Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thoughts on my 1,000th Post

I accomplished everything I set out to do as a poet long before I started this blog. Life itself had become a kind of gravy – when one gets to that place everything is, and comes back out with some tangible evidence, however fragmentary, however fragile, knowing that it wouldn’t exist without one’s courage and sincerity, it transforms the notions of ambition, communication, calling that one learned dutifully in school. There, it was always a competition, a zero-sum proposition to be publishable (whatever that means) or die. In the world of actually doing it, there was another kind of guide, almost a voice, deeper yet more immediate, embracing yet more critical than the superficial voices of careerist litterateurs. Not that I mean to bash careerist litterateurs: if they held on to certain keys they called keys to the kingdom a little too tightly, restricting the tone, content and diction that was expected (in thinly veiled enforcement of the tone, content and diction expected to be applied to them as arbiters and power-handlers), they demarcated precisely how the critical standards they agreed to assume and represent were mental servants of the hungers in their own hearts. And that was a valuable lesson, for it opened me to different ways of looking at what’s “good” and “bad” in poetry: how the art was more in the “being” than the “doing.”

My reader was always at any rate larger and more acute than those readers. My reader was even more acute than the well-intentioned friends and acquaintances who took up the task of reading my strange words with hearts and experiences engaged. The communion with my reader was so much more direct, clear and without the boundaries of time, space, ego and perspective – oh but what a mental trap to convince myself that this simple truth was a fact! It wasn’t a human voice, exactly, and it didn’t articulate words, per se, but none of that was my true difficulty. The challenge was that this reader was not a voice of separation – instead it showed me the field where all the Poets were, how all the thoughts were merged as one indivisible whole yet each one was vital to the organism. I could converse, not behind the screen of long-printed words, but with essences and ideas still spitting out their semblances of meaning. In such close quarters, it became imperative not to read the Poets too closely or eagerly, or at all, but cultivate the fine art of not reading them – how else to reach where they are now and not a thousand years ago? At the same time, ideas from billboards, street people, pigeons assumed inordinate importance to the poem, ahead of things like philosophy, conversation, newspaper facts, and the great approximation of life that is commercial TV. It was always the things that no one noticed that made the biggest impact on the poem, just as it was always the ideas I spoke that no one responded to that became central to the poems, just as the poems that stood the furthest away from me and other human readers shone the brightest.

How could I possibly demonstrate to anyone that this is so? A cursory read of poetics yields nothing of this sense – save the power of the word and the privilege of the poet to corral the invisible. Yet it is central to the dance of flesh and spirit that is my poetic practice. Still, I post most of my poems in a public forum of sorts – one that calls to itself attentions and questions and urges to connect in shared experience. I try to forget this sometimes, but I receive so many wonderful and caring comments I can’t forget that there are readers, each one like a God in light and stature. I try to convince myself that this is really just a giving back for all I’ve learned and loved in the free citizens’ vox populi that is the internet. My real objective, I think, is in reading other people’s work, to be present in an understanding of a comparable sublimity to the one I see, to be able to say “you’re not alone, your thought has moved me.” But this, a service of sorts, is no less “selfish” than the posting of my own poems, it is a perspective that finds its validity only in the invisible heart that lies behind it, one that is often misread and scanned over, often enough at least that a certain faith like callous must be acquired, that what is there will be shared, in the right time and way, despite all egoic evidence to the contrary. And this, this plangent uncertainty, over whether my vast expenditure of time and spirit can be assimilated into the human dimension that is the most important feature of this earthly life, is the greatest gift, for it transports me instantly to all the voiceless and unheard people, it helps me feel the suffering of all those who feel abandoned by God, it helps me gain the power to see myself beyond the containers of those who place me there as part of their own struggle to discover themselves.

It helps me surrender to the immense possibility of faith.

Even so, it does not yield easily, the answer to the question “why do you post your poems online?” Doing so provides a storage unit, yes, it enforces a standard of grammar, diction and punctuation to observe, for sure, it records the daily fluctuations of my examined life, indeed. I feel a part of something, but what that something is changes every day – as my witnessing finds other witnesses impossibly scattered in so many spheres, each also dealing undoubtedly with their own addictions, over-saturations of knowledge, and the limited ability to all humans to reach across the chasm of the eyes.

The overwhelming majority of my now-1,000 posts have been poems or related translations, critical thoughts and songs (and of course it’s the non-poetry – the “Pardon the Interruption” category – that I long to have read by others) – how perfect that I should limit it so, instead of facebooking my life and interests, how perfect to honor the immortal words of Matt Groening: “how do you anger a poet? Be another poet.” How perfect to make the circle so small and incestuous, the purer to make my work stand as a monumental fuck you to everything and everyone but that small, still voice inside myself.

To desire that voice stand in for something larger than me, to want to be noticed, recognized, even “famous” in the face of that, is like asking for heaven on earth. Yet as long as a heart is beating there’s always that hope of union, however imperfectly it is wished for and however unconsciously all thoughts form themselves around the irremediable mystery of our being.


Hannah Stephenson said...

What an exciting milestone (milenni-stone?), Bill!!

This is Big. News.

Faith is right....it takes incredible trust (in something) to think ideas and make words out of them in public.

Thank you for sharing your words with us!!

Anonymous said...

I've read this four times. Everything you mentioned about ego and the invisible and voice and connection, I think, is probably universal.

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