Some imp makes me
like to scare myself
* * *
In those days I was in the full flush of my scientific knowledge—unaware that the dogmatic theology of science was itself a kind of folklore….
I saw quite unmistakably that man had set astray the natural periodicity of sexuality and so forfeited his partnership with the animal kingdom. This was his central trauma….
* * *
I believe that we make images not simply because we are creatures who seek to loose ourselves within a pattern’s mastery, but that the making of images is one of the means by which we become human. In this sense, to be human is to realize that one is a metaphor, and to be a metaphor is to be grotesque (initially “of the grotto”). While it is understandable to think that we stand on blind Homer’s and Shakespeare’s shoulders, it is perhaps more accurate to say that we stand on a depth in them that was struck hundreds of generations before them by those Upper Paleolithic men, women, and children who made the truly incredible breakthrough from no image of the world to an image.
Consciousness, as I am thinking of it here, seems to be the upswing of a “fall” from the seamless animal web, in which a certain amount of sexual energy was transferred into fantasy energy, and the loss partially and hauntingly compensated for by dreaming and imagining—processes not directly related to survival.
I believe that what we all image-making and, consequently, art, was the result of the crisis of the separation of the hominid from the animal to the distinct but related classifications of the human and the animal.
Irrelevant to systematize forces that must have been felt as flux, as unplanned, spontaneous….
* * *
Eshleman quotes a couple of passages from Anton Ehrenzweig’s The Hidden Order of Art which struck me so strongly that I bought the book. Sure enough—full of wisdom. Right off the bat, in the Preface, Ehrenzweig notes:
All artistic structure is essentially “polyphonic”; it evolves not in a single line of thought, but in several superimposed strands at once. Hence creativity requires a diffuse, scattered kind of attention that contradicts our normal logical habits of thinking. […] For instance the plastic effects of painting (pictorial space) which are familiar to every artist and art lover turn out to be determined by deeply unconscious perceptions. They ultimately evade all conscious control. In this way, a profound conflict between conscious and unconscious (spontaneous) control comes forward. The conflict proves to be akin to the conflict of single-track through and “polyphonic” scattered attention which I have described. Conscious thought is sharply focused and highly differentiated in its elements; the deeper we penetrate into low-level imagery and phantasy the more the single track divides and branches into unlimited directions so that in the end the structure appears chaotic. The creative thinking is capable of alternating between differentiated [conscious] and undifferentiated [unconscious] modes of thinking, harnessing them together to give him service for solving very definite tasks.
This dovetails with my earlier argument vis-à-vis authorial intention. Harnessing the conscious and unconscious processes together is how authorial intention works. It doesn’t mean that authors consciously understand everything their works contain, but it does mean that unconscious modes of thinking are among the processes the author seeks to activate. Ignoring this intention is to ignore the forces that bring any artistic work into existence.
* * *
I used to try so hard to understand a poem. I was being vigilant instead of receptive. If the poem is saying the unsayable, I don’t need to articulate it back to myself inwards. The poet has done that for me.
* * *
Some poems are never quite finished and never quite right. This quatrain I’ve been revisiting for five years or so, moving this or that word, listening for a music—a dirge—it can’t quite seem to muster. Well, anyway—here’s the latest notebook incarnation:
Close-ups of the latest righteous war
chafe our eyes like hot smoke from pyres
burning heroes to ash at the end of the Iliad.