Peter O'Leary - Full Video

Uploaded by cahEIU on 21.05.2011


[audience applause].
(Peter O'Leary). "The Collected Poems of
Sigmund Freud".
Sophists have stripped myths from the world like varnish
from a wreck room wet bar.
They've replaced it with existentialism and truistic
bumper stickers that, in spite of themselves are wise.
Take it easy, one day at a time.
The psychoactive sphere of life is rinsed with iridescence
then vanishes, a soap bubble.
A lifetime of survival, chlorophyll revives sentience
somehow, even as photosynthesis fails.
Depth once meant the hiddeness of God is intrinsic,
unabashed and remote.
Nowadays it means dredged to the surface,
integrated into the circuitry,
humming with common placement and anxiety.
Roger Tory Peterson's field guides to the birds of
North America are as mythic as any books of the past century.
Their direction is downward even as the surface seethes with
wingbeats, the least corrosive animal motion.
Though I would trade them for the interpretation of dreams in
a heartbeat, this exchange would not constitute a judgement,
only an admission of the importance of good maps
on the journey to the center of the Earth.
Only an admission that the bird life of my nighttime
evades my binocular eyes."
Thank you, John, for that introduction and for inviting me
to come read here today, I'm really pleased to be here.
And it's nice to see all of you people here on a
Thursday afternoon, chilly afternoon.
I'm reading, these are poems from a book,
my book that was the most recent book of poetry I've published,
which is called "Depth Theology."
The title for the book is, in some ways,
gives a little bit of context or it gives a little bit of sense
to the poems that I'm reading.
You may be aware of the phrase or the name depth psychology
which is used to refer to any psychology that accepts the
existence of the unconscious.
So it's mostly Freud, Jung, Addler, things like that.
The idea that the unconscious is real, you know, it's not some
construct, it's not behavioral, it's not some cognitive issue.
It's this thing that's real, and you can go to schools where,
you can go get a degree in religious studies, or go to a
divinity school, and you can study people like Freud
and Jung, precisely because the idea of the unconscious is
while it's not the same thing as, it's similar to what
most religions, most western religions, regard as the soul.
So there's a compatibility.
Even though Freud was, he was kind of vigorously
anti-religious in his thinking, but he obsessively wrote
about it, so it's kind of like Nietzsche.
They could never shake it, they couldn't get that
monkey off their back, the religion monkey.
Jung obviously, he turned it into, he turned psychology into
a kind of shamanism, which you know I kind of dig.
I mean, I like that about it.
So in any case, that phrase, depth psychology comes from,
it was coined by Jung's boss at this hospital in Zurich,
outside of Zurich called the Burghölzli.
It's where Jung had his first job, and it was,
I mean it was a classic loony bin.
People with dementia praecox, as they called it at the time,
and we now think of it as schizophrenia.
So really severe cases, Jung had a lot of hands on experience
with this, and his boss was this, it would be a normal name
if he weren't, you know, Swiss, but his name was Eugen Bleuler.
Love that. I mean, it's just Eugene, but oi-gen,
that's how they say it--Eugen Bleuler.
And Eugen Bleuler, he came up with this, he wanted to talk
about this psychology he was interested in which was
looking at these people as these living forces.
Even though they were disturbed, and what we would use is,
that would be the way we would think of them.
They're these living forces, these living realities, so
how do I acknowledge that they have something deep in them
and he coined this phrase, depth psychology.
When I was writing the poems for this book, I was kind of,
I wanted to imagine what a theology of the unconscious
would be like.
What would it be like to accept the idea that there are these
parts of the self, or the soul that are deep,
but that like the unconscious we can't know.
And they sort of erupt involuntarily into view at
times, so that's why "The Collected Poems of
Sigmund Freud," it's supposed to be funny.
Good, a little laugh.
I like that.
When I wrote these poems I had a kind of involuntary set of rules
that emerged, one was that there always had to be birds.
Birds had to come into the poems in some form or another.
I am an avid birdwatcher, so I can't really avoid it.
I'm going to read things from outside of this book and there
is going to be lots of birds as you're going hear.
I also wanted God, in some form or another,
to appear in each of the poems, some aspect.
And then the third thing was they all have
to be about anxiety.
Good times in this book.
Want to stay true to the title, I guess.
"The Rosetta Stone for Birdcalls."
Sometimes I do the thing where I have a title and then I start
the poem, sometimes I do that thing where I have a title
and it runs right into the poem.
You get to decide.
"The Rosetta Stone for Birdcalls is the
Rosetta Stone for human suffering.
Caw equals territorial outrage.
Musical flutings upwards equal the days of summer
are always declining.
Peep equals hunger, barrage of chirps equals desperate hunger.
Hooo equals the nest has been abandoned.
Varied pipings equals I surrendered my eggs
to a predator.
Grates and rusty noises equals the distance between us can only
be managed by violence.
Trill equals inadequacy of desire.
Low whistle equals difficulties with lice,
with bacteria, with fungus, et cetera.
No such stone ever hewn would translate lightning or torrent
a million years elicits.
No such stone would bear the incisions of the master's awl.
Such a stone would serve in stead as instruction manual for
building pyramids and museums.
When the accipiter in its suicidal plummets snatches
the finch, what instrument measures
the strum of the vibrating airs?
Who sees the god who plucks this lute?"
"Spiritual Giants."
For starters, cedar waxwings, maneuvering in summer leafage.
feathers greased with Vaseline.
Also the lark sparrow's buzzsaw song, a radar.
The song sparrow diminutive, who mounts up, tweet, tweet.
A Glossy Ibis, purple pharaoh of salt marshes.
Black crowned night heron master of an illusive attention,
extracting alewise from algae with evolutionary tongs.
Blue Heron, a god-arrow, saurian light practices for moonrise
on Saturn.
A black bile courses, eases, slenderous tendril
a Yellow Throat leans on a warrior stave.
The new rilke stumbles later on pebbles of foam littered in the
never-used party store parking lot, enumerates natural foibles
he avoids yet harbors nevertheless.
Thinks on birds he's seen, their wingbeats like strides,
the errors of birdwatchers.
The angels of Latium fade by daylight.
Meteor showers, migrations.
Nothing he thinks so sweet as some company.
This is a poem called "The Revival of the
Religious Sciences."
The title comes from one of the great Muslim scientists,
theologians, and thinkers, Al-Ghazzali, who wrote this big
tract called "The Revival of the Religious Sciences."
So I was interested that in Islam, religion has this,
is understood as a science.
You know, the thing that intrigued me is especially in
terms of the way religion is typically, the discourse of
religion, particularly in kind of popular or more sort of
widely circulated channels, tends to be very antagonistic
towards science or presents itself that way
or we're led to believe that there's this
dialectical opposition between the two.
It seemed really insightful that here's this, here's this, this
medieval Muslim thinker who, yeah, we're going to revive the
religious sciences.
Because that's the, the book is in four sections,
and that's the title of this particular section.
There are a couple of things in poetry that I really love,
you know, the way that a child loves sugary cereals.
I love lists, I love when lists come into poems, I love poets
who love to list, and I think it's one of the most
interesting, strangely simple things you can do in poetry.
Generate a lot of power that way.
I also love to make up words, and in the case of this poem,
I ended up making up a bunch of religious sciences,
and I gave them all Latin titles, so they would all
sound, there's no way you could dispute the authority
of these religious sciences I intend to revive in this poem.
So what I'm going to do is read my translations of my Latin.
And the Latin is, I mean, it's a total joke, so, if any of you
has Latin, please forgive me, or mea culpa, I'll say it that way.
The new sciences, because I'm going to get to them,
you'll find them in the poem here.
They are Roman Tumbling, Secrecy of Counting,
Breathing Techniques for Mass, Anxiety of Calligraphy,
Passional Etherdiving, Physics as Awe,
and The Reticent Knowledge.
The Revival of the Religious Sciences has an epigraph,
balsam of souls, the body is bliss.
That's Henry Vaughan, no palm branch, no citron, Inobis sin
anobis, the outer, the lower, the dark, extend unevenly
beneath the bubble of air, the universe.
Boundaries demarcated in light where the empire curls up
like a leaf, going only so far, even rapidly expanding space
goes only so far.
A disturbing shock percusses softly on the cymbal of atoms,
this sad science poetry.
Einstein guessed it, a ruse of depth.
New speeches, discontinuous light,
a mirror's broken surface.
Blood of two mourning doves glazes the cut plane.
A history of breakage is the history of the unconscious,
or its genesis, spoken into concentric flux,
moments of burial and resurgence spell the texture,
abrupt ligatures we dream there.
Before too long I want to revive the religious sciences
for the measurement of space for the demonstration of
physical uncertainty,
Dionysian icons lurid with heat, vivid terraces of saints
seething with entic entomoan knowledges.
Lunar moths, earwigs, queen bees, near translucent ants.
A restoration of the prairie grasses is a kind of cosmology.
I will call these new sciences
[unclear dialogue].
We spent millennia chasing the outward world,
hapless experts at exploring it.
We need now to look inside, in exchange for any lost progress,
I will give you 100 years of inwardness, a century of the
soul's spiral movement, labor, prayer, reading, inner energies
coalescing from lower domains, a private flaming ministry,
the most Miltonic knowledge."
"Indigo Cardinal."
It refers to two of my favorite birds.
The Cardinal--you gotta love the Cardinal in winter.
Thank goodness for that little splash of red.
And the Indigo Bunting.
"Indigo Cardinal."
"Wires tight across the carapace hum, from catgut strokes at the
bridge that shapes the ancient psalterium.
Force that twitches invisible in the instrumental ganglion
beneath the seed crusher's hollow bill.
This strange and uncanny process of crystallization.
Then it is nighttime again, and I go down a staircase,
carpentered with enclosure, I have this one steel-fired
sensation, holding the nerves of my neck like antlers.
Evil's abiding presence.
It's polar molecules whining in alignment,
it's microscopic flora and fauna."
This poem is called "Steering Goes Watery."
When I initially put this, when I initially put the poems in
this book together, I like another thing I really like are
notes, so there's a lot of notes in the book, there's like six
pages of notes, and they're ridiculous, but I had included
as a note for this particular poem, there's some data in
there that's one of the things is there's this church in
Gloucester, Massachusetts called Our Lady of Good Voyage.
And if you've ever been to Gloucester, the front of the
church faces the harbor, and at the apex of the facade,
there's Mary, mother of God and she's cradling this
object in her arm and it's not Jesus, it's a ship.
And I first learned about this in the poems of Charles Olson.
Charles Olson, as you're going to hear, shows up in the poem,
but when I put the notes together for this book,
I included a note saying, something like,
this really happened.
And a friend of mine who looked it over, he said,
yeah you should probably get rid of that, because I mean,
that should be the case for all of them.
You don't necessarilyy want to make people think,
well this didn't happen, this other poem, what's going on?
"Steering Goes Watery."
Beyond that barrier, a sucking motion keeps collapsing.
Speed falters, the water jacket, iron-hot, grills the cylinder
until the coolant vaporizes, or plumes into the gas tank,
reeking of cooked metal.
I don't understand it.
Drive belts shred like string cheese.
All of a sudden, the chassis starts floating,
There is a liquidy trickiness to life, an entropy of spillage.
I had a breakdown, a breakdown, one of many so far this year.
I-90 hummed there for five hours, warts of refineries,
bleak, jammed, motorway.
A killdeer claimed a greasy puddle under the armature,
its namesake call an alarm repeated.
By midnight, each minute was an egg deposited from the anus of
the queen bee into a waxy hexagon, sealed and remote.
Later Charles Olson stood in a street in Gloucester.
A smallish man, neat, trim.
He wore a kempt beard, a clean overcoat.
I knew him as death and called him father.
This made Olson laugh, because he knew the poet I thought of as
a father was already dead.
Soon, we are embracing.
I am so moved with affection for him, which he returns to me.
Above us our lady of good voyages is drooping light,
a weird anxiety and certainty.
I want to mention his glutenous pace, but there was none,
he could not walk.
What strange error of pride in the world made Olson?
For all the wreckage out there, a tow truck hopefully comes."
That's kind of, that's the motto of the book.
Hopefully it's coming, okay, seriously.
When the, so that did really happen.
And when it did, it was the engine block in my car cracked,
and when that happens, from your exhaust pipe
this unbelievably thick pluming smoke starts emitting
and it's got this incredibly pungent smell.
And we're driving along, my wife and I were leaving this unholy
wake that nobody could actually get through, so we pulled over
to the side, and I thought maybe if I let it cool down
and start it up again, and we were on the skyway
right by Gary, we were stuck near Gary, Indiana.
And I can see this guy's face to this day taunting me at my
weakest moment, sitting there, I just want to get home,
and I turn the car back on, and this smoke starts roaring
out of the tailpipe again, and this guy is driving by
and he rolls his window down and he goes,
It's yo' head gasket, it's yo' head gasket!
And he just drives on, that was it.
Isn't that great?
Because that guy had experienced it before
and he wanted me to know, like you're totally going nowhere.
This is a poem called "Lepra."
It starts with another epigraph, and this one is
from a book called "Jesus, a Revolutionary Biography"
by the controversial early Christian,
a scholar of early Christianity, John Dominic Crossan.
"The leprous person is not a social threat because of medical
contagion, threatening infection or epidemic,
as we might imagine, but because of symbolic contamination.
Threatening in microcosm the very identity, integrity,
and security of society at large.
Your rash is theological.
A havoc, a ravage, a scaph, mephitic alloy,
zymotic azoth, something alive, thus imperfect.
Do you love me, Peter?
Agape diluted into philo, so the psyche can apprehend it.
Is devotion a blemish?
Humors are juice, not excrement, a fluent part of the body
comprehended in it.
Unpurged ghosts daffidate the rescue of souls by God,
by loving women and men.
(unclear dialogue).
Leprosy is the soul in acathartic suspension,
your skin blistering with lesions, legion.
Separations yellow and daylight.
Cicatrization is flesh-darning in loving kindless.
I would lick your wounds until they sweetened sufficiently
to tolerate interrogation, its supine attendences.
Do you love me?
I'm listening.
Your recovery from this damage depends on this question.
Let me touch these exulcerations analogous to the thought
necrosis of your melancholy.
Let me mesh with you into an intersubjective
epic of connection.
Dream, my care is an analeptic lenitive, a loving prescription,
a list of useful books.
Healing is doctoring only in its glorification
of the mind embodied.
Life nosopneumonic to uneasiness expresses a cylix of dread
in the gut, a leukocytic syrup gagged forth in fits
or diffused in a gas of mystery.
You can only live in a cemetary out of fear of contact,
which is need of contact.
I don't even need to touch you to cure you.
To be clean, take this love a whop at your feet, touch it,
and with it, be touched."
I've always found that really fascinating, this notion that
leprosy which is one of the diseases that shows up in the
New Testament has this modern analogue, you know.
We think of it as leprosy, which is Hansen's disease,
which comes from a bacteria.
You know, it's totally contagious and that's why
leper colonies were created, but leprosy as it appears in
the New Testament, this word lepra had to do with
really bad rashes, really bad skin problems,
usually because people weren't clean enough, you know?
Like if you don't wash regularly, you're going to get,
your skin's going to get kind of nasty, and one of the things
about Jewish law was that you couldn't be oozing fluid
and go into the temple to perform sacrifices,
you had to be clean, you know?
This is why all the menstrual proscriptions arose,
which you know, you just have to read Leviticus, et cetera,
to glory in those.
But it's an interesting thing that it shifted over into the
New Testament in the terms of the way Christ, the story of
Christ is told, but from these four different writer's
perspectives and each of them is interested in, you know,
you can organize Christ's miracles into two basic groups.
Commensal eating--that is, he would eat with people
he wasn't supposed to, or touching-- he would touch
people he wasn't supposed to, or people would touch him.
So that's the sort of, that seems in itself an interesting
way to start thinking about what a miracle is.
Having to do with receptivity, having to do with contact,
something like that.
I'm going to read for you now some selections from this,
the poem that I'm working on right now.
This is a long poem called the "Phosphorescence of Thought."
Sometimes the poetry reading can be this thing where the poet
reads and everybody's expected to understand what he's
talking about, and then the way typically that this is mediated
in an event like this is, I'm supposed to be kind of ironic.
And that's supposed to put you at ease in some way, but,
you know, there's a lot of stuff that goes into writing a poem,
some of which I am aware of, and some of which I am not.
It's kind of ridiculous for me to expect you to have any idea,
at any point, what I'm talking about.
So then that puts me in the position of explaining some
things, and it's hard not to sound kind of pedantic in that
situation, so I've been experimenting with this
and I've been trying to find a kind of middle way, I guess.
How to explain certain things without going into a lecture,
and also, how to just read things and allow you to
hopefully appreciate them for what's there.
So I'll give you just a couple of little bits of information.
And I give these to you because, you know, this is my,
this is sort of my investment in this material kind of
arises from these things.
The title comes from a phrase that appears in the works of the
Jesuit palaeontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
That's kind of a strange label, Jesuit palaeontologist.
He was a controversial figure when he was,
shortly after he died.
While he was alive, nobody really knew about him because
he took his vow of obedience to the Society of Jesus very
seriously, and the authorities in the Societies of Jesus would
not allow him to publish his controversial,
theological writings.
His scientific writings were published widely,
he wrote a lot of papers.
He's famous for discovering the Peking Man,
which at the time was the oldest complete humanoid skeleton,
I think it was 300,000 years old or so.
He spent most of his adult life living in China or the Gobi
desert, often alone or with a few other Mongolian yak herders
or something like that.
In his, probably his most important book is a thing
called "The Phenomenon of Man".
That's usually how it's translated into English,
but could just as easily be "The Human Phenomenon."
And he had this idea that as humans were evolving through
time, God was also evolving, and this co-evolution was going to
lead toward this Omega Point.
That's the name he gave to it, in which he believed at that
moment, humans and God would be completely identical.
The whole universe would become Christ.
He was, afterall, Catholic.
But he also was a guy who was positing the very first genuine
theories of evolution in a Christian theological sense,
not feeling that there was an antagonism.
So, the "Phosphorescence of Thought" refers to this little
moment in which he imagines a martian looking at the Earth,
and he says the thing that would be most impressive to a martian
would not be the blue of its oceans or the green of its
trees, but the phosphorescence of its thought.
He had this idea that there was this incredible incandescent
energy of human thought, this what he called the psychosphere
or the, would advance into the noosphere, that is the sphere
of the mind that was encompassing the Earth,
and there was this scintillating network of activity just based
on human thought and energy.
I love that phrase, I love what it means about the world that we
live in, so this poem is about this.
Well, it's kind of about the mind,
and it's kind of about these birds that I see in this
place where I do a lot of birdwatching,
which is on the Des Plaines River, which is a little,
kind of nasty little river, that's on the western,
runs through the western suburbs of Chicago.
It emerges kind of beautifully and pristinely up in Wisconsin
and then is, you know, is sooted and soiled as it makes it way
eventually to the Mississippi.
But as it passes through Chicago, more and more junk
is dumped into it, unsurprisingly.
There are two words that kind of center or locate the poem.
I'll explain these, and then I'll actually read some things.
The words are, and they're both words that I made up.
The first one is leutrescent, I kind of will explain that
in the poem as you'll see that I'm just about to read.
And leutrescence is, it's the word putrid matched with the
word lucid or, it's putrescence with something that's lucid or,
so it's light gone rotten.
I feel like that's what evolution is.
It's light that just keeps, it's like fruit that gets
riper and riper and riper.
There's something beautiful and nasty about it.
And then the other word is autocthonimous,
it's kind of a crazy word.
So it comes from autochthonous, which is from the Greek 'self',
auto, thonos, for Earth.
So it's something that comes from the Earth,
but I wanted to slip in there nomos, which is Greek for Law,
so it's like the Earth's, the law of itself.
The Earth's own law, which I feel, that's what evolution is.
You know that's the Earth's law, that's the Earth's expression.
That's its authority in some way.
This is the opening of the poem.
"The wren the mind allows to sing alights and flits on
branches bare of anything other than
the sun's ceaseless iodine.
The woods at dusk flood with like sutra
meditators seep their thoughts in, neurochemicals recall from
the galaxy's antique axiometry.
Alongside the Des Plaines River folding creamy grey
through the trees, bubbles with pungent yeasts
and plumed in cottony lutrid foam engineered by
embankments men pile up to keep the river tan.
The mind.
The mind assuming reality, the minds feel the forces,
its fluid exuberance rebeginning, leaping up,
folding back into terminal unities endlessly varying
Cluster, synthesis, network, node, centration,
the re-entering mental impulse, the herring gulls circling
their yellow gapes, little crimson dots, breeding season.
The mallards, their rotating strokes around the whorls,
dabbling, those lurid irisized heads.
Lutrid, leutrescence, that's the mind's excessive novelty, a tool
preposterously ductile, language pulling sound, image, light
fluidly together.
Freely commandeers to feel reality,
to imagine light gone rotten.
The wren, again, a house wren, its beak a slightly silvered
sickle, its remembered song rapidly rolling a
bubbling liquid trill.
An outlandish complexity copied inventively from an adult,
a male, not his father.
A descending chirping, a draining descant he variously
daylong intones marking the little log he's nesting in.
To begin, the woods, the little shabby forest preserve.
The swerve of its trashy paths, the partying in its clearings.
The little house wren in it, his cinnamon supercillium.
The drab pattern of his plumage, and his mate, their clutch
of seven pea-sized eggs, luminously speckled, secreted
deep in a cavity excavated down into the fallen log.
The red headed woodpeckers, the flickers darts defying gravity,
their malars neon slash.
The red-bellied picidous, its deeply undulating flight.
The avain cocaine I take him for.
What evolutionary acquisition does that vibrant red express?"
It's true, woodpeckers are like cocaine.
You see them, it's like, wow!
"What evolutionary acquisition does that vibrant red express?
And what do I love in loving thee?
Lumin de Lumine, Deum verum de Deo vero, génitum, non factum,
consubstantiálem Naturi: Per quem ómnia facta sunt."
So that comes from the credo in the Latin Mass.
It's the light from light, true God from true God,
begotten, not made, one in being with the Father
through whom all things were made.
So I swapped out "patri," which is Latin for "father,"
with "naturi," which is "nature."
So, "one in being with nature"
through whom all things were made.
It's a little blasphemous, little bit.
"With the oldest cherubim of knowledge, the phanophageous
cherubs devouring with their bodies the light they transform
into scissoring flame flared forth sword-like and brandished
unspeakably world-like, fully, recklessly, imagined.
We now begin our study of the mind within.
Let us use the words psychic overtones, suffusion or fringe.
Let us speak in whispers of the one, of the meticulous hinge on
the book of knowledge, hidden in wrapped prolusion, a part.
Come, let us use the word re-entry, let us sing the
differentiating motions whereby thoughts signals slide in
runnels down the mind's great glacial expanse, pooling at the
base, lubricating its massive shelves, its agonized calves.
Let us use the word epistrophe to mean the turning back of
otherwise organized energy to the supraorganized
diadem of the Godhead.
Premeditated acts of prayer, precognitive flights of birds.
The warbler, the oriole, the blackbird, the bunting,
the sparrow, the waterthrush, the warbler, the wren,
the wren, the hermit thrush, the warbler, the redstart,
the yellowthroat, the sparrow, the kinglet, the kestrel,
the hawk, the wren, the kestrel, the cranes."
Another list.
I like the lists.
"The slain wren, the golden crested wren, the hunted wren,
the little king, the father's murderer, God sparrow,
the prophetic bird, the ornithological fact, the house
Zion myth, the floating nest, the vivid plumage plunged into
the sea, the king of trees, the soul of the oak, the copper
fezzard, the copper feathered pheasant, the hornet headed
drake, the wind colored snipe, the crimson hooked gull, the
awkward young hawk, the azimuthal thrush, the
terraglossy crow, the wren in a central place, the starlings'
entwirling squadrons, the archenoatic cranes, the
fattening hens, the unabashed chikadee, the sepulchral swans,
the slaughterous rookery, the autarchic bird lord,
the pleromatic fixation, the autistic nucleus, the Canaanite
mythology, the silly Celtic lore, the centroverted
formation, the ocean of godhead, the self-re-entrant pathology,
the lifespanning midst, the cannablism, the sorceress who
transforms men into animals, the fermamentally liberating act,
the inner voice."
And I'm going to, I'm going to finish with one last list.
It's a little bit longer, but oh so worth it.
Just a little bit more context here.
Just so it's not me reading a sort of wildly effusive list.
The thing I'm going to read is based on this medieval
Latin hymn called the "Benedicite."
It's basically, is, it's basically a praise of creation.
You know, benedicite kind of means sing praises.
And it lists everything, all creation, it says.
All you angels of God, sing the praises of God.
All you rivers and streams, sing the praises of God.
All you snows, all you seasons, everything.
Goes through the list and it uses this really beautiful
repetition of the word benedicite.
And then, and then the word either benedicat or laudate.
And again, just sing the praises,
say good things about these.
And I became really interested in this when I watched a couple
of--I guess maybe it was a year ago, a little bit longer ago
than that, a year and a half ago--the film
"Into Great Silence," by Philip Gröning.
He's a German filmmaker, he had five years or so
in which he had this kind of exclusive access to
this Carthusian monastery in the French Alps.
And he just recorded these monks doing there things like
gardening and picking up stuff, feeding cats, and praying and
they take vows of silence, so the only time they vocalize
is when they're praying together, six times a day.
And one day a year, or a few days a year, they get to go out
and kind of frolic in the fields together, and they talk.
And he captured this particular day, and I mention this because
it shows up at the end of this part of the poem
I'm going to read.
These monks, they have this one day when they can go out
and, you know, shoot the shit, and what they talked about
is, there's this towel that was in front of this door,
and it had been moved, and they had this intense
theological discussion about that towel.
And you know, one of them says, if we change the symbols,
we destroy our house.
You know, it's like that's their chat, that's their small talk
on their day off.
There's a version of the Benedicite in the
Book of Common Prayer, the Anglican prayer book.
I'll just read you the first two lines of it
so you get a sense of it.
"O all ye Works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord: praise him,
and magnify him forever.
O ye Angels of the Lord, bless ye the Lord: praise him, and
magnify him for ever", so you get a sense of the repetitions.
I wanted to figure out how I could bring that into my poem,
and how I could do it without relying overly on liturgical
language, because liturgical language is vivid in the context
of liturgy, and it is static outside of that context,
I've found, because I've tried to bring it into poetry,
it can't be done.
You've got to be in the moment of the liturgy for it to work.
So you've got to come up with something else to hold the
energy of the liturgical power, and it took me a little bit,
a little while, but in consultation with a good friend
of mine, I realized I could simply repeat the word "you"
as you'll see, and that's going to be the kind of
anchor to all of this.
And what I wanted to do is take the Benedicite which is maybe
20, 25 lines long or so, but I wanted to include everything
that I could into it.
The whole, all of creation, the whole history from the big bang
up to right now, if possible, and in you know three pages.
So that's where we're at.
I'm going to have to, I have to lubricate a little here.
I feel my voice going.
"Make holy, all you Works of God, with praise and exaltation.
You Angels of God in you heavens, you magnifiers of
all the single quantums of original energy.
You primordial billion of years, depthless night
shuttered toward transfiguration through.
You praise, you magnification, you unbearable creative moment,
you consuming sacrificial force.
Make holy you galactic internal dynamics, you spew of stars,
you luminous intensities.
You waters coursing over heaven and you dynamos generating
their power, you slow-burning yellow star, you socket of life.
You Sun and Moon, you same sized argentine luminaries drifting in
the skies, you fungal spores into the sinuses huffed.
You wicked lunar eclipse, you dias of cooling lightyears.
Make holy this song by blessing, by building up with praises you
telescope of time.
You notion of creation, you most antique ledge
of energy appears toward.
You aeonic disdain, you horror Taurus, you flowing forms, you
atmospheric womb, you cellular chemistries, you earthly life.
You showers and dew, you souls, you tenderly dusted, glimmering
mineral energy wound, you little animations of things, you
prokaryotic cells, you knitters together,
you fashioners of life.
Make holy this song by filling your chemical bellies
with food from the Sun by binding packets of bright
particles sped down to the brooding Earth with
data of the life mass.
And make holy, you fires, you head, you winters, you hot
summers, you dews and dendritic frosts, you icy rinds and you
polar colds, and you praisers and exalters, you oxygen
saturating Earth's system, you environmental instability,
you cosmic burning aspect, you fire-starters, you setters
ablaze of things, you oxygen devouring eukaryotic cells,
you sweet fuckers, you meiotic gametic procreant urge,
you involuntary erections and you sexual daytime.
You avid winter ice and you fluffy winter snows,
you days and nights passing through them.
You light, you gloomy darkness, you bottomed-down sadness,
sadder still, you exfulgerations and you clouds, you rapid
hapless scattering of electricity.
Make holy this song you multicellular forms, you bodies,
you polyps, you worms, you insects, you clams, you sponges,
you spiders, you leeches, you backbones, you lifeforms.
Surging, metabolizing, expiring, you corpses, you spent energy,
you unspooling tendrils of mushroom protein,
you anuses extruding that vitalizing hash,
you necrophagous moonlight fruits,
you eaters of your own dead and you living things,
you caloric scavengers and you sex scroungers.
Make holy this song, you fountains gushing up and
you seas and flumes, you rivers flowing, you sad sewage foaming
and you amylaceous wastes curdling, you tannic yeasty
odors and you passerines migrating through the leaves
oxygenating the reek, you hydrodynamic pluvious
Des Plaines, you lather at the turbine falls,
you guggle twitching spent alongside.
Make holy this song you mammals,
you new emotional sensations, you intoxicated central nervous
system, you flowers displaying and you pollinators,
you songbirds and you sexual colors and you flesh of fruit,
and you mother and baby, sensing the quality
of these things and remembering it.
You elephantine massive whales and whatever else in the waters
moveth, you birds of the sky threading the air with flight,
you innovation of flying.
You lumbering beasts of the land, you cattle sweet as grass,
and you handsome cougars slain in the neighborhood.
Bracket that--last year, this cougar showed up in Chicago
and everybody freaked out and it got cornered by the cops
and it was slain and they showed pictures of it
in the newspaper the next day
and it was the most gorgeous animal.
it was like a three hundred pound cougar that just
came into Chicago following the river.
Got into the neighborhoods, that's just amazing.
Of course, you know, they had to kill it.
I think it was probably too crazy otherwise,
but it seems like they could have tried to capture it.
I don't know.
"You handsome cougars slain in the neighborhood."
I wanted to get him in the poem.
"And you little housecat sphinxes perplexing the sun,
you peoples, you daughters and you sons.
Make holy this song, you quadripedal hand freed
from the task of walking, you eye seeing at flecks,
you sweet liquor of rain, you sweet liquor of light
and rain falling down, you mind imagining this,
you sweet interiors, by magnifying the moment,
by corroding the pathways that internal vision follows,
by decaying the mind towards morbid presciences
imagination fecundates.
Make holy this song, you trillions of neurons keeping the
creature, you stellar vistas of cells, you epiphenominal loop,
you initial leap from action to reflection, from pathway to
memory, you self-thought, you slot of distinction, you
crashed acid and phosphorescent flare, you infancy,
you chance to learn, you curious sexual forms,
you phallic thumb of love and you threster holding me tight,
you pressure in the uterine clutch, you glare of the rich
palpation, you proposition of sperm, you orchid boat and you
winged serpent, you sweet sleepiness, you relaxed body,
you nations of the world, you language coming in,
and you priests serving God, you spirits, you souls,
you depths, you justice, you holiness, you humble heart.
Make holy this song you eccentrations
of life, you leutrescent syrup in the veins, you autocthonimous
animal forms shifting nematic imaginal shape, by numerously
erupting with fire, by impulsively giving birth,
by catastrophically sanctifying the metaphors.
By interpenetrating the coital cluster, by singing out love's
ancient evidence, by haplessly magnifying the glassy
melancholic interiors, by warding us with charms,
by stiching us alphabetic talismans from strands of DNA,
by forming tissues from moonspores and rubber,
by leading us on, by thinking,
by praising and exalting the Lord forever.
If you abolish the symbols, then you tear down
the walls of your own house.
You should unfold the core of the symbols,
we are the questions, so praise, Ananias, Azarius, Misael,
bless the Lord, praise and exalt him forever."
Thank you very much.