Schwestern, wir, bewegten Sinnes, eilen mit den Bächen weiter; Denn es reizen jener Ferne reichgeschmückte Hügelzüge. Immer abwärts, immer tiefer wässern wir, mäandrisch wallend, Jetzt die Wiese, dann die Matten, gleich den Garten um das Haus. Dort bezeichnens der Zypressen schlanke Wipfel, über Landschaft, Uferzug und Wellenspiegel nach dem Äther steigende.
— GOETHE, FAUST: DER TRAGÖDIE ZWEITER TEIL IN FÜNF AKTEN
i'd like to make a little book that crams poetry into the american collective consciousness by way of the BIGFOOT. i'll be more motivated if i sculpt it in a thread here, for example ^that could be the frontispiece. feel free to interact (with me) as "Patty" above curiously didn't.
the bigfoot in the famous patterson-gimlin video above. one of many unexplained details is why one of the most remarkably isolated "animals" on the planet would be completely unfazed by human presence.
somewhere, not necessarily the first chapter, this synthesis could go, with the header
IMITATION / "APERY"
with this image facing:
On the same path as Humboldt: De Loys’ Ape, or a spider monkey.
As Alexander von Humboldt and his posse weaved through South America, it was not only screeching monkeys to assail their ears—or not per se. If a German felt inclined to query a Venezuelan, he would know of unavoidable bead-brandishing. Natives point into the trees and inform the Baron in the manner of William Brazel engaging with the Roswell Daily Record. He of the two “case types” who seeks the wings of fame, whether one or none, is certainly not either. At the turn of the 19th century the Tamanaku speakers knew not of the concept, though they had already applied it in some way to their admonishment against the “achi”—i.e. its river-extensive notoriety, if not fame—as the Maipure-speaking fellows spread word of the “vasitri.” And not just the Indian, but the white man, specifically Father Gilii, could gesticulate with a straight face; he and his own posse (of Italian missionaries) had tripped into the mythology one way or another, through jaw-locking intimacy with the ape-man himself? or simply convinced by the story of Mrs. de San Carlos who allegedly eloped with the beast. In any case, Gilii’s attention to the local language brought him fame, but his evermore dubious attention to the local fears and hearsay did not. Who’s surprised? For no hand positioned near the Orinoco could stretch far enough, geographically and from the late 18th century to late 19th, to divert the Amazon rubber barons in their capitalist frenzy. Compare secondarily, South American commercialization with a visit to Roswell, NM, today, and witness ET on every street sign.
While putting on hold the implied explanation for contemporary American sightings, let it be proposed that tribes and missionaries alike propagated the ape-man legend by their minds’ eagerness to imitate. This word imitate is not subjected to a stipulative definition, but is used in an unconventional context, that of cognitive prejudices. For one, a glance at a screaming AC power socket ignites the fusiform face area in imitation of the flame set by real faces. Imitation is not a mere ability, able to be invigorated on voluntary occasions, but, as Aristotle observed, an instinct, and a pleasurable one at that (“The instinct of imitation is implanted in man from childhood … and no less universal is the pleasure felt in things imitated”); we certainly revel in many instances of pareidolia. However, the variant we are most concerned with is in contact with a silhouette; a shadow; a hulking form through the trees at dusk; and subsequent distinction as a hominid. Man perceives man in every nook and cranny, but when said nook is in the wild, which man wouldn’t logically inhabit, it is concluded to be some wild variant of man, an ape-man. As for the question of pleasure, it is true that the native seems to live in a state of fear and excitement by his belief in the creature; but both symptoms are obviously cherished when self-afflicted, given the popularity of horror films and roller coasters. Reveal now the true context of Aristotle’s comments:
Poetry in general seems to have sprung from two causes, each of them lying deep in our nature. First, the instinct of imitation is implanted in man from childhood, one difference between him and other animals being that he is the most imitative of living creatures; and through imitation he learns his earliest lessons; and no less universal is the pleasure felt in things imitated. We have evidence of this in the facts of experience. Objects which in themselves we view with pain, we delight to contemplate when reproduced with minute fidelity: such as the forms of the most ignoble animals and of dead bodies. The cause of this again is, that to learn gives the liveliest pleasure, not only to philosophers but to men in general; whose capacity, however, of learning is more limited. Thus the reason why men enjoy seeing a likeness is, that in contemplating it they find themselves learning or inferring, and saying perhaps, ‘Ah, that is he.’ For if you happen not to have seen the original, the pleasure will be due not to the imitation as such, but to the execution, the coloring, or some such other cause.
Beneath humans, “the most imitative of living creatures” are almost certainly the other great apes. Like us, an ape imitates because of “the pleasure felt in,” for example, ridiculous body language—the common origin of the verb “to ape”—or in order to “learn his earliest lessons.” An adult who approaches an opaque box with sundry pointless maneuvers, all before reaching for a treat which could immediately have been retrieved in the front slot, prompts both the observing ape and human child to go through the same motions. However, when the box is reconstructed with transparent walls, it is the ape alone who notices the futility of the adult’s preliminary meddling; he opens the front slot at once, whereas the child continues to imitate. In this instance, humans retain their status as the foremost imitators in the animal kingdom, even as their hirsute cousins shame them with apparently superior intellectual quickness. But in fact, the ape’s only design is to learn how to obtain a foodstuff, whereas humans imitate so tenaciously because they do not aim for any specific treat, but for loftier knowledge in the long run. This could be knowledge of the human condition, through application of their experienced imitation in crafting or experiencing works of art.
Works of art? Thus poetry or painting? Thus the same mode of imitation applied? Aristotle readily departs from his assertion that the natural desire to imitate is the cause of poetry. Instead, he provides his evidence in the facts of visual art. Such equivalence seemingly contradicts Ezra Pound’s retrospective, “Don't be descriptive; remember that the painter can describe a landscape much better than you can, and that he has to know a deal more about it.” I.e. the obvious contradiction is that Aristotle compares poetry and painting as two, presumably equally acceptable, ways to accomplish the same goal of imitation, through written or visual observation. But on inspection this contradicts only superficially. One could disagree with Aristotle because description in poetry and description in painting do not have the same goals; they don’t want the same sort of reaction from the reader/viewer, though poetry is indeed a form of imitation in many ways. But Pound apparently does think that this description has the same goal, otherwise he wouldn’t equate the two art forms just as Aristotle did, and then claim that paintings “do it better.”
Do what better? Descriptive poets do not need to describe an entire landscape, as a painter. He the painter knows about colors; proportions; and the type of brushstroke which effectively evokes a texture in nature. But he hardly knows more about extreme details in the landscape, say a flower which could a whole poem be devoted, but which he portrays with just a few blotches. Anyway, he is always an observer of a scene to be frozen on canvas, whereas the poet often (always?) describes motion, physical (opposing the frozen image) or internal (opposing the role of observer), condensing a thousand images into one heightened flow of song. Of course imitation is essential to poetry insofar as the poet imitates what he describes.
Now give ear to the poetry in Maipure language which describes what it imitates; the former in ferocious terms as the “great devil” or aforementioned vasitri, the latter in the cognitive process which, like a botched transfiguration, conjures feral half-men. Our current half-man of choice, if it was ever sighted, from that moment began a journey of poetization drawn from imitation, so that by the time of Alexander’s expedition, any sensible man could tell him that the beast “carries off women, constructs huts, and sometimes eats human flesh.” Indeed one of many physical manifestations of that self-imposed shadow on society, the unruly brute of composition whose name we all know, but with whom few if any have had legitimate interaction. Or, accepting its marginalized station, do I yet give it too much fang?
Le paysage est fait de toiles
Il coule un faux fleuve de sang
Et sous l’arbre fleuri d'étoiles
Un clown est l’unique passant
Last Edit: May 19, 2018 16:47:50 GMT -5 by klausfan1
The orangutan, grand metaphor of romanticization, of course derives his name from the Malays’ identification of him as a forest man: another tribe and a lazy one, for their lack of language, intentionally suppressed, got them out of a day’s work. Even the white man, while hesitant to recognize his swarthy brother as human, was quick to apply such a distinction to his arboreal nephew. After all, orangutans aimed no arrows and barked no savagery, but stroked their goatees and gazed with wise eyes. Lord Monboddo permitted himself the extravagance:
I still maintain, that this [the orangutan] being possessed of the capacity of acquiring it [language], by having both the human intelligence and the organs of pronunciation, joined to the dispositions and affections of his mind, mild, gentle, and humane, is sufficient to denominate him a man.
The question of where prose ends and poetry begins, although strictly unanswerable, is conveniently homologous with (or the perfect opposite of?) the more concrete differentiation between exotic peoples and novel species. Today we know for certain that orangutans, even the kindest of specimens, are genus Pongo, and humans, even the most savage, are genus Homo. But Monboddo’s theory was prime fodder for mid-18th century dining room conversation, not least of all that of Samuel Johnson, greatest of history’s conversationalists.
We talked of the Ouran-Outang, and of Lord Monboddo's thinking that he might be taught to speak. Dr. Johnson treated this with ridicule. Mr. Crosbie said, that Lord Monboddo believed the existence of every thing possible; in short, that all which is in posse might be found in esse. Johnson: "But, Sir, it is as possible that the Ouran-Outang does not speak, as that he speaks…”
To some degree we merely have an example of the bickering common between intellectuals of the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution, who evolved together but sometimes with mutual suspicion, precisely as on the fateful evening of September 8, 1776, when Benjamin Franklin and John Adams were obliged to share a bedroom but argued over the health effects of leaving the window open. It is obvious, however, in the grander battle between two literary forms, who holds the shimmering rapier and who the obliterative cudgel. Between two old minds who were perhaps equally eccentric, Dr. Johnson worked to maintain skeptical, conservative, prosaic declaration, despite his many quirks of thought and personality; conversely, Lord Monboddo, the true scientist of the pair, nevertheless chose to swell the boundaries of careful hypothesis in the interest of inflaming discourse. And he very much did so, as seen above (though admittedly with Johnson’s scathing witticism cut short): a fanciful, liberal, poetic thrust of the rapier immediately sets the cudgel swinging.
But the lines begin to blur when one is drunk on zoological discovery (so too, prematurely hinting, on exalted language). What may at surface be Monboddo’s unfettered poeticization or romanticization, such as was not infrequent in the adolescence of modern science, is actually naught but prosaic myth. That is, to exaggerate the extent of orangutan’s relation to man is certainly to commit a falsehood, but not a particularly interesting one. It merely diverts and detracts from the much more interesting truth, the truth of a rare and unique genus with its own talents completely alien to humanity. The earliest illustration of the creature, AD 1718, indicates a round visage and a mop of curls reminiscent of an Aboriginal Australian. Otherwise the body is completely hairless, the limbs are hardly less proportionate than those of a stocky human, and the feet show only a modest capacity for grasping. The image is not embellished, but sanitized; the image is inaccurate, but prosaically so; a highly exotic ape and all its incomparable features should have aroused more curiosity than what appears as only a mildly exotic man.
Here another kind of line shifts and shivers, the poetic line, when one is drunk enough to conflate the territories of poetry and prose. I do not make bold to define the border between the two forms; I only insist that there is such a border—that poetry is not prose and vice versa. As such there can be no “prose” poetry or “free” verse, those devious diseases of terminology which threaten to bastardize the poetic demographic beyond recovery, leaving prose in majority rule forevermore. Even without regard as true conflation, the idea that these antithetical methods of expression could perhaps form a new hybrid genre is as absurd as the etiology of the orangutan as told to Jacobus Bontius—that they “are born out of the wantonous of the native women who, with detestable lasciviousness, mix themselves with apes and monkeys.” Yet the corrupted of the 21st century continue to apply the label of prose poetry not only to their own work, but even to literary sketches by the likes of Franz Kafka, insulting the individual talent of true poets who work in a realm irrelevant to prose, as well as diminishing Kafka’s own immense contributions to the art of the short story. Without fail, attempts to make poetry and prose more “interesting”—by expanding their definitions into more nebulous and experimental territory—only end up dishonoring both and disengaging at least one from the appreciation of a generation.
In this long-bloated era of extreme artistic liberality, promoting traditional forms is far more a challenge to the institution of poetry than wallowing in the massive, stagnant, bottomless bog of anti-verse, i.e. the aforementioned definition-bending. Always indigestive to some degree, the last drops of poetry are finally barfed out of the public gut when neither form nor anti-form will convince: after a century of collective influence, we all now share the modernist disaffection with rhyme and meter, but after the last half-century’s dull appropriation of avant-garde technique, today’s free verse appears equivalently trite and sophomoric. This is not in contrast with “yesterday’s free verse”; it is an invention of today, accumulated only by skimming off the superficial aspects of a modernist poem. Works by T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Basil Bunting or William Carlos Williams have shirked standard meter not in favor of “freedom” but of even more intricate constraints and structural motifs. Nevertheless, history invariably produces along with genius a tribe of the imperceptive, the lazy, and the simply unskilled.
Like a resident of Willow Creek, CA, flaunting his dubious plaster footprint, I outline the belief and the proof that followed it.
Further back along the way of poetic distension, the controversy was confined to blank verse and its usage by Milton plus sorry imitators. Dr. Johnson put aside copious scruples in order to praise Milton, but at times he couldn’t help himself, and the ridicule given to Monboddo was revived in his allegation that Milton—John Milton—likely composed Paradise Lost in blank verse because it was “easier.” Though outrageous in context, it is entirely believable when applied to a forgotten scribbler, a David Mallet or a George Lyttelton, and even this hyperbolic wariness in Milton’s vicinity could be justified in its proof of uncompromisingly strict ideals; Johnson would not soften his campaign against the indolence and unmusicality which blank verse invites, even when he was confronted with the finest known usage of the technique. As such his little lecture on form, placed unfairly amid comments on Milton, yet maintains its relevance for the plurality of poets:
The music of the English heroic line strikes the ear so faintly that it is easily lost, unless all the syllables of every line co-operate together; this co-operation can be only obtained by the preservation of every verse unmingled with another as a distinct system of sounds, and this distinctness is obtained and preserved by the artifice of rhyme.
Artifice and myth go hand in hand, but musical language to the extent of perfect meter and rhyme is a singularly poetic myth which is only attainable through hours of mind-straining labor. It is a paradox that the easiest flowing poetry should come from the most difficult exertions of the poet, just as the beauty of artifice should exceed the natural…
It is a paradox that the most difficult exertions of the imagination cannot reach as high as the fantastical truths found through Natural Philosophy and Evolution… When Monboddo confabulates in the psychiatric sense and Johnson in the general, the former’s whimsical suggestions will not stand the test of time and the latter’s secure principles will. For zoologists and poets are both concerned with outwardly mysterious, exciting subjects—a rare and colorful creature or phrase—but in their veins they require precision. Those who charge steadfast out of the land of precise thought, dragging the definitions of humanity and poetry along with them, no matter how many impetuous minds they divert in the process, will only crawl back with their tails between their legs, as if literally devolved. After how many generations will the steady, studious specimen prevail again?—The Tapanuli orangutan was not identified until Twenty Seventeen.
Hyperion, leaving twilight in the rear, Came slope upon the threshold of the west; Then, as was wont, his palace-door flew ope In smoothest silence, save what solemn tubes, Blown by the serious Zephyrs, gave of sweet And wandering sounds, slow-breathed melodies; And like a rose in vermeil tint and shape, In fragrance soft, and coolness to the eye, That inlet to severe magnificence Stood full blown, for the God to enter in.
Last Edit: Sept 16, 2018 20:52:24 GMT -5 by klausfan1