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Archive for the ‘Poetry in Motion’ Category

Happy Bloomsday, 16 June 2017. If you’ve ever tried to read James Joyce’s Ulysses, but had trouble getting through it, you may find this series of Limericks helpful, even illuminating. Or if you read it all the way through, and even enjoyed it, you might actually find this series entertaining.

 

“Ulysses”
There once was an artist called Stephen
With Homer he tried to get even
So Bloom and he walk
Around Dublin and talk
And reflect upon what they believe in

 

Telemachus (episode 1)
It starts with a portion of prose
From “Portrait” our character rose
A maker of mazes
His thoughts take us places
Like the Liffey his monologue flows

 

Nestor (episode 2)
At school young Stephen is teaching
And into the past he is reaching
By his’try they’re bound
To a king and his crown
And a Pope who’s incessantly preaching

 

Proteus (episode 3)
Introducing the Protean mind
Streaming with thoughts of all kind
The king can change shapes
As our hero escapes
On a quest for a woman who’s kind

 

Calypso (episode 4)
Calypso is leading a life of seduction
As Leopold seldom attempts reproduction
Their home goes to Blazes
While Bloom simply gazes
At maidens who gaily portend his destruction

 

Lotus Eaters (episode 5)
Naughty Miss Martha she beckoned
For Henry was lonely she reckoned
But when she comes calling
He can’t help from falling
Some thirty-two Bloom feet per second

 

Hades (episode 6)
In Hades his thoughts grow nightmarish
On the losses of loved ones we cherish
Of Rudy’s young face
And father’s disgrace
Each day umpteen thousand more perish

 

Aeolus (episode 7)
There’s a paper where men shoot the breeze
Blowing steam over Mad Cow’s Disease
Home Rule is one topic
On which they’re myopic
For our heroes have both lost their keys

 

Lestrygonians (episode 8)
There was an old Hebrew in search of a bite
In the lunchroom he witnessed a sickening sight
With the animals feeding
He felt like excreting
But a sandwich he managed to eat with delight

 

Scylla & Charybdis (episode 9)
Now Stephen’s reasons seem so circumstantial
Prince Hamlet distracts him from problems financial
In a sharp dialectic
And a voice apoplectic
He maintains that the actors are all consubstantial

 

Wandering Rocks (episode 10)
Inverts and adverts and throwaway sheets
The minions meander through mazes and streets
A priest on parade
A state cavalcade
The double-edged spoon from which Ireland eats

 

Sirens (episode 11)
A hero hears voices out over the oceans
While sirens fill glasses with succulent potions
His eardrum it pounds
With sonorous sounds
And somewhere a street girl seductively motions

 

Cyclops (episode 12)
I once knew a man who was prone to eruption
Lashing about at the eye of destruction
Exalting his land
Libation in hand
Then blinded by no man with no introduction

 

Nausicaa (episode 13)
O’er the sea sinks the sun with contrition
To be watching alone is the human condition
Like a rock on the sand
Honeymoon in the hand
Sowing seeds with no chance of fruition

 

Oxen of the Sun (episode 14)
There was a commotion in yon House of Horne
By three days of labor a mother was torn
While gentlemen waiting
Delivered words so degrading
The god-possibled soul of a new boy was born

 

Circe #1 (episode 15)
A vision at midnight by magic affected
But Bloom’s black potato is bound to correct it
Like a morsel of moly
To reverse the unholy
The remedy found where you least would expect it

 

Circe #2
Our pig-headed heroes wind up at Miss Bello’s
One of the district’s most fetching bordellos
Where spirits might render
Delusions of splendor
Finally conjoining these two wayward fellows

 

Circe #3
Stubbornly Stephen’s extending his nerve
“Non Serviam” he will duly observe
While Bloom takes a bow
Like a suckling sow
The artist announces that he will not serve

 

Eumaeus (episode 16)
In the wee early hours their congress occurs
Perfectly sober Bloom sorely infers
That Stephen’s been euchered
Forsaken and suckered
And therefore he (Bloom) at this treason demurs

 

Ithaca (episode 17)
How shall this hero extinguish his passion?
With questions all posed in fastidious fashion
Then where does he head?
But straight for the bed
Right back to the womb and the voice of compassion

 

Penelope (episode 18)
They’re fleshing things out at their Eccles address
Erupting with feelings she needs to express
She wonders half sleeping
Is Poldy worth keeping?
And answers in estrous emphatically Yes

 

Re(ad)Joyce
Poetry students are said to be sissies
They wander through life like a string of ellipses
Other vocations
Achieve higher stations
But all of it’s useless unless it’s Ulysses

 

 

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new-dogma-tof

Exalt the New Dogma

For the last few hundred years, advances in hard science have slowly but surely rendered faith and religion more and more obsolete, at least in the minds of many casual onlookers. Recent breakthroughs in genetics, cosmology and elsewhere, have made the belief in a supernatural divinity untenable for almost any rational thinking person. Reason and research have opened our eyes to vast new vistas, and closed the doors on those myths and ideologies that had served mankind for millennia.

The Age of Enlightenment taught us to trust in material facts and to look for explanations that stand up to robust analysis, but in the process we’ve extinguished the flame of a different kind of thinking, no less valuable for being irrational. Carl Jung famously said that anyone who thinks that religion and science are incompatible must not have a proper understanding of either. Sometimes you need one, sometimes you rely on their other, but they both have their utility. Science works great for curing diseases and putting rockets in the air, but another way of thinking is needed to cure the sense of meaninglessness which has become the plague of modernity.

You might say that the dark wine of religion and mysticism has been turned into the transparent H2O of scientific certainty. Or, if you’re not so keen on the New Testament imagery, consider instead an analogy from Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860). He compared the myth and lore of religion to a vase full of water. The decorative vase serves like the “lies” that we see on the surface. But on the inside, it actually carries something precious, an ineffable truth, which, like water, cannot otherwise be grasped.

As the metaphysical truths are too abstract to be spoken in common language, we must resort to a vocabulary of images and allegories to convey the esoteric wisdom. The point is to be discerning. When we are thirsty for the truth, we cannot derive genuine nourishment from the man-made vessel, the way fundamentalists mistake illustrative myth for actual history. Equally important, we must not cast out the holy water with the vase, just because the ceramic pitcher doesn’t match the Pyrex beakers of the laboratory.  Every narrative has its explanatory powers, but the strictly objective makes a poor and costly substitute for the intuitive.

I leave you with the words of Sophocles: “Nothing vast enters the lives of mortals without a curse.”

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Drop in on Hades

hades-tof

An eerie feeling has swept across the globe this week. A kind of darkness.

In the Greek underworld, the ferryman Charon carries departed souls over a river of dread and into that immeasurably long night, where they will wander the fields indefinitely.

But for those whose souls consist of something richer, something divine, escape is possible. The darkness is digested and the soul is nourished. Out of the grief, the misery, the loss, the anguish, comes a sparkling treasure, a shining jewel.

Some will journey into rehab, some will journey into divorce court, and some will journey into a state of profound confusion. Sometimes we must make that journey together. And when we return to the light of day, we will reap the most incredible bounty and share our rewards like brethren and sisters.

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being-time-tof

Here’s another morsel from the Tao of Fred collection of theologically and metaphysically inspired Limericks. For those without so much philosophy under their belts, I’m now including a brief explanation and commentary on the often esoteric themes.

In the first half of the twentieth century, continental philosophers like Heidegger and Sartre took some of the existentialist ideas of Soren Kierkegaard and ran with them. Where Kierkegaard looked to a Christian conception of God to resolve the tension between existence in time and transcendence of the eternal, the later existentialists removed God from the equation,  focusing instead on each man’s freedom and the need to choose a mode of existence that was true and authentic for that individual.

Martin Heidegger, featured here, was particularly obsessed with the idea of Being, and like Bill Clinton, he was profoundly concerned with what the definition of is is. According to Heidegger, people had lost a sense of what Being really meant, and in his works he elevated—nay, exalted—Being to a nearly numinous status.

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German Philosophy

 

I recently relocated from California to Germany, where I’ve been immersing myself in German philosophy and other recondite subject matter. The major life event inspired this piece of poetry:

 

Turning Leaves in the Vaterland

Leaving California to take a long jaunt
Gonna trade in my flip flops for a treatise from Kant
From soft sandy beaches where waves hit the ground
To the land of philosophers ultra-profound

No more customary hummus and bagel
Instead I’ll devour a volume of Hegel
Farewell to the redwoods and poppies I’m seeing
I’m throwing myself into Heidegger’s Being

Good-bye to the Batu and Art After Darks
Time for some history according to Marx
So long to Higuera, the Barefoot Contessa
Bring on the archetypes with old Hermann Hesse

Good-bye to the sunshine, its endless warm rays
Meister Eckhart shines too with his mystical ways
My luggage is packed and the bags have been checked
Including a meaningful drama by Brecht

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The following two pieces of poetry were written for my brother ,who’s recently been undergoing some major life transitions and is currently trying his best to dig his way out of a pretty deep hole. Our mother has done everything she can, and more, to help point him in a better direction, at the expense of her own mental health.

Ballad for the Brother Man

Enter the drifter in flip flops and shades
Natural fibers he wears them in spades
An early adopter and outspoken voice
On cannabis, hummus and freedom of choice
For the healing of nations, with high expectations
Addressing the X and the Y generations

Committed to justice, resolved to be fair
A chip on his shoulder and knots in his hair
Running for freedom—and from the man
From Redlands to Redway in the mystery van
But something inside him just wasn’t quite right
A piece of his clockwork was wound up too tight

His handshakes and patience grew colder and shorter
The head doctors call it bipolar disorder
A label, a stigma, we’d rather deny
But the DSM guide couldn’t possibly lie
He rises and falls like some volatile tide
The peaks and the valleys are too much to hide

A dark lonely whirlpool devours the light
And all hope is lost like a ship in the night
The captain and crew are all swept out to sea
So bowing to Neptune we pray and we plea
That like sailors of old with their lemon and lime
We’ll forestall this sad scurvy and waste no more time

*****

It has recently come to my attention that many of my poems and compositions are being reviewed by a team of analysts and therapists, so I’ve decided I better try and step up my game. I apologize in advance if this effort should fall flat. In response to the generally favorable reaction to the previous verse, I offer this rhyming addendum.

Stellar Stellar Night
Shining and spinning with Kraft and with Schwung
Consider the circles of Carlos G. Jung
Archetypal patterns engraved in the stones
Vessels we fill with our minds and our bones

Binary stars and both burning too brightly
To enter their orbit, I warn you: Tread lightly
Get caught in the middle and cradle your heart
For gravity’s forces might tear you apart

One giant feeds on the fuel of another
In fiery red burns the blazing big brother
Intense indigo from the scorpion mother
Yet the shadow of one is the light of the other

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Ups and Downs

Another philosophical Limerick, in which I consider the highs and lows of life and decide to embrace them all for the most complete and fulfilling human experience.

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