When it comes to the fiction of Cormac McCarthy, I rely on the words of the late Edith Hamilton: “None but a poet can write a tragedy. For tragedy is nothing less than pain transmuted into exaltation.” (The Greek Way, pp. 166)
I would like to share a quote from a book I am re-reading with a student and which I think deserves careful study and discussion: Revolt of the Masses by José Ortega y Gasset .
I offer this quote without comment (for the present):
“Advanced civilisation is one and the same thing as arduous problems. Hence, the greater the progress, the greater danger it is in. Life gets gradually better, but evidently also gradually more complicated. Of course, as problems become more complex, the means of solving them also become more perfect. But each new generation must master these perfected means. Amongst them- to come to the concrete- there is one most plainly attached to the advance of a civilisation, namely, that it have a great deal of the past at its back, a great deal of experience; in a word: history. Historical knowledge is a technique of the first order to preserve and continue a civilisation already advanced. Not that it affords positive solutions to the new aspect of vital conditions- life is always different from what it was- but that it prevents us committing the ingenuous mistakes of other times. But if, in addition to being old and, therefore, beginning to find life difficult, you have lost the memory of the past, and do not profit by experience, then everything turns to disadvantage.” (Take from chapter x, “Primitivism and history”)
I am honoured that Writers Resist has two of my poems on their site today.
When I work with students in creative writing I like to tell them that poetry, plays, and fiction can be about anything they like. It is a canvas for their imagination and they can use it to delve into areas of the silly and absurd as life often is both. . . among other things.
Anyway, I like to try and practice what I preach, that is, I like to try and put my own work (and myself) out there. This is why I am using my website to share my publications.
“To view ourselves, therefore, as in the world of grace, where all happiness awaits us, except in so far as we ourselves limit our share in it through being unworthy of happiness, is, from the practical standpoint, a necessary idea of reason.”
-Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason (pp. 640)
My poem “Terminal Tower” is up at Eunoia Review today. It is part of a series of poems I have been writing about the Great Lakes region.
Five years past, I walked to Cleveland from London,
Ontario. My passport was the memory of monarchs and
I touched water at the Rondeau spit.
A shroud of perch bones settled on the lake’s surface.
It was January, season of thin oil fish.
When Erie thaws, shore dwellers sleep on feathers
not the moon of long-winged ants and day-dead nymphs.
When Erie freezes, snowy owls move down from the pole.
Toddlers cry out to hunters sighting flying dots.
In senseless white I thought crows.
For several miles out was a procession of voles.
In the shallows they sought smelts and minnows,
the lake their field of barley, bluegrass, the English gardens.
Over in a town no one knew,
a candidate calling himself Zyklon B
was elected; his first act named Town Hall
This is for the great Cuyahoga fire, he said.
The snow I met was a cache of ashes.
It fell with vulcanized precision.
-Jeremy Nathan Marks
My tribute to Aretha Franklin can be found here: http://ratsassreview.net/?page_id=2944
LADY LUSTITIA (IT TURNS OUT)
-for Aretha Franklin & Angela Davis
It turns out that I should read everything into music-
That piano intro into Think . . .
it’s just the footfalls of four youths
an afternoon before they were shot down
in the Algiers Motel in the hometown of
The Queen of Soul.
Those rising horns in Sweet Sweet Baby . . .
three hundred and fifty years of tidal Mississippi
rising to raise a gin fan and Huck’s raft
plus the flotsam rope they cut for some boys from Scottsboro
All thrown off a Tallahatchie Bridge to go down to the Gulf.
Let it all wash out among the hulls
of sunken ships and blown well heads spewing
the blackest crude onto those white sands
of a Riviera in Mississippi where they wouldn’t serve
The Queen of Soul.
The backbeat to The Weight . . .
well, shit . . .
It turns out that the weight itself was something
some Canadian of Mohawk blood
channelled like another black man felt the Wabash Cannonball
thumping through his pulmonary until he just had to become
A Pullman Porter.
One among countless standing with patches
behind a hammer and a hoe.
All of them
and how many women
now soundtracking the debutante balls
on countless new plantations
from Oakland in Michigan
to Sunflower County
and the precincts of starvation wage
trash collectors in Shelby
that’s Memphis, baby
The Queen was there,
must always be where mourners
and eye-of-the-needle transponders
move like Miss Angela herself
through the halls of blind Lady Lustitia;
how long she gon’ wait?
The Queen ain’t done preaching.
-Jeremy Nathan Marks