Poets Talk: Socrates, Cirino, Hunter Thompson, Tina Fey, et. al.

mouse eatingNote: About 4 months ago, poet and commentator Charles Orloski and I posted some of our e-mail exchanges in an article we called Poets Talk.

At that time, we had been exchanging e-mails for a little more than a year, and had expanded our initial musings about the state of the Arts in America to include social, political, economic, philosophical and religious and moral questions, too; in other words—the whole cultural shebang!

“A word spoken in due season, how good is it!” the Book of Proverbs tells us, and since we had some good reports on our first endeavor… we have decided to endeavor once again.

Soren Kierkegaard thought that the poet’s mouth was shaped in such a way that when he or she opened it to speak, a sad but beautiful sound came forth. I have long thought that poets talk to themselves so that others want to overhear them. Orloski puts it plainly:

“Good thinkers require & deserve good questioners. It’s important for me when you question my points, and vice-versa. When readers encounter challenges in that which they read, authored by artists who are observably challenging one another, there emerges a 3rd person, and THOUGHT expands. That is good, and I do not believe Poets Talk goal is to tell anyone HOW to think. It HELPS perhaps in our country’s most severe deficiency — the education process.”

And here we begin. …

GC: Chuck, you recently posted a poem at CounterPunch, commemorating the 1-year anniversary of the passing of poet Leonard Cirino. Soon after he died, I know that CounterPunch’s Poets’ Basement devoted a few pages of tributes to Leonard—from you and others—as well as reprising some of Leonard’s poems. Now, before we get into any back-and-forth about our corrupt political scene, let’s talk a little about the Arts (in my mind politics and the Arts are inextricable—all part of our Kulturkampf–, but what I want to know is…, Why Leonard? What turns you on about his work?

CO: I will tell you something which some may find an exaggeration, but I experienced an epiphany almost every time I read a Leonard Cirino poem. Yes — its a church word, but I do mean epipahny!

GC: Well… that’s fine… and I’m glad for you. … But, for people who are not familiar with LC’s work—well, they need to know more than that. Can you be a little more specific, play literary critic, perhaps?

leonard cirino

Leonard Cirino

CO: Naming 1 or 2 of my favorite Cirino poems is like naming 1 or 2 of my favorite Beatle songs. It’s difficult, but come tomorrow, I will. Also, tomorrow, I will photocopy & scan my choice(s), and email them to you. And indicate WHY they are favored.

In general, I have not lost sight of Poets Talk goal. It’s very worthy to try and have a goal-focused conversation that others presumably WANT and never get from oft well-known egotists, narcissists.

GC: May we never be “well-known” as “egotists and narcissists”! (We’ll keep that part to ourselves!). …

The following day. …

CO: I just looked-up the poem, “Blitzkrieg Poetics,” where Leonard states, “I want poems that combat the obvious.” It’s from Omphalos: Poems 2007.

GC: Not bad. … But, isn’t that what most good poets/artists are trying to do? Trying to be original—not “combat the obvious”?

In response, CO sends the following:

Touched Again
By Leonard Cirino

Here, the heart is touched again by beauty,
stunned by the glow of gray
autumn frost, the mist of moths
hovering around the vine-ripened squash.

And don’t forget the pet mouse in the garden,
the one munching from the dog’s yeasty bowl.
Life revolves from heartease to ache. It rolls
us on its edge; we tumble mid-air in a helix
spiral, and hold on in this hellish world.

GC: I like it! It has what I think of as an Asian sensibility—spare, lean. Like a Japanese haiku or tanka. I especially like the image of the “mist of moths,” and the way he uses verbs like “hovering,” “revolves” and “rolls” to connote a sense of being spun in this world, in a “helix spiral,” trying to “hold on” to beauty and grace. And, I like the way he uses enjambment—running the lines together without pause, like, “gray autumn frost”; “moths hovering”; “rolls us”; and “helix spiral.” That, too gives the work kinetic energy—a sense of whirling and trying to “hold on” in what is too-often a “hellish world.”

If I were playing editor, I’d ask Leonard to re-consider that first line, though. I get nervous about seeing “heart” and “beauty” in the same line—especially the first line of a short poem. It seems to me, poets should try to create the sensation of beauty without telling us so, and touch the heart in the same way.

CO: Okay. … So you’re not crazy about that first line. … It’s fine with me, but… I like your idea of Poets Talk upholding the integrity of thought and dialogue. Neither participant should give the other a simple “donkey-nod consent.”

Poets Talk would be unworthy minus honest sharing of differences. Idealistically speaking, nothing should be “swept under carpet” while searching for sense, understanding & knowledge. As an undergrad at Jesuit University of Scranton, each student was required to attain “credits” in philosophy. The first fruit of such endeavor (for me) was learning about Socrates and his challenging the belief systems of others– asking uncomfortable & oft embarrassing questions that became a key characteristic of the best in human thought.

GC: That’s what I’m thinking! The Internet opens up major possibilities for collaborative and communal work. Room for questioning, challenging, fine-tuning. It’s a different kind of conversation—where you’re not distracted by facial expressions, body language, tone of voice. Employing the Socratic method, but with more than one guy or gal playing Socrates–or Mrs. S.!.

When I re-read the Dialogues a few years ago, it struck me that the great man never really had a worthy opponent! He was teaching students much younger than he. He gave us a methodology, but not the final word. He gave us a way to constantly prune and hone.

CO: Let’s say the Media adopts the Socratic-method as the basis for 1st Amendment Free Speech and journalism. … Would W. Bush hve had such an easy time informing America that “they hate us because we are free”? Murdering the nation of Iraq because they did not have either WMDs or al-Qaeda links? What if Obama had to face a Socrates at presidential press-conferences? Would they poison the questioner again?

GC: Where is there a Socrates in the MSM? They fired Phil Donahue at the beginning of the rape of Iraq. The best we get is some ironic wit from Colbert or Maher or Tina Fey.

CO: Like wild-eyed & successful GOP no-tax pledge campaign, I’d support a global Media effort designed to collect signature-promises to truthfully investigate and report news events. A pity what money has done to Free-Speech and journalistic integrity.

GC: I’ll sign that pledge and petition. And this is why it’s so important to “Occupy the Media,” to support the Alternative Media sites for our news—the real news—and our Art. To oppose the trickle-down TV crap from newscasters enthroned in their own prominence. To organize our efforts around the Alternative Media sites. To support those sites with our work… and our money when possible. Screw the cable companies that give us their endless 24-7 “news” from anchors in suits or women with nice legs. To hell with politicians with their hands out, or reaching into our pockets, assuring us that “We are the change we have been waiting for” and other death-rattle banalities!

CO: It’s time for GOOD & talented people in the arts & journalism to lay-off their appealing Nero-fiddling and get down to the business of helping others get out of the ugly & downhill mire that Banks, corporations, politicians & Illuminati have placed our world in.

FYI, where I write, for sustenance, I keep nearby Hunter S. Thompson’s The Gonzo Letters, Volume II, 1968-1976. H.S.T. was extremely talented, intelligent, very wild; he rode with the Hell’s Angels, and, as you know, even Pat Buchanan admired him. In his book, H.S.T. includes a hard-hitting letter to CBS News’s Charles Kuralt, who was, back then, traveling around the country for his “On the Road” series, depicting less well-known aspects of American life, unique characters, etc. So, in this letter, Hunter tells Charles, “it’s time you got off your Nero act… Primarily, I think you should launch a personal vendetta against Justice Willaim O. Douglas; that evil old bugger is so crooked that he has to screw his pants on every morning.”

It’s really impossible for ANYONE to ever swear and “tell the whole truth & nothing but the truth.” But if Poets Talk is to have a real purpose, and become a catalyst to enhance thought, I am thinking it is a good time to “talk” Hunter S. Thompson’s talk to power. He did it when our country was convulsed by immoral war in Viet Nam, the assassinations of RFK and MLK, the NY Times publication of The Pentagon Papers, and the resignation of Nixon. We can—we must—do it now!

GC: I agree. We’ve got to recapture that fire, fan it, let it burn brighter. Let the Arts be a furnace for gold!

By Gary Corseri and Charles Orloski

Gary Corseri has posted/published his work at L.A. Progressive and hundreds of other venues worldwide. He has published novels and books of poetry, performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library, and his dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta and elsewhere. Charles Orloski has posted his work at CounterPunch, DissidentVoice, The SmirkingChimp, OpEdNews, HollywoodProgressive and various other websites.

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