The Austin Chronicle

https://www.austinchronicle.com/columns/2006-01-27/329488/

Page Two: Earth, Stones, and Thorns of the Wild Ground Growing

The poetry of the right-wing soul: an appreciation

By Louis Black, January 27, 2006, Columns

"In my hour of darkness, in my time of need," as Gram Parsons prayed, I often just want quiet and coolness: a state such that, even with eyes open, it is as though they are shut. I hardly feel attached to my body. I'm in the most limited contact possible with the ever annoying I of I, who never really seems to shut up.

Often I come to this state when watching movies or listening to music, especially in the car. Reading usually takes me somewhere else, somewhere emotionally encasing and very, very familiar – it is the most controlled of worlds. Reading a novel, biography, or history, racing along, deep into it, my senses go senseless.

But sometimes I need to go some place more intense, more overwhelming. A place that cuts me adrift and celebrates not "me," but all of us, humanity reaching toward the sky, free and yearning for the unknown.

This can come from reading a most treasured work (any of Isaac Babel's and/or Dashiell Hammett's short stories, Jim Harrison's Legends of the Fall, anything by Carson McCullers, John Irving's The World According to Garp, any of Chester Himes' Coffin Ed and Grave Digger Jones Harlem novels, Robert Coover's story "The Babysitter," anything by Andre Dubus, Harlan Ellison, Raymond Carver, and Horace McCoy – this list could go on and on). Or I read certain comic books: Will Eisner's The Spirit, Jack Cole's Plastic Man, any Phantom comic book, all the original Captain Marvels, and on.

But the best, the best way to go into this state, is still poetry. All these years later, it is poetry still. Especially those writers so drunk on words they can't help themselves, addicted to words and rhythm; their poetry is always greater than its temporal boundaries, than the words or punctuation – the sounds, the images, the words, the rhythm come together into a gushing wind.

There are poems so sublime, word so perfectly crafted to word, word just as surely laid to image that reading the poem is transcendent. A magic silence is entered into. Listen to the opening lines of Gerard Manley Hopkins' "The Windhover to Christ Our Lord:"

"I caught this morning morning's minion, kingdom of daylight's

dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding

Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding ..."

There are poems less sublime, but still so carefully crafted and intoxicated with language, you forgive them their sins. Few poets have been more addicted to excess than Algernon Charles Swinburne. Here are lines from his poem "A Forsaken Garden":

"Here death may deal not again for ever;

Here change may come not till all change end.

From the graves they have made they shall rise up never,

Who have left nought living to ravage and rend.

Earth, stones, and thorns of the wild ground growing ..."

Be forewarned; I spent a summer reading Robert Service and have always loved Edgar Allen Poe's poetry. For months, at night, I stood by the banks of the Peace River in Florida as a friend recited the most outlandish word addict of the past century, Vachel Lindsay. The opening of Lindsay's "General William Booth Enters Into Heaven":

"[To be sung to the tune of The Blood of the Lamb with indicated instrument]

[Bass drum beaten loudly.]

"Booth led boldly with his big bass drum –

(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)

The Saints smiled gravely and they said: 'He's come.'

(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)

Walking lepers followed, rank on rank,

Lurching bravoes from the ditches dank,

Drabs from the alleyways and drug fiends pale –

Minds still passion-ridden, soul-powers frail: –

Vermin-eaten saints with mouldy breath,

Unwashed legions with the ways of Death –

(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)

[Banjos.]"

Recently, I've begun to realize there is a generation of letter-to-the-editor writers who similarly prize language over meaning, sound over content. There is a true emotional punch in their work; it clearly is both political and personal. It's disguised in Rush Limbaugh-imitating, excessively pompous verbiage, but when we strip it bare, we find a new American poetry, not of the wimpy left but the true and hard right.

Proud and ideologically fearless, these poets honor the past. No political correctness or common decency is allowed to stand in the way of aesthetic: holier-than-thee-and-thou, poetic preaching. These are like psalms, holy visions offered down from the gods – not just the mere words of men (and women).

Just read them. There is no denying the sheer love of words, the disregard for petty content, the refusal to submit to any of the kind of carefully reasoned arguments that simply reiterate dominant ideology.

Perhaps unfairly and unwisely, I have stripped the protective prose armor away from these pure, poetic incantations. In a way, it's like drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa; even though I am a passionate, inarticulate fan of this genius, I have besmirched the work in making its poetic ambitions so obvious.

(First in a series)


TRUE AMERICAN VISIONS: RIGHT WING POETRY, OUR READERS WRITE:

"A Warm Welcome to the Struggle"

You are guilty of astounding ignorance

You and your fellow travelers

Advocating ideologies

Any rational person would find

Mortally reprehensible –

Neoleftist utopians, moral-Relativist Marxists, suicidal pacifist, chic anarchists

Mired in the fever swamp of pathological naïveté.

History has proven

These deviant neoleftist ideologies as genocidal.

This moral credulity

Aiding and abetting

The enemies of civilization

Islamist fascism!

All responsible Americans

Must Accept

We are in a world war!

Islamist fascists!

Humanity is in mortal danger of

An 11th-century existence:

Sharia law establishing worldwide a world,

Women, homosexuals, free-thinkers, and all non-Muslims

Subject to immediate execution or enslavement.

Islamist tyranny!

A glaring reality – America

The lone nation capable of annihilating

Genocidal threat.

Neoleftist moral blindness infects

Virulent anti-American propagandist

Malevolent neoleftist influence

Never allowed

Hate!

Comrades decry neoleftism

Join the fight

For the free world

A warm welcome to the struggle.

"Send Money: A Christmas Poem of Tolerance"

This bunch that

Supports killing the unborn

Encourages homosexuality

Nearly ruptured a gut pulling the cord on Terri Schiavo

Want the Ten Commandments and anything pertaining to God

Removed and out of sight,

Speak their stupid opinions publicly

Without consideration of how it affects our troops

Encourage the enemy

Accuse our troops of committing terrorist acts

Claim the war is not winnable

Are somehow concerned about

Civil liberties' endangerment over ordered intercepts

Of suspected terrorists

This bunch

Have all gathered around their "Holiday Tree"

Asking for donations for

Their party.

Anyone that believes they came from monkeys

Has the IQ of a dingbat

Join with them and

Send money! end story

[Technique: Poems are taken from real letters to the Chronicle. Words and sentences are deleted. The order is not changed. No words or sentences are added. In the first poem a word had its tense changed. In the second a line from the beginning was repeated later in the poem.]

Copyright © 2019 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.

The Austin Chronicle

https://www.austinchronicle.com/columns/2006-01-27/329488/

Page Two: Earth, Stones, and Thorns of the Wild Ground Growing

The poetry of the right-wing soul: an appreciation

By Louis Black, January 27, 2006, Columns

"In my hour of darkness, in my time of need," as Gram Parsons prayed, I often just want quiet and coolness: a state such that, even with eyes open, it is as though they are shut. I hardly feel attached to my body. I'm in the most limited contact possible with the ever annoying I of I, who never really seems to shut up.

Often I come to this state when watching movies or listening to music, especially in the car. Reading usually takes me somewhere else, somewhere emotionally encasing and very, very familiar – it is the most controlled of worlds. Reading a novel, biography, or history, racing along, deep into it, my senses go senseless.

But sometimes I need to go some place more intense, more overwhelming. A place that cuts me adrift and celebrates not "me," but all of us, humanity reaching toward the sky, free and yearning for the unknown.

This can come from reading a most treasured work (any of Isaac Babel's and/or Dashiell Hammett's short stories, Jim Harrison's Legends of the Fall, anything by Carson McCullers, John Irving's The World According to Garp, any of Chester Himes' Coffin Ed and Grave Digger Jones Harlem novels, Robert Coover's story "The Babysitter," anything by Andre Dubus, Harlan Ellison, Raymond Carver, and Horace McCoy – this list could go on and on). Or I read certain comic books: Will Eisner's The Spirit, Jack Cole's Plastic Man, any Phantom comic book, all the original Captain Marvels, and on.

But the best, the best way to go into this state, is still poetry. All these years later, it is poetry still. Especially those writers so drunk on words they can't help themselves, addicted to words and rhythm; their poetry is always greater than its temporal boundaries, than the words or punctuation – the sounds, the images, the words, the rhythm come together into a gushing wind.

There are poems so sublime, word so perfectly crafted to word, word just as surely laid to image that reading the poem is transcendent. A magic silence is entered into. Listen to the opening lines of Gerard Manley Hopkins' "The Windhover to Christ Our Lord:"

"I caught this morning morning's minion, kingdom of daylight's

dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding

Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding ..."

There are poems less sublime, but still so carefully crafted and intoxicated with language, you forgive them their sins. Few poets have been more addicted to excess than Algernon Charles Swinburne. Here are lines from his poem "A Forsaken Garden":

"Here death may deal not again for ever;

Here change may come not till all change end.

From the graves they have made they shall rise up never,

Who have left nought living to ravage and rend.

Earth, stones, and thorns of the wild ground growing ..."

Be forewarned; I spent a summer reading Robert Service and have always loved Edgar Allen Poe's poetry. For months, at night, I stood by the banks of the Peace River in Florida as a friend recited the most outlandish word addict of the past century, Vachel Lindsay. The opening of Lindsay's "General William Booth Enters Into Heaven":

"[To be sung to the tune of The Blood of the Lamb with indicated instrument]

[Bass drum beaten loudly.]

"Booth led boldly with his big bass drum –

(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)

The Saints smiled gravely and they said: 'He's come.'

(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)

Walking lepers followed, rank on rank,

Lurching bravoes from the ditches dank,

Drabs from the alleyways and drug fiends pale –

Minds still passion-ridden, soul-powers frail: –

Vermin-eaten saints with mouldy breath,

Unwashed legions with the ways of Death –

(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)

[Banjos.]"

Recently, I've begun to realize there is a generation of letter-to-the-editor writers who similarly prize language over meaning, sound over content. There is a true emotional punch in their work; it clearly is both political and personal. It's disguised in Rush Limbaugh-imitating, excessively pompous verbiage, but when we strip it bare, we find a new American poetry, not of the wimpy left but the true and hard right.

Proud and ideologically fearless, these poets honor the past. No political correctness or common decency is allowed to stand in the way of aesthetic: holier-than-thee-and-thou, poetic preaching. These are like psalms, holy visions offered down from the gods – not just the mere words of men (and women).

Just read them. There is no denying the sheer love of words, the disregard for petty content, the refusal to submit to any of the kind of carefully reasoned arguments that simply reiterate dominant ideology.

Perhaps unfairly and unwisely, I have stripped the protective prose armor away from these pure, poetic incantations. In a way, it's like drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa; even though I am a passionate, inarticulate fan of this genius, I have besmirched the work in making its poetic ambitions so obvious.

(First in a series)


TRUE AMERICAN VISIONS: RIGHT WING POETRY, OUR READERS WRITE:

"A Warm Welcome to the Struggle"

You are guilty of astounding ignorance

You and your fellow travelers

Advocating ideologies

Any rational person would find

Mortally reprehensible –

Neoleftist utopians, moral-Relativist Marxists, suicidal pacifist, chic anarchists

Mired in the fever swamp of pathological naïveté.

History has proven

These deviant neoleftist ideologies as genocidal.

This moral credulity

Aiding and abetting

The enemies of civilization

Islamist fascism!

All responsible Americans

Must Accept

We are in a world war!

Islamist fascists!

Humanity is in mortal danger of

An 11th-century existence:

Sharia law establishing worldwide a world,

Women, homosexuals, free-thinkers, and all non-Muslims

Subject to immediate execution or enslavement.

Islamist tyranny!

A glaring reality – America

The lone nation capable of annihilating

Genocidal threat.

Neoleftist moral blindness infects

Virulent anti-American propagandist

Malevolent neoleftist influence

Never allowed

Hate!

Comrades decry neoleftism

Join the fight

For the free world

A warm welcome to the struggle.

"Send Money: A Christmas Poem of Tolerance"

This bunch that

Supports killing the unborn

Encourages homosexuality

Nearly ruptured a gut pulling the cord on Terri Schiavo

Want the Ten Commandments and anything pertaining to God

Removed and out of sight,

Speak their stupid opinions publicly

Without consideration of how it affects our troops

Encourage the enemy

Accuse our troops of committing terrorist acts

Claim the war is not winnable

Are somehow concerned about

Civil liberties' endangerment over ordered intercepts

Of suspected terrorists

This bunch

Have all gathered around their "Holiday Tree"

Asking for donations for

Their party.

Anyone that believes they came from monkeys

Has the IQ of a dingbat

Join with them and

Send money! end story

[Technique: Poems are taken from real letters to the Chronicle. Words and sentences are deleted. The order is not changed. No words or sentences are added. In the first poem a word had its tense changed. In the second a line from the beginning was repeated later in the poem.]

Copyright © 2019 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.

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