characteristics, in particular of death,
which foreknowledge terrorizes the content of skulls with,is the fundamental project of technology; however,
pseudologica fantastica's mechanism's require:
a task attempted when a white light flashed.
Here in seven lines a
poet tells us why Americans are addicted to technology and where this is
leading -- nuclear annihilation. He
reveals the death fear at the heart of the technological obsession and its
self-defeating consequences. He tells a truth few want to hear, and in doing so
fulfills the age-old prophetic function of art -- poetry, drama, painting,
etc. Acting as "antennae of the race,"
in Ezra Pounds words, genuine artists grasp by their art the unconscious
conflicts most prefer to avoid at their peril.
In a country addicted to ingesting technologically produced mind
altering drugs and to being consumed by machines, it is no wonder that poetry
is considered irrelevant.
In many other countries, poets are held in high esteem and
their poems affect people's lives; people know their national poets' work by
heart. The Russians know Pushkin; the
Irish can recite Yeats; the Chileans revere Neruda. They find hope and joy and the passion to resist
oppression in their verses. Their poets take them to places where passionate
love of the world can be awakened in their hearts and minds. In the U. S. they
are ignored, at best. Why bother with them is the unspoken assumption. What
good is poetry? We have our machines.
And if by some small chance Americans do bother, they find
that a great deal of what passes for poetry is worthless drivel churned out
according to formula by "creative writing" students and their mentors who have
carved out a safe place for themselves in American colleges. Behind a façade of seeming profundity and
studied ambiguity hides a nihilism that can best be described as a bad
joke. Much of this academic poetry is
just plain trivial, devoid of ideas and any lived encounter with world events
that so deeply influence our lives. So much of it is solipsistic in the extreme
-- "selfies" in verse written from within a bubble.
I will elide Hallmark poetry at the risk of ridicule.
There are, however, many profound and wonderful contemporary
poets, and it is a shame they are not read.
They work in the shadows. They are
not household names as in the past when literature meant something to Americans
and they weren't despondently depressed and drugged into a zombie-like
passivity. Perhaps this is because, as the
philosopher/psychologist Rollo May puts it, "The poet's way is the opposite to
the opaque, placid life. In authentic
poetry we find a confrontation which does not involve repression nor covering
up nor sacrifice of passion in order to avoid despair, nor any of the other
ways most of us use to avoid direct acknowledgment of our destiny."
In an age of constant death and war and smiling killers
sitting in the White House, who seeks out today's Kenneth Rexroth? "Thou Shalt
Not Kill" was written in the "placid" 1950s.
One verse follows.
The hyena with the
polished face and bow tie,
In the office of a billion dollarCorporation devoted to service;
The vulture dripping with carrion,