Thursday, June 22, 2006

Romeo, Romeo, warfare art thou Romeo

Isn't it wonderful when you call someone an idiot and he's nice enough to actually prove again and again that he is one?

Remember Shravan? He's blithering away again - this time claiming that women should be kept out of the army because they are weaker than men.

See first: his moronic post here. Then the comments section of the link to that post from Desi Pundit, including my take on his post here. Finally (via Desi Pundit) see Annie's lovely reply to his post here.

There's nothing like a good fisking to get you started in the morning.

12 comments:

confused said...

You are not the forgiving type are you?

I think you might never have replied to his post if not for his post about M.B.A's.

Which does not mean you were wrong, just means that guy is a proven moron.

Nothing is going to help him, except perhaps dope.

Falstaff said...

confused: You wrong me. I would almost certainly have posted that reply on Desi Pundit even otherwise. Though I might have been a little kinder, if the person saying those things didn't have a track record of being stupid. It's a repeat offender thing.

Kaushik Gopalan said...

Could you also comment on Shravan's solution to the reservation issue?

That should be fun.

Neela said...

falstaff: what is "fisking"? is it some sort of lisped/lasped frisking? Is it a frisking without teeth and tongue?

n!

Falstaff said...

kaushik: Oh, he had a solution to the reservation issue, did he? Didn't read it. Don't actually read his blog or anything - in fact, when I first clicked on the link from DP I didn't even realise it was him. I just thought it sounded like a really wrong-headed post.

Neela: (from Wikipedia) - The term Fisking, or to Fisk, is a blogosphere term describing ruthlessly detailed point-by-point criticism that highlights errors, disputes the analysis of presented facts, or highlights other problems in a statement, article, or essay.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fisking

Keep up with the lingo, woman!

If it's any consolation, the term was new to me till a few months ago - till Ash over at Desi Pundit pointed it out to me.

confused said...

Point noted. I just thought his arguments were so childish....

Neela said...

oh dear. what a pity. yet another delightful almost-could've-been-semi-erotic word been made banal by wikipedia. and here i was having marvellous visions of you doing fiskable things to this shravan fellow and others and to yourself and in general.

oh well.

n!

Falstaff said...

confused: no argument there.

neela: touched as I am to be part of your almost-erotic fantasies (pun intended), if I am 'fisking' anyone could it please be Heath Ledger or Johnny Depp? I have taste, you know.

modern_poet said...

POETRY MANIFESTO – June 2006
by Mark Rendina

“That there is poetry is the only evidence that man truly exists”

The Latin American poet quoted above was wise beyond his years. He had
the luxury of participating in a culture that still prized the power of the written
word as incantation. A machine can be programmed to make everything a man
can make—airplanes, pictures, prose, music—but only one craft still requires
exclusively the active participation of a human: poetry. Only a human can create
and judge great poetry. Yet no poet currently living can make a living from his
labor. This is because modern poetry has been written as prose and the public
can not name a poet now living. The public does not buy poetry books. They do
not expect to be pleased when they see a book of modern poetry in the shops.
And they are right.

The poetry of the Greatest Living Poets Project sets out with a new direction.
We never publish a poem unless it contains at least one line that will live forever
in the language. That is a bold statement—but read on. It declares that poetry
is the irredeemable element in human communication, and cannot be expressed
or replicated in prose. Our poems contain just enough stasis, or internal
architecture of number, to maintain its monumentality impervious to age. Mantra
Rain’s unaccountable speech brings people face to face with the unknown quantity
of human communication. Poetry is the sudden arrival of the strange that we
recognize with clarity. The best of poetry is still presented as a song—not a
newspaper report. Mantra Rain explores all these insights.

At the year 2001 I made the observation that powerful poetry no longer exists
in the West. The surest proof of this was the nearly complete absence of a vibrant
market for modern poetry. I made that challenge in a book titled Greatest
Living Poet. I took the mask of a visitor from another planet. This poet did not write
poetry like any other human then on the planet. Yet this persona wrote his poetry
with the confidence and skill of a great poet. It was an outrageous experiment that
had a perfect result. I learned what kind of audience actually existed for modern
poetry, and this knowledge matured both my perspective and my craft.

The Greatest Living Poets Project (and website) forced one of two responses
from an unsuspecting audience. Either one was forced to carefully read the
presentation in order to discover if the dynamic within the poems portended
what the title claimed or, at the least, to bring into relevance the idea of
how we judge whether a poem was great or not. The response to that book
was very revealing about the state of modern poetry. It excited immense
curiosity from people outside of the “business” of poetry (academia). Even if
one wished to stand against the ideas I put forth—at least by their close
reading they were forced to admit the honest achievement of the work and
the advance of the American idiom. Usually such an achievement is enough
for any book.

Those who took the time to read the first book—and also had no prior
agenda—responded with a sense of discovery. These readers found identity with
my basic ideas and witnessed the fresh beginning of poetry in our century. My
last appearance on the stage as the “Greatest Living Poet” in Heidelberg, Germany,
was in May 2005. I felt that my message had achieved its objective and I would
retire the character at the high water mark of its success. I put away that costume
now and take my place in line with fellow poets, with both my feet on the
earth’s clay. I invite my readers to read some of the critical reviews from seven
continents on my web site.

After five years of introducing my concepts across America, Europe, Australia,
Africa and New Zealand I think the goals of my first book were successful. It
forced a re-examination of how and why we write poetry in English. Those who
responded with aggression or ridicule were soon discovered not to have read the
book at all. They had a prior agenda with the way poetry has been written the
last 50 years of the 20th century—and were not prepared to welcome a new
beginning—or a different perspective. I can say with complete honesty that I
never had a negative response from any person who took the trouble of reading
the book over at least twice. I hope this challenges (and encourages) those who
have yet to read my first book.

CHANGE OF BOOK. CHANGE OF PERSON.

Mantra
Rain attempts to restate the central problems of modern poetry. It
builds upon my first presentation in Greatest
Living
Poet. I no longer need the
mask of the “Greatest Living Poet” to make my points clear. Mantra
Rain presents
a very clear and healing answer to how we write modern poetry—and shows
how each poem represents a break with the past. The poetry of the last 50 years
sought to solve the problem of poetic language in the modern world by resorting
to newspaper prose. Mantra
Rain defines the method of poetic composition as
near to the craft of “incantation”, allowing the power of the perfect magical
expression to coexist seamlessly with colloquial speech.

I said in my first book that the origin of all poetry came from incantation,
and this phenomenon can be easily investigated in many original sources and ancient cultures, such as The Book of the Dead, the Bible or the Dead Sea Scrolls.
I have suggested in many forums that there is currently a very small public
market for contemporary “prose as poetry”. And rather than make the deduction
that the genre of poetry no longer is relevant in our culture—I show that it has
merely been poorly written.

I believe the statement the market has made is correct. Poetry as it is written
today in the West is actually a form of prose, wearing the costume of poetry. And
people do not respond to this unless they have an agenda of politics, serve a
particular interest group, or need to fill an academic resume. Poetry is a social
phenomenon, but the lack of market participation has created a poetics alienated
from vital social dynamics. I believe that by 2001 there was little social consensus
about poetry’s core competency, which persons may be considered poets, and
what constitutes memorable speech in the modern world.

If specific and achievable distinctions cannot be made under these criteria,
then we must follow the market and no longer recognize poetry as separate and
honored genre. The good news (if you have studied this book) is that poetry is
still a nation’s greatest cultural prize. Our age, like all human ages, will be
represented to future generations in one or two lines, or if the future is generous,
it may give us ten lines to explain ourselves. We have the choice to be represented
by politicians, self-indulgent rock stars, or poets. I hope the question remains
rhetorical.

THE LANGUAGE OF THE “UNACCOUNTABLE”

I believe that human life is not ultimately unaccountable to the human
senses and this unaccountable problem is the origin of all human need for poetic
communication. Science attempts to solve this unsolvable problem by placing
the metaphysical problem of humans aside, and simply create an artificially
“roped off” mental construct called the Physical Universe—devoid of gods, magic,
spirits and souls. Science interpreted human life exclusively with the five senses—
and called it a day. When the scientific world view is the dominant thought
model (ca.1945-1995), then it only follows that poetry no longer has the prestige
it had under a more shamanistic (spiritual) society. And thus it feels that it must
express itself in prose for relevance in a prosaic “nuclear democracy”. This was
not always the case in the West.

The first published writers of English lyric in the 16th century (Gascoigne,
Daniel, Greville and Sidney) recognized that principles of poetics are generated
from within each language, according to its own acoustic properties. It was well
known that Latin was a quantitative language—English is not. That there should
be in our best poetry a striking juxtaposition of pleasure and truth seems to be a
reasonable statement—but seldom found in modern works. We want to discover
power and authority in modern speech, not a sentiment, a political ideology, or



a melodramatic moment (victim). We have just survived an age where power was
thought to lay in prose ideologies, Mao’s Red Book, or in Marx’ Das Kapital,
both enslaving men more than any book from the Age of Faith. Ideas are dangerous
if believed.

I find sanity in Gascoigne’s mantra from the early age of the English lyric:
“Let your poem be such as may both delight and draw attentive reading.” I can
agree with this. I believe that a poem can say more about a civilization than an
entire library of prose works. Capturing human monumentality is poetry’s proper
gift. Gascoigne’s colleague, Daniel, felt poetry was the chosen venue for expressions
of memorable or authoritative speech:

Those numbers wherewith heaven and earth are moved

Show weakness speakes in prose, but power in verse.

(c.a.1570)

All correct communication must be based either on practical reality or human
wisdoms. Greville, at the dawn of the English Lyric Age, insisted that true
eloquence is the reflex of living wisdoms. Poetry, he says, should raise her creations
on “lines of truth and teach us order under pleasure’s name”. This may seem
tame stuff, but I want to begin where the lyric began in English and see if it still
fits our concept of what constitutes poetry in the 21st century. I rest content that
there is some merit in truth, and speech based on truth as humans sift and tease
it through their lives. I admit to a few assumptions about the human condition
that I may not have already proven in my argument: if great poetry exists in a
culture, humans will recognize and respond to its truth—though not always in
the poet’s lifetime.

Poets do not present new ideas, they memorialize, that is, they create the
perfect expressions of what humans are. I don’t think Ezra Pound, for example,
ever really had anything new to say—I think he wanted to return to Delphic
oracle speech of the Greeks and despoil Victorian sentimentality—but he had
some wonderfully measured lines and an American voice with that “unknown
quantity” each poet should rightfully seek. As Dickinson was still undiscovered,
I think he was the first to re-introduce poetic language as incantation in English—
he simply could not sustain it and keep it relevant to modern life. Sometimes a
new voice is all we can ask of a great poet. Sometimes they give us more. So long
as the human condition remains ultimately unknown, our poetry must always
seek the unknown quantity of incantation.

Modern poetry does not always have to achieve perfection on each line, but
at the minimum it must aim for such perfection and contain definable and
recognized perfection in its parts: the uniqueness of the voice, the authority of
the line, a superior expression that matures and deepens the idiom of the people.
Finally, it must have the architecture and presentation of stasis to support its

proper nature as song with numbers. Poetry is not a prose report that merely
teases an idea to exhaustion. Yet this is what university students are forced to
learn. It’s all wrong and nobody is going to rush to the local bookstore to get
their latest copies. Who does not address this issue in our own time, need not
write or concern themselves with the future of poetry in English.

In so far as poetry does not meet the standard of incantation, I do not
believe that poetry should be attempted. But what is poetry? Something that
takes the form of verse, like a greeting card? A prose sentence broken up into
separate lines that have a light, intellectual twist—or is that an epigram? Can an
affluent society that does not honor poetry with a living wage make a ready
distinction between lyric poetry and numerous other poetic forms? And what
purpose does incantation serve? How can one get paid well for incantation? Who
will accept a contract from us of a specific and deliverable incantation?

WHAT IS POETRY—IN THE 21ST CENTURY?

I have problems with the desire to define poetry. It is equivalent to demanding
an exact definition of the soul before we will admit of its reality. For many
persons in the West this lack of material definition of a soul is sufficient reason
not to live an examined life. Poetry’s nature is not of this world and at some level
mature people will have to accept this. We forget that we are the only species
that chooses at times to arbitrarily reason exclusively with five senses. And then
just as arbitrarily they descend again into mass charismatic emotion (Germany,
1932). A strong case can be made the five senses are a limited way to understand
existence. Only moderns have the need to “understand” a concept before we can
appreciate. What we really are looking for is a way to judge, and human judgment
is frequently wrong, hysterical, or both.

I have a different view of poetry. Poetry must master the unaccountable in
human life—and in such a way that we recognize its “truth” as if we were already
family to our own strangeness. Poetry combines magic sound with the sudden
appearance of the strange—as new insight to explain the “unaccountable” power
that runs through life. Music, on the other hand, combines magic sounds with
human mood to represent the “unaccountable”. Both work at the magic level of
human perception. The core competency of artists is to master the representation
of the “unaccountable” in human life. Prose has a different competency. The
honor of prose is its reliability. But even the casual student will see how expressive
prose is the most easily dated of all writing—as anyone who reads a magazine or
an advertisement from as late as 1920 can attest.

My message insists that poetry has no communion with prose. Any
similarities between the uses of poetry and prose indicate a misuse of both. If
they share common words on a page, it is only a technical accident. A prose
sentence is the sum of its parts (i.e. the total sum of functional dictionary



meanings added together). The honor of prose is reliability (within the idiom of
chronology—useless to my purpose).

Poetry is an unaccounted for event. Poetry is constructed and presented as a
song, not a report. Prose is always a list of successive ideas led by some
chronology—or some misuse of chronology. Poetry seeks to be more than the
sum of its parts; it has no dependence on chronology. Poetry seeks to become
Monad—the representation of entire life (or life experience) in one symbol (phrase,
line). Because poetry must always seek be incantation or Monad—it must practice
the unaccountable. John Dee, the English mathematician and wizard, spent his
whole life looking for the magical Monad that would give him the secret key to
unlock all knowledge and human mystery. It is no accident that it was at this
time when high Renaissance math, magic, physics, and religion all seemed to
share the same interrelated elements that the brightest thinkers sought Monad,
not science, to solve the secrets of the human condition. I believe the Monad is
to be discovered in perfect language—not perfect symbols. Incantation poetry
serves as Monad, it represents meaning with different quantities and strengths;
words without the baggage of words, sudden meaning without logic. And thus,
Incantation poetry forever defines itself as separate and distinct from “poetry” in
the form of newspaper prose.

By incantation, we mean speech stripped of all useless verbiage that does
not contain the core communication of power in the idiom—and no dependence
on normal logic protocols. I would also say this is the definition of lyric poetry.
If we are not discussing the “unknown quantity” in literature, then we do not
concern ourselves with poetry—or literature at all. We do not say that prose
cannot discuss fundamental realities; we only say that poetry approaches human
concerns with different powers and quantities. The honor of poetry is the sudden
arrival of the strange. Poetry is identity found in the unaccounted.

When men first existed they had song and not speech to explain the
unaccountable. To this day African and native Indian culture would rather sing
a sermon, than be read a sermon. The hardest, most overlooked issue of modern
poetry is whether or not we agree that poetry is still to be presented as song or as
a prose narrative (report). No academic has ever come face to face with this most
obvious quality of poetry. To resolve this question is to forever place the poetry
“written as prose” forever back in the prose genre. So many bright poets have
been crushed and marginalized since prose became the standard for poetry starting
after World War II. It simply was wrong-headed. And the market has voted with
their pocket books. Few people have noticed, but while the profession of “Writer”
still exists on government forms, the profession of “Poet” does not officially exist
as separate, life supporting profession.

My project recognizes that poetry shares with the monumental human
achievements of math, music, god, writing, logic, etc., all have one common element:
numbers (math). Poetry or verse (numbers) originally indicated an incantation



with number or measure. Four hundred years ago our ancestors called poetry
“numbers” (see Daniel above) and all poetry was presented with the architecture
of song, with stanza, rhyme, and chorus, etc., that monumented its message
with permanence. In our own day, Michael Riffaterre has used the term
“monumentality” of poetry to emphasize that a poem, like a song, should be so
“well built and rests upon so many intricate relationships that it is relatively
impervious to change and deterioration of the linguistic code.” I believe that all
the best poetry with stasis in English is still understood exactly as the first “hearers”
understood the poems. The poetry of Mantra Rain is built upon the substructure
of unobtrusive measure.

So much as all poetry must find its presentation as song, poetry of the 21st
century will never look like the traditional rhymed poetry of a prior epoch. This
would be a mistake. As each language has internal strengths and quantities, so
each age has internal dynamics necessary for clear presentation of song. Traditional
stanza and rhyme are not the only way to create song in poetry. Measure and
number must be represented in the structure—but only as an invisible element
that does not draw a distracting attention.

It is the architecture of “song” by which poetry maintains its meaning
impervious to most ordinary cultural changes. A human culture represents a
society of men that have trained their minds together. A mind represents spiritual
qualities—not physical. Thus all cultures have mental constructs—not physics.
Poetry and song “memorializes” this living culture—permanently. That’s why
we still can make the claim that poetry represents a nation’s greatest cultural
achievement. It lasts as long as the language lasts. England is not a powerful
nation, yet the memory of its poets makes it forever a cultural superpower.

Poetry as I view it should have no diminution of authority with age. The
best sorts of poems of the 1930s (for example) are startlingly relevant and alive
(Yeates’ Byzantium poems are an example here). Rilke’s poems after 1899 are
unchangeable monuments to human search for metaphysical meaning. The honor
of poetry is its monumentality to human wisdom and represents our, still,
unaccountable, metaphysical condition with sudden clarity. I have said to my
friends that “sudden and permanent clarity” itself can define art. In poetry, the
magic symbol of words (Monad) must produce a striking emotion of sudden
and permanent clarity. The human psyche works more efficiently with magic
than with logic. Magic creates an instantaneous response—yet cannot be
explained to everyone’s satisfaction. It’s not always repeatable, and that makes it
suspicious to the five senses. Logic exists only in time. Poetry is tied to no
chronology. Explain beauty or charisma in scientific terms and you only get
blank stares. People will do anything for love, yet few people die for a logical
proposition. Logic is honorable and respected, but used by the dishonest alike;
magic is a necessity to those who are honest, since it cannot be produced without
honesty. In the modern world this ancient influence of poetry in society has



been lessened and little respected. The poetry of the last 50 years has failed.
How do we explain the role of poetry in current American society?

On my website I have received many comments from poets who share the
ideas presented in these pages. I think it is useful to share the voice of other
poets, as with this mail from Elvira Davis in Australia:

“I cannot become involved with many modern poetry “prose poems”.They
have no rhyme or rhythm and when they are published in newspapers they
leave me thinking: if this is poetry, I’m in the wrong business. They don’t
move me in any way. I like to be moved by poetry. By the way, very few of
my poems have been published, a fact that I am now beginning to brag
about. (2005)”

Though I myself do not use rhyme (I use silent measure), her opinion validates
the frustration of English speaking readers and poets around the world. Her opinion
is also the opinion of the public who no longer buy poetry in bookshops—“they
don’t move me in any way”. How long have critics and academics totally ignored
this issue? Could it be that their careers are tied to writing poetry as prose? Could
it be that they are not great poets, yet assume the costume of a poet to make
tenure? I have heard of a professor that has easily published 12 slim poetry books—
yet nobody bought or read them—and no man in the street will ever know his
name. We can report that he did win tenure status at the university.

Above all else we protest the misuse of poetic language in the experimental
years. The “singing” element of poetry does not need to have an artificially elevated
voice to work as song. This is a common misconception among writers and
academics. Common usage language can be charged with the most mysterious
and powerful effects in the hands of master poets. There is no necessity or
obligation to use rhetorical tricks, rhymes, or confused grammar to stand apart
as powerful poems. Modern poetry is not poetry as we have learned to love it. I
have observed first hand how other humans learn to love it. When they see it,
they recognize it.

Since poetry is never the sum of its parts, we say it cannot be translated or
abridged. Poetry seeks to become Monad. It’s a once-for-all-time-event in the
language, full stop. A Monad lessened by one part of its spell falls dead. I said
before that the nature of an incantation is a phrase that has been stripped down
to only its original power—yet is not a Haiku since this form, not proper to
English strengths and quantities, does not have the internal stasis of song (self
validating architecture and meaning). But modern “prose poetry” is not an
incantation, and does not present itself as song with stasis or an internal structure.
Modern poetry can be easily translated because it operates as prose and, like
prose, has a word for word representation. Modern poetry, even so much as it
hopes to be clever, still remains the sum of its parts. Prose in, prose out.



Poetry is an event; unaccounted for and strange. If a poem has not failed
somewhere in its presentation, you will always remember where you were when
you first encountered it. A line of poetry represents—in one moment of
consciousness—many layers of ideation; never a predicted representation, but
recognized when seen. Poetry will never reveal to you what it has just done to
you. Poetry is a rabid bite, quickly leading down wormholes existing at the
beginning of our creation. Poetry is never perfectly clear, but always necessary
for clear living.

HUMANISTIC PHILOSOPHY, SHAMAN CULTURE,
AND THE NATURE OF POETRY

Until the development of “String Theory” (ca.1975-1995), the modern world
had a philosophy based on the intellectual ascendancy of the “inanimate universe”
that became total after the Age of Newton. There is little place in a dead universe
for living words from a god—no place for incantations as we find in the Egyptian
Book of the Dead or the Hebrew Bible. Yet the central problem of the human
condition (as stated in these books) still remains unchanged (if ignored). Man
still cannot live in his rotting flesh forever and humans have an unquenchable
thirst for meaning to explain why we have been so situated. I do not make an
academic theory here, I speak from actual evidence and statements made from
people who have responded to my work in each corner of the earth. The body
will die and science is irrelevant to this discussion. Incantation, whether by
religion, or by poetry, or even cropped together pseudo “humanism”—all wish
to honor a communication of magical origin, that has the element of authority,
human beauty, and organizes human temporality with pleasing, sudden, and
permanent clarity. We see it taking over the conscious thought of our
contemporary society as I write this sentence.

I have witnessed in my time our education institutions and our film industry
now giving more prestige each day to honoring spiritual means of understanding
the human condition and our national story. There was a time when native
Indians were characters designed to fall off horses when shot. It is now current
that we have ancient Indian shamans as central and honored portrayal in our
culture, as well as a strong identity with medieval themes of magic now projected
into the future with Science Fiction—resembling not so much faithless technology,
as a direct injection of faith based projections (as the “Force” in Star wars, as only
one well known example)—straight from the Age of Faith.

I feel we are at a cultural period of poetic flowering that America has never
seen before. As I said in my first book, the discovery of the unaccountability of
the physical world (i.e. String Theory) has actually led thought back to the prestige
of metaphysics. The Romantic Age in literature was the soul’s reaction to Newton’s
soulless “dead universe”. Now that scientists finally, if reluctantly, identify as



many as eleven dimensions in physics, and it is agreed that the physical universe
is essentially not observable with the five senses, now we are back to where we
started—we are still souls that cannot have exact knowledge of the human
condition on earth. That makes the human a mystery by any definition. This
identifies us as being closer to poetry than physical science. Dear reader, what I
am saying in so many words is that the Age of Poetry is now back within the
possible. Poets may have the prestige and honor in a Western society—one that
values and honors the shaman. And the Shaman culture sings its visions. Hence
popular music has developed into “Rap” music in a West becoming more
shamanistic.

To finally put our answer into modern context: Clear and sudden
communication of the unaccountable is the core competency of poetry. It appears
to us as the “strange” that we instantly recognize. It is with a stranger that we
find “identity in difference”—and we call this human love. The meeting of the
strange seems to be a peculiarly human cycle, repeating itself endlessly. God
seems to be obsessed with the stranger and how we deal with the stranger
determines how he deals with us. My poetry explores the meeting of the strange,
and the stranger, without rest. I do not suggest another eclectic New Age religion
or wish to cloud the clear divisions between poetry and religion. I am not so
blind to the lines that separate religious activity and the secular lyric. Rilke will
always be the master of the Western lyric. He is my first teacher. Rilke taught us
German as Baudelaire teaches us French. Yet Rilke tried to create a new language
that had a self-contained religion. His way to battle the new scientific societies
was to simply withdraw into himself—and other poets have made this mistake
as well. I still believe that poets can find incantation in daily life—and I have
proved it—and still do not pretend to create a new religion. I am trying to see
life as it appears to me each day—and I can’t keep up with it—I never will.
There is nothing quantifiable about life and thus life can only be expressed by
representations of symbol. This is the honor of art.

A poem must achieve a core competency in the affluent West. To me this
mantra insists that a poem should 1) create a living incantation (song), 2) order
the chaos (unaccountability) of human life, 3) produce a sudden and clear
presentation of the strange, and finally, 4) be idiomatic speech. A living poet has
only one task: to master the unaccountable. This requires a mastery of human
song, measure, and language. A poet has to tell you what you never knew about
the human condition in such a way that you suddenly and permanently recognize
it—and marvel that you never saw it before—and after, the reader never sees life
again without this new coloring. Poetry, like man, is essentially the sudden
arrival of the strange—but instantly recognized. In my view, the earth exists to
memorialize the appearance of the strange (see poem, Red
Earth). And once perfectly memorialized in poetry, it becomes a permanent expression of wisdom in the language. This is the only reason why art can claim to be a positive influence in human societies. This is the only claim the poet has to be the most vital worker in a nation’s cultural landscape.

The poetry of Mantra Rain is written in the language of incantation, yet
does not appear to use any artificial or elevated voice. Nor does it recommend
any language of past ages or cultures. I can recognize no language of former
styles that I would prefer to modern American language. The voice I have
created cannot have its effect in a language of any other period than the
present. It takes breath only in the idiom of the present age. I’ve read the
sizable record of dead and living poets and feel that most of our best loved
poems come down to a single favorite line, a tone, a single stanza that still rings
true, or a striking quality of a single, brief voice. A people’s incantations are all
that remains of a culture of men who trained their minds together. The paramount
quality of great art is the sense of authority it projects—that it is somehow
perfect in the degree to which it aims to message. Nothing can be added or
taken away that would not lesson the achievement. That is the nature of
incantation. It becomes a living power. Mantra Rain seeks authority as it expands
the American Idiom.

Incantation is dangerous. Its power is perfect and unforgettable. When a
poet finds a perfect expression it has instant authority, and the words live forever
in the language. Its authority may coexist uneasily with the state’s authority—
or go against it. This is why tyrants in history always had to make a clientage of
great poets, to control the power of their message. In this sense all great poets are
dangerous to the state—if they do not already depend on the state for their
survival. Great poets must always be welded to the state in bondage—or
marginalized in exile. Virgil is a good Roman example of the Poet Laureate;
Ovid, of the poet that must be exiled from the state. And any poet from English
canon, such as Spenser, Sidney, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden, Johnson,
Wordsworth, Tennyson, Arnold, all had their hands in the state coffers—and
glorified their leaders. Those poets not favored by the state, as Blake, were
marginalized. Byron chose self-exile with Shelley. Wilde had to be exiled to
France. Rilke escaped from country to country, house to house, sanctuary to
sanctuary. Pound faced exile and prison for praising the wrong side. But otherwise,
American writers have never been a danger to anyone.

THE ARCHITECTURE OF MANTRARAIN

As with so many seminal works that were ignored in their original editions,
Baudelaire complained to a friend that not only could contemporary France not
understand his achievement of language, they could not even appreciate the
book’s “architecture”. Victor Hugo, to whom Les Fleurs du Mal was dedicated,
refused to say Baudelaire’s work, at the least, increased the felicity of the French
language. I am not sure that he hoped even 500 of his fellow citizens had closely
read his great achievement before his death. Mantra Rain has a very deliberate
architecture expressed in several leitmotifs that reoccur throughout the book.

The reader will quickly perceive that key words as “stitch”, “cut”, “tailor”,
“builder”, “blade”, etc., have key roles that tie the progression of my message to
a final clarity. Each represent the key expression of our metaphysical relationship
to the universe as it may actually exist—and reveal the secrets of making it
“straight through the machine” (temporary life on earth). I do not wish to present
so much an alternate world view as I wish to inform the background of the poet’s
thought—necessary to better explain the poem’s functioning dynamic and
message. Some lines may more rarely be repeated in more than one differing
context—both to explore the double meanings of an incantation and to tie the
same leitmotif with previous poems that developed meaning on another level.
Nothing is accident or whimsy in Mantra Rain. Twenty years of work are not
casually but deliberately presented. I have teased the fabric of American language
until it lies flat and tight around the curve of my thought. I may be accused of
poor skill or judgment, not that I did not make an honest attempt—or did not
strive to present a well thought out architecture to support my thesis.

The thesis of Mantra Rain, as with all my work, is 1) how we fail to correctly
see how the universe is constructed (and thus man’s purpose on earth) and 2)
how we have failed to write poetry as incantation to correctly represent man’s
“unaccountable” facilities. Even a minor correction to the current Western affluent
perspective of our relationship with the earth decides how we write poetry that
more accurately reflects the human condition.

MODERN ACADEMICS AND
A DISABLED POETRY MARKET

This is a period when there is simply no market to sustain even a handful of
poets, when people wishing to be known as published poets may out-number
the readers who wish to support them. The past 50 years were a solid silver age
in literature—I called it “academic poetry” since it was a dark age when a reading
public did not buy poetry and tenured professors took turns publishing each
others slim volumes that even fewer read—to advance their careers. I felt in
2001 that it was time to make a frank assessment of “academic poetry” and set a
course for new directions in the craft. Since the 1950s, most modern poetry has
failed to produce memorable language and emotions (yes, notable exceptions
exist). In the last century, I believe this “silver” poetry has served the masters of
other arts: popular music or political factionalism. This must change.

I have explained from the GLP website in English speaking countries my
view that by the year 2001 “modern poetry” then existed only as a small
community of academic poets (sustained only by their academic positions) as
culturally “balkanized” as any university faculty. So unloved were our own poets
that many poets published in the West the last 50 years were exiles of some
other country, who despite not being especially brilliant in their own language,
have been awarded in the West for turning their verses into correct English. It
was their political “celebrity” that allowed them to wear the costume of a poet.
In an age of Imperialism modern poetry is about the pose of a poet—political or
social—not the merits of his work. Ginsberg and Sylvia Plath, (and even Lennon)
were named poets of the 1960s because of the celebrity of their lives, not because
they were great poets. This pattern will repeat itself forever.

It is a time when a small community of academic poets are culturally “balkanized” and stand apart in separate hostile political camps: male and female, Caucasians and people of color, and young against old. This is the Golden Age of the poet as costume”. It’s not about language at all. It’s all about a struggle over
who has the social right to take the pose of a poet. I think that it must have
always been that way. Since the Age of Augustus, Western poets were selected
based on the social right they were able to wrest from powerful protectors in any
given society. In the Age of Imperial Democracy this is still true—it’s about who
can capture the “political” high ground in order to enjoy a social right—in lieu
of merits of language—to wear the nation’s costume of poet. Hence, Ginsberg.

I proved this theory with the Greatest Living Poet Project. Mark Staber Kobo
took the costume of a poet with a striking pose—that of the greatest living
poet—and a well prepared poetic message. So unused were the public about
what qualities existed in a poem, that they were defenseless to resist my
presentation of the problem—as if there was never a break in the West with the
central authority of the genre. Who was Mark Stabor Kobo? Like any great poet,
he was not any one gender, one ethnic, or one tradition (the word Kobo could
be any ethnic mix). Similar to David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” character, I hid
my poetic message behind a struggle of costumes and masks. What made my
effort effective was that I prepared my verse in advance to justify my pose—
and I developed the right myth for the right audience at the right time. To my
utter surprise, my audience never doubted the costume I wore as the “Greatest
Living Poet”. This experience proved many of the assumptions explored in all
my work. I was witness to a magic show. I saw there was total chaos in the
public mind about what constitutes the best poetry, yet they could recognize
it when they were face to face with it. I learned that the public does not want
poetic prose. I saw there is an audience for my poetic theory. And they were
ready to buy books.

My “project” was to introduce a new way of looking at poetry—the oldest
human art. The response to my effort showed me clearly that I was on the right
path. People wanted to receive poetry as incantation, rather than newspaper
prose. I always reached certain people in my audience that explained to me after
the presentation that they never dreamed poetry “could be like that”. People
want the presentation of wisdom and magic more than a politically correct
narrative. People want to have one perfect line of poetry to represent their entire
life (Monad or mantra); they do not wish to hear the mundane miseries of a
limited academic experience. Human life is too important for that. Humans are
the mouth of God. If we do not speak perfect words then there is only a noise
that disappears the moment it sounds. If there are no perfect words then there is
no truth.

I am not the first to write poetry as incantation. Other poets in English,
Dickinson, Pound, and Dylan Thomas, were poets who searched for incantation.
“Do not go gentle into that good night . . .” is a notable example of incantation
that represents the sublime in English without any artificial elevation of the
language. It remains modern and permanent. Thomas was banished by his wife
to his little shed to find incantations to put soup on the table. His total life work
resulted in less than 100 poems. Incantation poets have similar production
quantities as the painter Vermeer—two perfect works a year.

Yet Dylan Thomas was an exception. Most of the dead poets we read today,
still vital to future generations, were seldom known at all by their contemporaries.
I see no reason to think that the future will change. We disparage and make
jokes of once famous Longfellow and honor the once unknown Emily Dickinson.
To this day her story is more interesting than her impenetrable incantations.
And for those who do not know her search was focused on incantations cannot
claim to know anything about Dickinson, or any other poet of incantation, as
Thomas. Pound is a true favorite of incantation, if often unreadable, since he was
the rare American poet who stood face to face with the “unaccountable”. Pound’s
mistake was that he had no stasis of song to support his incantation. He only
appears mad to us today when we consider his later work (Cantos). It has amazed
me that no academic has ever seen how the pursuit of incantation (words without
the baggage of words, sudden meaning without logic) was the essential quality
that linked Dickinson, Pound and Thomas. Our centers of national education
do not understand our nation’s poetics. No academic poet of the last 50 years
would have the courage to describe their work as incantations. Yet the definition
of poetry and incantation is perceptible: words without the baggage of words;
sudden meaning without logic.

Whitman’s work is still praised and read—as his sexual orientation is now
artistically popular and politically fashionable. He performed with the bravado
that all brave poets must show. There is a long tradition for the pretentious pose in
American letters. But then I esteem the well-performed pose as high art, as much
as Oscar Wilde and Charles Baudelaire made their life a form of their art. I am
certain that when Whitman self-published Leaves of Grass he had in mind a project
similar to mine. As casual examination will reveal that all the great names in poetry
had the confidence to self-publish their work—all great poets in history have self-
published, from Watt to Sidney to Milton, from Blake to Whitman to Pound. We
must have the freedom to create our own audience in our own time.

Wallace Stevens (the “banker-poet”) is not as well respected as he was in his
own lifetime—but praised by those close to poetry in America—as he is the
most representative of the affluent American condition—and who haunts the
shadow of my own life: how do we make a bridge between the affluence of
American life and the shaman-poet who sees a people’s visions? Stevens is not
often read but as the banker-poet, he also showed us the path we must all make
in the West. We must be shaman, but one who shares our people’s experience
with affluence, since that is our proper condition. And the affluent society’s
right to vision and soul is no less strong than the poor man’s society. It has,
however, been represented poorly in the West and never realized with success.
The poet of American affluence is still to be discovered.

If the past has any instruction, then none of the poets who today have
fought and won the poet’s costume will be honored one hundred years from
now. And no poet or critic living can predict the honored voice of a future time.

THE SUBLIME? BECAUSE HUMANS CAN.

But why is lyric poetry still written in the West? Surely we do not write poetry
because it was executed with prestige in the past. If this is the only reason, let’s
reconsider. Nor is it sufficient to make minor tailoring adjustments to an old bolt
of cloth. Since Tottle’s
Miscellany (1560s) poets in the English language were given
the idea that there was a potential readership for lyric poems beyond the small
circle of a writer’s personal friends. Since this time it has been merely assumed by
moderns that such an assumption still existed. I do not think such a presupposition
has been recently proven in our own day. Granted, after the success of Shakespeare
(Earl of Oxford), it has never been doubted that English language poetry could
represent a culture’s highest artistic achievement. And today as never before English
is the only world language. What an opportunity exists here for a master poet in
English. But today there are more poets wishing to be read than there are readers
wishing to buy and honor modern poetry. So we should either have a poetry that
has prestige, valued by its society—or we should let poetry disappear into nursery
rhymes and bad prose. This was the message of my project in 2001.

In Mantra
Rain the world is newly created. You will never see the world presented again as it appears in Mantra Rain. It presents an argument as worthy as any other theory of being. We live in a world where the only reality is the competition of ideas. That’s why each generation makes the world look different. In Mantra Rain the earth is presented for the first time in a new set of colors, perhaps the way it really is. And how we see ourselves colors our speech and our visions in human societies. And this will make all the difference for the way poetry is written in the 21st century.

Why should I not aim to create a poetic as vital and as powerful in our
culture as popular music and film? The basic claims of poetry remain unchanged.

Poetry is Ground Zero of a nation’s cultural wisdom and treasure. The poet
exists as the supreme master of the transition from the natural to the supernatural;
from the soul in matter to the soul that is infinite and unmovable. It is the
image and representation of our metaphysical condition, superior in merit and
power to all other art forms in Western culture. That poetry is not a force to be
reckoned with in today’s cultural landscape is due to failure of human personality;
and it will return to vitality with human personality—as symbol and icon in the
human imagination. It requires, in fact, some healthy pretension.

I wish to correct the defects of the current ideas of modern poetry, and by
talent—and talented grandstanding—place my idea of modern poetry before
the Western world. Not a very modest project. A poet in this school will be
valued for the power he creates from our language—not for any new technique
you can admire; for the “unknown quantity” of associated ideas—not for any
craft you can understand and imitate. But when you see it you will know it.

The project reintroduces the uses of the sublime—without the ill effects of
a self-conscious effort of language to sustain it. In our focus on the “unknown
quantity” of language we seek a chance felicity of sharp expression—idiomatic in
the language and forever untranslatable—rather than a more studied imitation
of known perfections.

AMERICA: LAND OF NON-POETS?

I accuse my nation of not creating the most favourable conditions to be a
poet. Of all the arts and professions that have existed from human antiquity
only poetry remains an activity that cannot make a living wage in America. I
have never made a profit from my life’s work. Is it enough that the same affluent
world that does not honor poetry as a paid living—very generously gives
opportunity to find a living wage in other occupations? We all wish we could be
as well rewarded as other writers in America, but perhaps that is not the path to
find what we most need. I had to choose a profession that would let me be free
after twenty years of servitude, and was only less onerous because I haphazardly
survived the well-publicized hazards of the work. I did not stay a month beyond
the required day.

The work that the readers see before them has been written in the middle of
other events in a life of arms and fighting aircraft—that had no communication
with the “business” of poetry. I think it was for the better. Somehow I feel more
enriched to experience a life of science and technology that I would never have
experienced in a liberal arts career. I have been sent into countries that burnt my
skin and froze my blood. I have learned languages that had no common connection
to my birth city; I have gained a perception of the people of the world that no
homebound American could experience. If all experience resolves itself into
language, then the language must be rich. By birth, I have shared the same
geography as the more interesting characters of the early American West. My
ancestors were all six-gun-slingers and violinists. I had the same stubborn cultural
geography and sound of Mark Twain, T. S. Eliot and Gwen Brooks as my mother
tongue. The same Kansas-Missouri thick-headedness that drove them—as well
sustained me. America will always find its center at the Kansas-Missouri cross
roads.

CONCLUDING STATEMENTS

If the reader has closely read Mantra
Rain he will have gained a sense for the
“unknown quantity” of the language I seek. This type of language is appropriate
since man himself remains the greatest and first unknown quantity. The Greatest
Living Poet Project is the result of a profound dissatisfaction with current poetics
and current poetic style. The project believes that it has found a better
representation of the modern world and the people living in the world. I find no
contradiction between the necessity for the sublime in art and the necessities of
modern life. My goal is a sublime that is achievable and consistent with modern
English usage, never using an artificial or an “elevated” language. Since the
sublime—or the “unknown quantity”—eludes all rational analysis, our poetics
are identified with a mental alchemy, which makes the poet a creator analogous
to a god. It is no coincidence that in art, man has been likened with godlike
qualities.

In practical terms Mantra Rain insists upon actively re-engaging an interactive
public. The means of gathering a public is through pleasure, not by finely teased
argument. The poetic presented in this school can instantly be recognized by its
emphasis on the power of individual line and phrase. In our poetic, each poem
must contain lines that implant memory, set up tents in the human imagination,
and make camps in our daily lives. First lines always signal the power of this
school. The first line may as well be the entire poem—so strategic is that moment
in the relationship with the reader. But in practice, if honest, the same can be
said about all other lines as well. They all are equal trouble.

Mantra Rain is a power in the universe—not a self-indulgent rehearsal of
prosaic sentiments, political polemics, or MFAs in search of more competitive
resumes. I do not care if I ever see another list of small press awards and small
press credits. In our projects there are no more workshops for people to learn
how to write better poetry. There is no workbook for our poems. My books are
not written to keep academics employed and moving up the tenure ladder. Our
words are incantations and charms. So long as we have academic poets who list
credits of 12 books published and still remain unknown to the public, American
poetry is in crisis. This illustrates my thesis more than any other phenomenon.
Poetry should have a living and vibrant audience. Poems should be Monads: the
world—and our experience of the world—represented and compressed into one
symbol, one line, six or seven words, embedded in the texture, implanted in the
brain. The only task for a poet is to master the unaccountable. The market will
follow.

As I have an interest only in the “unknown quantity” of miraculous language,
my work is sustained by a faith that the entire universe is a living being containing
within it a living soul. The universe is a living creature, with direction and
purpose: Love. This is a dynamic that gives vitality to art—not using rational,
minimalist prose in place of charged language. I think we want only so much
rationality to keep us secure and fed, then we want to return to the “unknown
quantity” of magic worlds. This is the only communication the universe soul
understands. The ultimate realities of the human condition are nurtured by this
active, living conversation between the images of this living spirit and our daily
lives. People are told they seek happiness, but I know they seek the “unknown
quantity” of life. We want magic, not solvency. We want authority germane to
our precise condition as powerful as god—not sentiment, not opinion. Any
contemporary may present opinion against me, but few can match the authority
of incantation in Mantra Rain. Mantra Rain seeks to deepen and expand the American idiom. And I rest my argument on this wish.

Contact the poet with your comments about MANTRA RAIN at:

www.greatestlivingpoets.com

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