Clive Matson writes from an itch in his body

Poetry and Dirt

November 18th, 2009 | Posted by clive in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

111809The woman spirit Chalcedony sends more images and feelings through my thin, tattered psyche than I can follow, much more. Not enough time or energy to sort them or find them places. One friend, who knows better, gave me high praise and said I was a “hero person,” when I’m mostly slogging though mud, trying to keep up. Then he tempered his words, lest we poets become proud.

“But remember, – who said it? – “I want to wash when I meet a poet’: I hope someone might say it about me. It’s elemental primitive with an enthusiasm and never give up. The trajectory of nakedness and slime still oozing from the
water’s edge.”

Ah, yes, the nakedness and the slime pull at us, and we are part of its momentum. My friend gave too much credit to others: his insight was his own. He was turning a quote on its head, from a Basil Bunting poem, “What the Chairman Told Tom,” where Bunting writes the words of an educated punk who doesn’t see the value of poetry.

“Poetry? It’s a hobby….

It’s not work, you don’t sweat….

Nobody pays for it….

You’ve got a nerve….

Nasty little words, nasty long words,

It’s unhealthy.

I want to wash when I meet a poet.”

A study in Psychology shows that washing makes people view unethical activities as more acceptable than if they had not washed. What does this imply? That when our hands are dirty, we know nasty acts -Â those “nasty words” -Â are close to us and more likely something we would do? And therefore objectionable. But if we’re clean, what’s unethical seems less likely a part of us, and therefore forgivable.

The muse takes us where she takes us. Into darkness, into a world of myth and power, of intuition, of passion, of chaos, into a world without morals. My friend’s image, “nakedness and slime” at the water’s edge, oozing around our feet, points toward primordial power. It’s far stronger than ethics or reason.

John Wieners’ lines come to mind, from The Hotel Wentley Poems. “The poem does not lie to us. We lie under its law.”

(With help from Ed Mycue, Kate Madden Yee, and April Renae.)

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