Friday, January 21, 2011

Factious Felines: Editorial Manifesto Too

Progressive is subversive.

Even though many people consider themselves to be progressive thinkers, the fact of the matter is, most of us are subconsciously strangulated by the status quo. We like to think of ourselves as cutting edge pioneers of thought and action, but we lead fairly mundane lives compared to how we COULD be living. Life should be a creativity-fueled festival for the senses, but instead we squander our imaginative powers on pedestrian tasks.

So by this logic, anything that we do that happens to be progressive – that is, the audacious antithesis of the status quo – is thereby subversive. Those in power – the politicians and their corporate cronies – want us become ensnared in meaningless mundane minutiae to eclipse full cognizance of our scintillating sentience. The more brainspace we devote to thinking about work and paying the bills and so on, the more we are distracted from our true purpose - to radiate compassion and creativity.

Political polemics and satire are very obvious linguistic means of subverting the status quo - if they are progressive in content, anyway. Reviews of progressive books, music, and films are also transparent tactics for overthrowing the onerously ordinary.

But what about poesie? Isn't that too subtle a strategy of subverting the status quo? If the content of the poem is politically progressive, it's not so subtle, of course. But I hold that with poesie, it's the FORM that can be truly subversive. Indeed, poesie whose unorthodox form and interplay of imagery and ideas is far more subversive against complacent mediocrity than a poem that is overtly political in content.

It's not really what the poem is saying that is important, but the devices used within the poem to convey content. Think about Jabberwocky, or any number of e.e.cummings poems. Naturally there are copious examples, both obscure and well-known, but let’s take those two as our prime examples:

First stanza of Jabberwocky
by Lewis Carroll

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.


pity this monster,manunkind
by e.e. cummings

pity this busy monster,manunkind,

not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victim(death and life safely beyond)

plays with the bigness of his littleness
-electrons deify one razorblade
into a mountainrange;lenses extend

unwish through curving wherewhen until unwish
returns on its unself.
A world of made
is not a world of born-pity poor flesh

and trees,poor stars and stones,but never this
fine specimen of hypermagical

ultraomnipotence. We doctors know

a hopeless case if-listen:there's a hell
of a good universe next door;let's go

These poems are progressive because they take existing words, syntax, and grammatical concepts and infuse them with new life. These poems enable us to see the world in unconventional ways. The content of the poems are subjugated to the form of the poems. Jabberwocky tells its whimsically terror-filled tale of a creepy creature with words we have never seen, and yet can intuit the meaning of through successive readings which allow us to grasp the narrative. The poem invents an entirely new vocabulary.

Cummings' poem, similarly, invents some new words (manunkind, unwish, unself, wherewhen), but also goes further and innovates with unusual use of punctuation and enigmatic syntax. He uses these devices to make the potent point that humans tend to make advancements in the areas of technology, but not so much in the humane treatment of others. Indeed, scientific "progress" typically thwarts spiritual progress.

The content of such poems is made more interesting and emphatic by the anomalous forms. These types of poems subvert the status quo because they employ imaginative devices to sculpt meaning.

Here is an excerpt of a less well-known but astoundingly innovative poem by modernist poet Laura Riding (a true treasure should you be interested in exploring her work further):

"Elegy in a Spider's Web"

What to say when the spider
Say when the spider what
When the spider the spider what
The spider does what
Does does dies does it not
Not live and then not
Legs legs then one
When the spider does dies
Death spider death
Or not the spider or
What to say when
To say always
Death always
The dying of always
Or alive or dead
What to say when I
When I or the spider
No I and I what
Does what does dies
No when the spider dies
Death spider death
Death always I
Death before always
Dead or alive
Now and always

Imagination is a wicked weapon against the tyranny of mediocrity. When we invigorate our imaginations, we subvert the status quo. We dig into our naturally progressive personae, and we stage a coup against choking conformity. This is exactly what THEY (right-wing authoritarians and their abundant apologists) do not want us to do. They would rather we maintain our somnolence. That way, we are passively malleable to their sinister whims of profiteering from our struggles - making outlandish amounts of money while we starve, and supressing our natural artistic inclinations so that the world is a hellish humdrum monotony of mundanity and misery.

Rise up and subvert, factious felines!

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