Getting back in the saddle

It is more than two years now since I wrote a blog post. Two years of descent into and out of depressive episodes and personal stagnation deeper than any I had ever known (and I am no stranger to depression, and am even a great admirer of the positive impact I have at times turned it towards in my life–more on this perhaps at a later time).

In coming to write this post, I found a draft I began in the spring of 2017 and never published. It captures the spirit of the depressive aspects of the past several years very well:

Unfinished June 2017 Draft Post:

I’ve lost touch with something important. Something central. Is it desire? Purpose? Direction? Passion? Can acts have context and consequence, but no significance?*

All of my friends are struggling. All of them. Like my wife and myself, many are piecing part-time, temp, adjunct, and freelance work together into making a stagnant non-living, residing in either cheap, barely affordable apartments or in parents’ or friends’ houses.

I find a place, off and on, for music-making in my life, but poetry? Art?  I have lost the feeling for words and pictures. They cannot reach me. Even the music is lacking in depth, character, purpose. It throbs and languishes. It circles, stumbles, and falters. I watch reruns of Star Trek series while eating comfort food and drinking too much.

I witness my maladaptation continue still from 2016, a year of personal losses and (literal) assault. All this while 2016 was a turning point for my health–finally learning how to get my migraines under control, and discovering that the strength and flexibility of my body had largely returned from my 2010 back injury. And conservative spite, ignorance, and greed now sit poised to

* Emphasis added. I think this is a great question to ask.

The post cut off there. Doubtless I meant to make some comment about the bonkers political climate of 2017, but hey, its 2019 now. It seems like the fears of a sudden descent into a fascist hellscape have been somewhat soothed by a midterm democratic (and dare we hope progressive/socialist) rebuke, and there is even the possibility that the plutocratic status quo may even face a serious challenge in the next few years. Maybe.

Politics aside, what is most clear to me is how lost I felt at the time, and how much anguish was being caused by this. And how much I struggled to stay in my den and lick my wounds. I have felt this lost, adrift feeling for much of my adult life, but not always as a negative thing. It had turned very sour and stifling for me.

So starting in 2018, I began to find my life increasingly claustrophobic, and my depressive moods and coping strategies were becoming more transparent and pointless. Funny how depression–which is most clearly identified in myself now as a knee-jerk assignment of pointlessness and futility to everything (which is true when you get down to it) as an excuse for withdrawing from all that is negative and positive in life (but definitely a wrong, fear-driven stance)–can itself become a victim of its attacks on purpose. Due to this greater self-awareness, I became insistent on dropping my coping strategies and becoming more committed to figuring out how to deal with (to change, improve, shape) my life.

And one by one, they began to fall away. The need to inebriate, the Netflix binging of Star Trek, the munching. Even the need to calm my mind through regular applications of breathing meditation. Unfortunately, it also seemed that a lot of the good feeling I had from making art and writing fell away too. So much of my drive had been simply anxious, fearful energy focused on production to justify my identity, to establish my purpose for being. I had to produce or I was not of any value. I had to make art to justify my designation as an artist. To not be nothing and nobody.

So I have been getting more comfortable being nothing, or not worrying about being anything, and getting better at seeing depression at work, at seeing fear at work in me, and at making the effort each day to live a life less based on fear and less concerned with finding the impossible existential answers that my depression seems to need so badly.

Part of that is getting back to this blog, and maybe soon moving it to my own server. I’m trying to get a feel for writing again as a tool for growth, which I generally approach through the disillusionment and undermining of everything false and needy in me, everything ego-enhancing. The idea of poembassy bombing is to stare the artificial internal edifices of institutions, poetic and otherwise, into rubble and dust, then find a way to move on from there. I often imagine myself to be finished with that work, sifting through the ruins, and looking for something on the horizon to set off towards, but I don’t think that’s it yet. In this metaphor, I’m still buried in the smoldering rubble, slowly finding the strength to dig myself out. Because nobody is coming to help me do it. I must do it alone.

I should say that a lot of the negativity I have gone through has faded. I have managed, as with my struggle to end years of chronic migraines (I will blog about this soon), to use every darkness and negativity in my life to seek out what is true and of value and figure out how to become a more mature, wise person. I know the world is still probably fucked, moving ever deeper into ecological, economic, and political collapse (and the more we can face this fact, maybe the more we can do about it), but the more personal, subjective experience of my life is less and less occluded by despair and depression. I can push aside the veil of fear and self-assuring knowledge (always seeking to keep things safe, contained, and identify and remove any threats) that haunts my perception to reveal something that is a frequent and refreshing reprise. Like the opening of a window in a dark, stagnant room to let in fresh air. I cannot properly describe this. Sometimes I cultivate this (as though it is something cultivated!) in meditation, other times I slip into it without intention during the day. I think Longchen Rabjam does a better job of it (from The Basic Space of Phenomena, section 10):

Without the arising and subsiding of thoughts, there is a naturally limpid, pristine state, like the unwavering evenness of a limpid ocean.
Free of the occurrence of or involvement in thoughts, free of hope or fear, you abide within the state of naturally occurring timeless awareness, the true nature of which is profoundly lucid.

Without the compulsions of ordinary mind, there is an unfeigned state–a natural settling, uncontrived and unadulterated–though it cannot be characterized with words.
This absorption in the expanse of being, the true nature of which cannot be characterized, involves neither meditation nor something to meditate on, and so laxity and agitation dissipate naturally, and enlightened intent occurs naturally.

I’m not sure he was speaking about what I have been experiencing and working towards in my own practice, but I aim for a natural settling, or I seek out that which is grasping, holding on tight, which is unsettled, then acknowledge it and watch is settle. Some kind of experience of oneness arises, and everything external and internal is subsumed in an undifferentiated whole. It does not feel like a unity/unification, but more that the previous experience of myself observing and reacting to a world that is other has been replaced by, simultaneously, the absence and presence of these as a single thing. All that I had perceived previously remains, but it has a hollow (but oddly warm and whole) presence.

(Hollow and whole. The sound of that. Never noticed the resonance. Hollow and whole. Whole and hollow. The whole hollow. A hollow whole. A hole is hollow, hollow on the whole.)

When I look in at myself, I see an earnest, wondering, urgently concerned image of my face staring outward. But upon seeing it, its transparency and flatness are apparent, and it fades away like a phantom movement you try to catch at the edges of sight. Often, then, a natural settling follows.

I don’t know how to end this, so I’ll just end it here. I feel I could keep rambling on for days without coming to any conclusion. Do I want a conclusion? Do you want a conclusion? Does everything need to be tied up in a nice package? No. Certainly not.

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]] and other 9/11 works is Published and Free to Download

Now out from Beard of Bees Press, my collection of “otherwise” poetry, ]] and other 9/11 works, addressing 9/11 in three distinct works which were composed in concert with Google Search, Gnoetry 0.2, and Google News, respectively. The note explains the process and establishes some context for each work.

I hope you will download it, read it, and engage with the political and human issues it raises.

And maybe enjoy it a little too 8~)

Support the Occupation of Wall Street!

OCCUPY WALL STREET

Don’t listen to the ridiculous distortions or the simply lame reporting of the protests that you hear on corporate owned media, PBS/NPR and the BBC. There are thousands of very articulate people in these protests, and their various demands are serious. Watch Democracy Now!‘s coverage. All the anger about Wall Street, capitalism, the wealth gap, unemployment, the scam that is health insurance, the corporate ownership of politics and media, student loan debt and the cost of education, etc. etc., that came out of me for the past two years in 6x6x6 seems to be verified now in all of these people taking a stand. I thought that people weren’t ever going to start up anything. Whatever city you are in, support this thing. I’ll be in Pittsburgh this weekend and I’ll find the protest there.

Here’s a prayer:

May the American People arise
Where they have not arisen;
And where they have arisen, may they not disperse,
But increase further and further.

New Article up on 9/11 Poetry: Beyond Grief and Grievance by Philip Metres

You may have noticed that I’ve been obsessed with 9/11 recently. So much disturbs me still about it, especially as the anniversary comes and goes each year: how it forced such a negative sea change in international politics (or was manipulated to that end) as well as a return to a McCarthy era-like culture of fear and self-censorship. Also disturbing is how so much of the evidence from the attacks was literally carted away and destroyed before any serious and thorough investigation could be conducted. The spectre of Virtuality haunts the entire spectacle, regardless of the particular narrative ascribed to the events to make them more real and, as would be expected, more terrifying with each detail. This goes for every theory of events I’ve read or listened to. The fact that we will never know everything, regardless of how often the standard narrative is reinforced or how many times you watch Loose Change, is perhaps the most disturbing thing.

Anyways, I’ve been reading a watching just about everything of any value that I can find about 9/11 and the response to it. I was looking through the Articles section at Poetry Foundation today and found this excellent reflective essay on the issue:

Beyond Grief and Grievance: The poetry of 9/11 and its aftermath by Philip Metres

It very thoughtfully examines a number of poems which responded to 9/11, providing a thorough summary of the 9/11 poetry phenomenon. I especially appreciated it’s treatment of Baraka’s “Somebody Blew Up America,” which I agree was a very important poem that few were willing to listen to. For me, it’s most important point was to emphasize the fact that there has never been a unified America, that the 9/11 attacks did not bring us all together, and to say so is to whitewash the violent and divisive history of America, both in its past and its present. Metres essay gives it a fair reading and treats it’s message with the respect it deserves.

 

]] is up at Gnoetry Daily

Over the past two weeks, I have been working on a chapbook of poems (or maybe poetic compositions would be more accurate) which deal with my feelings and thoughts about September 11th, 2001 on this tenth anniversary in a way that I hope is both artful and tasteful.

I’ve written an introduction and posted the three (somewhat incomplete) parts of the chapbook up at Gnoetry Daily over the past three days under my alter ego username eRoGK7, so I’ll stop introducing the thing here. Know that there will be more of the Gnoetry section (Part 2) going up for a while still.

I hope you enjoy it, and that it makes you think about and reflect upon various important things.

All Posts for ]] and Other 9/11 Works

GnoetryLeaks @ Gnoetry Daily

Said of WikiLeaks: “Could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act.” – Time Magazine

Now its a poetic tool too. Over at Gnoetry Daily, Eric Elshtain has initiated the GnoetryLeaks series, what could amount to the most transparent poetry series of all time, using individual leaked U.S. embassy cables from Cablegate @ WikiLeaks as source texts. I’ve joined the project now, and soon we plan to collaborate on several pieces Gnoetry-renga style.

It’s all so exciting!

Read the series so far: GnoetryLeaks @ Gnoetry Daily

Obessessed with the Wikileaks US Embassy Cables at the Guardian

The semester is all but over here, so I’m crawling out of my hermit cave little by little. I’ve been a moral supporter of Wikileaks since I heard of it several years ago, and this sentiment has only increased since the Afghan and Iraq releases earlier this year. Now I have to keep checking the new cables leaked every day at the Guardian in the UK in addition to keeping up with that and other news on Democracy Now. Here’s the Guardian’s US embassy cables page, if you’re curious too.

Just an opinion on the whole Assange arrest thing: it seems to be mostly a ploy to distract from the real issue of Wikileaks and its mission, but I think it’s more important to focus on the continuing leaks and their impact on the continuation of global business-politics as usual. With or without Assange, I think Wikileaks will be just fine. But then, who knows anything for sure. I don’t.

They Want Everything: UCSC and the Seeds of a Student Occupation Movement

Like the society to which it has played the faithful servant, the university is bankrupt.  This bankruptcy is not only financial.  It is the index of a more fundamental insolvency, one both political and economic, which has been a long time in the making.  No one knows what the university is for anymore.  We feel this intuitively.  Gone is the old project of creating a cultured and educated citizenry; gone, too, the special advantage the degree-holder once held on the job market.  These are now fantasies, spectral residues that cling to the poorly maintained halls.

Something truly amazing has started in California that may be a sign of a growing movement in the U.S. Even more interesting than their activities so far (see Occupy California for updates, and this IndyMedia page for photos of the first occupation on September 24th, and We Want Everything for the “critical theory and content from the nascent ucsc occupation movement”) is the manifesto behind it, which lays out the vacuousness and banality of the current system and of our lives trapped in it.

The words above open that manifesto, and they are just the beginning of an effort to disillusion University students (graduate students particularly) and jumpstart a real movement of protest and resistance that aims to spread outside of the University and throughout the nation. Behind their occupation is the growing awareness since the 2008 financial collapse that everything is bankrupt, “Everything is Broken,” as Bob Dylan put it, and that there is no hope in fixing anything without changing everything.

Reading their manifesto, Communiqué from an Absent Future, is exhilirating, especially for someone who has just struggled for more than a year to figure out how to say all that was wrong with graduate student life and work in this country so as to convince grad students to get out of their ivory tower fantasies and stand up for better conditions and wages, and maybe even for a better world in general. Although the GEO campaigns at Purdue did pressure to the University to marginally reduce the ridiculous fees they were charging graduate students, they did not contribute to any greater change or more than a marginal improvement in the financial shithole that they are placed in by the University. But all of the deeper issues and problems are all spelled out in this Communiqué, and at a pregnant time for change. Now almost everybody is being fucked over by or shut out of the system; everybody except the super-rich are feeling the pinch, are losing jobs or homes themselves, or watching people they know falling off the precipice that looms closer and closer.

There are too many potentially quotable sections in this essay, so just go read the whole thing if you feel it resonates with your situation. It is openly Marxist/communist in its language and sentiment, mostly in the anti-Capitalist sense, though the calls for a “free society” echo the Declaration of Independence more than the Communist Manifesto. Below is the opening of the third section:

We seek to push the university struggle to its limits.
Though we denounce the privatization of the university and its authoritarian system of governance, we do not seek structural reforms.  We demand not a free university but a free society.  A free university in the midst of a capitalist society is like a reading room in a prison; it serves only as a distraction from the misery of daily life. Instead we seek to channel the anger of the dispossessed students and workers into a declaration of war.

I hope something comes of this, and I hope it doesn’t just degenerate into calls for reform than end up changing nothing. I hope more students, workers, professionals and unemployed come to see the mutual grimness of their situations, shed their feelings of hopelessness and/or delusions about “making it” and work together for some common good–something sorely missing is our politics and our society.

Still alive and writing

It’s been a while since I posted. The holidays and the new semester have kept me busy enough to not pay any attention to my blogs. Since I finished my chapbook of poems using Gnoetry and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, I’ve felt a bit burnt out. I’m still awaiting word back from Eric Elshtain and Beard of Bees publishing about the chapbook, but I hope to hear back this month sometime. I’ve never submitted something so large before, nor have I submitted online, so I really don’t know what to expect.

Sometime soon I hope to post an adaptation of the essay I wrote on Zizek and American Buddhist p0etry. It’s still pretty rough, and nowhere near being fully fleshed out. Writing it brought engaged Buddhism to my attention, though, something which I had not looked into at all before. I’ll hold off any opinions about it until I’ve read more on it.

The Bush era has finally ended, even though its repercussions will certainly be felt for years still. I’m glad to see a black president, and I really hope it turns out to be a real turning point for this country, and not only a symbolic spectacle.