in modern Triestine Venetian, then in an Italian translation by Antonio Guerra (Italian language link) or Tonino Guerra (a famous Italian screenwriter), (Italian language link) and finally I will try to translate it into literary English.
If you think you can do a better job of translating this into nice poetic English, even a line or two, give it a shot. This translation stuff is kind of fun!
Con Bolàffio
Virgilio Giotti

Classic Triestine Venetian
Mi e Bolàffio, de fazza
un de l’altro, col bianco tavoja
de la tovàia in mezo,
su i goti e el fiasco in fianco,
parlemo insieme.
Bolàffio de ‘na piazza
de Gorìzia el me conta,
ch’el voria piturarla:
‘na granda piazza sconta,
che nissun passa.
Do tre casete atorno
rosa, un fiatin de muro,
un pissador de fero
vècio stravècio, e el scuro
de do alboroni.
Xe squasi mezogiorno
E un omo, vignù fora
de là, se giusta pian
pian, e el se incanta sora
pensier. Bolàffio
in ‘sta su piazza bela,
noi, poeti e pitori,
stemo ben. La xe fata
pròpio pai nostri cuori,
caro Bolàffio.
In quel bel sol, in quela
pase, se ga incontrado
i nostri veci cuori;
là i se ga saludado
stassera alegri.
Con Bolàffio
Virgilio Giotti

Modern Triestine Venetian
Mi e Bolàffio, de muso
un co’ l’altro, col bianco tavoja
dela tovaia in mezo,
su i calici e il fiasco de fianco
parlemo insieme.
Bolaffio, de ‘na piazza
de Gorizia il me conta
ch’el voleria piturarla
‘na grande piazza sconta
che nessun passa
Do tre casete atorno
rosa, un fiatin de muro
un pisador de fero
vecio stravecio, e il scuro
de do alberoni
Xe quasi mezogiorno
E un omo, vignù fora
de là, se giusta pian
pian, e il se incanta sora
pensier. Bolàffio
in ‘sta sua piaza bela
noi, poeti e pìtori
stemo ben. La xe fata
proprio pei nostri cuori
caro Bolaffio
In quel bel sol, in quela
pase, se ga incontrado
i nostri veci cuori;
là i se ga saludado
stasera alegri
Con Bolàffio
Virgilio Giotti

Italian translation by Antonia Guerra
Io e Bolaffio, l’uno
di fronte all’altro, col bianco
della tovaglia in mezzo,
i bicchieri alzati e accanto il fiasco,
parliamo insieme.
Bolaffio mi racconta di una piazza
di Gorizia, che vorrebbe dipingerla:
una grande piazza nascosta,
dove nessuno passa.
Due tre casette intorno,
rosa, un poco di muro,
un pisciatoio di ferro,
vecchio stravecchio, e lo scuro
di due alberoni.
È quasi mezzogiorno.
E un uomo, venuto fuori di lì,
si mette a posto pian piano,
s’incanta sopra pensiero. Bolaffio,
in questa sua piazza bella,
noi, poeti e pittori, stiamo bene.
È fatta proprio per i nostri cuori,
caro Bolaffio.
In quel bel sole, in quella pace,
si sono incontrati i nostri vecchi cuori;
là si sono salutati stasera, allegri.
With Bolàffio
Virgilio Giotti

English translation by Robert Lindsay
Bolaffio and I, face
To face, sitting down
At a table dressed in white
In the middle
Picking up the wineglasses and a bottle nearby
Together we’re talking
Bolaffio is telling me
He would like to draw
A picture of a square in Gorizia
It’s a big hidden square
Nobody is walking through
2 or 3 small houses around
Rose-colored, a small wall
An iron pissoir*
Very old, and the dark shadows
From a couple of trees
It’s around noon
And a man came out
Of that pissoir
Slowly, he buttons up his pants
And he stops himself
No thoughts in his head
Bolaffio
In his nice square
We, painters and poets
We feel good here
It was created just for our hearts
Dear Bolaffio
In this nice sunshine, In this
Peace, our old hearts
Have met each other
And tonight
They’re enjoying each other
*pissing place= Vespasiano, where to piss
My friend Paolo describes Giotti’s language as the old “Modern” Triestine Venetian.

Will Shakespeare Ever Be Equalled?

According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, he was not yet surpassed 150 years ago. Doubt if much has changed since. In glorious prose the likes of which we don’t see much anymore, Emerson lays out precisely what the contenders are up against:

Shakespeare is as much out of the category of eminent authors, as he is out of the crowd. He is inconceivably wise; the others, conceivably. A good reader can, in a sort, nestle into Plato’s brain, and think from thence, but not into Shakespeare’s. We are still out of doors. For executive faculty, for creation, Shakespeare is unique. No man can imagine it better. He was the farthest reach of subtlety compatible with an individual self – the subtlest of authors, and only just within the possibility of authorship.

With this wisdom of life, is the equal endowment of imaginative and of lyric power. He clothed the creatures of his legend with form and sentiments, as if they were people who had lived under his roof; and few real men have left such distinct characters as these fictions. And they spoke in language as sweet as it was fit.

Yet his talents never seduced him into an ostentation, nor did he harp on one string. An omnipresent humanity coordinates all his faculties.

Give a man of talents a story to tell, and his partiality will presently appear. He has certain observations, opinions, topics, which have some accidental prominence, and which he disposes all to exhibit. He crams this part, and starves that other part, consulting not the fitness of the thing, but his fitness and strength.

But Shakespeare has no peculiarity, no importunate topic; but all is duly given; no veins, no curiosities; no cow-painter, no bird-fancier, no mannerist is he: he has no discoverable egotism: the great he tells greatly; the small, subordinately. He is wise without emphasis or assertion; he is strong, as nature is strong, who lifts the land into mountain slopes without effort, and by the same rule as she floats a bubble in the air, and likes as well to do the one as the other.

This makes that equality of power in farce, tragedy, narrative, and love-songs; a merit so incessant, that each reader is incredulous of the perception of other readers.

Whoa! That’s some kickass prose. I didn’t know Emerson could write like that.

He’s right. Shakespeare’s in another world altogether. There’s Shakespeare, and then there’s everyone else.

References

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. 1850. Representative Men. Boston: Phillips, Sampson and Co.

Writing Is Like Music, Cinema, Painting or Photography

I recently complemented a commenter on the site by telling him he’s a genius. By that, I mean he’s a great writer. He’s also a fine thinker, but the two go together. We have lots of fine thinkers on the board, but not all are great writers too. He’s Korean, and Koreans don’t seem to write English spectacularly. I don’t know why, but they are better in visuospatial than in verbal IQ:

Thanks. I found one of the secrets to writing that is engaging is having a musical awareness. Walk down a street and run a tune through your head. Preferably one that you made up. Then just play with it. Volume, pacing, accelerate, decelerate. And volume is key. Change in volume completely changes the tune. Try it. Try Beethoven’s 5th bahm, bahm, bahm, baaahmm.

Quietly. Done quietly it’s nothing. LOL. So here’s the dramatic conclusion to why Koreans don’t write spectacularly. They are raised to be quiet. It shows in their writing.

And we are not even getting into poetry yet. Sure the best poetry is musical, always has been. That’s why it’s so hard to translate. But so is the best prose. We are talking strictly prose here. How do you translate Finnegans Wake into any language other than English? Where do you even begin?

So when you write, your prose is music. Well, it should be, if your aim is artistic. Or at least that’s one way to write

Of course, the best prose is both music and even visual art like painting. I don’t know if it’s cinematic. And the best prose sings like poetry too. It’s all about the rhythm.

I write musically too, and I also write cinematically or like paintings. I get little pictures in my mind when I writing. They just pop up. Then I look for words to describe the paintings or scenes. Sometimes they are pictures like storyboards for a movie or just a painting or picture or frameshot or photo or other visual image. In other cases, it’s like a scene from a movie. Then I search around for the words to describe the scene I just saw in my mind.

When I was 22, a could of friends read my fiction and said it was like Joyce, “painting pictures with words.” My junior college journalism teacher threw me off the paper for “hallucinating with words.”

Forgotten Romantic Poet: Anna Laetitia Barbauld

Anna Laetitia Barbauld was an English poet from the school of Romanticism. She is now largely forgotten, but at the time she was writing, she was one of the most famous authors of the Romantic Era. Sadly, she is now forgotten, but at the time, she was compared to Samuel Johnson and Joseph Addison. She was a professional author at a time when such women were rare.

Her reputation suffered after her time for a variety of reasons, most of which had nothing to do with her ability as an author and had more to do with politics, ego and fads.

Romanticism was a great literary movement.

Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People (1830). Romanticism!

The Big Six of English language romantic poetry were:

William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge,
Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats.

Other great Romantic authors include:

Others included Mary Shelley, Robert Southey, John Clare, George Crabbe, Thomas Hood, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, (England); Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Henry David Thoreau, Herman Melville, William Cullen Bryant, John Greenleaf Whittier, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., Edgar Allan Poe (US); Robert Burns, Walter Scott and James Macpherson (Scotland); Aleksandr Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov (Russia); Ugo Foscolo, Giacomo Leopardi (Italy); Rabindranath Tagore (India); Novalis, Friedrich Hölderlin, Heinrich Heine, Heinrich von Kleist, Clemens Brentano, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Friedrich Schelling (Germany); Adam Mickiewicz (Poland); Almeida Garrett (Portugal); Victor Hugo, Théophile Gautier, Alfred de Musset, Charles Baudelaire, Alfred de Vigny, Gérard de Nerval, Stendhal, Leconte de Lisle (France); Álvares de Azevedo, Castro Alves, Gonçalves Dias (Brazil); and Gustavo Adolfo Becquer, Rosalía de Castro and Jacint Verdaguer (Spain).

Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818). This great painting captures the spirit of Romanticism perfectly.

The following two excerpts are undated, but they were probably written around 1770-1800 (around the time of the American Revolution).

Title Unknown

But passion’s wild, impetuous sea
Hurries me far from peace and thee
‘T were vain to struggle more.

Thus the poor sailor slumbering lies
While swelling tides around him rise
And push his bark from shore.

In vain he spreads his helpless arms
His pitying friends with fond alarms
In vain deplore his state
Still far and farther from the coast
On the high surge his bark is tost
And foundering yields to fate.

Song

As near a weeping spring reclined
The beauteous Araminta pined
And mourned a false, ungrateful youth
While dying echoes caught the sound
And spread the soft complaints around
Of broken vows and altered truth

An aged shepherd heard her moan
And thus in pity’s kindest tone
Addressed the lost, despairing maid:

“Cease, cease, unhappy fair, to grieve
For sounds, though sweet, can ne’er relieve
A breaking heart by love betrayed.
Why shouldst thou waste such precious showers
That fall like dew on withered flowers
But dying passion ne’er restored?
In Beauty’s empire is no mean,
And woman, either slave or queen,
Is quickly scorned when not adored.
Those liquid pearls from either eye
Which might an Eastern empire buy
Unvalued here and fruitless fall
No art the season can renew
When love was young and Damon true
No tears a wandering heart recall.”

Cease, cease to grieve
thy tears are vain
Should those fair orbs in drops of rain
Vie with a weeping southern sky:
For hearts o’ercome with love and grief
All nature yields but one relief

Die, hapless Arami…

“What’s Eating Rufus Griswold?” by Alpha Unit

Rufus Griswold is a fascinating character, but hardly anyone has ever heard of him anymore. Most of the events below were happening in the 1830’s and 1840’s. He was part of the Young America movement along with Longfellow, Thoreau, Emerson, Lowell, Bryant and some others. This movement sought to create a real American literature rooted in the continent. Logically, it also sought to break away from Britain.

There was also a big debate about Classics in education at this time. Classics had always been a big part of education in Britain, if not in Europe as a whole. The new American literary crowd sought to do away with or reduce the level of Classical study by US students. Studying the Classics was also an Elitist thing, since the son of your average American worker or farmer could hardly understand Homer or Juvenal. So getting rid of Classics was a way to democratize education.

AU touches on Griswold’s lies about Poe’s character. These lies continued in almost every Poe biography for the next 100 hundred years, but finally historians got the truth mostly sorted out from the fantasies. It’s interesting that Poe’s fans loved these scurrilous and character-assassinating lies, since they made him seem “evil,” and they wanted to see Poe as an evil man, the better to go along with terrifying stories.

The part about mourning his dead wife is incredible. I think he must have set a Guinness world record for Greatest Mourner of all Time.

He was a defamer and character assassin, variously described by contemporaries as a liar, “irritable,” “vindictive,” “an ass.” He was a forger and a cheat. A licensed clergyman who was, by all accounts, as thoroughly un-Christian as they come.

He was Rufus Wilmot Griswold, newspaper editor and literary critic. He adored and detested with a passion. And nothing could excite him more than his intended target’s demise.

Griswold is usually given credit for being one of the first influential people to push the teaching of American poetry alongside English poetry in American schools. He is also usually noted for publicly supporting copyright law at a time it was being considered (his reputation being that he shamelessly stole from other writers).

But if not for his association with the American poet Edgar Allan Poe, no one would probably know or care who he was. It was in his dealings with Poe that he achieved lasting notoriety. Poe’s death became Griswold’s shining moment, in a sense.

Both Griswold and Poe were writers with backgrounds in journalism. Poe submitted poems to Griswold for inclusion in an anthology of American poetry; Griswold included several of them. Poe then arranged to write a review of the anthology.

Poe’s review included some mild criticisms of the book; but even these were evidently too much for Griswold. In addition, Poe expressed his true feelings about the book in private letters. In one, he called it “a most outrageous humbug,” and, in another, he divulged his belief that Griswold’s help in getting the review published was intended as a bribe for a favorable review.

These events were the opening salvo in a war of recriminations between Griswold and Poe, a war that outlasted Poe.

Once Poe was departed, Griswold’s hostility toward him took on a new and almost surreal twist. He pseudonymously published an obituary of Poe that amounted to character assassination. But Griswold was just getting warmed up. He subsequently made the claim – a dubious one, it appears – that he was Poe’s literary executor and was therefore authorized to edit a posthumous collection of Poe’s works, for the supposed benefit of Poe’s survivors.

Poe’s survivors didn’t see any of the profits from the collection. If that wasn’t enough, a third volume included more attacks on Poe. According to one account:

[Griswold] even forged letters from Poe to exaggerate his own role as Poe’s benefactor and to alienate Poe’s friends.

Poe’s choice not to return to the University of Virginia became expulsion for wild and reckless behavior. Poe’s honorable discharge from the army became desertion.

Once again, Poe’s friends came to his defense, but Griswold had done his work well. For every magazine that carried a condemnation of Griswold’s infamy, three repeated his titillating slanders.

Talk about an inability to “let it go.”

There was no escape, apparently, from being the focus of Griswold’s passions, not for Poe, but also not for his first wife, Caroline, who might have elicited more devotion from him in death than she ever had while alive.

Upon being informed that both she and their third child had died not long after delivery, he became the soul of despondency.

Deeply shocked, Griswold traveled by train alongside her coffin, refusing to leave her side for 30 hours. When fellow passengers urged him to try to sleep, he answered by kissing her dead lips and embracing her, his two children crying next to him. He refused to leave the cemetery after her funeral, even after he other mourners had left, until forced to do so by a relative.

Griswold had difficulty believing she had died and often dreamed of their reunion. Forty days after her entombment, he entered her vault, cut off a lock of her hair, kissed her on the forehead and lips, and wept for several hours, staying by her side until a friend found him 30 hours later.

A colorful character, and one who apparently attached some significance to doing something for 30 hours.

One scholar who has documented some of Griswold’s behavior suggests that Griswold was mentally ill. He does come across as obsessive. And those he felt strongly about couldn’t even be the focus of attention upon their deaths.

When I review some of the descriptions of narcissism, it’s very tempting to go through a checklist and say,”Yep – that’s Griswold, all right!” But does diagnosing him really make him any more sympathetic? Isn’t anybody just a good old-fashioned son of a bitch anymore?

"What's Eating Rufus Griswold?" by Alpha Unit

Rufus Griswold is a fascinating character, but hardly anyone has ever heard of him anymore. Most of the events below were happening in the 1830’s and 1840’s. He was part of the Young America movement along with Longfellow, Thoreau, Emerson, Lowell, Bryant and some others. This movement sought to create a real American literature rooted in the continent. Logically, it also sought to break away from Britain.
There was also a big debate about Classics in education at this time. Classics had always been a big part of education in Britain, if not in Europe as a whole. The new American literary crowd sought to do away with or reduce the level of Classical study by US students. Studying the Classics was also an Elitist thing, since the son of your average American worker or farmer could hardly understand Homer or Juvenal. So getting rid of Classics was a way to democratize education.
AU touches on Griswold’s lies about Poe’s character. These lies continued in almost every Poe biography for the next 100 hundred years, but finally historians got the truth mostly sorted out from the fantasies. It’s interesting that Poe’s fans loved these scurrilous and character-assassinating lies, since they made him seem “evil,” and they wanted to see Poe as an evil man, the better to go along with terrifying stories.
The part about mourning his dead wife is incredible. I think he must have set a Guinness world record for Greatest Mourner of all Time.
He was a defamer and character assassin, variously described by contemporaries as a liar, “irritable,” “vindictive,” “an ass.” He was a forger and a cheat. A licensed clergyman who was, by all accounts, as thoroughly un-Christian as they come.
He was Rufus Wilmot Griswold, newspaper editor and literary critic. He adored and detested with a passion. And nothing could excite him more than his intended target’s demise.
Griswold is usually given credit for being one of the first influential people to push the teaching of American poetry alongside English poetry in American schools. He is also usually noted for publicly supporting copyright law at a time it was being considered (his reputation being that he shamelessly stole from other writers).
But if not for his association with the American poet Edgar Allan Poe, no one would probably know or care who he was. It was in his dealings with Poe that he achieved lasting notoriety. Poe’s death became Griswold’s shining moment, in a sense.
Both Griswold and Poe were writers with backgrounds in journalism. Poe submitted poems to Griswold for inclusion in an anthology of American poetry; Griswold included several of them. Poe then arranged to write a review of the anthology.
Poe’s review included some mild criticisms of the book; but even these were evidently too much for Griswold. In addition, Poe expressed his true feelings about the book in private letters. In one, he called it “a most outrageous humbug,” and, in another, he divulged his belief that Griswold’s help in getting the review published was intended as a bribe for a favorable review.
These events were the opening salvo in a war of recriminations between Griswold and Poe, a war that outlasted Poe.
Once Poe was departed, Griswold’s hostility toward him took on a new and almost surreal twist. He pseudonymously published an obituary of Poe that amounted to character assassination. But Griswold was just getting warmed up. He subsequently made the claim – a dubious one, it appears – that he was Poe’s literary executor and was therefore authorized to edit a posthumous collection of Poe’s works, for the supposed benefit of Poe’s survivors.
Poe’s survivors didn’t see any of the profits from the collection. If that wasn’t enough, a third volume included more attacks on Poe. According to one account:

[Griswold] even forged letters from Poe to exaggerate his own role as Poe’s benefactor and to alienate Poe’s friends.
Poe’s choice not to return to the University of Virginia became expulsion for wild and reckless behavior. Poe’s honorable discharge from the army became desertion.
Once again, Poe’s friends came to his defense, but Griswold had done his work well. For every magazine that carried a condemnation of Griswold’s infamy, three repeated his titillating slanders.

Talk about an inability to “let it go.”
There was no escape, apparently, from being the focus of Griswold’s passions, not for Poe, but also not for his first wife, Caroline, who might have elicited more devotion from him in death than she ever had while alive.
Upon being informed that both she and their third child had died not long after delivery, he became the soul of despondency.

Deeply shocked, Griswold traveled by train alongside her coffin, refusing to leave her side for 30 hours. When fellow passengers urged him to try to sleep, he answered by kissing her dead lips and embracing her, his two children crying next to him. He refused to leave the cemetery after her funeral, even after he other mourners had left, until forced to do so by a relative.
Griswold had difficulty believing she had died and often dreamed of their reunion. Forty days after her entombment, he entered her vault, cut off a lock of her hair, kissed her on the forehead and lips, and wept for several hours, staying by her side until a friend found him 30 hours later.

A colorful character, and one who apparently attached some significance to doing something for 30 hours.
One scholar who has documented some of Griswold’s behavior suggests that Griswold was mentally ill. He does come across as obsessive. And those he felt strongly about couldn’t even be the focus of attention upon their deaths.
When I review some of the descriptions of narcissism, it’s very tempting to go through a checklist and say,”Yep – that’s Griswold, all right!” But does diagnosing him really make him any more sympathetic? Isn’t anybody just a good old-fashioned son of a bitch anymore?

Just How Many Poets Are NOT Queer, Anyway?

I’m going back through a lot of poetry these days for some reason, mostly native English language stuff. I find it annoying that so many of these guys were queer! It seems like just about all of my favorite poets were a bunch of queers, or often bisexuals. I mean, I still love these guys and all, but it’s sort of deflating to my image of these dudes.

It’s rather distressing because I like poetry. I went back reading the poets of centuries past and this same fagginess seems to creep up yet, even though back in those days this was a definite no-no. Novelists seem to be less queer, but there’s a fair amount of fagginess there too. Being a novelist is definitely a straighter occupation.

I don’t even want to go into playrights. When I was living in Los Angeles in the early 1980’s, I got into the theater scene a bit, and it was gay as Hell. The guys of course, but quite a few of the women too. You can actually do all right in these scenes if you’re a good-looking, masculine straight guy. The women are a bunch of frustrated fag hag types, often sort of bi, but you know how women are, they say they hate macho guys, but they just can’t resist the bad boy in the scruffed up leather jacket even though they sort of hate him, macho pig that he is.

Anyway, in these scenes, and in Hollywood and places like that in general, you can clean up in you have good game, good looks, or some combination. There are all sorts of single women there who are pretty frustrated. Most of the guys are either married or queer, and there aren’t many single guys to go around. You’re hot property, if you don’t mind being surrounded by hungry queers and bi guys (these latter are everywhere in those gay neighborhoods) lusting after you all the time. Actually, that is pretty annoying right there!

Anyway, brings me back to my original question. What is it about literary writing that turns guys queer, or seems fit mostly for queers? One could argue that writing poems is a pretty faggy thing to do, and that makes sense. It’s not exactly tackle football. But that begs the question of why so many of these literary women, especially the poets, are a bunch of lesbians! I mean, if poetry is feminizing, why aren’t female poets these swaying, coquettish Southern belle types afraid to get their hands dirty?

Either that or just being a poet attracts weirdos and misfits in general, sexual and otherwise. That’s about the only sense I could make of it.

Another thing I noticed is that most all of these guys are depressed. Many were manic-depressive, and alcoholism seems to be epidemic among poets in the last century anyway. Pretty similar with novelists. Lots of depressives, lots of boozers. Many were suicides in one way or another. It’s starting to make me depressed just reading about all these guys.

Why? Is writing depressing? Is depression good for the creative spirit? How could it be, as it’s so enfeebling?

One reason I got into journalism is that journalists are fairly sane types. They had a reputation, at least at city papers, for being squares. Some were sort of eccentrics, but they worked hard, often all night. They drank, but they also worked. They were sort of these hard-bitten types. They were either family men or straight bachelors, but city room journalism isn’t a very faggy job. It’s kind of macho, actually. Check out any old Hollywood movie where they show the newsroom guys.

I still don’t see why you practically have to be queer to be a poet. Poetry is kind of cool. Anyway, it’s a good way to get chicks, cuz a lot of women are romantic, and a lot of them love writers and even poets. At least that’s been my experience anyway. C’mon guys! Crank out those poems! Chicks dig em!