Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Joe Bescop said (on the Pantheism website):
"Most of the arts require a focused mind, without which, the physical mechanisms tend to become as dysfunctional as the unfocused mind.

"I find with the musical and literary arts this is the case in my practices--more so in the musical than literary arena."

I replied:

At 73 (just had a birthday last month), I notice I've lost the capacity for poetic concentration. It was concentration (Joe's focused mind) that led to my best poetry. It's a state of mind out of which arises metaphorical and happy connections about concrete objects in the material world. Sometimes, however, poems came with me out of sleep. All I needed to do was write the words down and arrange them on the page to look like poetry.

The following is one such poem which was selected for Intro 9, a collection of the best poetry to come out of writing programs around the US that year:


The savages had left them.
By accident, by searching, hidden
in bushes, we found them—
canoes of animal skin.
Where water was stillest, we pushed in,
then worked out where it ran swiftest.
Someone had lost our maps—
by a not knowing, we got along.

This river we've not seen the end of
empties to a sea we've not tested,
a sea horizon we must think beyond—
over its edge another place to go or,
up, an endless black the stars gleam through
like small hopes we feel inside of us that say,
Yes. Our boats are working out a long journey.
From this river, the sea's imagination away
and beyond that the endless black or…
over the edge in our animal skin canoes!

I just now realize how much determinism is in that poem which I wrote while a believer in AA. Most fascinating about this concentration process (call it meditative too) is that when the poet focuses purely on a physical activity, like flying a kite, and, following that line of concentration, emotively and accurately describes the physical situation, he often discovers that his brain is talking, giving him words, about an intellectual process that evokes similar feelings. Making the "I" conscious of a connection between the feeling brain and outside world.

Thus a poem I wrote about flying a kite as a child, many years later I understood as a search for God, at the end of which my line came down with the kite, and I came "to lay my line along the earth". I can still recall the powerful way those lines felt when they struck into my consciousness, accompanied by powerful feelings of RIGHTNESS. That process is so powerful a feeling that ancient poets often thought they were possessed by a spirit of poetry. What interests me, nowadays, when the poems no longer come my way, is how a physical activity can equate emotionally to a mental process through the act of accurately and emotionally describing the physical world. It's got to be as powerful as early humanoids felt when they began to become conscious of the physical world they lived in. Thus internal emotional states took on spiritual clothing that we are only just now beginning to unravel.


In a discussion of poetic inspiration on another thread, I got another slant on free will, consciousness and determinism. It is that poetry, art and music are the means by which the body speaks about its connections within itself and to the world outside of itself. Since most good poetry arises mystically, through deep concentration, and is concerned with discussing physical objects, as metaphor, and the body's relationships to that metaphorical and physical world, I'd say that good poetry is free of the "I-ness" quality of consciousness... whereas more abstract and intellectual "I" conscious poetry is not that good, doesn't resonate with the body. How often in writers writing about writing does one come across the idea that one needs to get away from abstractions and get into the material world with metaphors rooted in the material world? Through poetic inspiration I derive another argument that the human species has little free will since free will is located in consciousness whereas poetry is located in pre-conscious connections in the synaptic landscape.

If the body can write poetry without need of consciousness, why does it need consciousness to make other types of decisions? Decisions are always first a feeling in the body (like poetry) which then through activation of the body parts are realized in the real world in such a way as to allow observers to judge the intent and purpose of the actor's behavior. Emotional decisions can be made and not acted upon if other factors, such as fear or shyness or love, hem in the potential for action in the physical world.

Poetry is powerful because it speaks to the emotional parts of the brain where all decisions are ultimately made, and, again, if poetry can, through inspiration arise without conscious intent, and then influence another body to action, where does the power of decision rest... as we normally think of it? And if poetry has this unconscious power to arise unasked into consciousness and, then, to influence personal behavior and, by transmission, influence the decisions of other listeners, why not recognize that all language operates exactly as poetic language operates? And language began I believe with naming things. Before that, human life was all feeling, with no access to language. It's this power of consciousness that continually obscures our discussions of free will and makes us think we have conscious power over the emotions that deeply make our decisions for us.

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