Sincere Expression versus Rhetoric
The diversity of writing is vast. For my own purposes, I want to focus on the humanities, philosophy, poetics, prose, songwriting, social essays, theater, and screenwriting. These are my own writing interests. For me, writing has multiple purposes. Raising social awareness outside of rhetorical straight jackets, is a central goal for my own writing. I believe that rhetoric is the most powerful force against aware social thinking. As soon as any culture or field of knowledge becomes tradition, it is encapsulated in rhetorical slime. By this I mean words are both maliciously and ignorantly manipulated. It occurs in politics, in social engineering, it occurs almost anywhere there is authority or pseudo-social preeminence. Any time one member or class of society has more influence through rhetorical language used from casual conversation to media news reporting, then that party has more power. I, like many writers, therefore seek to exhibit heretofore invisible examples of class struggle through my writing.
|"We do not understand the language of birds. But the poet will recognize its beauty."
||In virtually all genres of good writing, words are powerful tools. It is unfortunate that most people do not form their own opinions objectively. We are drenched with conglomerated media reporting having the effect to dull our attention by sheer compaction of multiple stories into limited time slots. News anchors, especially local ones, are fond of telling us what we should think. The same crime is committed by political leaders on a vast scale in nearly every nation. So yes, words convey invincible power. And for those who cannot master words, there is always impotence, an unacceptable proposition for any true writer.
Writing is Hope.
Most writers find a niche within which they have a system of support, where they have a familiar audience and serve as a trusted source of expression. This is true among screenwriters, columnists and poets. Every writer needs a niche. But the great writer seeks to break out of his niche, to reach obstinate minds and adversaries, either to recruit them or to disprove their views. Writing that does not eventually encounter stiff social resistance generally does nothing since as one Denver newspaper motto puts it: "There is no hope for the satisfied man." This simply points out that change is always urgent for the writer who is truly engaged in his craft.
Actual typical writing is 99.9% effluvia. This simple fact I base on the observation that man is by and large a psychotic creature in that he cannot grasp his own mortality until his life is nearly over. His writing is thus often tragically geared to express desire, attachment and sentimentality. These tendencies are not all bad. But higher writing is that which transcends one's own suffering and relates to universal suffering as well as other conditions like joy and peace.
Philosophy is Central
Essentially what I'm building up to here is the concept of purpose. Writing must be motivated by the highest philosophical purpose the writer can attain. This is true regardless of whether the writer writes novels, romances, news reports, plays, film scripts, or technical manuals. When you throw out philosophical purpose in any field of artistic endeavor, you tend to make money central. Public or private altruism is the healing water to all of social order. This is not to say that misfits like Jean Genet and the Beats and so many other so-called "losers" have not delivered altruism. Even the most sincere altruism will often be misinterpreted. It's especially true among misfits and beaten classes of humanity who face the stoic armors of rhetoric.
Writing as Nectar and Distillation
Poetics, like any genre of writing, is also 99.9% effluvia. At least that much of all poems ever written are never published and arrive at the trash dumpster at the moment of one's death. There is a huge numbness to words in the public psyche because the social order is deluged with written and spoken expressions straining for profundity at every turn. This is likewise true in poetics, where amateur poets by the tens of thousands misinterpret poetics as a craft of vernacular wit. Higher poetics is not merely some ingenious juxtaposition of words. At the highest level, poetics is the subconscious mind flowing through the conscious pen. Practical knowledge is stored in the conscious mind. But wisdom is a fleeting distillation born in the subconscious. Inspiration itself is something that flows like nectar through ether, like instinct, like a light coming on. Unfortunately, this process is highly misinterpreted, resulting in many expressions that lack simple cognizance.
I do not intend to make a scientific statement that the gods speak to us through the void of air or space. But it is incomprehensible to me that we have radio waves and yet cannot acknowledge the universal supersoul in each of us, in each creature. Great writers often tend to view great inspirations as coming inexplicably from beyond their own craft. They regard their work not so much as creativity, but simply the task of recording and juxtaposing meaning from massive flows of inspiration. Native American medicine men, witches, oracles, ancient Grecian poets and writers of mythology, Hindu mystics, and all sorts of people, regardless of their being lunatic or clairvoyantly sane, have typically achieved vastly higher states of consciousness by submitting not merely to the concept of a higher power, but rather finding its reality inescapable. Higher poetics and philosophy are two writing genres where inspiration and meaning are connected to forces far beyond the ego, the conscious, or the ordinary mundacities of daily existence.
Writing for Ego
I defy the concept of literary competition. I abhor the vapid egotism and lack of subtlety known as poetry "slams". You cannot draw preferential conclusions in the heat of a competitive mindset. Poetics is an art form that historically has remained apart from the excesses of ego. The muse is not owned. The beatitudes are not for sale. Those who rank the cult status of individual works or writers hastily are prone to miss virtually all deeper meaning in all good and even bad works. The "slam" is a ritual for crazed amateurs who are often exquisitely witty with words. Poetics is more than mere words or their elocution. True poetics is not even the poet speaking. Ultimately, poetics is the muse, the spirit, a force beyond all ego, a selfless naked soul, speaking through the poet, not to the ego nor the exterior identity of the listener. Poetics is that which speaks to the most bare naked universal soul in all creatures, even those who are not in the human modality.
Language is Not Limited to Humans
Even many animals are susceptible to the sonic textures of poetics and the emotions conveyed. This is true of cows and dogs, many birds, possibly whales and many other animals. Any human who does not recognize the poetic beauty of birds speaking in the morning, cannot ever call himself a poet or a judge of poets. Therein lies an astonishing complexity of language. We do not understand the language of birds. But the poet will recognize its beauty. Conversely, many creatures recognize the beauty in the indecipherable human language of the exquisite poet. Obviously, humans have a command of human language. But in that, there is often a language far deeper, far more naked, far more honest, and selfless. Poets are not saints. But true poets are often role models for sainthood. A guy named Frank in the town of Assissi, Italy could talk to the animals. Saint Francis of Assissi was, among other things, a philosopher and a poet who understood the spiritual and beatific foundations of consciousness. I digress from organized religion but I am far from an atheist. Yet I know that even an atheist sometimes speaks to the issue of the human condition.
Patriotism and the pretext of piety have no place in my work. I am very irreverent in my attacks upon all stoic order. But underlying all that I do, is a profoundly deep sense of reverence for the potential consciousness and spirituality that flows through any of us. Vulgarity and shock value are not ruled out from my work, but are rarely if ever central to it. True writing content is not about delivering heated anger or being cool. It's more about the nakedness of vulnerability. I have observed that most if not all great poets and writers deal intently with vulnerability, both on a personal and universal scale. Most writers merely skirt around vulnerability, toy with it, or ignore it completely. That is a great tragedy. Those who make pretense of being aloof from vulnerability are most vulnerable. They place themselves outside the community of vulnerability by virtue of their wealth, class, career, authority, or any element of illusion. Such persons, though many are name-dropping collectors of art and poetry, are culturally conditioned without benefit of knowing the muse, the divine, the illumination, except in jive religious terms. Writing can pierce their souls only on the rarest occasions. The beatniks were not and could not ever be the beats. Yet anyone could and still can be a beat poet if certain elusive beat principles are realized, namely a specific concept of truth.
Beats and Niks!
I am not a Beat movement scholar. I enjoy many of the central beats like Ginsberg, Burroughs, Kerouac, Corso, and French author Jean Genet, as well as some unknown Beats and some Beats who are not known as Beats. Yet I take issue with the cult hype status that many Beats have bestowed upon themselves. The Beat movement is often but not always rife with self worship, a clique mentality, an insider-outsider vibe. This is anathema to the Beat credo. People have long worshipped the Beats for all the wrong reasons. Beats are worshipped for criminal coolness, being sexual rebels, and being stylized Bukowsi bums. None of these things amount to Jack. I have heard it said more than once that being "Beat" means literally to be so beaten down that it forces one to recognize the value of soul-searching truth in all of one's own exercises of written expression. Ginsberg has said it and I believe Burroughs may have said it as well. Yet many splinter Beats today are caught up in the "Hey daddio" movement. There have been Beat groupies since the 1950s. They bongo, they dive, they drive. They link up to higher Beats when they write. But these particular "beatniks" rarely link above that. Like all great movements, the exterior Beat movement is often self derivative.
|Although Beat history is generally encapsulated from its 1950s roots, there were powerful Beat definitions in the likes of Woodie Guthrie and the American Depression and labor movements of the 1930s as well as countless imprisoned Soviet writers in Siberia. The 1950s Beat movement did not invent anything new but its own style and a massive birth of new substance, a significant accomplishment. The Beat condition, much like method acting, has existed for thousands of years. The true Beat movement shines a light on losers who are essentially not losers at all. It illuminates a massive legitimacy within free expression by people who are otherwise misfits. Unfortunately, there are so many people waiting in line for "misfit" status that real misfits often can't get a leg up. The long dragged out beatnik movement is overrated. But the true Beat movement is under-rated.
||"There are so many people waiting in line for "misfit" status that real misfits often can't get a leg up."
Solitude as Method Toward Truth
I am a smalltime writer who takes inspiration from writers of all sizes and themes. Great writers do not live only for the limelight. They endure squalor and isolation, even amidst masses of people in public. The writer is often a lonely creature of self imposed exile, trying to understand complex things deep in the tangled mindsets of mankind. Luminaries do not want to be lanterns for the vicarious fulfillment of others. They do not seek nor enjoy heroic status. Instead they seek to make heroes and heroines out of dormant beings, to shine light upon the repressed lives of their fellow man. They may occasionally enjoy the heroism of their deeds, but mainly they live out their lives yoked into duty. It is their pleasure and penance to write. Not to be recognized as writers, but to deliver the goods. This is the promise of great writing. It is to investigate great secrets of the universe and to share them truthfully. Truth is the essential hell and heaven of all good writing. Define truth as you must. It is your minefield.
The Sunny Side of the Street
It is important to point out that suffering, either our own or that of others, is the most powerful crucible compelling us as writers to forge brave new ideas. It is also noteworthy that cosmopolitan intellects do not regard their own suffering as unique. Instead they see that suffering itself is a universal force within nature as well as a malignant gift and currency that we share and multiply within the neighborhood and global community. Suffering is essentially a disease that changes faces like a chameleon, yet remains ubiquitous while fools everywhere deny it at every turn. The skilled writer therefore is an instrument of lucid perception, perhaps an oracle, a dreamer, a conceptualist, someone who never stops believing that the potential of life is a thousand fold more than what we perceive. Great writers, great orators, great elocutionists heal the mind, the soul, the essence of being.
- Easter Sunday, 2002 March 31, pre-dawn