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Friday, November 6, 2015

Dionysus and the Muse


The Muse hears inspirations mouthed, vocalized, words insisted on by the Goddesses of language. Drama begins as her language, uttered to you.

Language forms this way . . . we listen to masks!

Voices erupt, echoes layered from a chorus. The rituals, payment, prayer, blessing, are uniform, effects close and personal.

Was it mysterious because it was new? Are we to believe Johnson, and subsequently Borges who implies that every word at one time was a metaphor?

From drug-induced congresses with Demeter at Eleusis in Greece, to temple burnings of the Agnicayana, the intrusions of a Coryphaeus in productions by Dionysus, drunken orgies with maenads, all appeals to numinous demiurges, appeals for the boon of genius. He verbalizes what we think. We move and act, he utters a summation.

Character emerges, weather from masses of air.

Dionysus, a Spartan born of heroic Greece, and wine-god on Olympus, populated millenniums of myth. He was hunted by Spartan patriarchs, his sin: teaching viticulture to women. Some say he was captured and torn to pieces, others say escaped to India. Beheaded perhaps, Dionysus lives on a herm, on a column, or a dramatic mask. His terror, humorous, or violent, ever present.

He interfaced with the Goddess, his wild procession or thiasus of maenads, crazed women and satyrs with erect penises maintain him as the drug-induced bad-dream rock star we all know. Outside his vehicle, he is a purveyor of horror, grotesque acts, crimes, and confusion.

He is Charles Manson, or Puck. He is also Charlie Rose. Agreeing with everyone, disagreeing with everyone. Kali and Shiva display aspects of a Hindu Dionysus who ritualizes terror to devout worshippers. No wonder Kali worship is highest in geographic regions destroyed by floods or earthquake. Maintenance and regulation during the bronze age are assigned to to the male Gods of Olympus. Vishnu and Krishna play similar parts. Kali, an aspect of Shiva, was sent to the forests. North of the subcontinent she is Baba Yaga, the forest witch.

One imagines the subcontinent prior to acculturation by modern Hinduism. The Muse, acknowledged by Homer as the creator of Gods themselves was their mother, and was said also to have raised 9 daughters. Arts, history and culture were divided amongst them. When Apollo's priesthood took over the Oracle at Delphi, the tradition remained firmly rooted in the tradition of the Muse, entirely feminine. The sole difference, fees were collected and sent back to Athens.

So with all the Mediterranean Oracular sites. It is comforting that debate, history, intellect, and language of all forms were deeded along with all their treasures, after the ascension of male gods, to the female side of the psyche.

Since that division of territory, communication with the Goddess is a complicated ritual for navigating densities of male myth. It involves drunken mediums like Dionysus, troubling or unreliable liaisons with Hermes as guide, Delphic oracles opining with subconscious riddles, layers of inquiry crafted by chorus and speakers on the Greek stage. One might trace elements from these theatrical rituals into the heart of Catholic mass, or to the cult of psychics who aid modern police in locating criminals.

Metaphor returns the call.

The sullen God of wine resents the Muse's carping presence - he is happier with woman who are nonsensical, screaming or mute. One wonders whether antics by Dionysus pleased or insulted the Goddesses of poetry and history. Dionysus is a foil for talent, Pancho Sanza, Robert Frost's neighbor, Shakespeare's Puck, Coleridge's wedding guest joins the meeting where finer things are made. He's the life of the party, also the one who breaks it up.

Might we engineer a metaphor, similar to the way a doctor provokes an involuntary response with his hammer, and dispense with all this ritual? Mightn't words disturb patterns of the collective and produce statements from its center, poems structured about a narrative live with a heavy burden? If the thread appears organized, the Muse scrambles that semblance. Dionysus performs what fragments survive, makes sure no shreds escapes without destruction. The vanity of wholeness is abandoned to the complication of storytelling.

This thought leads a poet to temptation, the one offered by modernism. Perhaps no greater experiment was ever conducted as the abandonment of story, Mystery was incorporated into the metaphor itself which lived naked and alone, man-made not God-made, and in so doing, stripped numinous content from any larger meaning.

Joyce, Klee, American abstract expressionists, Wallace Stevens, all produced works unburdened by the requirements of ritual and narrative.  Tired myth flows past us, blossoms on the water that must have been tossed in upstream. The numinous mystery is lost. A rose was no longer needed. Neither were creatures in the wild.

So we wander a corpus, rotting, but of human creation. Are we writers also in the degenerate stages of language, when poems arise from composting earlier poets?. Is there no new metaphor to come from the source?

We seek stories from the other side, but behind the curtain the question always floats forward, what story is ours? What tales come home?

So who scares the hell out of everyone?


Glossy Black

The mad engineer steps aside,
He baits a hook with one of her pearls.
Take note, a photonic illusion
perfect as a lake in fog.

Missives from dark water
fishes, serpents, eels
dance across the floor of our house,
pivot and twist when they are cut.
Each deserves the right, somewhat, to decide its own death.

At some point much will be divulged.
All will be shown.
Only what has been shared
may be saved.

Miriam Dactyls met Sondre Destre,
I read her a rich psalm, thrice to remove
every troll and trill.

If Logos has gone, then Madness shall write its own record.
"The Liberty of Fools."

I doubt we'll see it,
September came and passed and then made time
for the beginning of a new reign. So be it.
Tigers are in the bush,
So are cobras, glossy black.

A Call to the Numinous


Down the dark arm of a lake in the Adirondacks, I listened in rapture as my father yodeled into the shadowy hulk of a mountain. The forest and still water of the lake rang with his notes. Birds, owls, coyotes took up the call. For me it was magical, I did not reason it was my father's voice I heard.

The poem is the key, the yodel into the blackness of night. It brings back with it a chorus of the unexpected.

To the pre-classical ancients, poetry and metaphor were one, married by a dramatic ritual.

The approach to metaphor was dangerous, propitiously made with offerings. The Muse is capricious, gifted, but treacherous. Dionysus the otherworldly assistant to dramatic performances in a modern world, recruited the sane into his callings and made them mad like him.

Religion institutionalizes the ways and means of madness, integrates a bit of healthy madness for all of us, with our dreams, with what we can't understand.

Approaches to the Gods are fraught with danger, summoning Kali or visiting Baba Yaga in the forest, potentially deadly.  Dionysus's maenads tore the living apart in orgiastic frenzies of horror. Baba Yaga and Kali both drank blood. Vampires all, just as authors are vampires of language.

A writer allows himself to be eaten, but drinks the blood of poetic ancestors. For sound, like light, is vibration and in vibration exists the passage of all that passes from one place to another.

Borrow the ritual from someone else? How long did the source of the Nile evade Western explorers?

A murky understanding may be felt more than understood. It doesn't razor past our pupils in bright light. Darkness covets. The abyss holds secrets.

Sometimes meanings seem clear. For instance with Farsi court poetry, there is so much, too much even. All is there, all readable, all logical. Why do some poems, not others, stir the imagination memory, awaken old DNA? Have Heraclitus and the I Ching become poetry?

I'm not really conscious of what forces me to finish my project on the vampire. At best he may be a metaphor, male logos that has stripped language of numinous content. The vampire has lived rather long don't you think? He's a tired trope. He drains language of meaning. I know things will have to change. Yes, my vampire must die but it hasn't happened yet. Perhaps his death is a shift in subject, perhaps the poem is no longer about him at all.

When speaking of metaphor, think source, as in the sources of rivers. Every salmon in the sea knows where that is. It may be easy to grasp, or nigh impossible. But it is sensed. It may be a riddle, has never solved, but left to confound readers with mystery for centuries to come.


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