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As an example of poetry defined as spiritualism, I draw lines from a poem of
my own making. "Halloween Night, East Village." The poem fails as
literature, but succeeds as example of a verse that evokes the dream-state
as poetic device. The reliance on devices of supernatural phenomenon alone
create a mood of euphoria and mysticism. Nothing wrong with euphoria or
mysticism. But these two factors are not enough to make for poetry.

The result is whimsy, hallucinatory fluff. A portion of the poem follows.
The narrator awakens on Halloween night to see in the street Emily
Dickinson, Lord Byron, John Keats, Baudelaire, Robert Burns and  many other
poets.

Halloween Night, East Village
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

   That night in Greenwich Village, the holy hush of 3AM,
   A touch of madness in the air, I heard it for the first time
   A mystical whisper from the street below---
   And gazed down to see gathered in the street
   The faces of ghostly luminaries,
   The changing identities of vagrant dark spirits
   And heard them murmuring many a charming remark--
   And knew at once the most fantastic moment had come upon the Village
   And fresh from the past came their brilliant visions brought,
   Talking, sometimes without words, the sounds made of quiet,
   Trembling in the air, sweet scented dreams and joyous the celebration
   And bearing the extraordinary news of a hard-fought revolution won--
   I saw Geoffrey Chaucer, Ezra Pound, Longfellow, Tennyson,
   There was Blake and Keats and Shelley and Kipling and Wells,
   Could it be? The crowd that had made the wonders of a timeless age?
   There Whitman and Poe and Twain and there Dickens and Melville Sapho,
   Was I asleep?

   I heard the sweet voices ring out below me in the street.
   I heard the words bursting from deep within, it trickled up out of their
      bones,
   Sometimes so faint I felt as though a book had opened the words like
      stones
   Hurled their cries up, and I knew at once the difference between the
   dreamer
   And the dream. The art and the artist and the beauty they made and born,
   The great art and the heroic deed marching through the street,
   And all were joyous singing and mouthing the words
   To the new beginning and the victory of the Timeless Age,
   And all looked quaint and friendly, such lovely ghosts and their bright
      faces


   The Great Age sprang up from the streets
   And called round the city, tapping on windows,
   Rapping on doors, crying out the news of an age born
   Of yesterday, so long ago, yet mysterious and unborn,
   Come upon them now and burning down in the cool light,
   The night and its merriment suddenly exploded in their skulls,
   Bright red flames flickered up in their eyes,
   Their wild ghoulish souls leaped forth
   And shimmered up in the shop windows
   And the dark sang with them, as they wandered the streets
   All night, all night these souls of darkness knocking on doors,
   Turning knobs, waking us, looking into our faces,
   Their bright ghostly round faces turning dim,
   And asking for so little, only that they we join them.
   The East Village set flying, and the dark mad streets
   Crying, the pale clouds of souls creeping
   Up the sides of tall buildings, fumbling
   For the primitive voice that would bear
   The perfect cool touch to wake the past,
   The wild fierce vast tenderness
   Like the sudden rumble of a train in our bones.
   Blasting our ears with the astonishment of great joys,
   The mad fits and the frenzied outbursts so dark
   And the dead animal joys,
   Scurrying through the dark mad streets,
   Mistaking the dark of a time for drunken fools,--
   The bliss of victory running through our veins,
   The fiery faces of drunken mirth, the rocking
   Of the streets, back and forth, the power
   That came from us like a dream we could never remember,

   The bright faces of a thousand dead poets streaked
   With joy and their loud tumultuous cries
   Bright red flames flickered up in their eyes,
   Their wild ghoulish souls leaped forth,
   And shimmered up in the shop windows
   And the dark sang with them, as they wandered the streets
   All night, all night these souls of darkness knocking on doors,
   Turning knobs, waking us, looking into our faces,
   Their bright ghostly round faces turning dim,
   And asking for so little, only that they we join them.

****
Another example hallucinatory follows.


The Diener

If I should die to-night
And you should come to my cold corpse and say,
Weeping and heartsick o'er my lifeless clay---
  ---Ben King "If I Should Die" (1857-1894)

I was the diener on duty when they brung him.
Mr Lincoln lie flat on his back and they come round,
The doctors looking upon his corpse.
The certificate been writ.
But they come look anyway,
And they eyes dark as holes in the ground,
They mouths quivering, sad somebody
Shot him and the terribles come over
Them faint. They sad hearts
Like a pack of dogs yapping
At the scent of horses.
The torn flesh too much to look upon,
And dripping on the floor,
The blood and tears.
Such savage blows took him
And slay the life from his bones.
The blood I thought was mine.
And sudden burst out his chest
A wind, a storm blew,
His soul sprang up
And lifted the room.
Swept out and rang the church bells,
Spun the weather vanes atop
The schools and broke the windows
In the theatre where it all happened.
Startled the dark, rumbled off
Through the state of Virginia,
Knocking down fence posts
And blowing out candles for miles.
The doctors knowing of such things
And not being surprised none the least,
Stepped back, momentarily courteous
In their esteem for the dead,
Closed upon him when the wind died,
Not one put on notice
At the phenomenon.
There being great mystery
Upon each dead person visited,
And why not this one?
A horrid black landscape the sinews,
And unusual works of the intestines,
Turns and twists beneath and around,
Spun through him like any creature
Caught by time or hunted.
The quarry of the mad man.
I began to ache like a dead man.
There was a fever in me,
But when I touched his hand
Cold and frost covered me
From head to foot.
The coldest fire ablaze
Inside me broke.
That world too far for me to know.
The unfolding of his flesh,
The pain of it that strange.
Later that night they come
And wake me and asked me
To stand him down.
He been embalmed, pretty quick.
Remove him to the lower quarters.
Lay him in the coffin.
He weighed about three ton.
I wrestle him from off the block.
I pulled and shoved him,
He pulled and shoved me back like the dead
Always do on account they don't like it.
His limp arms and neck, they fall back.
They curl around me.
He grunt. I carry him down the stairs.
He know me. He opened his eyes.
Look at me and say them sad soft words
In my ear that make me feel so lonely.
I dress him up. I pretty up his face.
All pink rouge, smidgen of charcoal,
Touch off his cheeks and lilac-scented
Sprinkle, daub, rub him to life.
Dress him in that Sunday black suit,
Button it up, straighten his tie,
Shine his shoes, trim his beard,
A little, not too much,
Just off the sideburns.
His ghostly stillness
In that mule-drawn wagon
Moved the country.

********************************
These poems fail as they rely too heavily on hallucinatory devices.

Not that I am a believer in poetry’s place as diviner. Or swami. I wish
poetry to be more than mystic and dreamer. I do subscribe that there are
many good poets, just not many alive in my times. I regard the literature of
the past as a source of poetry. And not the current wave of popular cultural
touting this or that maker of verse.
I abhor the snake worshippers. The poets that make of words some artificial
manifestation of their affections. I read the poetry of the past to identify
what has endured and why.
I suspect when we read or write poems we are not like serpents that shed
their skins and renew ourselves. The reliance on the creative process for
these purposes I find disdainful, selfish. One should, I believe, write to
bear into the world what gifts one possess. But not so many magic tricks.
Words used as amulets. Poem defined as magical recipe to cure the dampened
spirit.

Are words the social outcasts. The words of a poem mere costume jewelry and
tattoos, skulls, daggers.
The poet’s bravado come to warm us. Poetry reduced to lucky watch fobs. The
writer of poetry a gambler, betting it all on a low game.



Ernest Slyman
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