Archive for October, 2015

maleness

I am looking for
a way to understand why
self-dishonesty
kicks in — immediately
I try to respect the Pope

What a crap poem. But it states clearly a real problem. There are some extremely shady transactions going on behind consciousness whenever I consider what I really think of the Pope. Not this particular Pope (who, from all I can tell, deserves huge love and respect) — but the institution of the Papacy. I was born into an Anglican family, converting to Catholicism at the age of 23. Can I accept the official version of the story whereby the Pope leads the global attempt to wait for the Second Coming of Christ? Nope. I find that actually quite laughable because I don’t believe Christ is coming back — at least, not in any literal sense — yet the Pope is a literal, physical embodiment of that hope. And just the fact that our planetary civilisation has, in effect, designated one man to carry that weight of expectation — is incredibly poignant. I am aware of simultaneously wanting to trample on the institution of the papacy and wanting to treasure it. No single conscious position can do just to both these two extremes. It’s clear no-one explores their feelings towards the Papacy without exploring their relation to fatherhood, and by extension maleness in general. Over the last 48 hours I exchanged several emails with my own father — a perfectly genial exchange — but touching on some dark areas of pain in his relationship with his father before him. I expect this helps explain why I dreamed of the ultimate patriarch (the Pope) last night.

key

who has the power?
who wants it? — and who for God’s
sake is desperate
for some way of shattering
the illusion of power?

Thought itself can be a kind of prison sometimes. Don’t we all think in cliche´s, all the time? Presumably Jung had something like this in mind when he started talking about archetypes. A cliche´ is just an archetype that has lost its dignity. I dreamed of a little animal which had been trained to hold a key in its mouth. I had several different keys and had to select the right one to put in the animal’s mouth: meanwhile the animal was getting excited because it could see the keys in my hand. Does the key have power over the lock? You would think. But if I think of myself as the key — then Liz, in my life, is like the one lock in the whole world which fits my shape, and in that sense she has power over me. That’s roughly what the poem is about. I noticed as soon as I had landed upon my first line, how desperate I was to challenge the terms of the question ‘Who has the power?’ But am I any less imprisoned by the concept of power if I think I don’t want it, than if I think I do? Is it possible to think about power without being hypnotised into believing in such a thing? We are hypnotised by our own tools of thought. By words. Magic.

intelligence

intelligent life
elsewhere in the universe
intrigues us — we talk
of intelligent design —
and it all begs the question……

This is really quite a bad-tempered little poem. I don’t have any idea where it came from, as I settled down this morning to consider last night’s dreams. I love the way we invent a word ‘intelligence’ to describe whatever it is makes us able to think and reflect. Then we blandly assume — just through sheer desperation of not wanting to be alone — that either the aliens or the gods, assuming they exist at all, must share this same human quality — when we’ve never even properly interrogated the mystery of the fact that we possess it ourselves. My dreams last night were pretty horrible, consisting of a throwback to the time, back in the eighties and early nineties, when I saw myself as the leader of a cult of group sex and feminist revolution. I noticed myself, in the dream, giving a Nazi salute, completely alone in my room — and reflected (in the dream) that this was an eloquent and sad comment on the sinister nature of my own plans for political change. Awake, I think this must relate to the tabloid scandal earlier this year when footage emerged of the six-year-old Queen of England performing a Nazi salute. Talking of monarchs and dictators — I am reading Thomas Hardy’s The Dynasts at the moment which is about the Napoleonic Wars. Hardy’s mind was extraordinary. He had ‘intelligence’ in spades.

organised evil

eco-warrior —
a contradiction in terms
— supposing we can
survive climate disaster,
it won’t be by means of war

This title took me by surprise. Not entirely sure it works, but here’s my chance to explain. A few days ago I was toying with the phrase organised evil, hoping to get a poem out of it. It seemed full of sinister meaning, and also rich in paradox because as a general rule it seems to me that the urge towards good and the urge to be organised have a lot in common. And also because, from the point of view of evil, being organised is a good thing. This morning, having written my poem and being still without a title, the phrase came back to me and I realised — war is organised evil. In my dream last night I was one of a team of men forming a line across a football pitch, a bit like a line of policemen. It made me think, awake, of political demonstrations and in particular the musical Billy Elliott where the fight between striking miners and policemen is turned into a kind of ballet. There was a balletic quality, too, in the film Selma when Martin Luther King’s sheer genius shines, at the head of a march-demo, when he refuses to confront the police and retreats back the way he has come. In London (and indeed across the world) we have a mass demonstration being planned for 29th November to coincide with the Paris Climate Change talks. Of course you don’t have to be an ‘eco-warrior’ to go on a climate march. But the poem is about the passion I feel on the subject of climate change, and also about how I deal with that passion given it’s something held in deep suspicion by my partner Liz.

existential

without God, there’s no
slightest possibility
of discovering
what I am in myself, right
now, at this given moment

I struggle again and again every morning, with finding a title for these poems. I usually end up being ironic, but without feeling confident that the irony will be transparent enough for anyone else to perceive. The word existential often seems to me like a mystification of something very simple. Likewise the whole of theology does. I dreamed last night of my teenage gay lover. In the dream, I felt in a very vivid, present way the full connotations of abuse which our particular relationship carried. He abused me psychologically: I am reasonably happy with that statement. Exploring that feeling of being abused leads into mysterious areas when the experience being explored is a dream — and where therefore the abuser is actually a symbol of some aspect of my own potential for committing, rather than suffering, abuse. God is quite an abstract rather than personal entity for me. And oddly enough I tend to believe in Him not so much as some massively powerful Being by whom I am loved, but just as a logically necessary complement to my own incompleteness. Human love must have a divine object. In other words the universe must be capable of receiving my love directly at the moment that it bubbles up in my soul. I guess I first thought of this proof for the existence of God about 25 years ago, but it probably originates much further back, in 1976, when I first came across The Cloud of Unknowing in the Penguin translation by Clifton Wolters.

lament

I have lost my Way —
or (if you like) I have lost
my simplicity

Yet another night’s dreaming pervaded by a profound unease, a total dissatisfaction with myself. a feeling as though my entire character is shot through with moral degeneration because of the pornography problem. I feel a little as though, in my life at the moment, I’m grappling with some kind of state of damnation, and would say the poem I’ve written this morning is, in effect, seeking to define damnation as whatever leads away from simplicity of spirit. In my dream, I was dead. I found myself searching for an axe with which to split the boulders which were lying around everywhere. It felt like the whole situation had been set up as some kind of test. Maybe as to how I would survive under stone age conditions. The afterlife seemed, in the later part of the dream, to be something like a cross between a monastery and a mental hospital. There was plenty of opportunity for studying Chinese philosophy and Chinese culture (reflected needless to say, in the capitalised Way, referring to Tao, in the poem), but I felt I ought to be pursuing my own Western tradition. Eventually it transpired that although my 90-year-old father and I had both arrived in the afterlife at the same time, he had been chosen to return to the land of the living, while I had been condemned to remain here in the land of the dead. In that moment, I strongly felt the reality of Divine Judgement, and that I had been found wanting.

Caliban

absolute evil —
give me the grace to own it
— blinding nuclear
annihilation doesn’t
happen to me — it is me

I slept with my partner Liz last night for the first time since my latest pornography lapse two weeks ago. The cat interrupted our beginnings of lovemaking, and as a consequence I fell asleep. I then dreamed of a nuclear bomb being dropped into a kind of trench (vagina?) a few hundred yards away from me. The flash came and I knew it meant certain death, yet somehow I had the time and the mental resources to notice my own cowardice — even more disturbing than the inhuman evil of the flash itself — whereby I found myself hoping to get in the shadow of a nearby building and somehow save myself. And in that moment I knew I cared more about myself than either my mother or Liz. I’m intrigued that the word ‘shadow’ in this context appears as the only positive symbol in an utterly horrible dream. Yesterday I was thinking about Jung’s use of the word, because of having texted someone about the ‘shadow side’ of ‘overcaringness’. I wondered if she had understood, and told myself that, because material objects do have a quite literal ‘shadow side’ when lit by the sun — it must be therefore a pretty self-evident metaphor. My poem is called Caliban because of the words of Prospero at the end of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, where he says (referring to the monster Caliban) …this thing of darkness I acknowledge mine …. — which, heard through Jungian ears, is a way of saying ‘I acknowledge the evil parts of my own personality’. I take Jung’s ideas around evil very seriously.