I’ll begin with a quote from W. H. Auden’s THE ENCHAFED FLOOD, Random House, 1950 as quoted by Karl Shapiro in his PROSE KEYS TO MODERN POETRY, Harper Row, 1962–p. 202:
“We live in a new age in which the artist neither can have such a unique heroic importance nor believes in the Art-God enough to desire it, an age, for instance, when the necessity of dogma is once more recognized, not as the contradiction of reason and feeling but as their ground and foundation, in which the heroic image is not the nomad wanderer through the desert or over the ocean, but the less exciting figure of the builder, who renews the ruined walls of the city. Our temptations are not theirs. We are less likely to be tempted by solitude into Promethean pride: we are far more likely to become cowards in the face of the tyrant who would compel us to lie in the service of the False City. It is not madness we need to flee but prostitution. Let us, reading the logs of their fatal but heroic voyages, remember their courage.” ksAlas, both Aeneas and Odysseus overcame destructions/prostitutions and made it home.)
Auden was contrasting Classicism (the architecture of the temples and poetical structures) with Romanticism (those heroic adventurers at odds with society and structure). In later life he moved from his Romantic position in modern poetry to return to a Classical position of poetry and religion (T.S. Eliot’s school). Following WW II, he like many others were committed to building/renewing the ruined walls of civilization. He, like the world community, was now a student of how nations can collapse under tyranny. I have italicized boldly the statement above because it speaks to and reflects the nature of our time. All the technology-technocrats and Power-Finances of our era make us vulnerable to mass manipulation and cowardly prostitution of populations to the Big Data-Big Daddy-Big Digital control centers. This means the natural is giving into to the virtual world of power pimps: our backyards to frontal attacks.
So much today is like the climate control issues that need resolution within the next few years or so — or we will have possibly lost control of the future climate for life on our planet. The same can be said for the overwhelming influence of technology (and terrorism) in our lives and its possibilities of tyrannical control in the not too distant future. Today the issue is very much that of prostitution. Today the issue is not returning to old dogmas for rebuilding ruined walls (though for some religious folks that is their power base). Today we are building new structures — and great-possible new walls will inevitably have to be built. We are very much structuralists/builders (Classically), but we are also Romantic adventurers crossing a new sea of technological victories and sirens. And, yes, some of that old style heroic/uncowardly courage will be required. Seems much could request the courage to say NO! And, when required, to rebel. The power of scrutiny must best the scriptural.
In our time, I believe the poetries to speak to our time will always have some classicism-romanticism elements, but I prefer the term Kairosion ( ion rather than ism) to name the position today of modern poetry. (One can add all the branches of STEM.) The term’s new in this context, but has always been the “bonding breathing of in and out,” whatever the labeling. — Such Kairosions are paeans of fulfillment or odes of despair– depending on how timely fulfillments happen or not in living’s advance. These very “ion-now” times augur-actions for just fulfillments of the future. Ripeness is to be picked when it is at its best. Being there when it’s time to score&sum the addings-up. Pluck the fruit before it falls to the ground: the chord while the strings are taunt&tuned. We’ve enough of “isms” — this is the age of IONS — from fusions to confusions, nations to collusions: ionizations to politicizations, fermions to fluxions, etc. ( Please Google “ionic bonding” to pursue the science.) Very briefly, it is active bonding between separate substances due to the electro-chemical action of exchange of loss of an electron that creates a negative-positive attraction that binds things together. So, for me, ION is both an action suffix and a bonding action: thus, like breathing, the bonding action is happening now. The ion-bonding action of the poetries of ‘Apo’kstrophe’s is that of human world bonding with nature’s world to reveal the future by grasping the ripeness of the present — and its promise of tomorrow. This is not a new task or new conception. Virgil began with the Romantic poetries or Arcadia (with its hopeful transcendings of death) and then moved to the more Classical poetries of Agricultural Work — human and earth working together. And from that to the Epic journey to build a masterful civilization. This is Virgil in absolute brevity to make the connection (whether one agrees with me or not) of Virgil to Auden to ‘Apo’kstrophes’ and this poetry age as Kairosion. Why? Because time is fulfilling/bonding itself&us with perspectives&pasts as never before in history. Arcadia will always be with us, even as we find ourselves single-planeted midst billions of stars and galaxies. Working with the land and bonding with it will always be with us–ever more so as we know the more so of today. The Epic Journey to achieve the next best of civilization . . . in the midst of all that could/would destroy it is our destiny and our poetry. As I said, so many “isms.” But today’s ‘Apo’kstrophes’ is a Kairosion. Humanity’s Epic Voyage is Global. I’ve named the ship AUGURIES and signed it mdok — manifest destiny’s odyssean Kairos. The Sirens are real, but, staying alert, we should make it home.
Now, to versions of What The Flake, as I say every first snow: other times What The Funk, Fluke, or Fluxion. (Though the common phrasing keeps beeping in the back of my mind.) But the great “what” of today is the “W” word “wanton” (wantonions we are) that hails the Sirens of WTF– Wanton Tech Fatique — Wanton Temptation Factories –Wanton Trumpie Falsifications –Wanton Tyrant Fancy, Wanton Terrain Fracking, Wanton Terror Fatalities, etc. Wanton means random, capricious, irresponsible — and a lot of words like Auden’s “prostitution.” Read these WTF’s as you will (adding your own, of course). The two that most initiated this survey were WANTON TECH FATIGUE and WANTON TIMELY FAILURES. Indeed, tech has its play in all versions of WTF stress and anxiety today — and the pervasive issue of timeliness cries loudly–as in climate change action, and getting out before the hurricane’s landfall: monitoring the daily impact of tech which tends to penetrate more that reciprocate.
Big Daddy. Big Data. Big Pimp. Artificial Intelligence is increasingly capable of machine to machine evolution and is now capable of Artificial Life. This is an IBM computer innovation: behavior from living organisms has been embedded into the structure of quantum algorithms. Such systems are autonomous and can learn from their own mechanism as designed: such as natural selection, learning, memory, and intelligence. Bottom line: these are quantum mechanisms for self-replication. What The Fluxion? Funk or Fluke? Hello Hal. Hello Hamilton. His Happiness with this – Ray Kurzweil: embed a soul, too. Innovation and “ovation” are not the same ION. But could be. Time for a new age of ‘Apo’kstrophes’ — well advanced from Classicism & Romanticism to Kairosion. — So, what’s the meaning of WTF? WHERE’S THE FAULT-LINE? WHAT THE FUGUE?! Music or breakdowns.
I think Virgil was on the right track when he left the fantasies of Arcadia for the fecundation of the Land as central to the Epic Journey of Humanity. He also made Orpheus turn around to face the fact that Eurydice was indeed dead and no music, or tales of resurrection, would bring her or his friend back to life. It took courage to take that face-to-face look at reality. This revision did not go well with the critics. Orpheus was dismembered and thought a weakling. The current Deity, Apollo, didn’t like his prophesy and threw his still singing head in a cave. But poets of the ages have heard the resonant echo for realistic prophesy. Auden saw the Kairosion need to rebuild ruined walls based on structures known to hold. Today’s ‘Apo’kstrophes’ looks at — not building walls we shouldn’t — and by all means return to a bountiful relationship with land&air. . . .globally. Talk about an Epic Journey Task. We must not let Wanton Tech Fatigue wear us down and prostitute us profoundly. Kairosions Arise! Sing, paint, speak, write, innovate, and proclaim the most promising breakthroughs into the future. The “F” word is Future&Fulfillment. It’s now. This Wanton Times Faith is in its own Kairosion Fulfillment of rhyme-reason/reason-rhyme. Some versions of trust&tension just don’t cut it. In Breath We Trust. We Trust Fresh-Air. — Don’t We??? WTF!!