Reflections in a Foggy Mirror
Doesn't happen often,
but when it happens,
happens late at night,
always on rainy evenings,
on this island's rainy season,
happens when the bathroom mirror
fogs up too easy.
I wash my hands, I check the mirror,
without a memory or thought,
but damn it, there he is,
gazing back—those dimples,
that sideways grin that drew
too many women in, and
irritated a lot of fishermen.
Everyone says I took after him.
Yeah, I suppose I do, same
hazel eyes, same face too thin,
that receding chin that
a Hemingway beard covers
up and down Duval Street.
But still I get a fright when
I see him coming back to life—
that steamy bathroom mirror,
because a thousand times,
I've heard him say,
"Yeah life's a bitch, son, but,
you never had mortgages
to worry your wallet or your Cuban wife,
and that eyebrow house on White Street,
where you're living now, one day
it's gonna be worth a million bucks,
but you better never sell it, 'cause
son, it didn't cost you a dime."
So there's my old man—risen,
reminding me again, he's sprung
from these salty waters he loved
to fish, scuba and swim—he visits
only during those months when it rains
every day like it does down here,
when my old eyebrow roof leaks,
when the humidity on this island
gets to be way too much—
he reminds me again, always
when no one else is around,
when no one else can verify.
--- Reed Venrick
Dial M for Pandemic
Hitchcock help me
send your birds
your mama's boy-
rocking- chair killers
your transatlantic accents
anything but this,
this lousy pandemic,
it has no intrigue
no classic cars
or fancy champagne
no white dinner gloves
neatly placed on the back
of a gilded chair
no old school
friends from Chelsea
or telephone gossip
I can’t take it Alfred
can I call you Alfred?
you are dead after all
Alfred I just can’t take
another day with
trying to match
my mask with these
we need your evil
sneer ,your not so
me too demeanor
to smooth out
virus go round,
A tasteless shadow
--- Melanie Browne
The First Time
Much as our ancestors must’ve done it,
for us it happened in a field of long grass
in early autumn, before the first chill.
You felt a twinge of pain at the start
and winced without making a sound,
but then it was good for both of us.
It was all over quickly.
What does a boy of fifteen know about controlling desire?
As much as a man of six decades
knows about controlling the memories that wash over him,
surging forward, receding, surging forward, receding,
like the rhythm of your breath that day
in the late afternoon with clouds for a ceiling
and the earth for a bed.
Everything has changed. Nothing has changed!
The pebbles pushed forward by the surf of years
have neither worn down nor sunk back into the sea.
These aquatic metaphors are more than mere fancy.
Not so long ago the whole Midwest was an ocean.
If you dug down a few meters below where we lay
you would find fossil fish imprinted on the stone,
for the earth also has its memories
that persist, and perhaps in the endless eating
of its own crust, it too turns them over and over,
thinking back on the beginnings of things.
One Way to Die
There are psychic hemophiliacs
who bleed out from verbal paper cuts real
or imagined, it hardly matters when you
give someone that kind of power over you.
I would say to them
be a snail, move slowly if you must,
but grow your own shell
and carry it with you always.
They can’t hear me though,
they’re too busy preparing to swoon,
turning pale and melting in place.
To them my words are only
one more sharp edge
trying to stick a straw in their life force
the better to suck them
down to the marrow.
A Treatise on Rain
I have something altogether new and original to say
about rain: it’s wet, and it makes me sad.
Please stand by for further illuminations.
I feel certain the gods are speaking through me.
Heed me! Don’t allow yourself to be distracted
by the rain, which is like music
in the same way that Dave Matthews is like music,
or like tears, in the same way
that my ex’s tears are like tears,
which is to say, like a gangrenous old horse
pissing on a moldering fence post.
We seem to have drifted away from the subject of rain,
but have no fear, I’ll get back to it
as soon as I finish mentioning four million other things
that have nothing to do with it.
Heaven forbid that any of my senseless sense impressions
should fail to be preserved for the benefit of posterity,
and posterity had damn well better appreciate
the trouble it has put me through.
O rain, rain! The splendor of your jeweled drops is ―
no, scratch that. Make it snow.
Better yet, sleet. That’s the ticket.
--- Kurt Luchs
Because No One Will Ever See Us Beneath the Waist
Gael inhales sharply and slumps back in his chair.
Each time he cuts, he goes deeper—he loves when his skin splits open, hates this constant switching between I want more scars and I hate what I’m doing to my body. Gael wants to stop but this is the only thing that distracts him from the pain. Someday he’ll make it hard for himself—he’ll hide sharp objects or put them in a bag of water and freeze them to death. Someday, he repeats, someday.
How about you—Gael asks, face like wax, doll-like eyes staring at the neighbor’s wall topped with rolls of barbed wire—did you relapse?
I’ve picked up burning myself lately, I say, watching slabs of the buried city coming back to life, jagged ends of glass sticking out of the sandstone markers.
And now I can’t stop.
--- Bojana Stojcic
The Sky’s Lunatic Idea
Walking by the river while the sky
mumbles its lunatic idea,
I don’t feel like Voltaire, Rousseau,
or Victor Serge. The poverty
of the summer horizon never
looks more ragged than the day
before a tropical storm arrives.
The tension in the air reminds me
that I’m one-eyed, a cyclops,
a creature subject to myth.
An incurable macular hole
distorts my left-eye vision
by twisting straight lines to prove
they were never straight at all.
I’m becoming less physical
every day. But failing to become
to compensate for my body.
Tomorrow the storm may topple
a tree and kill whatever’s left
of me, husking down to the cob.
Should I be grateful for prime time
natural effects? Heavy rain may
open a grave or two, exposing
our least desirable qualities.
The river looks unconcerned.
It doesn’t care where it flows,
or even whether it gets there.
The sky though looks troubled.
What if its edges don’t abut? What
if its colors are a lack of color?
I’ve sat on this bench for years,
sitting and sipping from paper cups,
hoping that when I’ve depleted,
the river will divvy me up.
That Mussolini Grimace
Letter bombs arrive almost daily,
bursting with impotent bluster.
Killer drones crash in the trees.
Drunks toss their trash in our driveway
and speed away howling with rage.
We should never have spoken up
when authoritarian gestures
came into fashion, that stern
Mussolini grimace deployed
among the rural population.
Now I patrol our boundaries
with a killer cat straining
at the leash. Now and then
dead snipers occur in the brush,
their rifles rusted, their bones
flensed by congeries of mice.
I’m sure they died of boredom,
having oversold themselves
on the glamor of their profession.
You’ve noted the occasional
dirigible drifting overhead,
but I haven’t seen one since
the war with Canada ended.
The people at the post office
sort the letter bombs from other
worst-class mail and bag them
in steel mesh to muffle the blast.
Simple drones can’t penetrate
the forest canopy that shields
our house from airborne assault.
We resolve never to speak aloud
again, the Mussolini grimace
splashed across Vogue and Elle,
killer instincts aestheticized
in colors too dull to run.
The Piano Music of Grieg
Savaged by a twist in the wind,
a tree falls and rips out the wires
that link me to the world. It bore
no grudge, wasn’t suicidal, flexed
a thousand fistfuls of leaves yet
broke at a flaw in its trunk.
It may be days before friends
learn why I’ve gone silent without
dying in my tracks. A truck
from the power company slows,
then speeds up, unable
to process this heady carnage.
Meanwhile the planet turns
another cog’s worth of time.
The raving of politics continues
without a hint of circumstance.
The pandemic totes away another
thousand limpid carcasses.
I stoke my generator and hope
the gasoline lasts long enough
to get me through a morning
shaped like a bell jar. Too bad
I gave away my chainsaw,
my favorite dangerous tool,
being told I’m too old to wield it.
Did Thor give up his lightning bolts
in old age? He probably did,
the tall northern sunsets aflame
with the piano music of Grieg
stifling the ancient bloodlust.
--- William Doreski
In a house there's a room, in the room there's a desk, on the desk there's a book, in the book there are pages, on the pages there are lines, lines that are made of words, and between a word and a full stop there is a double space.
This is where I lost that button.
Down corridors. Plastic plant full bloom. Instead of birds, doorknobs.
Only one door though. It's not that simple.
A phone: rotary green.
Of utmost importance.
Index draws. Full stop after full stop. Against the clock, grayscale ticking. Don't worry, I got this.
Then my finger slips.
All over again.
On my shirt there was a button. It fell down a double space.
In a house there's a room, in the room there's a desk, on the desk there's a book, in the book there are pages, on the pages there are lines, and on the lines doorknobs sit. Not birds.
In human voice they call it fantaloop.
Old bed springs.
--- Basilike Pappa
Fulfillment is the smile my mother's corpse wore today.
The moon on this eve of her funeral has entered that phase
in which it becomes a door, door into a history class
where a boy has raised his hand to ask a question about motion.
They say cows do not speak, but this son is no cow.
No! This son is no cow, this son is that proverbial donkey
whose eyes have been blessed to behold an angel.
He has been taught another way; he knows the world is vain,
knows that dirt can be made holy; so he never mocks his own vagary.
He walked into the history class a man dressed in women's clothes.
His masculinity gentle,
His femininity strong,
His arguments weighty;
and he would say,
'who cares if the prophet hangs himself in disbelief?
fiction will always tell a truth that history can never comprehend.'
--- Soonest Nathaniel
Cold vehicles drive erratically. They pull into ditches and sleep. Birds tear ragged black creases in a blue sky. We arrive at Henry’s. Tall and thin, I look good in a suit. Stretched out like an eel. Black insectoid. Vanilla pod. It’s a funeral so no one will say that suited Henry looks an olive. I ring the buzzer a third time.
The taxi driver waves me back.
Still picking up your friend?
If you just want to leave, that’s fine.
I shrug and say I’ll pay by phone. Then wave my phone like he’s never seen one before. I vault the fence and knock on the sliding door. There’s grease on the glass like glue. Henry appears, wearing only a suit jacket.
You look like Winnie the Pooh. Only more grotesque.
Me or the bear?
I clear a space on the bed. There is unrecognisable matter. Smells operate independently.
Are you ready?
Steadily he spreads shaving foam across his neck.
Yes. I definitely planned to go like this.
Can you really be late to a funeral though?
Mould investigates the wall. It blossoms into shadowy explosions. Creeping down the windowsill, it reaches out towards my collar. I hear it.
We’ll feel shitty, if we’re late.
Henry appears, dressed and shaved.
Can we smoke first?
Outside is a gallon jar of pickled cigarettes. Damp clouds fill the air. The skin around my jaw aches. I flatten out this rented tie.
People don’t know how to talk at funerals, Henry notes. They talk about sandwiches. They discuss the spread. Like bringing sandwiches to a bar is a fucking achievement. Henry finishes his cigarette and rolls another.
I really don’t want to be late.
What kind of music would you want, at yours I mean? I’d go for something jazzy. Jaunty even.
A marching song
I’d like it to be infectiously catchy.
Winds level the grass.
It would rain today of course, Henry says.
It’s going to feel strange, us being there,
She asked us to come. I reply. She asked.
I help Henry brush back his hair. Static crackles through our hands. I look in the mirror.
Laurel and Hardy, I say. Henry smiles and pats my chest.
Time to go, he adds.
Outside the taxi is still waiting.
We’re not paying for that, I say climbing in.
Intermittent rain interrupts. The taxi stumbles on village roads.
Be planted under a tree, Henry says. I agree.
It rains enough for landslides. No one speaks to comical mudslide stains. Crusts left on bent paper plates. I get so drunk with Henry that I crash on his floor amongst unknowable things. Mould binds the ceiling thick enough that for a moment I believe we’re outside, heads spinning under the coal dark nothing of night.
--- James Kramer
I know, it’s much easier to go
on planting daffodil bulbs
in the wormy peat, write esoteric verse,
or open the windows and climb in bed and read
the history of some
old dead Grecian king.
But for you, who are not about to do
yourself to death
for fear of death,
there is the gypsy odor
of juniper in Tuni,
cloud drunk thunder
of eternal daybreak.
For you, who are not afraid to say so long
and ride the fiery Pyrois,
and tongue the languid marigold.
The moon blows its horn.
One of Ours
Like flip phones,
Myspace, handwritten letters
& frosted lipgloss,
the cis, hetero, middle-aged white man
has gone out of fashion. He’s passé
and will remain so,
sitting carefully out of the way,
doing penance, self-flagellating,
undergoing any number of lobotomies
he is deemed fit to return,
a dull but accommodating
in bell bottoms.
The Boules Players of Paul-Lincke-Ufer
The same handful of habitués
is out here every day this time of year, drinking beer,
chewing the fat, hurling their heavy steel balls
across the piste and listening to the dull landing thud
in the gravel, or the sharp knock as they crash
into the other balls,
scattering them through the shadows of the trees.
All day every day,
the same handful of habitués
underhanding in graceful arcs those glowing spheres,
pausing now and then for a swig of beer and a laugh,
the Spring winds rippling through their clothes,
the sun painting the sides of their faces, peach blossom
branches against the Prussian blue skies
and the glitter of the tawny canal behind them.
Every day all day
among lovers in wild grass, hipsters, glimpsing
passersby and Spanish guitars,
that same old handful of habitués,
the geniuses of the place, desiring nothing,
expectant of nothing,
content with their little hour,
their little game, hurling into the radiant Spring
those magical silver globes.
--- M.P. Powers
I rarely visit the ocean anymore.
Then Umberto tells me the last female has died.
"So we go out again, my old friend," I say, activating one of the dome's six airlocks before stepping in.
Outside, I'm struck by the noise. The antiseptic quiet of dome life now replaced by bawdy shouts from the free, native wind terrorising this empty landscape. Tinnitus, caused by the change in air pressure, rings in my ears over the pssssss-pffffff of my air-regulator. Frost on the ground dazzles my vision and complains beneath my boots as I lug my 1.4Gs or so toward the distant shoreline.
Last week, Dr. Martin had assured me everything was on track with Lucy’s pregnancy. Her second trimester had been, "Nominal, that is considering her significant deviation from what would be considered average female human physiology."
"Just give it to me with the bark on, Martin." I hate it when damn fools talk like that.
"Well she's not human, of course, but I still think she could deliver normally at full term, Captain."
"But a normal, healthy human child, right?" I watched Martin stiffen as he toyed with his wedding band.
Now it's a week later and both Lucy and the child are dead. Just one human egg remains in the freezer.
I can see Umberto on his buggy, bouncing along, silhouetted by low twin suns, gigantic circus balloons of yellow and orange. He'll reach the shoreline before me but I don't mind because it's the simple things like walking and sunsets that give me time to reflect. So I remember Lucy. I remember her gentleness and humour. And I remember her bravery.
"Captain, are you not pleased?" she asked.
"Of course I am, Lucy." I grabbed my tablet and rolled my chair over to her aquarium.
"You were thinking of your mate, weren't you, Captain?"
I'd forgotten how well she could read my face; lulled into complacency by the tablet’s voice translator. I leaned in close and pressed my face to the glass, meeting the probing gaze of her single, placid eye.
"Yes, and the others too," I said.
"We weep for your lost women and the children they couldn't give you."
Close now, I see Umberto has the gear out. There's no way I could ever carry that much so far, especially at my age, so I am glad for that buggy and my loyal, good friend. I wish I could toss my regulator away and breathe deep the sea air and feel the sand between my toes, like so many light-years gone. But already my mind is shifting gears. I channel my maritime ancestors as Umberto and I quietly get to work.
"What happens if no one responds?" Umberto asks as we wade with the skiff out into the thick, frigid sea.
I inspect the undulating horizon.
"You can't catch a fish if you don't throw out a line."
"You sound like a real salt, Captain."
We climb into the boat and I make a quick check inside my duffel bag: sounder, translator, net, rope, thermal blanket, Lucy's recorded plea. Umberto has a steady paddle going now. I scan the sky, watching for seagulls that will never come.
"Dad?" I asked.
"If I was the last boy on earth, what would happen to me?"
"Why would you ask me a question like that?
"I had a dream I was the last boy on an island with two suns in the sky."
My father frowned.
"Toss me the rope and hop in. Fish don't wait."
I dared not mention the mermaids.
Now Umberto, his back to me, rows steadily and purposefully. Viscous fluid glints solar red and yellow as it drips, syrup like, from the tips of his oars. Oxygen bubbles as large as a fist surface and join our wake, oily half-domes that twist and bob around the sounding tether before they submerge again, still unbroken. The wind has settled to a child's whisper as the last sun floats on a flaming horizon.
I cock my head and listen carefully for their reply.
--- Lars von Ritter
Essay on the Potential Worth of Blogging
Why spend time blogging? What’s the worth? I don’t want to waste energy. Isn’t all Internet activity simply ephemera? Aren’t all posts, status updates, or tweets “here today, gone tomorrow”? I’m only interested in contributing to activities that possess lasting worth.
Here’s a thought: If one’s blog-writing appeals to an editor or publisher someday, now or however many years into the future, who’s to stop them from compiling a hardcover BOOK from one’s blogs? (Let “blog” here stand for any type of online writing.) — Thus blogs can become books: No one would accuse the codex format of lacking worth. And, as for that worth being lasting, there are books in existence whose texts are thousands of years old; moreover, those ancient writings are often valued the highest.
So it can be said about any modern-tech device, network, or program, however goofy or gimmicky: If the thing can hold text, it may contain a classic scripture.
Say you type some lines of Dante into a phone screen: does the poetry suffer corruption? I answer no: because language is inherently symbolic, it gestures to something beyond its own existence—unlike much of visual art in this respect, text is not itself the important thing: what it signifies is of importance; it’s a way for one mind to suggest imaginations for minds beyond.
Now take the flipside of book-idolatry: the fact that you can confine Dante to the ninth circle of your cellphone proves there’s nothing sacred about the codex form: just because text is printed in a book doesn’t automatically make it well-written. I’d rather get Shakespeare by heart via reading him online than to own a hard copy of some hack bestseller.
And what strikes us contemporaries as slapdash or undignified about all these computer-borne opportunities, newfangled to us, may be taken by some upcoming age as the classical format. — Today’s perversions are tomorrow’s “old time religion”.
Another thought about e-scribing (online textual composition): I keep reminding myself, for the sake of my personal confidence & feelings of self-worth & human dignity, that this format with the unfortunate name “blogging” is essentially journal-keeping or essay-writing; and my favorite artists created what are my favorite compositions in those forms — I think of Montaigne’s essays; Francis Bacon’s essays; Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays & his even superior journals; Kafka’s diaries; the personal letters of John Keats. — Would it bother anyone, beyond the ugliness of the term itself, if those last were labeled “e-mails” & all the foregoing “blogs”? — And how Samuel Johnson spent his genius & wisdom writing his Rambler; Adventurer; Idler: couldn’t these compositions all be blogs nowadays?
Now I imagine a naysayer objecting that blogs are demotic, low, base, vulgar. — Is that so? Fine, now let’s consider who embraced the same so-called inferior formats of their own generation:
Wasn’t playacting considered a low form in the time of Shakespeare? Didn’t Dante entrust his most sublime vision to the vernacular—as did Chaucer with lowly English! Note how it’s not that we are able to find a few decent names among the bad, or a couple good among the middling, whose “vulgarity” we echo – no: it’s the BEST OF THE BEST who, almost as a rule, choose to dabble in the demotic. Take Goethe, for instance: look at Faust Part Two – isn’t he almost reveling in a certain type of mythological “bad taste”! (Only those who lack ears to hear thus disparage his farcical splendor; The Happy Few have always thrilled to it.)
What will survive the test of time is what will be able to appeal to the people of the future. Their lives will be different in ways we cannot guess: they’ll have their own fads; but we can be sure that they’ll experience the very same buzzes and stabs of emotion as humans do now, the same tangles of relationships, family, friends. So what centers on the human heart will survive – it won’t matter if an artwork first appeared online, in a blog, an email, whatever: it will only matter if it’s strong and relatable, and essentially human, and divine, and if it exposes what is familiar in the strange, and what is strange in the familiar.
And we should remember that the future will have no experience of a world-without-Internet: Everything for them will have been baptized in electricity (or whatever fresh nuisance-medium dominates that age’s culture and makes them feel inferior) — And any of our literary efforts that DO survive will get translated into presently unthinkable formats. If the language morphs enough, there’ll be bad translations, etc…
One extra thought on the concept of “low” art: Just as plays were considered a low form in the time of Shakespeare, movies or television shows are judged as sub-book today. (See this or that Wes Anderson film for clear examples of this book-worship sycophancy.) But wasn’t the now-respected novel form once frowned on as a childish waste? (To be clear, I respect Anderson’s work as much as strong novels: I’m only trying to emphasize the shiftiness of the age’s prejudices.) I always think of the attitudes revealed in Middlemarch, how Fred’s sister looks down on him for wasting his time reading those “silly books”; while Middlemarch itself is just such a thing! (Of course I suggest this only ironically — Middlemarch is no “silly book” to me — in my own eyes, Eliot’s tome is a sacred text.)
The point is that art tends toward the state of seeming “very, very, very, very serious”, to quote Lancaster Dodd (on marriage) from The Master (2012). And things attain the state of super-seriousness when they get old & dusty. Obscurity helps: once nobody understands a work, then we assume it MUST be important. And this is an added bonus for the culture’s priests, for then they get to translate, to interpret; to invent in their own timid way.
Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) & when he opened it, all the people stood up [. . .] And he read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, & caused them to understand the reading. [Nehemiah 8:1-8]
I believe that the imagination is the crown of all creation: it’s the very thing to spend oneself upon. If I were a lion, I’d give all my life to killing lambs; and if I were a cheetah I’d delight in sheer speed; but as I find I’ve been born as a human, I will pursue the imagination: that’s the one place where I believe we’ve got the advantage; one might say that the work of the mind is the human form’s calling. And I believe that written language is the best way to preserve & propel such visionary creations; thus, to repeat the point that I tried to make above: any medium that can bear the written word will be worth bedizening — any mickey-mouse object capable of transferring a text message can transfer SUBLIMEST THOUGHTS between respective minds.
That’s why, for me, it’s simple: The question of book vs. blog, or letters in paper envelopes vs. email (etc.): it’s all the same. They’re all just TEXT — the rest is frills.
Atomic weapons can turn all creatures back to the chaos of zero, but written language is a mind-control device: instead of pressing a red button and making everything halt, you can actually influence the lives of wild beings in their world, and move them about like metal filings on a table with an undercover magnet, if you’re a half-decent magician — which is to say: a persuasive writer.
Thankfully, language does not convey thought with exactitude. (Why are only the scientists among my lecture’s audience weeping now?) Even math is metaphoric.
Though I’ve been pep-talking the e-formats, I do prefer paper that is bound into physical books, for that quality of lasting. So altho it’s not a waste to type on screens, any screen-bound text should be considered precarious till transferred. So: write whithersoever, but save the results — that’s my advice to myself. The good news is that whether one composes for a periodical (like many of our greatest novelists have done) or entrusts one’s seemingly frivolous inventions to stamped envelopes for dear friends’ children (I’m thinking of Edward Lear) or patiently types private thoughts into the screen of a weblog, one’s enterprise can be relocated easily to paper & then bound into books that endure; so no energy is lost.
The best practice is to write down words on a napkin while dining at the saloon; then later transfer these words to your mobile phone, and revise them slightly when you send a copy of them to yourself in an e-mail, which eventually you can finagle into a blog post… & be sure to bribe some future academic to canonize your work. They’ll then secure it in a multi-volume set.
Now, regarding that idea about the great essayists possibly being bloggers had they lived in our current age, I would like to add: If those revered writers did NOT take advantage of the easy, cheap, online publication that our bad moment offers, they’d almost negate what wisdom we love them for possessing.
I recently read a biography of Giordano Bruno, and what I found most interesting is that he, coming from a time when the ink-&-paper press was roughly as ultramodern as the Internet is to us, formed habits of publishing books as wild & prolific & experimental as our current weblog-habits.
Aside from the advent of the printing press, the other time in history that comes vividly to life for me, because of its obvious analogue with our online phenomena, is the age that saw the invention of the Greek alphabet. For me, this recalls the warrior-poet Archilochus, among others who were attracted by the new technology, which allowed one to save one’s speech without recourse to a dusty scholar, priest, or the like. — I refer to the fact that the Greek letters were easily readable by anyone, compared to their consonant-only cousins, let alone hieroglyphics; therefore the new Greek compositions did not require an interpreter or specialist middleman; they were direct, obvious; so the experience of writing was more immediate & intimate with one’s potential audience, as all this e-text is today, for better or worse.
One small note with regard to that last phrase “for better or worse”: hereto I’ve mostly been trying to emphasize the better side of blogging; but what about the worse? Whenever I stop random passersby on the street and affront them with this sermon, they sometimes like what they hear, but unfailingly they have one single burning followup question:
“And yet,” they say, “because of the ease of publishing that blogging brings about, we are inundated with an incredible glut of words, everywhere we look! — Isn’t there something sickening about this? Isn’t it awful to see all this poor-quality, wretched, amateur writing clogging up the School of the Ages? Don’t you fear that this avalanche of awfulness might be too high a price to pay for literary freedom?”
“I understand your point,” I say; “but truthfully this does not bother me. Nobody’s forcing us to read all the blogs and status updates and insta-text messages that humankind is continuously volcanoing. — I think it’s good to have a population creating art, even if most of it is ‘bad’ art. It’s familiar to me from nature: a tree produces thrillions of seeds, but only the smallest fraction take root. I don’t particularly like this paradigm (I regret implementing it when I fashioned the fates of this dimension), but since it’s inescapable, I don’t complain. I’d rather have the problem on the side of overproduction than the opposite, which would constitute some sort of a bottleneck at paradise’s entryway (here, by “paradise”, I mean the realm of artistic creation); some flaming sword to block the way of any players but a few preordained cronies. I’ll take a democratically welcoming environment anyday, over a gatekeeper culture.
“All that a mega-surplus of writing means, for those who care for aesthetic dignity, is that the heavy lifting falls to the critics and curators. Being overcrowded with so-called content, what the Internet is now desperately in need of are trustworthy editors, connoisseurs who can consistently round up the best of the best from among the heaps of artistic offerings. For blogging, this would mean, for instance, excellent literary magazines that readers learn to trust.
“In short, I prefer to have a state where too many writers are being happily prolific, and meanwhile a solid bevy of tastemakers find themselves skyrocketing in value, due to the rarity of their skill and the newfound demand for their talent; because the lousy writing always sinks to the bottom and is quickly forgotten anyway, but this too-welcoming environment of the blogosphere allows for much more experimental stuff to invade existence. The other way of doing things, where all offerings must win over a type of priesthood before they make it to the people, feels too limiting to me. This is obviously a matter of taste; and my bias is for the exuberant and the sublime.”
Now I pose a question to the gentle reader directly: Would you rather etch your imaginations in stone, which lasts long but is hard to duplicate; or invest them in ink on vellum, which is a fine parchment made from the skin of a calf? (Please don’t tell me that you’d opt to save a bazillion redundant copies of your writings on the Internet — let us work together, for once.)
Also: Is it wise to care for the preservation of one’s art, or is that only the instinct to tyrannize over the upcoming generations? I mean, we’re thankful to have Shakespeare’s works, but we’re also oppressed by their majestic overflow, which seems to declare: Poetry’s mission is accomplished, O fresh poets; there’s nothing more for you to do.
But there’s always more to do – there’s only a terminus to games, whose rules are manmade; Life is mercifully less purposeful. And Shakespeare didn’t compile his plays to publish them: that was done by others. — I’m not saying that he would’ve been against this; he’s obviously aware of the potential for verses’ longevity; but...
I once heard a scholar argue heatedly that Shakespeare did not use pen-&-paper to compose: he used only his mind — mnemonic devices such as meter, rhyme, inevitable phrasing...
John Keats now comes to mind – his request to be buried under a stone with the epitaph: “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.”
So don’t die. That’s the tricky part.
And let Douglas Sirk be the only soul to leave anything Written on the Wind (1956).
--- Bryan Ray