I Advance Under a Mask: Forth Go the Banners of the King of Hell* – Sean Kilpatrick
May 22, 2019
“Nothing can be more contemptible than that tinsel splendor of Language, which some writers perpetually affect.” Hugh Blair
“Minimalism is close to mediocrity and mindlessness, a way for the ungifted to have a literary career, and for readers who really hate literature to pretend to be reading something serious.” Paul West
*Larvatus Prodeo: Vexilla Regis Prodeunt Inferni, Dante / Fortunatus
Edgelord (meekest of slurs) really tries to strip past the latex and remove a couple layers of dick. Our jimmy hats have taken over. (Am I shrinking, or is their excitement increasing?) The slickness has been vacuumed from our laps. There is only the clown’s tonic water gone flat, a spit of crap, and the fat just ate its food. All the literary critics (if there are any) that people cringe about (the world wide web talks like a less cummed in Juno (in hot girl language “gag me with a spoon” will always beat “cringe”)) fifty years from now will have been calling for more blood and sex, not less (à la the ones fifty years before). We’re simply symptoms of a bicameral fuck-about, a cycle of ideas with updated argot, the culture of a washing machine filled with asbestos, torn ripcord dualities quivering at either end. There is no dichotomy if you are holding a piece of dog shit between your thumbs. For example, just because I dated a person who, for years, made the arts her karaoke (likewise our relationship, droll passenger of beds), doesn’t mean the combination of idiocy and flagrant masochism that let me share a trick’s love, unbeknownst, exonerates her – as far as I’m concerned. It exonerates her as far as everyone else in the world who has a good sense of humor (or knows thing one about human relationships) is concerned, but they should mind their business. Sometimes you trip during self-flagellation and a religion springs up. We live in a type of forced attrition, and the internet’s work is nowhere near as holy (or brilliant) as the villain in Seven. (At its best, the net is a ribald ceremony, a wubwang’u: the ritual mating dance of insults for fun, or flyting, verses of ridicule, the dozens – instead, with social media, we’ll be divvied into ranks until we’re all one throbbing fuck-emoji in the synchronicity, free of the shame and the destructive glee of our ostracism holidays, epigonistic skimmers of the clunkiest shopping spree utopia.) Clinging to sincerity in the waggling shadow of digitization won’t help you. Let’s pretend perversion became a viable method. Not a way of life (political / cultural subversion in the sense of covertly ordained compliance), but a tool. Nevermind how things are almost so bad we might need another go at God. That kind of expectation makes me think my telomeres are dancing in a coffee grinder. (My register of the sentence moves from wince to cringe (before it was popular) at least sixty-percent on purpose.) Please, anyone alive, you’d be doing me a favor if we never spoke again. If any god has you enthused in its seizure, break the grip, build it back on your own terms, and live out that punishment. (Yes, the request that you write a poem has been most sourly issued.) The misanthropist isn’t actively out to get you because you’re human; he’s actively out to get the hell away from you, for that very reason, and many more.
It’s nice to eat a girl’s period – how lavish and voltaic the taste, what a decadent reversal of common fertility rites – less nice when your urge to do so (if rooting through a love bond), patiently indulged, is the only reason she finds you interesting. The act implies the kind of luck that tires both parties with its allocation, the sort of privilege it might take a billfold to ameliorate. Perhaps love – ever capable of every decay – withers quicker when confronted by style (or a competing style), which could explain everyone’s abject paranoia of affectation, in life and art. Sorry to insist, but the intensity of any passion can be bent into an architecture. Ornate poesy is not always a Dionysian scarf-job behind a dumpster while the meter ticks. Subversion is the artist’s tool, never his trade, and the societal reflection of it comes perma-inversed. When a stuffy society turns upside-down, must the artist shrug, drops his zits, and sell valor? The artist’s ass is kicked in the opposite direction of the crowd (regardless of his goals). If subversion is over-emphasized for promotional purposes (or trendily suspect political advantage), the artist will perk up at any rare chance to perpetuate the addiction, yay or nay, for his multi-causal, dignity-free existence controls him. The dimes you may, or (most likely) may not, roll him are sub-gravy, because gravy implies calories will be subsumed – that nutrients occur. Writers tend to shoot their food off the plate. Concerning the egg on our face, the widespread preference for corn syrup – astutely rendered baby carriages drawn by one’s loins – and people’s fear of their own blood as a superfluous property: a miscarriage is hard to taste test. Nature peels off its truths, lusts for the preservations and proliferations it can’t sustain, palpitating the few it can, and should be challenged, however pointlessly, within the confines of a meal, let alone a work of sublimity. Red wings, as a delight, not a shock-sleaze assertion (that too), is indeed a stocking stuffer, on occasion, but it’s not something easily proselytized – a relatively esoteric savoring (meaning more than muscling through once or twice because the month is merry) that’s hard to sell until you’ve tried it for yourself, but if I hock a mucosal line and mistake it for the sunset, framing the coagulation in a gallery of my own halfwit entrepreneurial mendicancy, why lecture me about befoulment, unless I sneeze mine on your glasses (platform promotion on my borrowed porch online doesn’t count)? Artists can’t convert, we can only install escalators in the gutter. Like modern times – this pliable charade of progress outperforming the logic that allowed it to grow into a rebellion – all modes of seeing are another slot on the artist’s palette. (Take this artlessly obnoxious (but interestingly smart, if a bit Jew-conspiracy obsessed) assertion that The Pawnbroker was designed to infiltrate the culture and turn it on its tits. Assuming Wallant’s novel was rendered with this convoluted notion in mind (high IQ types are usually theorists, not fiction writers), why, then, did the director of that supposedly sneaky liberal masterpiece, outside the exploitative intentions of all producers (money, not culture, or are they analogous? – the artist gives himself away. He’s here to fuck you up and it’s not a secret. Those who stifle, bury, or abuse this dunce devotion for revolutionary purposes perpetrate art by accident, if at all – art revolutionizes itself. Art is nature aghast), go on to make Child’s Play, another, more underrated, masterpiece, this time with conservative undertones? Might Lumet just be a great, intense, fucked-up builder of worlds willing to paint in both tones?) We can bow to order and its opposite in the same cunnilingual nod. Treating a spent egg like chewing gum means you mistook yourself for god – this is what a slave to convention will tell himself when his maturity lacks innovation. Back when I was stupid enough to mistake romance for anything other than a tactic – likewise, hook, line and sinker, the impression was made that the state of anything in literature halfway transgressive would never become: I am lectured to by cowards (2013-20??, here we fucking are). If society drips off into the most tepid of bathwaters, you are no longer tasked with reflecting it for itself! Go buy golf bags (fill them with bluestockings, or hair).
The dismissal of most baroque assemblages diffused as language (aside from a lottery of five or so authors whose unlikely attention usually garners them tenfold the hate of anyone committing the sin of publication) predates John Lyly, but has spawned, I confess (and am lumped near in protest), in this man-boobed era (when expurgation nimbi abound), a type of authorite who identifies his enemies by their brand of clothing, dipping into the far reaches of the abstruse in a mistaken rebellion – a diddled lot who use poetry to self-harm (lightly), chasing recognition, gaming power via connection. Everyone who tries is guilty in small doses, but some refrain from flaunting that fact on their lapel, from skewing their collage to skate by undetected. An attempt at interpersonal domination (artist to artist) outs he-who-tries-it as barren of talent. Have I been pointlessly challenged by a number of insecure, passive aggressive, teen-headed purveyors of the beyond-florid (into fungal) style? Yes, ditto the plain. Art as sport is one of this country’s syndromes. Control, like talent, occurs as a behavior, trained or not; it can’t be argued into online. Most language lads, except mean old Ben Marcus (god bless), lay off the plain (lingual enthusiasts tend to enjoy variations, which is why kids don’t find us cool – they can’t discover the art of their own ripe bodies within a structure that dense), stomaching your mockery, because it’s so easy to shut it down and embarrass you. We own the medium you use to bitch. The very units you employ to bemoan, and portend to partake of, are on loan. You lie quite pretentiously when you excuse yourself of style – keep celebrating your anorexia in the funny papers. Let the motto of these dregs be: “no patrons, no paintings!” Warlock bung lads, however, want to tufthunt and be John Dee of the court. These Johnny Pee Pees are great wizards of the handshake, composing their angel language via scraps. They’ll dip a toe in the anti-pc comments and wave a slingshot live on webcam (rent-boy e-boys) when the woke-eunuchs come. How do you live out the narcissism of small differences still thinking the personal is political, that language is an extension of one’s life force (your repressed, Machiavellian woolpack)? Crypto-references to the ritual of human utterance must – defying the success of its architects – be satire to some degree, because there is no success left for this field, and these types take the symbols in their belly lint a bit too seriously. Just because we’re throwing our lives away for an art, doesn’t mean it is of any import. If our lives were important, if we were a dominant class, we wouldn’t be driven to write like this in the first place! And your clit-wit edge-lass feminist slam dunks online are a parody of the ad your body already is. Fashion and good looks aren’t art. No need to over-ritualize into a cock astrology of metrosexual magicians mic-dropping after every tweet, nor to bellow with the simple, gasconading pride of a meistergesang carnival. You are all crying on a TV show with purchasable tears. Cry before an audience and your tears are a plea for status. It’s a generation of asthmatic quitters, as if Bambi stayed sucking its dead mother’s teat for a two hour runtime. Recollect Donald Barthleme on the new novelists to put a finer line on it: “Their work seems leaden, self-conscious in the wrong way. Painfully slow-paced, with no leaps of the imagination, concentrating on the minutiae of consciousness, these novels scrupulously, in deadly earnest, parse out what can safely be said. In an effort to avoid psychologism and unwarranted assumptions they arrive at inconsequence, carrying on that traditional French war against the bourgeois which ends by flattering him: what a monster!…It is as if the French novelists do not know how to play…humorless practitioners whose repression means total calamity…as our native worshippers of the sovereign fact.” I’m less spiteful of the French methods, but to my, quote, contemporaries, unquote, raw wild youths at heart, one and all: I don’t even like what you left out. Your whispering has tripped into silence. Stop filling up those napkins. If the need for innovation becomes self-cannibalization, the following bulimia will replace the missing parts. As Karl Kraus says: “A writer is someone who can get a riddle out of an answer.” Or just riddles under riddles, when we’re sipping drinks and sad. Some get lucky off of instinct in their twenties, then quit before it’s time to learn. In your thirties, maybe you stumble to study from where you’ve diverged, bumbling through a tanked beak still common in its process, wonky in its wont. There will be no phronesis squeegee for The Serpent’s Egg generation, only in situ didactic proclaimers, dumb tale tellers, or elocution-lisps of nasally vapor. Or me and my kooky cadences for an audience of three, like Lish forgot to eat over the sink, where he commands his girls to hover (allegedly) – letting the spillage inform my method, perfume over signification. Ouch. Finally, let Hugo Blair wipe up the unintentional obfuscators: “…rhetorical forms are never fully abstracted from their concrete instantiations as a geometrical figure such as a triangle might be…” Triangle twerps (coded kobolds, mocking the art of devotion, ditto my aforementioned relationship).
Poets will embrace whatever underdog slogan helps them feel connected, but a bit apart. That game of societal footsy has devolved into an infidelity to our craft, a mere identity, trending. From the plain and sincere, bolstered by their Daves (Eggers and Wallace, who had enough talent not to practice what they preached), the line stood alone in its activism, starting off as a droll report, a statement of fact meant to impact with the absurdity of its declaration alone, objective repetition to erode a wrong (nil effort, posed without posing). Alt Lit was, in part, an offshoot of some of Stephen Dixon’s lesser experiments (mixed with daily affirmations). At their best, they were a master at his least, or early 1900s Russians at their most lethargic level of starvation. But who would kick them out of bed? The novel can be any droll millennial thing: demented teddy bear on downers Ted Berrigan can write one of your paragraphs on a whim, that fat gremlin of the half a sonnet, saying it so straightforward it’s funny (because New York is so numbingly loud and crowded one has no choice but to be authentic and wittily cool in equal measures?). Much of the American post-beat era of poetry was about stripping down the lyricism they and their precursors set forth and converting it into a boring diary (escaping formalism into a raw, spontaneous headspace was about expanding consciousness (surrealist-dadaist in nature), not bogging us down with the adventures of your high school clique (new narrative, surrealist-communist in nature)). At least the escaped cartoon of a hippy, Richard Brautigan, could laugh at his own haircut. Arid with a dose of sass, cat admirers closed their prowess into a closet vanity. And now cuddle boys, proud the planet picked them, are free to embolden Swift’s truth: “Oaths are the children of fashion.” Even their moustaches are relatable (teeny-weeny pistons for the commerce of the word, empathy on a stick, keep everyone as stupid as possible, until it’s a point of pride, or as Seymour Krim says, “more earnest than published”). Joe Brainard would be proud that his name is for some reason still known. Shucks, his earnestness is something barely more than a repetition. What is the point of reading a woke Bukowski? Did Bukowski’s babies and their drunk complacency galvanize neo-Marxist babies and their Oprah campaigns? O’Hara and his ilk may have bucked back at rhymers and their fifties garden mythos, their WASPish confessions, fair enough (take that Joe McCarthy! – even though his enemies became him, too), back when they enforced this nugget of knowhow that is everything said today: “Tho I do sometimes appreciate words as they sound, mainly I write to talk.” These pococuranti will complete an evening for you free of any expenditure ear to ear. This poem from the seventies is seventy percent of poetry today: crazy poem by Robert Slater: “Look at that / Crazy lady shopping / In a night shirt / Hey crazy lady.” The fact that this passed for publishable (ever)…ramshackle shit abounds. People eat that hope shit up. Call it anything but underground. Everyone’s a wrecked lord who stoops to conquer. Novices with tactical opinions. I only buy sour grapes if they’re earned. You can’t negate yourself a populace. Negation is for the few truly abandoned. Inclusionary scat-wielding of the Stephen Gosson puritan school of abuse might get you laid. “This book might get me laid / hired…” has supplanted “this book might get me killed…” with little crossover, and only the latter can be art. Is promotion of lingual prowess seen as an academic shortcut, a stepping stone for yuppies to polish themselves into the last stretch of cultural elitism? Beauty cannot be adhered to for a common good. Strictures and composures based on dogmas shift under my tongue as I conjure phlegmatic altars according to my mood, a type of solipsism hammered over its dissenters, landmine solipsism. The widespread devaluing of style, a backlash to postmodernism in general, leads to curation of abstractions by overemphasis on the arbitrariness of overall selection, or the bitten nail as a koan, rendering any anchor between page and flesh too lanky for ballast, flappy sayso, a flaccid windows update of a line, limp digs into nowhere, flying conceitedly out of reach, the connotation in negative exposure, lumps of perspicuity, genitals replaced by arithmetic. Will there be no paragraphs dildoed with a block of salt into the cavity of a fresh wound? How about an ounce of life support, half a living wage in benefit of my practice (allowed before one classroom?), so a new John Gardner / Hugh Blair can rise up and punish me for subsisting (or have I subsisted enough?). Were that possible – which it ain’t, seeing as several smaller weaklings of that make have tried, without effect – I’d go willingly to my weepy crypt. Doing me verbally in, at that level, as I plod by, would be a vulgar display of power, a kicking of the moderately downed. Yet, who would take notice, except me and the revenge I’d surely seek (with better vehemence – hate as a bragging right negates bragging)?
Hugh Blair retold the forms at their least minimally tea leafed (it can’t be math (essays are a type of excruciating math), Johnny Cagers, Mac Low-ers, sheet music poetry, an idea of a joke mondo-construed – in the sixties and seventies, this trolling began to infiltrate the academy, which is now hilarious), scaled with particular meanings and contexts that keep one from ceasing to exist. Belles lettres, a misnomer for florid writing (everything today is a misnomer), renounced the thick-tongued (sometimes annoyingly). Blair would not want his logic mistaken for the rhetorical sophistry I’ve paddled it into. His four-pronged cycle cycles round, dry to florid, with a disdain for jargon. (Blair’s five styles (and hidden sixth I mean to excuse myself under): dry (didactic), plain, neat, elegant, (vehemence – florid, but anchored by calculated rage), and florid.) Every category comes with enemies, those who will purport that a system is for the gentrified few – anyone embellishing is in breach of contract with the multi-gray world. Don’t confuse the indecipherable with an art that can slip by unpardoned – something of, or above, taste. The confusion is this limited precept itself (especially when the selective idiom is attached to a device that can seek every definition in five seconds, information is not elite anymore: you can go to school on YouTube and fare just as well, stand outside McDonald’s for a WiFi education, pluck your erudition from a grimy tower! Geniuses like Dahlberg and A. Theroux made you live in a library to research them, which is why their punishment is they live there now, buried, but very alive). Either corner of a frown flatters its wearer. The rift old as letters: Atticists (Greeks) vs. Asiatics (Ionians, Persians etc.) – and ten-thousand versions since then. (Simpler – anxiety of embarrassment, cling to good taste, fear of inadvertent camp and cringe: be sleeve-hearted, connecting humbly in the parlance of the times vs. elaborate – an embarrassing amount of confusion (and influence – everyone writing is influenced by a barrage of other writers) at one’s expense, and to the disdain of all involved, but, on occasion, accomplishing deeper gold – or group vs. self, legomena (tell) vs. deiknumena (show), descriptivism vs. prescriptivism, parent vs. (lover) kamikaze (both can be effective means of destruction: the 20th century made disfigurement a grammatical law, Blair’s “…a disagreeable aperture of the mouth” became the atomic ideal, a sound response to a world at the end of a button – pushbutton decadence), or De Quincey’s lit of knowledge vs. lit of power (stupefying sublimities, vast astonishing terror of emotional overwhelming), callosities vs. marmoreal, philosophy / reason / logic (Spinoza (imagination threatens abstract theories about truth), Pascal (imagination threatens god and art through higher power), Kant (a rationalist, but denies science has genius, as it does not involve imagination, but also denying the storm and stress movement as too much)) vs. imagination, informative vs. sublime, truth vs. beauty, nature vs. god, dandy vs. scholar, emotion vs. Eleusinian Mysteries, imitation (formal technique, mimic nature) vs. spontaneity (branching into emotion, feeling as technique), intellectualist (theory) vs. sensationalist (spontaneous technique), sentimental vs. aesthetic (came from the same etymology and were once considered complementary – morality as applied to writing, the process of breaking from imitation into art), belles lettres (techniques) vs. minimalism (one technique refined from many), demotic vs. l’art pompier, DeQuevedo vs. Gongora, Poussinists (drawing) vs, Rubenists (color), paratactic meiosis vs. hypotactic auxesis, Paul Theroux vs. Alexander Theroux, duh vs. onomatopoeia, brigandage vs. psittacosis, and finally, much to my sciolist indulging: ataxy vs. ithyphallic.) With the elegant, complex gold-tinged sentences Plato subjugated, even those who succeed are punished (obscurity). With the plain logos, more get away with success than should (but must live out their vapid acceptances – if the medium is art, your point is at best buried). Imagine an unspoken agreement against anything plainly typed, because it won’t give our machines anything to look up (then punch your genitals for expressing a preference without ripping out its flaws all day.) To be pure and free of defects, understood by adults and imitated by children: this is the goal of the writer of plain style. The virtue of a crowd addressed in relation, intimated and uplifted, or cathartic in his glimmering fall, said in a tenor that will return him to its clutches. The stumbling juvenilia of a florid pen (or so goes the plain-head propaganda, implying that teens are more musical), mistaken as academic jargon (which is dry), circles back to dry, is not layered, like the elegant, or the mush-mouthed vehement / florid. Figurative speech can curve ornamental flourish into an innate practice. There is great cache in hating the reader. Who can rely on a public after the 20th century stacked almost every permutation of it underground? I once aspired to fall back to neat (best of both styles), dried out by trying with my whole crotch to sound elegant, and found only psychopathy will do. Eloquence subverts a pulpit into a feast. Oration bedecks itself where the page relays. The prolix, diffused copiously, sans motivational wrath, turns a brain languid. The concise can piston through with epigrammatic finesse. Can they not both string together like bombs of ugly shrapnel ejecting where they will? Poetry dons craft-colored sleeves; hence it is minor. Its opponents fear technique, because you value you and yours above a book. You think love and your genes are the better archive. The archive of those you care about ends up tallow on a carpet. Try improving your lines for the library, if one will have you. Your bed stain begot a generation of bed stains, incontinence to incontinence, and nothing but the impetus of it is literary, and an orgasm isn’t worth a book. (Here’s a smiley face chart: Perspicuity, purity – clear idiom – propriety (strength of character) – nothing superfluous (unity) – (then apply) ornament – diffuse previous into harmony – the eye severs backwards to face the ear (the Bruce Lee sentence) – depressingly, goals are superfluous in the literary field.) The pinched ass of the sublime as we know it, a feeling of vast dominion, terror of the infernal object, devastating grandeur, expansive tingling, walloped perception, emotional scab-picking, wrecked sentiment, chills turning your balls to taffy, stultifying abjection, dwarfed comprehension, whittling the stilts of everything you hold dear chip by chip – Blair’s assertion that the sublime could not be vulgar, again the 20th century, to the rescue, cured this issue by smashing everything into a disgusting algebraic clot (counter-intuitively beneficial at times, the most counter-intuitive of centuries) – the benefit is that we’re all ridiculous. The tragedy is we’re comfortable enough to be boring about it. We’re intrinsically kitsch. The mistake was to fashion the ordinary into art, not the vulgar, but this frigid elevation of the mundane. We’re bawdy for minutiae and cathartic dependencies, hence belittling the paradox of art’s endeavor – the frothing poles of the mind become globally warmed! Vulgarity is not tepid on its own. We drained our sewage of its hue. Unlikely there will occur again another David Lynch in mainstream culture. His genius and its influence will be divvied up across a niche for generations to come (no more big cult phenomena (auteur theory’s drowning) of living art produced by an individual and backed by millions (it will exist for groups in the tens to twenties) – Tim and Eric came close to advancing a vastly seen Lynch-cousin tone before they ate their young (Sam Hyde’s firing, due to the prevailing airhead soy barons of zen male feminism)). A facet of Lynch’s visual poetry may only interrupt the cattle again (the near-impossible event of his sneaking intense art into television melodrama and winning big), if it is incorporated into edgier superhero larks when a committee has enough audience surplus to swallow the risk, or if they need a tax write-off. Some TV showrunners with fond, disturbed, childhood memories might grind him into their plots, as an aside – yet poetry, always and already a niche, will retain him, exalt him, bow to his legacy, a crafted, but messy, emotional, imaginative and transcendent spontaneity tyrannized from head to screen.
If there is conservative backlash to the politically correct theoreticians who spliced every line of thought into discombobulation, in a once relevant, but ultimately vain, attempt to subvert the same system that now supports them (my rights, my body, my summer home!) – poets already wanted these needle-workers’ throats slit on principle, long before the fall of Rome (conservatives and (true) poets have something in common for the first time in at least a century, ha ha – whoever the cultural underdog may be that year, he will hold hands with art, and its contrary nature – clearly our masters lean money-green, not red or white (maybe white, oh no!?) or blue – and philosophers see the poet as a flake, the way the poet sees the musician as a flake (envying those who live naughtier carnalities in their skins)). I dare beg off the resultant castigation of Joyce in lit (a journal once rejected me in favor of a ten page poem composed of the typewritten word ‘knit’, so don’t bitch to me about Joyce being incomprehensible), Dylan in music, and Picasso in painting, this re-neoclassical blaming of the twentieth century for the disintegration of grammatical composure (because William James streamed a consciousness the French had already lyricized into prose) – and I would then assert that imagination must be given space to splice without resting its laurels on an over-conceptualized dot upon a canvas, in the name of the same abstract manifesto that turned out as restrictive as the society behind it. Poetry spurts none for the amaranthine missionary position of theory, even if there’s some crossover knotting the tampon string. True: liberal-types (the fact that I am forced by degrading experience after experience to address politics and art in the same lifespan!) have had the extent of their say, this decade alone, at the cost of all forms of art. Literary reformism works best as a topping to corrupt a fundament, rarely as a fundament overall. Our imaginations have been obliterated with options, sucked into a hypothesis, ranked by threads, trained to fellate toy chains, a massive swallow without seasoning, and it is time to take a big nonpartisan puke. The postmodern glyph-spewers burning the academic cross, those that tried on art to impersonate breeding, can be fashioned, kiss by kiss, along the knuckles of a crackling practice, a wobbly cryptozoology hungry for its hooves, clawed past the page, a miscarriage mosaic, chameleons smashed into a tuxedo. How about: unintended consequence becomes premeditated sentiment, turn plain narrative mosaics into a snakehandlership, mimic meaning trippingly, cookies at the sauna, a butterscotch cloud towed to earth by coat hangers. Raid the boneyard to build a fence, the best explanation of property. Scars divide the vanity of a surface. Minus infection, scars are a superficial, cosmetic concept. A cut nerve still fires when you feel like fucking. Who doesn’t desire flesh with a little character? Abstractions (taxed beyond elocution, euphemism and metaphor, and sunk into math) are what people with high IQs use to stifle art. An abstraction can be subverted by expertly applied technique, if a loin or two involves itself, or happens by. Leave some semblance of a skeleton before the cummed up anarchy of one’s whim. The bridge from learned skill to its spontaneous application, the adjustments furthering an incorporated technique. Beauty is too immediate to act as an abstraction. It distracts you in an agreed upon way.
Back when language was what you indicated with your finger (imagine the decorative nails on display – I mean mutilation as a hue, not the application of a tiny brush, nothing pudibund to the extent of a circulation), substance-words were clutched by an endocrine system using you to paint its life-altering next move. The object, as it was announced, the noun in search of a possessive, was meant to involve property, which usually lead to a phenomenon-word: the verb chucked at your person to alter the origins of said possessive. Attribute-words, the objects of such damage, and the implied consequences, rose to prominence when society reared its safeties. (Then I was allowed to come along and do this violence to Henry Sweet including you in their ranks – O, these terms and my uremic absconding from their specificities!). We went from being stabbed for uttering useless, odd shit to the tribe, to rituals lit in caves, to churches, to royal courts, to salons (magazines mimeographed or shiny), to cenacles, to grubby coffee places, and landed a ten-views-a-month ghetto of the internet. A homepage platform or two as an extension of our residency, an organized carpet bomb of the self, a sidebar profile life! What the retro postmodern nineteen-sixties ramped into the nineties, by the time its babies grew, was a hyper mainstream explosion of art, sliding past the censorial jet engine into young eyes, dying out of its own disaffection in the 2000s: all that dark, surreal music, warped kids shows (Vernon Chatman’s pseudo-philosophical parodies braced into a form, the boiler plate bedazzled with mad libs, postmodernism not as a foundation, but a frosting laid on a sizzling steak, slowly drained of its formality, parsley tucked between a set of testicles), the zeitgeist at its most zany: what replaced it was: cause over entertainment, identity over art, fashion over aesthetics, empowerment over carnality. This is why no one will be nostalgic for 2000 and anything. I admired Gen X cynicism a life-flattening amount. How did the millennial generation (eras stacked on a shelf courtesy of Strauss and Howe) make this pose so faint a memory? Why did those who the Xers inspired with such brilliance become too self-consciously afraid to divide their lives beyond either extreme, withdrawing to a platform, snitching behind its skirt? Did we die in videogames till death was a chosen frivolity and decide to apply that shit to reality? The console controller made you god, but the generation behind it still failed with god-mode on. But no one can bow too low before the last false comfort of a sprite. Misdirected training on streaming sedatives (artistic or not) ain’t anathema. There’s nowhere to route enough blame without annihilating the species. Why can’t a critic dictate my enjoyment for me? Not every panzer tank is to be oiled by the beneficiaries who turn red beneath it. We are truly baffled by our categories. Poke open the creative bowel, leaving as little room for purpose as possible, because, sad to say, purpose is innate (talent ain’t), that’s why your baby’s tears aren’t art, regardless of the reactions they elicit. The 20th century (the century best repeated in a rubber room), traumatized beneath its unprecedented, bottomless slaughter, manifested a legacy of marketable hysteria, dammed its creative flow with experimentation, and can be reverse engineered dynamic again, because we’re finally dead enough inside to make murder passé. Everything is reduced by time into a moral indignation. Those shouting about the present state of affairs are hired sheep. To be clear, our options are: fired sheep or hired sheep. I think we inherited petrified genes still screaming at their own echo after the socially engineered disenfranchisement that followed World War Two. And, over fight or flight, we chose to freeze. Meanwhile, the privileged (a dead word) are the ones who try to deny you the natural right to cynicism by including you in their very ranks for the audacity of that endeavor (how dare you indulge). It’s never enough that we’ve designed ourselves a workable system, a unanimously functioning stumble toward lopsided advancement. A shoddy, ubiquitous art rails through our DNA, because it has inherited death as an understanding. (Isn’t everyone a fucking artist when a button could make the earth much more a cosmic piece of debris than it already is? Twin Peaks framed this with an insect in a girl’s mouth. The ground shakes and innocence becomes the echo – its wings bend in us. But the atom bomb withered to an ambient lamp. The threat has been rehashed. Fat Man says his Dear John into your palm. Enemas don’t work as well if you’re scared. We excelled past meta into the blueprints of a molecule.) We began to buckle across generational aftermaths, as a consequence of being alive upon an earth that can (and perhaps should) get blinked out of existence at any second, and we will be forced to live on in our atomized glee, shell shocked into effeminate dormancy. (Why were 98 percent of Alexander Theroux’s reviewers proto-social justice warriors? Maybe it was braver in the eighties to publicly whinge like a marm? Way more acceptable now.) Even Genghis Khan had to line people up to complete this gesture (thumb crosses throat, decade after decade). You could make plans and garner expectations pre-decapitation, before it was the world itself, a mechanized pile instantaneously corralled, but even war streamed itself a niche by becoming everything. Will the taste of blood ever be palpable again, but for an elite few worldwide? We had to draft ourselves into an opinion, jam-packing franchised old folks homes onscreen. The thing about humanity is: there are never enough of us to go around underground. Art reverts back to tribalism, except the spearings are abstracted beyond cellular upkeep. We splinter into niche upon niche, mechanized bunny rabbits fucking in a stew. It is not: do you like your lit with this or that – it’s a million variations and influences at once, mostly lazily so, zero mystery or majesty (only the cloaks thereof), a garage sale, with some exceptions. The roofs from which to jump keep heightening and multiplying. And we saw against the angels’ backs to see the ground again. (May we pass in peace (fat chance).) Fragments of us entropy, new cascades, teardrops shattering black as light. We speak inside the same siren: of these systems partaken, ironically and meant, sentiment as display, form in its best treason. We dwell only on our own longevity, skewed imitations of art.
Occasionally, a hatch opens and, much to my chagrin, I am left on life support, roused even, by brief escapes from our enforced dunderheadedness. How to do the plain style correct is: formal skill, not raw flop (unless it’s commedia dell’arte). Classical plain, a rigidity of composure, a scaffold behind flowing narration (Pre-Raphaelites had heart and style), exposition as a feature, but a scene unfolds: imagination vs. ambience is bolstered, in Atticism, by plot, myth, and theme – on the other hand, my style, the Asiatic, bolted to imagination, is at its worst when resorting to conceptual myopia and abstract theory. The florid needs rawness to contrast its obtuse delicacies (juxtaposition almost always helps art). Raw and plain sound drunk together, dashed off. Orchestration of voice solves that. With Make / Shift, Joe Sacksteder (approaching the neat style, but neat, in prose, would be more akin to the Lish school – and form can be experimental hybridization in plain-ish language) builds a story, hiding the scaffolding he used. I’m jealous enough by his accomplishments to try a tale myself: I was still in that terrible decade – one’s twenties! – huffing about like a bag of pudding pogoed atop a dick. Completing a task was nearly impossible, unless a girl’s hand was helping me find purchase. Through the school fugue of vamps and debt, a writer, same age, yet free from my common turmoil – someone with the good sense to despise the chaos of a sub-bohemian yours truly, put aside his patience to finalize a complex, web-based task or two, preventing my being fired, which should have happened, regardless. Unalike minds can indeed form alliances when their warring dogmas complement one another’s alongside a reluctant goal, especially if both characters are bitten by the same shared foe – especially if that foe is the towering size of a culture. Not that everything I say isn’t an embarrassment (as far as his future is concerned, I’m insane – a stalker! – and we never met, a handful of chats), but it’s nice to be nice once in a nice while. We had that long-lost Gen X-ish ability to make a funny, quality conversation out of our artistic differences. His disturbing lack of misanthropy – albeit, perhaps we are both different strains of old and evil individualists – and his flaunted Atticism, are here professionally applied in a wide release collection he earned. (If I can get your book at my library and it wasn’t published in this state, you’re more famous than I’ll ever be.)
Big Bruiser Dope Boy is neat. Eloquence and plain skip proportion, poem to piece. Neat has its juxtapositions built in. Skirt alt sincerity, cure it with a sonnet. Tweet meant, but ambiguous, appeals on occasion (satire in wokenese), then pepper that with cruelty (tweeting the most important of tweets: “snuff the millennial within”). I am incapable of telling when many a youth today is having a lark, especially if it’s at my expense, but I like that, at times, with some of them, one or two, because true artists are always on some version of a lark, at your expense. Proof that he isn’t up to the usual bullshit is: people still read him, without being directed to him by glowing reviews from the approved outlets, even though big press loves plundering his category. The cocky assertion (instinctive in upcomers) that you will be brought under him blasts a span behind the eyes, where the journey of the glans squiggles past its downed barrier. Of course, I favor when he dives toward my florid-type bents: something above paronomasia, alongside Parechesis, intentional malapropisms from below, an eggcorn Euphuism as a directive against the aberrant self that can still dominate via rage, parallelisms elevated into symbolic allusions with the help of poetry. Each sonnet takes a different approach to the fourteen line, ten syllable constraint, the Volta dialing from classical to rap. Petrarch’s flute evolved irony into a ranged performance, the object, at once mocked and exalted, turning the tables in an ouroboros of stylized finesse.
Two elegants so alike in my aims that I shan’t praise them too comfortably, at great length, are Jacob Siefring and Rebecca Gransden (whose name is poem, and she’s British: far more literate than anyone American). Siefring (brilliant translator of Pierre Senges) is a scholiast transposed from another time, a time long ago, when academia was a place of great learning and elegant style, and not as high on dry laurels. Translation is elegant because it requires a writer to lay his mastery over another’s, until the blend is something new. It’s the furthest thing from the fuliginous jeremiad most florids abstract into. People are obsessed with reinstalling continuity in paragraphs. Should we not at least attempt Eisenstein on a page? (His film’s images weren’t random: the narrative was edited into a purposefully jarring montage, etc.) Rebecca Gransden eases the florid into an elegant style by weighing it with genre in her book Sea of Glass (Fellini’s ocean of black plastic bags). Ballardian subtly (with Baudrillardian seduction), a further inclination into mosaic, the expressionistic tableaux elucidated in stages.
Despite persecution (and being somewhat wrongly considered decadent), Oscar Wilde proved more pious than the man whose countenance he borrowed, pandering to piss, fetishizing laicality from a dinner table, and I submit that his oeuvre is bested by Whistler’s Ten o’clock lecture. Wilde wore his wit on his lapel, for social motivations, whereas Whistler rubbed it in his gums, like gingivitis, a true artist anchorite, and ended up burning everyone down for the crime of their applause. That we know Whistler for his mother is proof we can’t appreciate color and wouldn’t deserve any if we tried. That’s why the elegant, even the neat, and anyone near those condemnations will adjust beyond reward and learn to frame our fucking goose eggs. Our evacuations on a page involve you tangentially, if at all. But ain’t it swell, sometimes, to escape a lecture?