A theoretical problem, a math problem:
Suppose one were to gather together a few strands of the unruly information age and knit them together into a poetry podcast, taped and broadcast once per lunar month. Is it possible to configure this enterprise in a way that is particularly worthwhile?
It was Kwizsler who provided the first solution to this problem. The world would have to wait another 3.45928 centuries for Kamarati’s proof that there were in fact infinite solutions to the problem, and that each problem was a fractal petal off of the Kwizsler’s original, old-fashioned, antiquated, dusty, backroom solution.
But what happens when we add the following detail:
The founders must be two different people–one who’s first suggestion is that the poetry club get cohesiveness by cleaving to poems involving New York City; and one who’s first instinct is to leap atop the long, beerhall-style oak table and, after summarily–with his arms up like bat wings and his lips disdainfully curled and eyes painfully scrunched like a valley girl inching past a homeless person–pushes everyones’ food and drink onto the floor with the tip of his beige, sneaker-shaped walking shoes, declare:
New York City has enough memorabilia, enough fanware, enough paraphernalia!
In this world evil lurks among us. The devil dog runs amok. With foam swilled over yellow jag-snag teeth, it haunts the edges of each human twist and turn! Aye, it dogs us!; it sneaks into each every crevice of our individual and collective thought, perverting, dragging down, making sick, puking raw right through!
And you’d speak of pleasant clubs with tame, gentle edifications! The aircraft carrier’s hook catches the landing jet–time is short. For as long as I’ve been sort of paying attention (which is usually all I’ve been able to stomach), I’ve watched flailing, violent, dyspeptic, ulcerated chaos advance. I’ve watched my world become more and more a dying giant squid, robbed of its water and its depth; its great yellow mirror-eye cracked with hopeless choked-out panic; its unweildy red, flabby-flapping tentacles–with their poignant rose-bud tips–lashing out every which way frantic and pathetic.
And I’ve thought that I should do something about this! But what? About what? What is going on? Why do I feel so queasy every time I turn on the TV? Is it really any worse than before? Isn’t this actually going pretty well? Order’s maintained pretty solidly and you’re allowed to say things–no matter how insightful or idiotic–about the government and society. So it’s basically OK, right? And what, I mean, what is it supposed to look like? What can it look like? But–well, I just can’t shake the sense that we are focusing on spectacle instead of substance, and I cannot help but recall ‘Cabaret’s’ thesis that it was such hiding in spectacle that allowed the Germans to slide themselves down the gullet of Naziism. Not that we’re necessarily going to start rounding up and exterminating millions, but that we’re going in the wrong direction and at some point you’ve slid so far down the wrong way that you can’t get back to decent. Also, I think that we as a nation actually could talk and come up with workable policies, but we’ve decided it feels safer to cocoon ourselves into little group-think echo chambers–complete with comedians who are much better at seeing the ridiculousness of the other side than of our milky-gauzy home. Well, there’s that general critique, and then there’s my own partisanship: I cannot fathom Republicans anymore.
The club I dream of will help me get some purchase on this sorrow–some way to push against the evil in me and in the collective; some way to get not some set of pre-cherished ideas and attitudes to win, but to get good ideas and real kindness to more and more guide myself and the collective. The more corrupt a place is, the easier it is to be cruel and selfish and hard-hearted and close-minded, and the harder it is to be kind and generous and gentle-hearted and open-minded. The more corruption in an individual, the more easily those soul-ignoring ignobilities can squeeze internal awareness and honesty out; and the harder it is for the easy-flowing joy to take back conscious territory. Likewise in a society/government–the more corrupt a society/government is, the easier it is to live happy and comfortable there while being indecent; and the harder it is to live happy, comfortable, and decent. The more corrupt a society/government is, the more it forces you to choose between happiness and decency. But be careful young rebel!: one of the show-off motor’s favorite tricks is to pretend that your setting is more corrupt than it is. Sit back, relax, pull back your shoulders, open your chest: helping begins with an honest critique, which includes admitting what is good that you already have and shouldn’t toss out–there’s nothing heroic about pouting and praying for chaos: chaos is not a safe place to unfold your heart and mind and body; chaos is a brutal massacre.
How can we move towards less individual and collective corruption? No, but for real!
This must be the quest of our joint venture. Otherwise, what’s the point?
What is a good poem? What is it’s relationship to Truth = Beauty = Goodness = Justice? What are the poems that will help as individuals and as groups to grow in wisdom–to shake off the stupid-jeer and the pouty-swarm, to circle round again and dip back into love? What poems can we as a nation use to start moving together towards the common reality?
I think our quest should be poems that help us as individuals and groups live more fully and well, more joyfully, more honestly, more life-overflowingly. What poems do that? Why? How? And how to get them out so that, like love bombs, they do the maximum damage to wrongheadness within ourselves and our shared dreaming space?