Make Good Use of Your Sidebar

Use this space for anything from simple blocks of text to powerful widgets, like our Twitter and Flickr widgets. Learn more.

To access Website Management, hit the 'esc' key or use this Login link.


(revision of Part 1 of "The Strange's Radiant Mundaneness")

Just beyond the sawmill, the bus stops.
As we get off, a woman with a chicken
in a sack gets on.
It's midday and we walk
the one mile to Aziz's hut
where a lizard dozes on the ceiling
like a thought at logic's furthest border, waiting
to pass through.
Through the window, a girl stares
at a red hibiscus.
Later at the aluminum plant
the workers grow restless as a truck loaded with bauxite
rumbles through the gates.
Sweating, the western manager
swigs guava juice from a bottle
in the heat wave as the lorry backs
toward the men, who've listened
at other moments during other years to the sound
of dust landing on banyan leaves
on gusty days.
Not far off, a boy tends goats
while stooped tribal women
with tattooed arms
dig a pipe trench
along the side of the road.


An Afterthought for Lilith, Written on the Train from Yonkers to Grand Central

Not even Bill, our most rambunctious uncle, liked you Lily.
So after being found once too often sitting precociously on some nobody’s cock, they tossed you out.
I was a kid and didn’t give a shit and why should I have?
So don’t guilt trip me.
Now here I am all these years later realizing you were the only one who knew anything at all about philosophy.
I love railroad tracks.
Unlike the wisdom we inherited, they actually take us someplace different from where we start.

(facts extracted from what the Philadelphia Zoo worker said in the Blue Horizon Bar . . . re-edited)

Such strong jaws: perfectly evolved hinges
and muscles for crushing bones while eating meat.
Sometimes the bodies grow to a length of 5 feet
and weigh close to 250 lbs.
There are 3 basic types:
the brown, the striped and the one called
“the laughing hyena” because
its nocturnal cry resembles
a demented human being’s whimpering.

Additional characteristics,
in no particular order, are:
forelegs longer than hind legs
a tendency to eat only what others kill
4-toed feet

Also significant:
although ignorant, hyenas apparently enjoy
solitary walks late at night
and don’t, even when things aren’t going right,
babble about bad karma or cry for mama

While you work or watch TV or play,
the hyenas in the background grow fatter every day.

(excerpt from letter sent to some writers and others interested in the arts and issues of social consciousness)

A year ago next month, I was in the monsoon-drenched Panhalla hills for a few days not too far from Kohlaphur.  One evening after walking along a muddy jungle trail under dripping trees, I reread some of Gauri Deshpandi's poems, including these lines. 

I am earth
Vast deep and black and I receive
The first rain
Sweet generous
Lashing throbbing
It’s smell forever in my blood
Its imprint deep within my quick
Yellow daisies burst out
On my breast and thigh
At its very touch

Deshpande's words interest and move me.  They fit comfortably within my definition of political or socially aware poetry.  Some of you may wonder why this is so since it may seem that there's nothing remotely "political" about the above lines.  But to me such a response misses the point.  The fact is that Despandi's poem proceeds according to the same impulse and is therefore part of the same process as work that is more visibly socially conscious.  The process I'm referring to entails going to the "ground" of things, to the elements or the elemental, in order to understand reality.  The idea of ground, of something tangible, of a basicness to which we must remain connected in order to achieve a balanced way of seeing, is essential to this approach.  After all, to understand something doesn't merely imply a mental, as opposed to a bodily, experience; on the contrary, the concept of understanding is - - as the history of language shows us -- broader and more totalistic than that and ultimately requires immersion in the physical in order to come to fruition.  Unfortunately, this aspect of the definition of to understand has gradually been erased/censored from our language by that wing of philosophy/science which thrives on the notion of body/mind dualism.  Nonetheless, historically the word understand doesn't mean "to know with the mind"  but rather means something more sensuous:  "to be in the midst of"  or to be mentally and physically intimate with.  This conception of to understand has roots in both Proto Indo European languages and Sanskrit.

Since artists who are political are often accused of being radicals/extremists by other artists or those interested in the arts, I might as well make a few quick comments about the word radical too. First of all, radical as a label is misused so often that it's no longer clear that the misusers know what it actually means.  Aside from its various slang meanings (e.g. in surfer culture it means going to the edge of control), radical's basic meaning is a sythesis of "having roots" and "locating the roots or essential nature" of something.   This meaning of radical arises out of the same base words in Old English and the Proto European languages as does the word radish, a noun constructed out of the linquistic connection between root and under the earth.  Clearly, somewhere along the line the idea of going beyond the familiar in an effort to get at the root of things was gradually slanted in such a way as to imply an irrational or even immoral attempt to transgress against good sense.  Consequently, we have to repossess the word. Therefore, any artist who is "radical" enough to be castigated as a radical should be uplifted by the slur not feel put down by it since it's clear that we already have too many writers/painters/musicians/etc. who act as if the radical pursuit of truth is a bad, not a liberating and creative, thing.   We need more not less political artists. 

Hopefully it's clear that when I use the word political in talking about art, I'm not saying that a particular poem, painting or whatever must contain the "right" political answer to this or that debate among political parties, but am rather talking about an art that insinuates itself into, probes, dirties itself with, the mess of daily life -- in other words, an art that struggles with questions of how it (the mess) operates, how power and weakness are created out of  it, how it's impossible to achieve a position so above things (i.e., so transcendent) that the dirt sticking to them doesn't stick to us also. 

I've strayed somewhat from Deshpandi, but hopefully I made my point. 

Page 1 ... 88 89 90 91 92