Charles River

Charles River
Upper Limit Cloud/Lower Limit Sail


"Messianicity is not messianism ... even though this distinction remains fragile and enigmatic." (Jacques Derrida)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Brief History of Gnostic Poetry

But where to begin?

Some Cro-Magnon shaman in Siberia. The high priestess of Ur. An adept in the temple of Thoth. The Eleusinian initiates.

Heraclitus? Probably a gnostic. (Parmenides, not so much).

Sappho could have been a gnostic for love, except she was already Sappho.

Iamblichus, Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite, those mad mystics in the Philokalia, Marguerete de Porete who was burned alive for her gnosis, Angela of Foligno, Meister Eckhart, Moses de Leon, and Judah Halevy. Also, the actual Gnostics, with a capital G, like Valentinus, who are confusing, but gave us a figure, a means by which we might conjure a way to align spirit with the despair of matter.

I don’t care what Ted Hughes says. Shakespeare was not a gnostic. Except in Lear and The Tempest.

But Paracelsus was and John Dee was. And Robert Fludd. And Jacob Boehme.

Henry Vaughan is a gnostic of eternity’s endless ring of light.

Kit Smart is a gnostic of cats, for they roll in their prank.

Traherne is a gnostic of Christ in the sweetness of all his centuries.

Blake is a gnostic of Blake and all his angels.

Shelley was a gnostic who sailed to the moons of Italy.

Keats got drunk on a ripe gnostic vintage before he was engulfed in a cloud of blood.

Novalis is a gnostic of the Night of the World.

O Holderlin is a gnostic of that blue abyss with the holy Iser running through it.

Could Hopkins be a gnostic? Like a kingfisher catching fire?

Herman Melville is a gnostic. He was burned in the darkness of the sea and the blind hills of Pittsfield and the whiteness of the unknowable.

Emerson is a gnostic when he says that the way of life is abandonment.

Poe is the gnostic who saw nature for what it is: a gaping hole ready to devour us.

Whitman is a gnostic of the open road and the electric body and the emancipation of song.

Dickinson is a gnostic of the white bone of the word.

Kafka is a gnostic of infinite delay, otherwise known as grace.

Lovecraft is the true gnostic of the deep weirdness of alien gods and the bottomless abyss of time.

Pound began as a gnostic, moving the souls of the dead through the facets of the phantastikon. But he burned his days to the ground. Still, “All things that are are light.”

HD stayed gnostic to the end, singing of a light inside the seashell that was Helen’s ear.

Hart Crane, tormented by gnosis he sang Atlantis from ruin to America, then he laid him down in his watery grave.

Lorca is a gnostic of duende, where the silver coins sob under moonlight on the road to Cordoba.

Yeats, a Celtic gnostic. Chanting of Fergus and Byzantium and translunar paradise.

Jung is a gnostic of the alchemical rose and the dead speaking from the drowned book of dreams.

I want to say Franz Rosenzweig was a gnostic, but really, he was sui generis.

But Walter Benjamin is the gnostic of the city and its ruins and the always-coming, always delayed arrival of the messiah.

Andre Breton was a gnostic of Freud and the revolution of the dream with all its dragons and all its fountains. Paul Eluard was a gnostic of Alphaville.

Simone Weil was a gnostic of affliction.

James Agee was a gnostic of the poor and the soft summer nights of Alabama and his own deluded alcoholic beatitude.

Camus? Possibly an existentialist gnostic of Algerian sunlight and shadow and the hunger for justice and of a cigarette dangling from his lips.

Stevens is a gnostic of the dandelion and the summer lawn and the ghosts of angels thronging drunk in the late light of New Haven.

(Harold Bloom, you are a pompous honorary gnostic, second-degree).

Duncan is the master gnostic of the way of the rosy heart and Venetian tones and the sweetness of Dante and the Orphic logos that enfolds the dream of the calyx in its golden fever.

Spicer was a gnostic of Spicer and of Lorca and King Arthur.

Blaser was a saint of gnosis who sang about the imago & laughter.

(Olson, maybe, was a huge gnostic of history who didn’t even know it).

Gustaf Sobin is a gnostic of the steppes of Provence and the antique glory of its Neolithic ruins, its Roman light, its ladder of endless syllables.

Rene Char is a gnostic of the chthonic beauty of dawn and its streaming erotic arrows.

Ronald Johnson is a gnostic of angelic birdsong and the psalms of Adam that are still singing.

Philip Lamantia is a gnostic of lysergic radiance and of vibrating at unheard of wavelengths.

Kerouac is a gnostic of the dark car crossing America all night long for brotherly love.

Ginsberg is a gnostic of wanting to be fully alive amid Blakean visions and whirling sutras and the simple compassion of one person for another.

Coltrane is a gnostic of the Church of Pure and Broken Sound, a river of it, unending.

John Taggart is a gnostic of Coltrane and the staggering punctum of logos.

Gerrit Lansing? Gnostic of Gloucester, mystic first class. Ken Irby? Gnostic of Kansas. I’d follow his harp anywhere.

William Bronk is a gnostic of the light & music of the mind and the real and its teeming air and its dark fish.

Henry Corbin. Henry Corbin is a gnostic of the Sufi angelic orders and the panoply of a spiritual geography that remaps the man of inner light.

Octavio Paz is a gnostic of the labyrinth of eros, of the sun stone and the tree within.

Mark Rothko is a gnostic of the impenetrability and transparency of color, of horizon as the chapel and saturation of the eye.

Shouldn’t Kenneth Rexroth be a gnostic?

And DHL, who spoke of the person as the very end of creation, a flower that disappears into the underworld, who carries the blood of the wings of birds and the venom of serpents, complex and contradictory, surging toward its own center.

Edmond Jabes is a gnostic of deep exile and the silence of the word. Michael Palmer is a gnostic of the estranging logos.

Nate Mackey is a gnostic of Dogon sound and Trane and the stutter-step vocable of what the priestess utters as she strips off her last umbra and sings us into trance.

Anne Waldman is a gnostic of Buddha, Greenwich Village chapter.

Creeley is a gnostic of being Creeley. Dig it.

Alice Notley is the dark gnostic sister of my dreams, the fantastic threatening to become real, which as Zizek says, is what we otherwise call nightmare. Hold me.

Yves Bonnefoy is a gnostic of Douve, who runs wild across the page of the poem, her hair on fire, her hair swept out to sea on a stone.

PKD is a gnostic of addiction and paranoia since only by such despair and negation and the hungry nihilism of the enslaved soul can one be free of the tyranny of the system.

Doris Lessing is a gnostic of Shikasta, the Broken, and the Signature which once was shining in men’s eyes but now grows dim.

Tolkien is a gnostic of Sauron. Think about it.

Pynchon and DeLillo are gnostics of the radioactive sublime.

Leonard Schwartz! Leonard Schwartz has given us the gnostic word itself, vibrating at uncanny frequencies, where "all must find itself in loss."

Peter O’Leary is a gnostic of the incarnational vision, vouchsafing the wren & the theocentric order.

Joe Donahue is a gnostic of earth’s light, dissolving, and Sufi theophanies and the metaphysics of sound.

Norman Finkelstein presides at the gnostic wedding of Zukofsky’s lyric & the mysteries of the Kabbalah.

Ed Foster is a gnostic of the American schism, steeped in occult histories.

David Need is a gnostic of the lost visionary tradition that weeps for its own destiny.

Robert Archambeau is a gnostic of Peter O’Leary and the resignation of the poet who makes nothing happen always.

Mark Scroggins claims he is not a gnostic so we must accept him at his word. But then there's this, from Ruskin, "The greatest thing a human being ever does in this world is to see something... To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion all in one.”

Patrick Pritchett is a gnostic of the numinous ache of an empty logos for a word that burns. I pity the fool.

Andrew Joron is a surrealist gnostic of the pure radiance of zero.

Will Alexander is a gnostic of the irradiant splinter of luminous plasma which folds between dimensions and is the crown of creation’s quantum foam.

Lissa Wolsak breaks breath into syllables and into the impossible charity of gnosis. Try to follow her.

Elizabeth Robinson is a gnostic of the apostolic bees who make us see the visible world, laden with honey.

Elizabeth Willis is a gnostic of this form because she made it and also of the thrilling perversity of film noir and the prismatic flowers of Saint Darwin.

Fanny Howe is a Catholic gnostic. She prays for the song of words that will not end our suffering, but instead plead for its admittance into tenderness.

Susan Howe is a gnostic of ancient New England lake shores and the mysteries of pain whirling out of Melville and the uncanny serenity of Stevens.

I think Charles Bernstein is a gnostic, but that way lies heresy.

(Barrett Watten says he lost his gnosis in a cornfield in Iowa. If found, please return to him care of the Grand Piano.

Peter Gizzi is a gnostic because he writes his poems for God.

Maurice Blanchot is surely gnostic, yes? When he writes about disaster and when he says that sometimes, nothing is a really cool hand.

Derrida is a gnostic of khora. And of specters. And of justice. May the Baal Shem Tov remember the words of the prayer or else remember that they are lost forever.

Rilke and Celan and Mandelstham wrote hymns to the gnostic in which spirit gets shattered wide open and is not avenged but submitted to still further tender unraveling.

Beckett wrote the book of the ruins of gnosis. To fail at failure is all we can do now. Spirit’s nothing. Nothing’s spirit. A voice that comes to one in the dark. Go figure.

“I pray gnosis that I may be free of Gnosis” said Eckhart.

And Thunder, the Perfect Mind, who said: “I am the one who has scattered … who can number me? I am the one who is Lawless and governs all Law. I am unlearned and yet you still come to me.”

And what of good David Jones, who spake for all damaged souls? “To groves always men come both to their joys and their undoing. Come lightfoot in heart’s ease … find harbor with a remnant.”

These are the remnants, here at shore’s edge. Re-gather them. Begin again.

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