Greetings. Since this is only my 2nd post, I’m taking so-called license to mention something that really bothers me. This is something that, unfortunately, probably only upsets writers–but I hope I’m wrong.
A brief preface: in 1991 I published a book, Flowers on the Moon (Watermark Press), a collection of poems and fragments with elements of surrealism, horror, self-indulgence, and complete absurdity. I did not know, or expect, that anyone would actually pay for such an unruly thing–but they did. My paycheck, for what it’s worth, was more than likely less than most American families spend in a month on groceries. No big deal. I took many risks, as do all so-called poets. Even the most well-known are paid an insulting pittance, and I was nowhere near their level.
My point? I took huge liberties with language, mythology, and influence from poets whose pencil-box I was not worthy of carrying. I got lucky. Try that today and you’d be fortunate even to receive a rejection letter.
Cut to the chase, Bill! I shall do this.
The whole idea of poetry is to remind readers of what they already know, via playing back human sensations: smell, sight, touch, taste, hearing . . . bringing to life simple–and complex–perceptions. In short, snapping the branch of life to reveal the living green marrow. If I can put on the page the sublime aroma of pine, garlic, blood, earth, sweat, I have succeeded. Despite what you might have heard about poetry, that is what it does when practiced by people who are stark-raving sane, no matter how painful the process.
Cut to the chase, Bill! Don’t make us ask again!
I’ll say this: our common–especially in America–language is decaying. This ought to surprise no one. You certainly don’t have to be a poet to know it–forgive me. For poetry is concerned, has been always, with retaining and employing the “common” speech. While I do enjoy poetry written only for poets, this does not fulfill the needs of “society.” For that, check out poetry by Bukowski, T.S. Eliot, Yeats. . . these were strong, simple, haunted people hungry to explore life and come back with artifacts. Check out musician Henry Rollins. You might not like the language, but profanity has been around since time immemorial, coming from a sense of common human despair and struggle. These, and other, poets never lie, never avert their eyes.
Today, when I hear anyone–and I do mean anyone–spout “Dude” and “Awesome” and “Whatever” I see only emptiness and robotic mimicry. They think they’re “cool” speaking this way. They are not. What they are is all too obvious: members of a conformist non-conformity. Since the 1970s–at least–rebellion has been a commodity. You see it in virtually every TV commercial. Annoying, unoriginal, hyperactive. Worse, those of my generation (born in the 1950s) pick up on this in a pathetic attempt to be perceived as “hip.” Let’s face it, the only way to be hip and/or cool is to be beyond such shallow bullshit.
Such is the state of our present “reality,” and we’re all so worn out we do nothing against it.
As a writer, I find this sad and scary. No more attention-span. No more taking in vital, organic space. A literal conspiracy against silence.
Why do I make such claims? Because we have a right to be human. Because we have a right to take in the ever-dying Earth and its endless wonder and mystery. Because we have a right see what’s in front of us without it being a sales-pitch. Because–forgive the cliche– life is short, and death is long.
At 54, I live divided. I’m old enough to have grown up with 3 TV channels, typewriters (roughly 150 of my 160 professional sales were written on a manual Royal machine), no Internet, parents actually giving a shit about my whereabouts, and a government that could be mostly trusted.
No, I am not some crazy neo-Luddite. Obviously I use, and enjoy, the benefits of computers. (Jesus, Back in the Day I had to retype anything with one single error–it sucked.) But I think now we have confused the tools with what they build. Just as human intellect is a tool to further our ambition and dreams, so is the Internet. Sure, it can be a social integrator. It is. But in order to reap any benefit we give away our privacy. No secret there. We have lost touch, mostly, with the so-called simple things.
I don’t use a cell-phone. So what? I don’t need one. I’ve seen what they do. They remove users from what’s going on around them. Back in the 90s when I used to run 5 miles a day I felt weird carrying music, with headphones. I had no idea what was forthcoming. Now it’s here, and we inhabit a world filled with no-attention-span users who have lost the capacity to function in the simplest of human ways. My question: where does this lead?
To be vulgar, if I had a dollar for every time I had to jump away from a clueless cell-phone surfer to protect them from impact, well. . . .
Just a few things to keep in mind, while you still have one.
William J. Grabowski
“The universe does not exist as we think it exists. We do not exist as we think we exist.”
–John A. Keel (1930-2008)
“The wall on which the prophets wrote is cracking at the seam.”