Toward an Understanding of Attraction

Toward an understanding of attraction: I am astounded as to the origin of the force that overwhelms my being in the presence of beauty; in particular, beautiful women. For example, at a recent social gathering I spent part of evening seated next to a woman of remarkable beauty during which time an emotion in me was evoked. In that instant she was perfect and divine. It was as if normally intangible metaphysical dilemmas had altered so significantly that all pointless and purposeless wanderings had been irrevocably redirected by, and toward this woman’s disposition. Questions regarding the nature of reality and existence were rendered completely futile and impotent in her presence. In her, and beaming out of her, it seemed, lay all the conceivable answers. I imagined that if I shared the rest of my days with her they would be happy and trouble-free. Yet, nothing that she said or acted was any more extraordinary that anybody else at the gathering. I knew this, but despite that, by virtue of her attractiveness to me, I watched her movements and listened to her words with deep interest. In an attempt to conceal my infatuation I consciously addressed my remarks to anyone but this beautiful woman.

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Ted Berrigan and America

Interview with Lorenz Gude 29th April 2002 on Ted Berrigan and America:

James: Can you tell me about how you met Ted Berrigan?

Lorenz: When I arrived at Columbia University in 1960 I met a fella named Tom Veitch who was a year older than me. Tom was very interested in literature and he and his brothers loved comic books. They were very talented and they drew all these comic books, Tom wrote the stories. I got a bit involved in that, well, I didn’t do anything, but I knew what was going on. Hell, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do; I was probably more interested in history than literature, but I began to meet some of Tom’s friends and develop some of my own. On my floor was a young fella from Oklahoma named Ron Padgett, who was sort of a classic westerner, really tall, skinny and wore cowboy boots, with pressed jeans pulled down over the top of them. He was very fastidious. Soon we became friends, and some of his friends started coming up from Oklahoma. One time his mother came up, and she came with a pistol in her suitcase. She was a petite little brunette, very spirited middle-aged lady and a lot of fun to be around, but she packed a pistol, which in New York will get you twenty years, though back in Oklahoma it just goes in your purse with your make-up. The father was a bail bondsman and Ron never went home after nine o’clock because after then if anyone came into the house you shot em’ first and asked questions later…

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Out Of Chaos Comes A Lovable Order

Like flouting and fluttering planes
Gone with midnight a cool breeze
Remembrance quickly jumps
The superlative strength of millennia.

Twilight is complete
The streetlights have ignited
Stark looks in the corners of eyes
The silver chill drowning.

It’s a day & you are you
Eating lunch, tautologically inclined;
Shirt pockets full of debris
Entire continents

Where many lived, disappeared
There were periods when oranges
Had the power to overawe the sun,
The chunky rhythms of nostalgia…

No more waiting in this novella!
All the swings, slides & monkey bars
Catch an unselfconscious smile
(like a march-fly in the sticky

Subterfuge of a Venus flytrap
Producing the fructified arrangements
Highly suitable for toe jam) bumping along
Like hitchhikers in the back of a Ute.

Running hands across Spiky blades
the dream woman stands before me
arms in the air, lifting her jumper
slightly from jeans ― soft, pale skin;

Stupendous body, enormity of touch
Speaking to stay silent for the future
Two men made of water watch a man drown
In the cruellest ocean’s hacked foundation.

Why wrestle the channel corset?
There’s no destination.
We wander the fleshy rind of a gigantic pear,
Fascinated by nature’s fantastic, targetless volition.

Part Two

She turns slowly.

No longer apprehensive
That earth’s shell slices open
Welcoming the leaf
We comprehend chord sounds

Waist high in sunflowers
The ground does pirouettes
The Ferris wheel lets another off
The Ferris wheel lets another on.

Collisions at the train station
Lead to Eros
At an unknown address
Two wattlebirds attack a raven.

No human is observing.

Surveying Henry Point

Surveying Henry Point
For Ian Weir

Obliquely we enter Henry Peninsula
With its withering heath, charting elevations
Derived from mapping stations
For a potentially immoral buck
Justified by the adage: someone’s gotta do it.
Making more millions for millionaires
In exchange for cuts and abrasions.

Reasons non-oblique to charge wattles, acacias
And hakeas aside with forearms,
Crushing withered tendrils due south or due west
Ignoring the path of least resistance
Reading undulations, for illuminations:
Clearings for richer folks, snapping
Away nature with a click.

Coordinates a price-tagged crenulate.
When we were driven by adrenaline:
Belly to sand, face to possible snake,
(The possibility of joining Joker John Eyre
Or Slimey Septimus Roe) did we grasp
With documentation, the machine
losing sight of the satellite?

Pink and yellow tagged trees
plug in pecuniary.
Somewhere in the shade
of the Peppermint Grove
over a march ants nest,
goes the wooden patio.

Choices

Choices
-with a William Carlos Williams quote

sit alone indecision
park over there
no, the other table.

bring tropical observations
-plastic ash in tall grass-

bring inner pulpits on
tiered grey-white pinions of sea-birds

twist those
neutral ambitions into
sharp edged smoke rings

then retreat

we’ll gird your quaint didactic
scaffolds and morph

toward reflection with steel nerves.

***

I know a man
who, like indecision
smiled before exiting the table
and left his jacket behind

don’t laugh

this is the truth

he returned with two smiles
took the jacket from the back of the chair
looked poignant
and left a second time.

***

‘excuse me, do you mind if
we share your table?’
no, not at all.

a father and son
may be three or four

they share a large choc-chip
cookie, broken into pieces
‘i’ll have these bits, you have those’

‘look at the peafowl’ says the father
swivelling the son on his lap.

i’m reading William Carlos Williams
while on the grass
beyond the moat
past the peafowl
four teenagers throw
honky nuts at a dented
steel bin. i know
from before the dents
are from soccer balls
not honky nuts.

“with the passing of time, the outcome of my failure with you has been the complete damming up of all my creative capacities in a particularly disastrous manner such as I have never before experienced”

without warning
the father grabs
the son under the armpits
-clears chairs out of the way-
hoists him over another bin

‘he’s going to be sick.’

i look the boy deep in the eyes
he smirks, convulses, burps
those eyes start watering, burp

the father: ‘not as pleasant as poetry’

burp, sssppulll

but it is IT IS

at once the son is better;
the soles of his feet compress
the soles of his shoes
as the father lets him down

they leave slowly
without a word.

Not A Single Presupposition, Except My Ignorance

“The way that can be spoken of is not the constant way”- Lao Tzu

Here you are in your chimerical disposition
creeks shallow and simple to follow.

Here one cannot create, or find conclusion;
there is no system.

Though you have bequeathed all arrivistic tendencies
for omnipotent bliss and ubiquitous rest

and can dance upon snake-scale
sage-like through a honky nut,

attempts to broach your most genuine
masquerade fall in a heap.

In this language
I struggle to see your limbs.

Non omnes omnia pussumus:
we cannot do everything.

Supremely patient beside rapids
I observe the clouds in me change

easy metamorphosis, easy
our only gauge of time is

itself.

Poem by James P. Quinton
Thanks to Westerly, 2005

Experiences Relating to the Western Australian Herbarium

Part One: Sardonic


For uni, we’re to examine a particular species of Western Australian flora. Typically, the species is rare, endangered and endemic. Our mission is to go to the WA Herbarium, find the particular specimen(s), examine, document and find as much information on the plant as possible. The point of all this is to produce a series of botanical illustrations to prompt us to think about bio-regions at a local level of detail.

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Essay on Life

Essay on Life

Car hits woman
on five-star horoscope day,

her copy of ‘That’s Life’
flying through the air.

The girl I love, loves
someone else who loves

another; it’s like preferential
voting, even Condorcet would

be proud. Or the turbulent
cryptic cross-word puzzle

that asks for the generalisation
Ned Kelly, our phys. ed. teacher said,

echoing from the megaphone
mounted to the front porch

of all country stations – J.J. Cale’s
Cocaine jumping softly in the background.

poem by James P. Quinton

also available here:

Plato and Poetry

by James P. Quinton

In Plato’s ideal state, The Republic, there is an attempt to eradicate the poets because “poetry has no serious value or claim to truth.” A startling claim that; if accepted, could’ve possibly been the death of poetry. However, Plato announces in the same chapter that if anyone can prove to him that poetry has a place in a well-run society he will allow the poets in. Almost two thousand years later, the English scholar Sir Phillip Sidney wrote A Defence of Poetry (1595). Shelley’s essay of the same title (1821) consolidated much of what Sidney had argued.

Due to the unrivalled craft of poetry, it did have a valid place in society. Why then, in 1996 did Penelope Murray revisit Plato’s ideas on poetry? I think to remind us of the intellectual and economic pressures poets work within. This essay will discuss the arguments from Plato to Murray and provide examples of poetry that reflect its status throughout each period. I will conclude by citing and discussing a contemporary Australian poem that signifies the position of poets and poetry in modern society.

Overall, it appears that intellectual arguments may be driven to the point of being arbitrary, since the act of poetry has never ceased. However, there is a divide between those who believe in poetry’s validity and those who think it is wishy-washy hedonism.

Integral to Plato’s argument attacking poetry and art is the concept of representation or mimesis. Plato claims that reality can be categorised in three ways: the ideal, the real and the representation of the real. The gods create the ideal, for example what everyone understands as being a bed… the IDEA of a bed. The real is what is actually materialised in the object. Hence, the mimesis of the object is twice removed from the ideal: “what [the artist] makes is not “what a bed really is”, but something that resembles “what is without being it.” Here, Plato argues that artists and poets, using the technique of representation, create a false understanding of reality and are therefore decadent to civil society.

In Plato’s, “The Effects Of Poetry And Drama”, he expands upon his argument that poets have no valid role in an ideal state. Plato places primacy on reason and intellect. He accuses the poet of inciting emotions that are normally disallowed in the public domain. Consequently, poetry corrupts the mind whereby “pleasure and pain become your rulers instead of law and the rational principal commonly accepted as best.”


Plato maintains that poetry has two crippling qualities: it represents reality falsely, and it corrupts the minds of the poet’s followers. However, Plato makes the concession that if “poetry written for pleasure can prove to us that they [the poets] have a place in a well-run society, we will gladly admit them.” The implications of Plato’s philosophy in regards to art and poetry were broad and lasting. Critics such as Aristotle, Sidney and Shelley have taken up the challenge of defending poetry as a legitimate craft.

The physical act of poetry continued despite Plato’s attack, but it was the intellectual framework developed by the critics that determined the way people valued poets and poetry. Plato demoted poets to a position lower than servants. Poets had to argue for the legitimacy and value they deserved.

I will now briefly discuss the arguments presented by Sidney and Shelley and provide examples of the sense and style of poetry that existed alongside these arguments at the time.

Sidney begins his defence of poetry by describing that throughout history poets have been ill considered. He points out that many examples of influential literature, such as the Psalms are in-fact poetry. Sidney’s position is stated thus: “I seem to profane that holy name [God], applying it to poetry which is among us thrown down to so ridiculous an estimation.” It is implied that if literature like the Psalms can have a remarkable influence on human behaviour, synthesised with the idea that these examples are poetry, realistically there is nothing to defend. As makers, Sidney then compares poets to other scientists concluding that poetry has value as a thing-in-itself. I shall focus on these two latter points because they relate directly to Plato’s arguments.

Sidney proclaims life to be a learning experience, wherein someone’s chosen field of study or career serves to indicate his or her temperament. He regards the moral philosopher and historian to be the poet’s greatest competitors and then attempts to show that the poet is the “prince over all the rest.” Sidney describes moral philosophers as having contempt for outward things, that they are driven by vices, ignore passions and teach virtue as a duty, rather than a pleasure. His treatment of historians is similar, he complains they are concerned with the past, using “old mouse eaten records”, which are at odds with philosophy and are concerned only with setting an example. Here Sidney concludes that the poet is the moderator of both historian and philosopher within the life-school of learning. What emerges is a picture of the poet whose craft draws from all the other sciences. The poet is capable of describing the present, the future and the past through empirical judgement or through the divine intervention of his or her muse. According to Sidney it is because of the poet’s rare skill and power that he should be considered worthy of the highest regard.

In context, Sidney’s defence of poetry delivers newfound confidence and reverence to all those who attempt the craft. The value of poetry is not only cemented in his critiques, but also in his poem Astrophil and Stella:

Loving in truth, and faine in verse my love to show,
That the deare She might take some pleasure of my paine:
Pleasure might cause her reade, reading might make her know,
Knowledge might pitie winne, and pitie grace obtaine,
I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe.

Here we see Sidney not only articulating the foundations for the rest of the poem but also making reference to the value of poetry as a thing-in-itself. The double meaning of the line ‘reading might make her know’ is a strong example of this. Moreover lines such as this serve as subtle indicators of the intellectual framework that Sidney is working within. Hitherto, he defends poetry through prose and poetry, which is more than Plato required (a defence in prose). Nevertheless, Sidney’s conclusion is not as convincing as one would expect. He asks us to believe him rather than constructing his defence as a waterproof argument. An example of this sentiment is where he says: “I conjure you all that have the evil luck to read this ink-wasting toil of mine.”

Shelley’s argument has the luxury of standing against the background of Sidney’s defence and therefore carries a greater sense of confidence. After announcing that all those who speak are in effect poets, through the use of language, Shelley clarifies and simplifies Sidney’s message when he states: “but poets, or those who imagine and express the indestructible order, are not only the authors of language and of music, of the dance, and architecture, and statuary, and painting; they are the institutors of laws, and the founders of civil society, and the inventors of the arts of life, and the teachers.”

Evidently, there is no question of the worth of the poet, it is said succinctly and confidently. In the tone of Shelley’s argument, Plato’s claims seem removed to the point of being irrelevant.

At this point Shelley argues for the significance of poets throughout the world. Redefinition of the word poet is a necessary stimulus in the context of every society due to the dynamic nature of the society and therefore of the art form. Shelley outlines a direct relationship between poet, the community and nature, a relationship that is integral to the intellectual and spiritual advancement of mankind. “A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth.” Based on these claims, the ideological formulation of poet as a truth bringer directly contrasts Plato’s position, it outshines Platonic ideas of reality: the position of ideal, real and mimesis. Here’s an example of the aforementioned intellectual paradigm from Shelley’s poem Ozymandias:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things

Evident immediately is the interconnectedness of man (society), lands and deserts (nature) and passions expressed (art/poetry); a shift from the three fold Platonic sense of reality. The final line exemplifies the importance of poetry as an immortal craft or eternal truth. Shelley shapes the functionality of poetry in two ways; it creates new materials of knowledge, power, and pleasure; and it engenders in the mind a desire to reproduce and arrange these powers in a positive manner.

Shelley’s conclusion rebuts not only Platonic ideas of poetry as decadence and false knowledge, but also serves as an uplifting reminder of the beautiful possibilities of poetry during times of social decay. Quality poetry according to Shelley is not subsumed within periods of social decay, that is, it does not subscribe to the present contextual drama without imagination. It is the quality crafting of imagination that provides the reader with an avenue to transcend all present dramass and therefore understand the principles that give rise to meaning and to look with hope towards the future.

These last points, I contend, are the reasons why we need reminding of the importance of poetry, not necessarily in a milieu of decay, but in a rapidly dynamic age susceptible to confusion. This is the where Penelope Murray’s re-evaluation of Plato’s arguments (concerned primarily with mimesis and poetic inspiration) takes on greater significance. Her essay, Plato On Poetry, not only serves as a medium to redefine Platonic ideas within the context of modern scholarship, but also as a reminder of the arguments of Sidney and Shelley lightly touched upon within this present study. Let me now briefly discuss Murray’s argument.

Murray confines her study to the ancient Greek notions of mimesis and poetic inspiration. In regards to mimesis Murray concludes that Plato defines it “either in terms of the object imitated (whether they are good or bad), or in terms of the quality of the imitation (how good the likeness is).” Either way poets corrupt the mind of the listeners and should therefore be banished. Murray, argues that if the oscillating rationality of Platonic ideals is accepted then this would be “the death of poetry as we know it.” In this light, it appears that poets will always be forced to defend their craft as intrinsically valuable.

If the value of the poet in a social hierarchy is questioned, the craft of poetry itself must necessarily come under scrutiny. A poets writing is based on instinct and inspiration, it does not contain the rationality demanded by Plato in The Republic. Murray concludes therefore “P.’s reluctance to grant poets the status of even skilled craftsmen… must surely be seen against the background of the increasing professionalism of the poet’s vocation in contemporary society.” Why? In part because of the existing economic pressures and the shift in rationale from religious, moral, or pure reason to economic value. In order to determine the craft, skill, technique and overall worth of poetry means to develop a clear understanding of mimesis and poetic inspiration. The inability to gauge the value of the creation and craft of poetry (regardless of the outcomes it produces) means that those allocating funding to poets must decide whether or not mimesis and poetic inspiration are as valuable as the techniques of other professions for instance. It is possible to argue that the value of a poet can be registered in regards to sales, but the subjective nature of poetry renders this problematic. An example of this problem can be seen in the John Forbes poem, Monkey’s Pride:

‘Soon’ the grape goes on
‘new technology will detach me
& I’ll be employed on a rowing boat
mounted in a park,
the one the avenues lead to
because society has elected me / to decorate
its falling apart
with a useless panache
& I will,
despite my vocation
to become a labour-saving device, opening
cans by remote control
in the kitchen of your heart / bottling the vegetables
you grow in your own backyard.

This extract beautifully typifies the plight of a ‘professional poet’ in today’s world. The line, “society has elected me to decorate its falling apart”, conjures Shelley’s ideas relating to the role of poet in times of decay. Stylistically and knowingly, Forbes allows himself to be caught in the drama of the times, although he reaches out of it through the use of imagination. Forbes questions the role of the poet as someone who generalises the collective emotions of individuals within society. He believes it to be presumptuous to attempt to uplift people in the confusing milieu of the present. The poem ends by alluding to the way most poets of today are forced to live: through a combination of manual labour and writing.

The value of the craft of poetry is, and perhaps always will be, brought into question by the economic and intellectual mechanisms of those in power. In an Australian society driven by sport and business, the intangible worth of poetry means that it will always be required to defend itself. A defined approach to the defence of poetry beyond the value systems of economic rationalism and Platonic rationalism must be sought. Governments may avail themselves of Platonic arguments concerned with the validity of mimesis and poetic inspiration. The arguments by Sidney and Shelley go some way to show the intrinsic worth of poetry as a thing-in-itself. However, as Murray’s study shows, we need reminding of these historical arguments in order to gain a greater understanding of the pressures exerted on a modern poet to subvert them. There is no doubt that poetry will continue, whether or not poets are given the freedom and legitimacy under the dominant thought system remains to be seen.

Bibliography:


Forbes, John. Collected Poems, 1970 – 1998. Sydney: Brandl and Schlesinger, 1998.

Leonard, John. ed. Seven Centuries of Poetry in English, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 4th edition, 2001.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. A Defence of Poetry, English 340 Course Reader: UWA, 2002, pp60-69.

Sidney, Sir Philip. A Defence of Poetry, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966.

Murray, Penelope. Plato On Poetry, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Plato. The Republic, London: Penguin Books, 1987.

 

A Tale of Telling

 A Tale of Telling

 

Ian and Bertrand were best friends. They liked to tell people to do what they were already doing. When they saw someone eating a pie, either Bertrand or Ian would approach them and say “hey, you should eat a pie.” Likewise when a man at the train station was smoking, Ian advised him he should smoke. Together they told the teacher to teach, the butcher to carve meat, the farmer to farm, the musician to play music, and so on. Usually people would respond with a smile or a thankyou. The worst that happened was when Ian told the bank teller to tell banks, Ian was given five dollars and ordered to go and get a job.  

But not all of Ian and Bert’s fun was so simple. One time they mounted blue and red lights on top of their Volkswagen. That night they drove through the suburbs. Ian had a megaphone, and with an authoritative voice he would scream out the window: “Stay in your houses and go to sleep so you have enough energy to work tomorrow.” With inner quietude, Ian and Bertrand were convinced that they were doing the entire community a favour. They had found their niche. 

One night on their rounds, Ian and Berty were pulled over by the police. The policeman informed the two that driving around with flashing lights on top of their car and screaming into peoples houses was disturbing the peace and therefore illegal. Startled, but with collected composure Ian told the policeman that he was doing a good job…that he should keep doing what he does. This pleased the policeman who let them off with a warning. 

So Ian and Bertrand went about their lives as usual. One day, they decided to go for a walk. They walked through town to the main square and toward the valley to the orchard. Ian thought that if he told the fruit pickers to pick fruit they might give them a free apple or orange or peach. As they came to the corner of the orchard, something was different, even strange. “That’s funny” said Ian.“Yes, yes it is.”“My sturdy-wordy-lordy”In front of them stood a flying saucer that had landed in the middle of the orchard. They were both standing there staring when a door on the craft opened. Out came a martian. The martian walked straight up to Ian who said:“Hello Mr Martian, pleased to meet you. You just keep on being a martian, I like it.” Warmed, the martian walked back into his craft and the door closed. Ian turned to Bert and they happily walked home. They had made a new friend.  

That night they were awoken by the policeman who had told them off earlier. The policeman was driving around with his lights flashing, screaming into a megaphone:“Stay in your houses and go to sleep so you have enough energy to work tomorrow.” “That’s funny” Ian said to Bert, “I thought that was illegal.” “I wonder what it’s about” Bert said to Ian. “I don’t know, but we better do what they say.”  

The next morning on the way to get milk the next door neighbour informed Ian and Bertrand that the police had caught the martian and locked her in jail.  

*** 

The above parable came to me in the middle of the night when I was trying to sleep. It was as if the words literally ripped me out of bed and forced themselves onto a page. The content of the story isn’t really my main concern in this postscript. You can take anything you want from it. Perhaps nothing. What I want to discuss is its ending and endings in general. To the people I have shown this story their main criticism is that the ending is too abrupt and anti-climatic. Their insinuation is that I got lazy and have taken the easy path. Thus I have returned to it on many occasions in an attempt to make appropriate changes. But alas, no stronger alternatives have presented themselves. May be it is my lack of ability or imagination. It’s as if whatever was written in a fury that night was done in a frame of mind never to be rediscovered.  

In the movie Big Fish there is an old witch. If you look into her eyes you witness the way that you kick your own bucket. For the main character in the story it enables him to live the fullest life possible. He knows that he isn’t going to die today so he throws himself on the neck of the proverbial dragon. There is an ambiguity throughout the film between what is real and what is fantasy, fact/fiction, life/art. The merging of these opposites is represented by the notion that the people in the story have the power to choose what occurs throughout their lives.   

The wonderful American moralist/comedian Bill Hicks said: “The world is an amusement park and when you choose to go on it you think it is real because that is how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down and round and round, it has thrills and chills and it’s very brightly coloured and it’s very loud. And it’s fun for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a very long time and they begin to question: is this real or is it just a ride? And other people have remembered and they come back to us and they say don’t worry, don’t be afraid, ever, because it’s just a ride.” 

I’m really attracted to these kinds of sentiments, and I’m always looking for new ‘useful fictions’ to keep this notion fresh. In short, they all seem to say: the longing that you observe within you, which can never be satiated causes you great suffering. Fearing and fleeing from suffering is futile. Suffering is nothing, suffering is illusion. Love your suffering.  

 

Who knows what will happen in the end of my story?