Strange Love (2/2)

Have you ever been afraid that the world might end within a moment for no particular reason whatsoever? Have you ever been suspicious that if you read just the right line coined from the right poet with the right intensity and pitch of your voice, you can accidentally cause Earth’s fiery destruction? I hope so.

Because, you see, a world which can be shattered to pieces merely by the emotional buildup of a poem is the same world which another poem can reassemble on the very next day. It is a world preserved by its own power of self-expression, because it is a world which lives twice simultaneously. But today self-expression just as our ozone layer is endangered instead of supported by human technology. We seem to be concerned only with the “self-” part completely forgetting about the “expression” itself. What we often ignore is that self-expression is not merely to play music or to write verse or to paint, it is to a much higher degree listening, reading, absorbing, being curious and autodidactic, collaborating and experimenting. It is so easy these days to meet a British “poet” who has never heard of Ted Hughes or Philip Larkin or a German one who never found time to discover Hans Magnus Enzensberger or Gottfried Benn. It seems to me that contemporary communication made us feel more self-centred and self-absorbed than ever instead of widening our horizons for the work of others around us.

“Today literature and art are exposed to another danger. They are not endangered by ideology or a political party, but by an economic process without face, without soul and without direction. Its censure is not ideological. It has no ideas. It knows everything about prices and nothing about virtues.”                                                                                       – Octavio Paz, ‘Poetry and the Free Market’

I don’t miss the glorious days when T.S. Elliot and W.H. Auden were regarded as living demigods or when New York Times used to publish poetry on its pages, I don’t even miss the times when the governing elite of Ancient Ellada and Rome was abundant with true worshippers of poetry. Dreaming about this would have been sentimental and because of that – bad poetry. What I’d really like to see today is rage against the machine, rebellion against the dissolution of individuality in favour of mediocrity, dissatisfaction with the mass production and fabrication of music, literature and cinema. I am afraid that we will soon be able to create a machine indistinguishable from man not because Alan Turing said so but simply because we have turned ourselves into one of his definitions – by straightening up and abstracting all the curves and wiggles life has, by not admitting that reason and logic are not as fundamental to the human’s nature as the primordial power of metaphor and rhythm.

“I fought the law and the law won.”                                                                                              – The Clash

Day by day, I recognise more easily the patterns of the monstrous mechanisation and standartization that our society is going through. I see more and more people refusing to accept the fact that we don’t have mythology anymore, that we live in a world where mysteries are sentenced to death for being “one hundred percent truth and two hundred percent fiction”. The problem of poetry is that it is an incompetent businessman trying to capitalize on a highly distinctive and challenging product which no one is able to mass produce and standartize. A product that doesn’t impose on you any kind of cheap tricks and promises. Its packaging doesn’t try to flatter you, to reassure you or to convince you, it doesn’t bring you any short-term appeasement with yourself. Instead it very often wants you to “gaze into the abyss” and to realize that “the abyss gazes back into you”.

“Poetry is everywhere except in the poems of weak poets.”                                                   – Paul Claudel

Last but not least, poetry can be studied, but not taught. I find it really amusing that some people still believe that they can standartize poetry by creating a mechanical algorithm for creativeness. I am of course speaking of the fashionable creative writing courses. These are ridiculous because to try to study how to write poetry is like trying to study how to laugh at jokes. You don’t. It’s not funny. It’s an anti-joke and anti-poetry. If you devise an algorithm for how people should be creative, they won’t be creative anymore. Creativeness is always mysterious and unknown and that is why we appreciate geniuses. We simply don’t have a clue how do they do what they do. The day we understand that process will be the day when we are going to stop praising them for being creative.

But what is one way to write poetry? When mediocre musicians from the Austrian aristocracy asked Mozart how does he write music, he simply answered, “I bring together sounds which love each other.” As simple as a little night music. You see, footballers don’t write dissertations on how to play football. They come together and play. In the same way, a good poet plays football with a ball which nobody else can touch. The brilliant poet does the same with a ball which nobody else can see. I warned you. It is a strange love.

About the author:

Picture Bogomil Todorov GospodinovBogomil (20) participated in our workshop in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 2012. He currently studies Computer Science at the University of Southampton in England.

Strange Love (1/2)

“There are people who understand and love poetry and people who cannot stand it. The latter are much more and they are the masters of today’s world.”                                 – Lyubomir Levchev

These days only the poet himself doesn’t know what poetry is. He is the one who doesn’t try to beautify its dead lovers. He doesn’t take advantage of its former wives. He doesn’t kill it without making mistakes. He doesn’t dream of its cold comfort. He puts all his questions to its mirror. He doesn’t try to convince the shape of its stone in his firmness. He knows that if it is heads and he is tails, what’s important is the coin. But he is not its fairy tale.

If someone asks him why poetry is important or why he is interested in poetry, he answers that poetry is not important at all and that’s the sole reason for which he is interested in it. “In the century of you must do it because it is good for you”, he will continue, “there exists this special kind of artistry, this unique cross-breed of originality and cautious contemplation, this music for the inner ear and imagery for the inner eyes which is not doing any good to anybody”. The oldest tree in the forest, you see, is the most useless one, owed to the fact that it is good for nothing else but providing shade to strangers.

“Everyone stands alone at the heart of the world,
pierced by a ray of sunlight,
and suddenly it’s evening”
– Salvatore Quasimodo, Tutte le poesie

And this is precisely how a strange and unnecessary love like this can happen in an alternative world where happiness is not the universal virtue by default and clichés are not always regarded as common sense. Such a love seems to occur only when uncalled-for and unexpected and then disappears if you try to talk to her about the practical implications of her essence or the importance of her virtue. As Lao-Tzu once beautifully said, “A virtue that is aware of itself is not a virtue”.

Once Diogenes saw a child drinking out of his hands, and so he threw away his cup and said “That child has beaten me in simplicity”.

Yes, you don’t have to do it. If you can go without it, it’s better for you. To believe in absurdities is the first symptom of poetry and unless you are terminally ill with it, save yourself the trouble. If you believe it is inevitable, always have in mind that “the point of action is contemplation”. If you read and write poetry, don’t do it to put down people who may not look as erudite as you and don’t do it for the sake of being non-conformist, because this is exactly what conformists do. No insincere and inferior motivation will bring you the same experience as when you just do it for the sake of spontaneity. It’s not the same as going to the gym regularly or nightclubbing every Saturday even when what you really wanted was to sleep that night. There is no authority and no law which requires you to do it and no social pressure to do it under the false promises of certain yet never fulfilled future happiness.

“Because verse writing is an extraordinary accelerator of conscience, of thinking, of comprehending the universe. Having experienced this acceleration once, one is no longer capable of abandoning the chance to repeat this experience; one falls into dependency on this process, the way others fall into dependency on drugs or on alcohol. One who finds himself in this sort of dependency on language is, I guess, what they call a poet.”                                                                                                                                  – Joseph Brodsky

…continue to Part 2

About the author:

Picture Bogomil Todorov GospodinovBogomil (20) participated in our workshop in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 2012. He currently studies Computer Science at the University of Southampton in England.