Saturday, January 22, 2011

Wait Can I Do That?

Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg.

-Haruki Murakami

There's often a debate that takes place between opposing viewpoints that goes something like this. One person supports an aspect of government policy. They argue for it. Another disagrees, and argues against it. Sometimes, the other person will be accused of hating America for opposing a government policy or two. Usually a conservative person accuses a liberal person of hating America. I'm not sure why this is; it seems like opposing health care reform could be hating America as easily as opposing a military action, but whatever. That's the way it goes. I don't especially care. Because I think I really do hate America.

Am I allowed to do that? I think I might be.

Of course I don't hate people. Or the land. I like the forests and the mountains. Right now there is a foot or so of snow on my lawn, and I am quite fond of the snow. American snow. But I hate the government. I really do. I want to like it. I want to like roads and water pipes and schools. I think they're great. But I have to hate them, because they are all jumbled up with laws and customs and habits that don't work for me. It's a shame. It seems like roads and water pipes and schools could really work together to make a natural space suited to human habitation. I guess it doesn't work out that way in practice.

There has been a lot of talk in the wake of the Tucson shooting about civil discourse. I don't think that's such a good idea. Discourse isn't going to make any of the pieces of this country work together. We probably should just disband. There's a way to divide up the infrastructure that still survives, right? Maybe our zoning committees could become unzoning committees, and we could have an orderly division into millions of separate households with no legal obligation to each other.

It means all those conservatives who said I hate America are right. Of course, they hate America too. We just focused on slightly different parts that we hate. Some of what we hate overlaps. That's nice, even if it's inconvenient for the dividing up part. Maybe the unzoning committees have a solution for that.

It makes the entire United States experiment a somewhat philosophical enterprise. We are a group of disparate individuals who tried to get together based on our uniqueness. Very meta. But not terribly sustainable. Oh well.

I wish we could get together and make a country. I'm not sure how that would look. I think a country might include education, health care, roads and hospitals. A nice transportation system. An energy grid that balances need and waste. That sounds fun. Too bad. We could have tried that. If we didn't hate America.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Poetry Makes You Crazy

Since 1997, I have been working on a poem. Some years I work on it for hours each day, week after week. Some years I do not touch it. It's a long, rambling, epic poem. It is my life, written down. In two important ways it is accurate.

One, it is rambling and incoherent yet contains flashes of insight and occasional nice phrasing. You have to wade through a lot of nonsense to find the gems, but they're there.

Two, it is tangential to reality while assuming it knows what is going on.

In both of these ways I resemble my two literary heroes. One is Ezra Pound, and the other is Kenneth Patchen. Now, the funny thing about this is that as people they couldn't be more opposite. Pound is a notorious figure, a right wing nut in many ways. He famously broadcast messages in support of fascist Italy during WWII, and even late in life showed flashes of anger and hatred. He repented the worst of his sins, but he remained an unpleasant man on a personal level. He was a horrible husband, an absent father. Patchen was the opposite. He was a conscientious objector during WWII, very leftist and anti-authoritarian. He was devoted to his wife, a dark and sad man but by all accounts a nice one.

What they had in common was intensity and talent. They both worked through difficult conditions, always writing and making amazing poetry. Most poetry, then and now, is worthless. Not just bad-- but a horrible affront to language. It's painful to even be near it. Good poetry is something transcendent. Good poetry is divine. I don't know if my poem is good. I think it has flashes of good. I hope they carry the poem into something wonderful. I'd hate to add to the volumes of mockery that exist as poetry now.

I'm nearing the end of this poem. (I say- though I've said it before. Maybe I'll never stop. But it feels more done than ever.)

It's long, though not impossibly so. I have 120 pages right now, and may even edit it down a little. I don't want it to be unwieldy, but at the same time I am skeptical of editing. Poetry just comes out. The me who wrote the first lines at 21 is certainly not the 34 year old me typing this today. But any editing freezes another moment. Why just make a poem for today? Certainly trimming needs to happen, and good phrases saved. But overall I think it just needs to stand. It is what it is.

Here is an excerpt. It captures the general feel of the poem, though the style tends to wander over the decades. Like me!

“I don’t like dictionaries,
they says
things like
don’t care.”

for instance.”


(Hi there)
in pen,
one red
doesn’t work
if it tries

to end in
freedom, i
hate that
I really do,
sure so I

I that, you see eno—
to do
loss, might be
there are
two doors,
and a

For ten hours,
hands pulled

no one gets the distinction
between everything and
nothing, no

matter how often you
teach it.