my muse speaks
the sufis advise:
"when you come upon truth,
say not; 'i have found THE truth,'
rather say instead;
'i have found A truth',
as I lay abed on a recent hot summer nite, sneezing
into a large volume of kant, i was visited by my own
personal poetry muse 'berato', who arrived, as was her
usual M.O., in a wisp of smoke smelling of opium &
she perched herself upon a large pile of dirty
laundry in the corner near the mattress & lit a small
"lissin kid', [she often called me kid], "in spite
of what you might stumble across in the writings of
dusty old europeans, poetry today is not what it
always has been."
"how can that be?', i asked, '"for isnt the observation & celebration of
beauty, as an order transcending specifics & therefore
all instances of subjective feeling, the standard by
which any writing, sculpture, or painting, is adjudged
...the muse smacked me solidly upside the head with
the flat of her hand, smiling sweetly.
''that’s for using the word 'adjudged'. no
fuzz-nuts, i'm afraid the drivel you just spouted is part of an out-moded ideal."
she pointed to my faded vinyl window blind & an
apparition appeared upon its cracked & filthy surface:
a plumber wearing dingy brown cartharts was sitting
at a greasy lunch counter. he swallowed a gulp of beer
& burped, then turned to us & said;
"plato's ideals were plato's; they don’t pay my
rent, or float my boat."
with that, the apparition vanished.
"you know", said the muse, polishing her
fingernails on her toga, "ultimately, beauty is a
construct of the human mind, & is therefore
subjective to humans & NOT truly universal. after
all, earth could be the ugliest part of the universe
for all you posers know".
"so the appreciation of beauty in & of itself is not only
valid definition for what constitutes art or poetry?",
i ventured cautiously, wary of another crack upon my
"did i stutter?" she asked arching an eyebrow. "the
way you humans see needs to be constantly updated".
she pointed again to the window blind where a vision
of a lab coated scientist appeared. he pushed a thick
pair of glasses up the bridge of his nose & said;
"the more we find out; the less we know", & shrugged
sheepishly. the vision disappeared & the muse flicked
cigar ashes on my rug.
"ideas of beauty change from culture to
culture, from century to century. these
changes are generally driven by the youth as
old farts cling to old modes. granny hates the way
kids these days talk & dance, & her granny felt the
same way, & so on. academia & other establishment
poobahs hear the wind blowing now & understand it
there have been & will be too many ideals of beauty
to make it the sole standard for what art is & can ONLY be
for the history & future of the human race.
the purpose & definition of art is more
than upholding a standard of beauty. in fact, what i
came tonite to lay down to you is the concept that art
& poetry ought to be, among other things, the
inspiring of new modes of perception in the observer &
the thorough shaking of old ones"
"so what constitutes poetry?" i asked
"pay attention", she said, leaning forward &
grasping my chin in her hand with a vise-like grip,
"poetry is word/craft & word/art.
craft is being thoughtful, clever & deliberate, &
showing style. art is bringing together
elements that shake-up peoples perceptions, &
offer new perspectives, ultimately inspiring the audience.
it's not just about meter &
lyricism & upholding an antiquated ideal of beauty.
"what about the differences between written poetry &
performed poetry?", i asked, hoping to not to piss her off by changing the subject.
she curled her lip & furrowed her brow.
"a good performance can smooth out mediocre writing,
blurring it to the point where one can no longer trust
that which one hears
or, in some cases, trust that they're hearing anything
at all. a performance poet is someone that
disseminates poetry by performance, period. if you're
reading it out loud, you're performing it. but before
its performed, it has to be written. so all poetry
must start, & ultimately stand on its merits there on
the page. what's done with it after that is just
"so... what is...poetry?", i asked, flinching & wincing,
as she raised her hand again, then took a long drag
off the cigar
"lissin close bean brain; a poem is: a literary
endeavor of celebratory or descriptive expression,
written with the aim of moving the audience thru
its modes of expressed perception, & perspective"
"yes'm", i offered.
"now don't ever make me hafta fukkin tell you this
again", she warned, & poofed away in a vapor of purple
i tossed kant into the corner & picked up a
dog-eared copy of bukowski's 'mocking bird wish me luck'. i
wondered if i had any more beer left.