Welcome to Issue Seven.
Seven is a very important number. According to my bible, The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols, "it corresponds to the seven days of the week, the seven planets, seven rings of perfection, seven spheres or celestial stairs, the seven petals of the rose, the seven heads of the Nãga of Angkor and the seven branches of the shaman's cosmic and sacrificial tree." Furthermore, "Seven characterised the worship of Apollo and ceremonies in his honour were held on the seventh day of the month." And since Apollo is the god of poetry - and healing and music - I guess this issue has a lot to live up to. It must also be said that The Word has seven letters and it is The Word rather than (interchangeable) words which is the privileged domain of the poet.
Apart from all that, I guess this will have to be a short editorial as my brain isn't working too well. Not only that, but when I look at the state of the world, all I see is a "buzzing, blooming confusion" which probably means more to the bees than myself. One thing is certain and that is that there is a world out there and it's a pretty turbulent one. Turbulent, however, usually means turbid, so I'm not going to comment too much. Perhaps more will be resolved by the next issue, who knows?
Keep sending work in and I will be happy to consider it for Ol' Chanty.
POEMS - Stellasue Lee
ESSAY & POEM - Thomas Land
POEMS - David Cooke
SHARD - John Bennett
POEM - David Waddilove
QUOTE - Albert Camus
POEMS - Alex Migliore
QUOTE - Albert Einstein
ESSAY - Richard Livermore
QUOTE - Wallace Stevens
REVIEW - Ian MacFadyen
POEMS - Stellasue Lee
After A 500 Year Flood
She is alone, out on Carl Road, between Spring Hill
and Lieper’s Fork, parked on an overpass with all the windows
rolled down. Below, one of the tributaries belonging
to the Harpeth River Watershed curves its way south.
The water is deep, and flows around a tree that might be
a thousand years old, it has grown so large, rooted deep in the bed
of this river. Wind in the dogwoods whisper rain,
maybe tomorrow, it says, early, while you sleep naked
and warm with your husband beside you.
Only the occasional snap of a twig startles the damp air.
How odd to think just last week the road was washed out,
evidenced by weeds caught on a fence five feet high.
They hang like so much laundry set to dry.
Children are not supposed to die before their parents
She manages like a woman living someone else’s life
to find a navy blue summer suit a couple of decades old,
way in the back of her closet. The skirt actually fits.
The jacket is short-sleeved, with huge shoulder pads,
a look that may have been striking twenty years before,
but today, looks like a throwback from something
out of Vogue Magazine. Shoes would be a problem,
she knew, oh, who cares, she thinks, and digs
through a stack of boxes she can’t remember
buying to find a pair of navy sandals she thinks
surely, these belong to someone else.
She stuffs tissues in her purse, just in case
she would soften for a moment, but anger tends to be
all consuming, and she doesn’t think she’ll need them
for years perhaps, when tears are all that will be left.
A warm breeze drifts though our bedroom window,
explores the sleeping cats. Lamps allow their shades
to tremble, as Ceiling gathers what it can; dreams,
dust, the bark of a dog far off and across the pasture.
I would bark, but it seems unseemly for a woman
my age. There is a full moon in Pisces. I saw Hawk
circling our field to the south earlier. He hunted
for some unfortunate who looks for a new beginning.
Drinking From the Many Rivers of Hades
We drink from the river of Lethe to forget.
Some ancient Greeks believed that souls
were made to drink from the river before
being reincarnated so they wouldn’t remember.
It doesn’t matter what, let’s just call it life--
that which flows from the headwaters
located in this earthly paradise, found
at the top of the mountain of Purgatory.
In the short time it has taken to write this,
the marina has become shrouded in fog.
Imagine! Fogged in and forgetful. I have to ask
the question: Where do I fit
into this outrageous life?
ESSAY and POEM - Thomas Land
Portrait of a Survivor:
MEZEI’s HOLOCAUST POETRY IS MEANT FOR OUR TIME
AUSCHWITZ is a museum. The smoke has now dispersed, and each generation to the end of history must make peace with the past and resolve to live with our ability to commit mass murder.
András Mezei (1930-2008), a major Jewish-Hungarian poet, has left behind a retrospective exploration of the Holocaust for our time. His voices of the past address us with an urgency and directness unheard within museum walls. There are many such voices speaking to us of terror, folly, greed, cruelty and absurdity. Mezei's poetry makes them sound like our own voices. His first full collection of Holocaust poetry in English has been published in my translation as Christmas in Auschwitz (Smokestack Press/England, 2010, 74pp., £7:96p, ISBN 978-0-9560341-9-9).
Mezei survived the National Socialists’ attempt at the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Europe as a child in the Budapest Ghetto where some 17,000 souls perished around him from hunger, disease and the fancy of uniformed bandits.
Unlike the other great poets of the Holocaust, like Paul Celan, Primo Levi and Miklós Radnóti, Mezei refused to come to terms with death. Indeed, his work is a celebration of the unconquerable spirit of his people. And unlike Anne Frank, he had the luxury of time to give voice to the concerns of the victims while he was at the height of his literary powers. This is how he sums up the experience of the survivor in a single couplet:
How many nights must pass before
I need not wake up anymore?
I first met him shortly after the Second World War. We were both recovering from the trauma of the Hungarian Holocaust in a camp for Jewish children at Békéscsaba run by a Socialist-Zionist movement then called Dror Habonim. It was also preparing us for emigration to what was to become the state of Israel, mostly on board ships like the famous Exodus running the British blockade.
Mezei went. He found employment as a semi-skilled labourer, but returned to Hungary after a year and a half because he thought he stood a better chance of attracting a girlfriend in the land of his birth. Eventually he read literature in Hungary and became a poet, novelist and polemicist. Like many Holocaust survivors of his generation, he embraced enthusiastically the ideal of Communism in the hope of building a just society free of racial, religious and class prejudice. His first serious doubts arose over the brutal suppression of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution against Soviet power.
Unusually for a Hungarian writer, his work has been published in several languages. He was a literary journalist most of his life.
After the collapse of Communist rule just two decades ago, Mezei founded Budapest City Press as well as Central European Time, a literary-political journal that forged a leading role in the debate and reconstruction of post-Soviet Hungary. He established a club that served as an informal meeting place for writers, academics, politicians and businessmen. He used it to gain great influence in shaping Hungary’s trade relations, specifically in the privatization of state assets and in the cultivation of commerce with other formerly Soviet-administered countries.
Some high officials were appointed on his advice. He appeared impervious to high-pitched criticism by his literary rivals behind his back that a poet ought not to soil his soul by the world of money and power.
I met him again early during the transition to democracy, when he commissioned me to translate his Holocaust poetry into English, I joined the editorial board of his journal and we became close friends. For me, our collaboration was part of a wider project, an anthology of the Hungarian Holocaust in English translation.
Mezei’s father, a jobbing fiddler usually engaged to play in taverns and fairgrounds, perished at Auschwitz. Mezei’s poetry draws on the culture of destitute, itinerant provincial Jews carving out a precarious existence in the rapidly industrializing, complex society of inter-war Hungary.
But the voices of the Holocaust speaking through Mezei's verse transcend the limits of class and nationality as well as the geographical frontiers of Nazi-occupied Europe. He called these pieces ‘fact poems’ as they are based mostly on his personal experiences, together with professional interviews with survivors, fragments of contemporary correspondence, medical and administrative records and analyses and post-war criminal proceedings.
His work lacks a thirst for vengeance. Consider his gentle portrayal of the passive bystanders:
The people they've lived with in the village
are being herded in front of closed portals,
still and silent each. The fences
would conceal all sight, all feelings,
except for the tea-rose, the violet and weed
leaping through to reach out towards them.
Mezei, who won a beauty contest as a boy with golden curly locks, became short and fat in his old age with a shock of white hair beneath a wide-brimmed hat. I think he often deliberately acted out the anti-Semite’s stereotype of the ghetto-Jew.
He was passionate and cantankerous, shrewd and naive, generous with his love and famously mean with his money. But he published a long list of worthwhile books at a perpetual commercial loss unfailingly recouped from Jewish funding agencies, the post-Communist Hungarian political elite and a bewilderingly complex web of private enterprises.
His experience of the war clearly shaped his life. The word Holocaust (Greek for burnt offering) or Shoah (Hebrew for disaster) or Pharrajimos (Roma for dissolution) conveys very inadequately the impact of a nearly successful attempted annihilation of an entire culture.
The final and most destructive phase of the process began with the military occupation of Hungary by Hitler’s Germany in March 1944, at a time when Allied victory in the Second World War was already obvious. Less than three years earlier, an ultra-Nationalist government of Hungary – a minor, semi-feudal, East European backwater – had declared war on the incredulous governments of Great Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union in return for territorial concessions promised by Nazi Germany and at its neighbours’ expense.
Its ill-equipped armies were routed, its independence lost first to Germany and then to the Soviets.
Despite mounting repression and hysteria whipped up by the country’s relentless setbacks on the battlefield, the largely assimilated Jewish-Hungarian population had lived in relative safety until the German invasion. The mass racist murder by industrial means of the Jews and Roma as well as the homosexual and the politically dissident minorities was introduced under direct German rule.
The ensuing Hungarian Holocaust culminated in the destruction of some 600,000 civilian lives (including perhaps 70% of the entire pre-war Jewish-Hungarian population and up to 50,000 Roma). The well integrated provincial Jewish populations and the other minorities singled out for annihilation were humiliated, robbed, massed into ghettos and other assembly points and transported in inhuman conditions to extermination camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland and slave-camps such as Mauthausen-Gusen in Austria.
Due to diplomatic pressures, the deportations were formally halted before the capital could be completely emptied of the target populations. Tens of thousands of people in Budapest were crammed into specially designated tenements under armed control. Many others sought survival in hiding. Both groups were exposed to persecution by the law enforcement and paramilitary agencies, persistent aerial bombing by the Allies and the eventual three-month Soviet siege of the city, whose ferocity is widely compared to that of Stalingrad. Mezei describes the consequent epidemic of casual murder:
She carefully unlaced her grandmother’s boots,
then kicked off her own. Before the pair: the river.
Behind them: Jason, the neighbours’ son from the square
lit by the frozen snow – and his machinegun.
Jason, discharging his first-ever magazine.
Jason, standing stunned as the tumbling bodies
are whisked away and gone with the turbulent current.
…Had he done that? Was there so little to life?
In addition, tens of thousands of Jews were exposed to otherwise unnecessary perils of war, engaged in forced labour under Hungarian command or leased to Germany to work the copper mines of neighbouring occupied Serbia. Hungary was the only power during the war to assign to the battlefield its own citizens – Jews – as slave labourers. Some 48,000 were deployed with the Hungarian invasion force to the Eastern front alone, clad in light civilian clothes in the bitter East European winter, to build fortifications on starvation rations. Many were murdered by their own commanders.
All this is still little known to the Hungarian public, who were spared during the decades of the subsequent Soviet subjugation from the pain of confronting the country’s shameful past. This explains the vulnerability of this region to neo-Nazi agitation at a time of economic insecurity. A new generation of historians is trying to change this. But Holocaust poetry remains an irritant in Hungary.
Some of the country’s great Holocaust poets are largely ignored at home, although they are becoming known abroad. And those who cannot be ignored are often misrepresented. Generations of Hungarian school children have been required to recite Miklós Radnóti’s poetry by heart, but they have been taught that he was writing about the general horrors of war rather than a specific genocide. They are still told that the poet had met a ‘tragic death’ – not that it was racist murder committed with the approval or at least the connivance of the Hungarian majority.
Yet Mezei’s poetry is part of a process of healing. He writes:
Suddenly I speak in my mother's voice.
Suddenly I speak in my father's voice.
Suddenly I hear my people speak
in my voice
Mezei started publishing Holocaust poetry only in old age. So now do some others, albeit very cautiously. Apart from one brave and inadequate recent attempt, I am not aware of a single anthology of Hungarian Holocaust poetry published in all the decades since the war. My own sources of original material are mostly small-circulation one-off collections, early Second World War publications, unpublished manuscripts and mass-circulation books whose contents are deliberately misinterpreted in lengthy analyses by literary/academic hacks.
I began translating poetry as a young man in the hope of learning from my betters. I saw myself as a fine-art student in a public gallery copying the work of a great master in order to learn his techniques by re-creating the same composition on a different canvass.
But there is now a very urgent, very different dimension. I believe that the poets of the Hungarian Holocaust like György Faludy, Eszter Forrai, Ágnes Gergely, Éva Láng, Magda Székely, Ernö Szép and many others including Mezei can now take their place in the European literary tradition. Their poetry may perhaps help the post-Holocaust generations – the descendants of the perpetrators, and of their victims, and of the passive bystanders – to face our dreadful inheritance together and learn to live in harmony.
Insure me, please, against my silliness,
against the common willy-nilly mess
invading lives despite the best advice!
I need a sound risk policy, for a price--
Who knows an agent?
You know the grey gent.
A policy against a life in verse
with lots of praise to swell my empty purse,
against the view beyond my tidy fence
of beggar-bowls amidst the affluence--
Where is the agent?
You’ll meet the grey gent.
A policy against... questioning why,
a policy against... needing to sigh,
a policy to answer every threat
in life from passion, treachery or debt--
Who is the agent?
Death is the grey gent.
THOMAS ORSZÁG-LAND is a poet and award-winning foreign correspondent who writes on Eastern Europe.
POEMS - David Cooke
The Bronze Horseman
Braced against whatever his northern sea
has hurled against him: its black rain, its floods,
its wintry, jagged squalls, the Emperor Peter
still maintains his perfect equilibrium.
Gazing implacably into the future
that only he has willed, he is seated
squarely on his mount in what might be heroic
poise, or a pose of self-aggrandizement.
Either way the artist was impatient
for his fees, when he downed tools
and haggled with absolutist bureaucrats,
before achieving his own impressive
balancing act: the muscled weight
of a horse that pivots on two small hooves,
and the rider about to fly were he not restrained
by the invisible ropes of the air.
After the Storm
from the Russian of Boris Pasternak
The air is charged with the aftermath of storm,
as the world revives like the fields of Eden.
Erupting in vivid clusters,
the lilac bush taps a well of freshness.
All nature’s alive with the change in the weather.
Though gutters barely contain their flow,
the glistening sky is brighter.
Beyond clouds you sense an expanse of blue.
Yet the power of art is more transcendent
when it rinses everything of its dust and grime,
till the realities of life and past events
shine forth in their true colours.
The memories of a lifetime
will fade as the storm subsides
and our century shakes free of its tutelage.
The time has come to seek a future.
And it’s not Armageddon or revolutions
that will show us the way to authentic life,
but the storms and open-heartedness
of the visionary soul on fire.
His weary gaze has slipped so often
through these bars it now takes nothing in.
For him it’s as if there were a thousand bars,
and then beyond them no other sphere.
The muscular rhythm of his stride
that shrinks in ever-decreasing circles
is like some vacant dance of power
whose wilful energies subside.
At times his shuttered eyes flick open
to let an image in, his sinews tight,
as recognition stirs, then ceases,
in his heart’s exhausted chambers.
SHARD - John Bennett
They're waiting for me to come out of my cage and smell the roses. As if I were a horticulturist. As if I were a lion. As if they had nothing to do with my being in the cage to begin with.
What do they take me for? Yes, a flower-sniffing lion, but beyond that. Putty in their hands? An emblematic shard of rectitude? Someone to toy with?
Their world is blowing up in their faces. Their hopes and dreams grow lean. They've taken the lion's share and left a mean world snapping at their heels.
I think they want me to go on TV and roar out an assurance. Soothe the savage beast that they've created. But it's gone too far for that. Soon all the cage doors will spring open and there'll be hell to pay.
They never did get a handle on what makes the universe tick .
POEM - David Waddilove
memory is plague and
infestation the seats
removed in which we
courted sharing secrets
dug up and gone
the pain that you
did not destroy me
entirely but left
shards jagged glacial
rolling like scree to
to rest and trust
grass will grow
over the boulders
QUOTE - Albert Camus
"The hatred for art, of which our society provides such fine examples, is so effective today because it is kept alive by artists themselves."
POEMS - Alex Migliore
I is both what I am and what I am not.
Better, perhaps, for comfort’s sake,
To look to the future where promise is holed up
Waiting for me in an empty lot.
But then who would dare to disagree that an
Unfulfilled promise is anything other than
What I am and what I am not.
Therefore I is nothing more than
the promise of what I am not.
I am so very happy to feel as I feel,
Knowing that my love of silence is also its love for me.
The sphex, the mustard flower, an alliterated buzzing;
Anything more would not be what it is;
A mouthful of the most rejuvenating light without darkness.
He who would be more than
Nature becoming aware of itself
Would still not be more than
Nature becoming aware of itself
QUOTE - Albert Einstein
"If you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."
A RATHER CURIOUS PHENOMENON
"Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies." Friedrich Nietzsche
26 years ago, if not to the day, then certainly the month, (June, 1985) I had a sudden 'intuition' that X was 'gay'. Call it gaydar; call it what you will. Partly on the strength of that belief, a few days later, I fell in love with him, believing that 'we were made for each other'. (As one does.) Over time, this belief made me do a lot of crazy things which I now not only regret, but am quite ashamed of as well. Eventually, I had to hightail it out of that relationship with a lot of very bitter feelings in tow, convinced that my own sanity depended on it. Oscillating between uncritical adulation on the one hand and paranoid jealousy on the other, neither of which were under control, I eventually took to my heels. Now, regarding my belief itself, it doesn't matter whether I was right or wrong. What is important is that I endowed him with certain characteristics because I had a basic need to; X answered to something in me and I felt I had to pursue him.
Belief is a rather curious phenomenon. In Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre, in the chapter on Bad Faith, says "Every belief is a belief that falls short; one never wholly believes what one believes." In other words, in every belief, its opposite, doubt, is equally present. Belief carries its own negation along with it as an integral part of itself. (Heidegger says something similar in Introduction To Metaphysics - "If faith does not expose itself to the possibility of unfaith, it is not faith but a convenience".) I can now see that this belief-cum-doubt structured my own feelings for X and almost drove me out of my mind. Were it a case of simple, straightforward belief, one way or the other, I could have dealt with it; but no, every belief I had about X was constructed on the 'ruins' of its opposite, doubt, and vice-versa, and that opposite was always poised to spring into being and thwart a decisive approach.
Belief is not knowledge. Knowledge is unproblematic. If I say I know I am Z, it's clear that there's no doubt in my mind. If, after suffering concussion, I say I believe I am Z then there is obviously some doubt in my mind and that I'm not absolutely certain I am in fact Z. So what about my 'intuition' of 'gaydar' regarding X? The most that can probably be said about that is that, on the strength of it, I believed X was gay and because I only believed he was gay I also had doubts. However, in this case, it was the belief I fore-grounded at the expense of the doubt. I built a whole delusionary world around it and travelled over 1000 miles as a result, all the while doing my best to keep doubt at bay, because I had invested so much in the belief being true. And when my doubts did break through, I had a hard time with them; I fought them off, and that is what drove me more or less to the edge.
Religious belief, defended to a similar point of expelling all doubt, is no less pathological. Ideally, a belief should be entertained along with the doubt which lies at its heart. After all, belief is not knowledge. Everyone who holds a belief knows this implicitly. They have a direct awareness that their belief is no more than a belief, just as they have a direct awareness that knowledge is knowledge and that the two cannot be confused. It is because of this that we know that a person who suppresses the doubt which lies at the heart of their belief is acting in what Sartre called Bad Faith. Of course, I know from my experience of being in love, that we invest in beliefs because they are necessary to us, because we have a desperate need to believe what it is we believe and therefore there is not much we can do about believers. The believer may be in bad faith, but until he or she sees that, all we can do is stand back and let them believe. This is why actively opposing a belief qua belief is as futile as trying to argue a person out of being in love - or being mad. One may defend oneself physically against the physical consequences of other people's beliefs, but beyond that, there is not much we can do. We just have to accept that others will have those beliefs until they start to question them themselves or those beliefs begin to unravel.
Belief is, of course, necessary to life. However, there are beliefs and beliefs. For example, there are beliefs in transcendent abstractions and there are beliefs in immanent possibilities. Generally speaking, we might call the latter practical beliefs, such as when I say to myself, "I won't go out today because, having looked at the sky, I believe it will rain." On a practical level like that, there's no question of Sartre's Bad Faith coming into play. Belief is filling in for definite knowledge and refers only to the likeliest possibility. There are also, of course, degrees of certainty in belief, depending on the likelihood of something. I set my alarm for the morning because I believe that there will be a morning. In fact, I'm almost 100% certain of that, but it is still a belief. The sun may be zapped from the sky by some intergalactic space-vessel while I'm asleep, but I can't base my life on such possible contingencies, therefore I set my alarm. Further examples of beliefs not in bad faith are beliefs in which risks are taken when the outcome isn't certain. So people take risks in war or in business; or they may gamble money on a horse at the races in the belief that it will win. All these are forms of risk-tasking which may or may not bring in dividends. This is true also of forms of religious belief based on Pascal's Wager whereby the 'believer' says to him or herself, "I can't be certain there is a God, but I'd better believe just in case there is. After all, I've nothing to lose." In truth, Pascal is being a little disingenuous here; there is something to lose, if that belief entails one living one's life in a 'virtuous' way to avoid going to hell. I mean, what if you discover at the end of it all, there's no hell to go to and therefore your self-denying virtues were completely in vain? I think you'd kick yourself for having wasted the opportunity to enjoy your life to the full. This notwithstanding, Pascal's Wager no more depends on a belief held in bad faith than that which might compel a person to say, "I'd better take my raincoat with me just in case it rains." So belief in bad faith doesn't only involve transcendent abstractions. It primarily involves the kind of belief in which doubt is suppressed. Pascal's Wager doesn't entail such a belief, for the good reason that there is too much calculation involved. It's a wager, after all. It is therefore not typical of religious belief in general which banishes doubt to the margins and which, because of that, is in bad faith. In fact, Pascal's Wager is in very good faith, which is more than you can say for other forms of religious belief.
The Aztecs believed that they had to sacrifice thousands of people to provide nourishment for their gods, chief of whom was Huitzilpochtli. I doubt if anything like Pascal's Wager was a factor in this belief. During the Renaissance, the Venetian authorities believed that their city would suffer the same fate as Sodom, if they tolerated sodomy. So 'sodomites' were burnt at the stake. Pastor John Hagee - whoever he may be - said that Hurricane Katrina was God's curse on New Orleans because it hosted a gay-pride event. One Muslim once told me that the Black Death in Europe was Allah's judgement on Europe for not converting to Islam. And he was absolutely sincere in this belief. Such beliefs are, of course, no less absurd than the Aztec belief that they had to sacrifice thousands of Mayan captives to appease their gods, but they have the advantage of being propagated by religions which a good number of people still adhere to, and who can argue with that? Stalin believed that the end of a classless society in the future justified the means of slaughtering millions of people in the present. Stalin's belief, no less than the Nazi belief in The Thousand Year Reich, was structured like a religious belief and was therefore in bad faith, since it not only involved a belief in a transcendent (strategic) abstraction but it also left no room for doubt. On the other hand, when the workers of the Paris Commune of 1871 were forced by circumstances to make a leap into an unknown and unpredictable future, staking themselves and fully aware of what they are risking, they were not in bad faith because they were acting in response to immanent pressures in tactical ways, fully aware that they were taking a risk regarding the outcome. There is no question here of doubt being banished to the margins. Everyone knew what the stakes were and tens of thousands later paid with their lives.
So you see, it isn't just the religious that are in bad faith. Apologists for capitalism, implicitly believe that we must sacrifice ourselves for their gods, 'market forces' and 'the profit-motive', in order to be prosperous in exactly the same way that the Aztecs believed that they had to sacrifice thousands of human captives to nourish their gods. Technocrats believe that everything must be sacrificed to the god of 'progress' in a similar way and a lot of people just take that for granted. Why there's even a priesthood of 'experts' to help shore up our wavering beliefs. (Related to this are those scientific reductionists who are willing to sacrifice all forms of subjectivity on the altar of "objectivity".) The same bad faith bedevils the 'democrat', who implicitly believes in the god called Demos, served in a temple called Parliament by a priesthood of politicians. Religious or secular, they all share the same pathology that I encountered in myself when I was in love with X, and who I also turned into some kind of god - or transcendent abstraction. They are no more than beliefs, but they are beliefs in which doubt is suppressed. What makes it worse, of course, is that they are beliefs which demand that something be sacrificed. In the case of love, it was my sanity. Muslim, and to a lesser extent, the Christian, fundies are perfectly willing to sacrifice gay people on the altar of their implicit belief that homosexuality is a sin in the eyes of their own transcendent abstraction. It doesn't occur to them that their belief is no more than a belief, a belief which contains its own negation, and that therefore to sacrifice any human being on its altar is as obscene as it was for the Aztecs to sacrifice their own chosen victims. And it doesn't occur to them because doubt, which is an integral part of all belief, has been banished to the margins of their belief. The obscenity may be plain to those who don't share their belief, but, since doubt has been banished, it makes no difference what unbelievers might think. That we need to look underneath the surface of these beliefs and what motivates the bad faith which is upheld in them is, of course, something which never enters the head of the true believer.
Finally, I would like to briefly explore some of the implications of this for poetry. I recently had a spat with someone about the relationship between poetry and rhetoric, which he insisted were one and the same thing. I pointed out that poetry may sometimes use rhetoric, but it does so for purposes which are non-rhetorical. In other words, poetry doesn't take itself at it's word, there is always something behind its word which is not reduceable to its word. The object of poetry is not to persuade people of a point of view, but, for the want of a better way of putting it, to enjoy itself, to play around with its possibilities, and to risk success or failure in doing so. Therefore, if belief enters the equation at all, it is a belief in immanent possibilities, not a belief in transcendent abstractions. What may be 'transcendent' in any work of art is brought into the realm of the immanent. It is thus, from a Sartrean point of view, not in bad faith; doubt and the possibility of failure are there from the outset, and are only overcome in the process of writing the poem. And when you have completed the process, you know whether you've succeeded or not because it's there in front of your eyes. Belief no longer enters the question.
QUOTE - Wallace Stevens
The honey of heaven may or may not come
but that of earth both comes and goes at once.
YOUR FILM GUIDE TO THE BOX
An alcoholic reporter races against time to rescue a blind girl with spinal injuries from a burning building. Hot stuff. A young boy travels back in time to Afghanistan with his pet dog to say goodbye to his father before he’s executed by the Taliban. Moving family entertainment. A mafia hit man helps his neighbours fight a crime wave before he is electrocuted. Heart-warming. A boy raised by wolves joins the police in their hunt for a deranged necrophiliac in the Roman catacombs. Highly recommended. A cyborg bounty hunter chases an organ transplant surgeon through outer space on a mechanical horse. Superior Sci-fi western. A young man becomes a freedom fighter during South Africa’s apartheid era. Boring. Two gay fugitives kidnap a paraplegic billionaire and threaten to kill him live on TV. Outstanding. An economic migrant disguises himself as a circus orang-utan in order to get into Britain. Amusing. A sex researcher turns into a nymphomaniac before falling in love with her doctor in a sex addiction clinic. Penetrating. A female undercover cop and a mafia hit man join forces to eliminate a sex traffic gang in Albania. Satisfying prequel. The American President pretends to be a homeless man for 24 hours and falls for a transvestite hooker. Delightful Christmas movie based on the life of Buddha. A nuclear physicist is trapped in an elevator with an autistic janitor who turns out to be a cyber genius. Inspirational. A writer of fraudulent begging letters teaches an illiterate boy to read and write and they go into business together. Bright and sparky. American Special Forces defend Stalingrad against the Nazis. Historic war drama. A Mexican drug gang is infiltrated by a heavy metal group working for the CIA. Fun rock musical. The American President is kidnapped by the Russian mafia and rescued in Siberia by Mossad agents disguised as Cossacks. Liberating. A Rumanian gypsy community is ethnically cleansed. Slow with subtitles. A radio Shock Jock falls in love with a deaf mute junkie. Inspiring. A gay family is torn apart when the teenage son comes out as straight. Hilarious. A CIA operative is cryonically frozen while his brain is transplanted into a computerised dog to catch Osama Bin Laden. Never lets up. A threat to blow up the world is prevented by American Special Forces armed with neutron weapons. Explosive. A teenage nerd is transported back in time and catches Jack The Ripper. Fun family entertainment. A group of Californian beach babes is abducted in the Appalachian mountains by sex-crazed octogenarian hillbillies. White knuckle ride with stunning scenery. A possessed exorcist seals himself alive inside a steel coffin. Chilled. The father of a child murdered by a gang of psychos finds a Victorian hangman’s rope in the attic. Intense revenge thriller. A victimised schoolgirl is trained in the Martial Arts by a retired cop with no arms. Inspirational. Paedophile priests are castrated by a group of former victims. Rousing. A psychopathic serial killer is caught by a gang of college girls and suffers death by a thousand cuts. He asked for it. An Irish-American firefighter in a burns unit is given a new face by a Hispanic hospital orderly who is also a talented sculptress. Oscar-nominated performance by J.Lo. A defrocked priest falls for a rent boy and they adopt a blind Korean orphan. Redemptive. A married couple go to a swinger’s party and meet their ex-spouses. Hilarious. Taliban operatives secretly infiltrate a school summer camp in Idaho and turn the children into guerrilla fighters, but the strategy backfires - literally. Will blow you away. A chef kills his cheating wife and cooks and serves her body parts to her lover, a food critic who is in fact a secret cannibal. Just deserts. A woman suffering from alopecia goes on a blind date with a werewolf. Has a few hairy moments. A group of Nazi occultists discover that Hitler’s grandson is playing in a punk group in L.A. - will he create the soundtrack to Armageddon? Good fun. A teenage ice skater crippled by a rival athlete joins a convent but goes on to win Gold at the Winter Olympics while wearing her habit and a leg brace. A testament to the true spirit of sport. A sad elephant and a wisecracking fish change the lives of rogue traders during a Wall Street crash. Oscar-nominated Pixar parable. Tony Blair and Princess Diana rent a pied-a-terre in Notting Hill where they steal away to share their thoughts on fame, wealth and the meaning of life. Tender biopic. An evil German computer mastermind turns the clock back so he can rule Homo sapiens for 75,000 years, but he is arrested and tried for war crimes by a tribe of naked Neanderthals. Superior cautionary tale. Julia Roberts plays a famous film star who gives up her career to travel around the world in a private jet with Bono and spread peace and love. Uplifting. One half of a Siamese twin comedy double act dies, but the show must go on. Absorbing psychological comic horror. A TV critic has 10,000 films surgically implanted in his brain and dies of spontaneous combustion in a freezer unit in an abandoned warehouse in Shoreditch. Absolutely unmissable.