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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Poetics of Ugliness

It's difficult for a poetics of beauty to accurately come to terms with the world that I live in. Ugliness has its own beauty, I suppose, and it is in our despair and depression and our sense of hopelessness, our apocalypses that loom over every word we speak, that we find ourselves in the current midhaven of a poetics of sewage, tumors, insanity, and faith. We want to believe so badly in a God who hovers just beyond our perception who is willing to forgive us for our trespasses against the Earth, that we believe he will literally keep our environment in stasis no matter how little regard we show it. We believe that because our ancestors endured an ancient flood, we will not have to endure the same. How sad will it be when we realize that our prayers have merely been aimed at balls of helium and hydrogen millions of light years away, completely unaware of our existence.

Apocalyptic fantasies are the projections of species who are aware that their own lives are doomed to cease some time in the future. But they are also the fantasies of the oppressed who feel (rightly or wrongly) that a dominant power is corrupting the very world they cohabitate. To the children who are born with black lung disorders and asthma, a poetics of beauty is a mockery of their reality. Who will take up their voices when poets believe in a looking glass universe and that perception is reality?

Perception is not reality. Reality existed before humans were alive to fetishize the sollipsism of their own self-obsessiveness. Who can write in earnest of beauty when the polluted air we breathe is killing our children? We wanted to grow up to be Romantics, like Wordsworth, who saw the beauty of nature and the wisdom of children. But we ended up caught in the Ryme of the Ancient Mariner, and here is where we must stay if we aspire to write the words that befit our place in time.

The only fitting metaphor for an economy that values growth above all things, is a malignant tumor destroying the very body that it feeds on for sustenance. A religion based on growth, is itself, much like a retrovirus or a prion which finds unlike cells and reprograms them with its own internal coding. Like psychotics, we have come to compartmentalize these notions in the moribund space of our own bodies, but we must recognize that the same basic mechanism that exists on an elemental level in proteins and tissues, finds another home (quite comfortably) in the human soul.

Nothing in nature can grow uncontrollably without necessarily destroying itself. These are lessons that we forget in our business models which are fashioned out our greed and our lust for power. A poetics that rejects the truth serves itself, and that which serves itself is reviled by the web of life and will in time be purged. We are seeing this happen now. We have made our apocalypses come true through years of systematic abuse of our environment. We have turned out freshwater lakes to dead lifeless toilets while praying to a vacant god that would fulfill every promise of a destiny of renown. We want to suck in attention the way plants feed on sunlight, while investing in a dream of greed and egoic masturbation.

There will be no hand of God to save us if we cannot do the basic things that save ourselves; and to write about flowers and writing is (for a poet) to betray his duty as a thinker, like so many in so many other vocations who plod mindlessly toward a wormy doom.

The floods that drown our children and the sulfur rains that burn our skin will hardly destroy life itself, merely ourselves, and rightfully so. The research of our greatest thinkers who are coming up with replacement strategies for the burning of oil and coal are falling on deaf ears because the oil lobby is more powerful than reason.

In the end, we will die much like Plato's Atlanteans who given all the technological prowess of the gods themselves could not persist as they did without the virtue of their own foresight.

So when you ask yourself, why does this nice young man of good humor write such exotically ugly poetry, be reminded of the portents of the modern sciences which prophecy that we cannot by any means sustain the rate of consumption we are currently enjoying, nor house a place for all the waste we are producing without unfixably altering the chain of balance that is our biosphere. We are as a species, as of this moment, on suicide watch, and only the suicidal have devised a means of escaping the immanent doom that awaits our continued poor choices.

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