Dan Schneider’s Poetry: Not Sisyphus (bonus – This Is Not About Stalin)

The best of poems feels like a great riddle being posed and can be more intriguing than the tightly crafted mysteries of many detective novelists. Varieties of meaning can hinge on mere shifts of words – and nothing is more interesting than tracing back how the poet led you down a certain pathway. A clear example of this is the poem Not Sisyphus by Dan Schneider – which grabbed me with its puzzle the moment I read it – and, even after I’ve come up with my own interpretation of it, I still feel as though there is something simply uncanny about its construction.

Copyrighted by Dan Schneider

The way the narrative voice sounds, the re-interpretation of the myth, and the revelation of the last line – reminds me a lot of some of Kafka’s parables, except that the sonnet is greater because it layers more paradox through the enjambment and has a wider span of techniques. The intrigue starts from the very beginning, with its title.

There are a few such works in Dan’s Collected Poems that does the same thing – overtly negating a certain subject, which all the more serves to draw your attention to it through reverse psychology. He has a bunch of poems named ‘This Is Not About Stalin’ (edit: as noted in the comments, its a 3 poem cycle with slightly different names)  where he mixes metaphors that bring to mind Communist elements like factories or mechanism – but uses it to talk about a completely different subject. You can see one example here:

Copyright by Dan Schneider

Using the destruction of individuality that Communism brings as a metaphor of the ego-negation that occurs during sex/love is absolutely wild – but let’s go back to Not Sisyphus.

Now, the very first thing that Dan does in this poem is call up the myth of Sisyphus itself. An unnamed narrator describes being stuck in a punishment much like Sisyphus, but we aren’t exactly sure yet. The next two lines begins the narrative twist. The narrator is someone sitting on the side – most likely a God – watching Sisyphus. This creates a mythic parallel & ironic re-interpretation – where it is the God that has to suffer the punishment of watching Sisyphus – while, to reference Camus & his existential interpretation of Sisyphus – Sisyphus remains blissfully happy. Incidentally, Dan has used Camus’ book before as an epigraph for his poem First Murder – although I do not know if he had the quote about ‘imagining Sisyphus happy’ in mind when he wrote the poem. In any case, when he writes how Sisyphus ‘smiles’ – that reference comes to mind.

The voice of the narrator, with words such as ‘old ghost’, ‘demeanor’, ‘sipping my ice tea’ and the barrage of alliteration in the later lines – recalls less of a God and more of a grinning Dandy or Clown musing lackadaisically about the vision before him. It is this jesting voice that brought my mind to Kafka – and it shows the range of voices that Dan can encompass in his writings.

The reinforcement of the idea that the narrator is a God comes from a ‘nymph’ that tells him of Sisyphus crimes. Notice how the rhythm & jest abruptly picks up during the nymph’s descriptions, manufactured by Dan’s intuitive poetic feeling – which could draw the reader into what Sisyphus might have felt (the thrill and whirl) at the moment of his crime before being caught. It returns to a calmer rhythm after ‘But all fails’.

The actual nature of Sisyphus’ crime is left unknown – but we merely know of the act of swindling. This helps to leave this aspect of the poem open to a multitude of possible interpretations. Yet, at its core, it describes a person full of bullshit, the transience of his moment (and his lack of awareness about its transience – Death), and the eventual downfall. Knowing what Dan loves to rail against – it could easily be a hack artist or writer like Andy Warhol that he had in mind when writing the poem – the punishment, of course, comes from the narrator having to watch these antics from his own higher understanding of Art – shaking his head at the sheer baseness of it all. Or, it could be about Crime in general – or Politics. The divide between Sisyphus and the narrator is heightened through the “Now only I bask” enjambment – and this kind of thing places it in the same element as Dan’s poem about killing a spider.

And then, we are left with the banger of an ending – which really knocks it out of the park by adding layers to the title and giving the poem so much intrigue. It is unexpectedly emotional too – throwing away the jesting voice of the previous lines with the rough and sudden ‘clutched to my core’. This is the true tragedy of Sisyphus – who, when he imagines himself happy – does not allow for the progress of the stone. In a way, it reflects cycles that are reinforced through the crimes or lacks that people commit. Lack of progress through pettiness and smallness in art, through deception in politics, or through corruption and crime. This makes the stone a large symbol that can encompass many facets of humanity that are limited by the constancy of certain lesser elements – the ignorant that are unaware of knowing when to give up. The narrator, the god or higher visionary, can laugh it off – but ultimately there is a tragedy to it all – things that need to be transcended.

Such lines are what makes these things memorable built through the great technical and intellectual labyrinths of the poet. Watch, read, and learn.

Dan Schneider’s Poem: Midnight at a White Castle in Bloomington, Minnesota

Edit:

Dan recently wrote to me about the onions part that I was not clear on. He had this to clarify:

In the White Castle poem, sliders are what the little square hamburgers are called, and they are cooked with onions so that they smell and taste oniony- which is why the reference to onions recalling.

(08/05/17)

This is a poem that Dan himself commented on and analysed because he was critiqued by someone who couldn’t even follow Dan’s diction in the poetry. So you get a bit of an insight into how he went through the process of its creation:

Midnight at a White Castle in Bloomington, Minnesota

The girl recalls 7:37 p.m.,
and its twilit heart that the nighthawks whiled by,
as she presses her nose against the smudgeless glass
to watch them eat. A colder lean in to learning
engages her eyes as the customers glide by
the burgeoning white, that vanishes up close, as
the night loses dominion within the light square
and she drools for a slider, a hunger that stems
from a place that she shares with them: unawareness
undiscovered. The manager sees her prying
gaze, and orders the child away. So, she leaves
the bushes, till onions recall. It is not fair–
this notion of unawareness that no one grieves
for, or reflects: a boundary which never was.

I won’t paste that text – but you can read it over here. I agree with Dan – this isn’t a hard poem to follow in terms of the narrative, at least, if you have significant experience with someone who uses a higher level of hermeticism like Wallace Stevens. It also has a lot of subtle turns that, once again, are hidden under the surface of what seems to be a prosaic stretch of text. If a critic cannot follow the general thread of the words in this poem – that critic has no right to be a critic – but, even a critic like that may miss out on some beautiful ambiguities hidden within.

But I want anyone who is reading this analysis to stay on this page first, because there is a secret theme to this poem. And there is a reason why Dan wanted to keep it a secret. I will reveal it at the end of this analysis.

There’s a bit of background that Dan says you might need to know though: “Note that the ‘White Castle’ is in Bloomington, Minnesota- an affluent suburb in 1 of the ‘whitest’ states in the union.”

The poem also makes a reference to Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.

With that in mind, let’s get into the poem:

The girl recalls 7:37 p.m.,
and its twilit heart that the nighthawks whiled by,
as she presses her nose against the smudgeless glass

At the start, we get a girl recalling a specific time – 7.37pm – and this is the ‘twilit heart that the nighthawks whiled by’ – referencing Hopper while also giving a kind of atmosphere of the place, set between the dimming of darkness and rising of light. It recalls the lonely austerity of the painting. We get a description of the girl ‘pressing her nose against smudgeless glass’ – with an emphasis on that ‘smudgeless’. Why the emphasis, will be teased out in the rest of the poem.

to watch them eat. A colder lean in to learning
engages her eyes as the customers glide by
the burgeoning white, that vanishes up close, as
the night loses dominion within the light square

As she watches them eat, there is a ‘colder lean in to learning’ – something seems to be gained inside her, but we don’t exactly know what yet. Only we know it’s ‘cold’ – so it must be a bitter truth. But this truth ‘engages her eyes as the customers glide by’ – the descriptor ‘glide’ giving the customers a ghostly feel. Then, they glide by the ‘burgeoning white’ – which recalls the painting again, where this white diner seems to be a sanctuary against the surrounding darkness. But, following the grammar of the whole sentence, the next ‘vanishing up close’ seems to be linked to the ‘colder lean’ – which, if this is a White Castle burger shop – implies hunger and the outside elements. Her colder lean (possibly hunger) vanishes up close to the White Castle shop. Yet, it also, within the line, links up with the white – which makes them more ghost-like in the image. These white and ghostly customers, almost like divine angels, float up before the eyes of the girl.

Then, night loses dominion within the light square – which is exactly the effect that Hopper’s painting achieved.

and she drools for a slider, a hunger that stems
from a place that she shares with them: unawareness
undiscovered. The manager sees her prying
gaze, and orders the child away. So, she leaves

And the point about the hunger is reinforced – but that isn’t the only ‘colder lean’ in the text. The next bitter truth will be coming to her next. She has a ‘hunger that stems from a place she shares with them’. But this place she shares is revealed as ‘unawareness’ – of what? What are they both unaware of?

Perhaps, each other – as she is a ghost to them in the realm of darkness, and they are ghosts to her in the realm of light. She shares their hunger, yet dissipates in their vision – a human being they cannot empathize or acknowledge.

And then, ‘undiscovered’ – the manager comes and chases her away. Why? Why does Dan enjamb at ‘prying’? What does the manager think she’s infringing on? Some kind of lifestyle?

the bushes, till onions recall. It is not fair–
this notion of unawareness that no one grieves
for, or reflects: a boundary which never was.

‘Onions recall’ is the bit of abstraction that I’m not clear about, but it could be a subversive way to describe how the girl is crying – she is crying to the point where the food and desire for it has melded within her. But that’s just one view. But, there is a kind of injustice over here. It’s not fair, this sudden removal from the premises – she is forced to leave ‘the bushes’ a kind of smaller place of poverty compared to the internal light of the White Castle.

What isn’t fair to her? This ‘notion of unawareness that no one grieves’ – linking back to the above statement, calling back that separation that the both of them have, a metaphysical rift now. No one knows.

But, it reflects (and this is both a physical reflection and a mental one) – the ‘boundary which never was’.

What is this boundary?

With all the things teased you may have guessed it. The colours, the talk of Minnesota, the subversion of Edward Hopper’s lonely light sanctuary in the darkness.

To put it simply – Racism.

But, that would be too simple.

This is a great poem that talks about the metaphysics of prejudice, and how reality manifests to both the oppressor and oppressed – they both view each other as ghosts, and just that one is a ghost in a realm of darkness, and the other – a ghost in the realm of light.

Dan himself has repeated how many times that he hated politicization and agitprop in poetry – the political impinging on the art. And thus, in order to prove everyone that it could be done – he wrote a poem that could be, in micro, specifically about American Racism – but, in the macro, speaks about all kinds of prejudice in the world, and how the perceiver and the perceived view it – and how even the victim is trapped within the boundary. The phenomenological perspective of it. Just think about all the people who fall into aggression and radicalism for the sake of some ideology, even if it stands for something good. Even if it helps the victim.

You can apply this poem to all sorts of prejudice, even the divide that occurred from the American elections between separate ideologies that see each other as figments and bugaboos in the night – while they view each other from their own lonely Hopperian sanctuaries – bleeding their hunger into one another.

Dan Schneider’s Poem: The Mothman

The more I read Dan Schneider, the more I feel as though a man who is Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Rilke, Robinson Jeffers, and Chekhov in a single entity has been walking the Earth for the last century and this one – and only a small percentage of the world has noticed. His brutal insight on the human condition is unsurpassed, but he has more poesy than the German mad philosopher, and he’s also more internally stable than him. I’ve already gone into his penetrating insights about human struggle, first world problems, existential questions of fluid identity, the vices of Malcolm X, the nature of Love, and the Masculinity embedded in war. He sees the entire world and the human condition fully.

Here is a poem about human folly and imagination:

THE MOTHMAN
*for John Keel

Here, above,
where fearsome angels cower, the Mothman
glides soundlessly above illusion. The moon
is something that cannot fly, and you cannot see
the moon, below him, as he spreads his terrible wings
his red eyes become the billion-year bloat
of giant stars dying into the useless night of eyes,
yours, folding in to the unremarked of realms.

But when the Mothman
comes, clearly, those who witness him rise above
those realms of plastic and styrofoam. To be human
is to disappoint- so the Mothman never does.
He is the summit of unknown and unbroken expectations,
and the inquisitor who asks: “What is the fallen
in you?” He cannot understand the onlookers
of life, the unmoved at Jericho’s tumble.

Up the facades
of inemotion, righter than left, and three winks
from Magonia, he rises, now sounding mechanical,
as if an early helicopter chopping its way
to your comprehension, the full breadth of his wings
spreading, as if to say, “I, too, have form!”
Yet, he has no head, nor mouth, nor nose, nor ears,
just huge glowing eyes in a gray-brown skin.

Then he returns
to earth, leaving the now of your wonder,
as if to instruct the mortal of their poor restraint.
Gently, gently he dares to shaping the odors
of your dreams, disnebulous as your remembrance
of him, filling the emptiness that springtimes do,
at times, distilling your denial into a tear,
singular as a day, but ten times as salty.

Each night he must
dissolve in to a crane, an owl, or a bugaboo
of dismission that underlies comfortability.
But his is not there. He regards it a disease
that the earthbound must overcome. He does
it by looming over the American night, the consensus
universe that you construct. Sometimes, he watches
you as you whistle by the wonder he swallows whole.

If you catch him
looking at you, be very afraid. Not of him,
nor some grim intent, but because his eyes will curve
in to you- hold your eye up to his eye, it is all
blood- a deep placidity no human can share, nor bear,
cool and pure as the scent of a stark dry thing
the wet of an animal’s nose remembers, the mist
of a thunderhead’s calm, the drum of rain on umbrellas.

This poem is inspired by the legend of the Mothman – one of those mysterious creatures like Big-Foot or Nessie that has been sighted around by various onlookers. Dan wrote his own essay on the subject over here – going into the mythology and research. The actual structure of the poem itself happens to be directly based on Elizabeth Bishop’s The Man-Moth – a poem of supreme imaginative fancy – all of the first lines are the same.

But, that’s all the background. Let’s dive in:

Here, above,
where fearsome angels cower, the Mothman
glides soundlessly above illusion. The moon
is something that cannot fly, and you cannot see
the moon, below him, as he spreads his terrible wings
his red eyes become the billion-year bloat
of giant stars dying into the useless night of eyes,
yours, folding in to the unremarked of realms.

This is a Gothic, Cosmic, and Divine imagery wrapped into a single stanza, setting up the Mothman as a mythic experience. But it also teases a bit of abstract description of the internal psychology of the mythologizers who would strive to encompass this being. Notice the sneaky enjambments like ‘is something that cannot fly, and you cannot see’ – showing the viewers rootedness and blindness. The Mothman ‘glides soundlessly above illusion’ – a reading of this is that the Mothman has become higher than imagination and delusion by becoming American myth – thus it glides above. The moon seems to be fixed as the symbol for human imagination and also limits (also used in the Visual Novel Himawari, incidentally) – and the stanza ends with a drifting down of the cosmic into the mundanity of the human – with ‘stars dying into the useless night of eyes’ and ‘yours, folding in to the unremarked of realms’. All Myth is born from this smallness and un-remarkability of a human self.

But when the Mothman
comes, clearly, those who witness him rise above
those realms of plastic and styrofoam. To be human
is to disappoint- so the Mothman never does.
He is the summit of unknown and unbroken expectations,
and the inquisitor who asks: “What is the fallen
in you?” He cannot understand the onlookers
of life, the unmoved at Jericho’s tumble.

This is about as straightforward a poetic description of human escapism from shittiness as you can get. Although there are some little turns, like how the Mothman ‘comes, clearly’ – and how it enjambs at ‘to be human’, as though the plastic and Styrofoam were what defined us. There is also that idea that he ‘asks’ but ‘cannot understand’ – which could mean many things, such as how all people want to hear is the phenomena (the Myth) without the connection to them. The last two lines also enjambs to make it seem as though being ‘unmoved at Jericho’s tumble’ or apathy – is the normal mode of life. And there’s also that little ‘onlookers of life’ which dualizes as both talking about the watchers of the Mothman and the people separated from life because they want to escape from it into Myth.

Up the facades
of inemotion, righter than left, and three winks
from Magonia, he rises, now sounding mechanical,
as if an early helicopter chopping its way
to your comprehension, the full breadth of his wings
spreading, as if to say, “I, too, have form!”
Yet, he has no head, nor mouth, nor nose, nor ears,
just huge glowing eyes in a gray-brown skin.

Magonia, incidentally, is according to Wikipedia a “cloud realm whence felonious aerial sailors were said to have come” – in this case meant to denote an aerial fancyland. This stanza is completely abstract – but it does that thing that Wallace Stevens poems likes to do where he creates a poetic image denoting an idea. It begins with facades – following Bishop – but twists into ‘facades of inemotion, righter than left’ – and this seems to be talking about the mythic quality that is a realm divorced from human emotion. But, in the vein of Nietzsche’s Death of God – this divorce is a lie, and in fact it is purely born from humanity.

So the first part is a kind of whimsical imagination spot, talking about ‘righter than left…three winks… and Magonia’ – but then suddenly shifts into this idea of ‘sounding mechanical’. Could this be talking about the mechanical quality of humanity’s myth-making? The machine of illusions that we keep falling into because something inside us wants to create an escape route to cope with reality – probably based on evolutionary psychology. That’s why the next image is of a helicopter ‘chopping its way to your comprehension’ – and within this comprehension spans ‘the full breadth of his wings’ (thanks to enjambment). We are all caught within our myths by some kind of strange machine in our heads – that old pessimistic idea.

And the next line is another double whammy – where you don’t know if the person who wants to ‘have form’ is the Mothman, or your own comprehension. Thus talking about the irreality of the Myth born from human insignificance and ‘lack of form’. The final image is a horrific alienating one – where the Mothman is, in the end, divorced from human senses, like some kind of Eldritch Horror that appears in the minds of the delusional and torments them, but cannot be grasped. In the end – could it be that the mad man is the one without his organs – and not the mad thing he sees?

Then he returns
to earth, leaving the now of your wonder,
as if to instruct the mortal of their poor restraint.
Gently, gently he dares to shaping the odors
of your dreams, disnebulous as your remembrance
of him, filling the emptiness that springtimes do,
at times, distilling your denial into a tear,
singular as a day, but ten times as salty.

And this part is about the Mothman’s return to Earth, after the previous stanza described his appearance in the abstract realm of Myth (Magonia). Now this is talking about the realm of human mortal subjectivity rooted to the ground. He is ‘leaving the now of your wonder’ – the people who have seen him will now be ‘instructed of their poor restraint’. They are now enamoured by the image, but it is all an abstraction created by the myth-making machine in human heads. The Myth-machine ‘shapes the odors of your dreams, disnebulous as your remembrance’ – crazy delusional people probably have very bad memory and skewed heads. ‘Filling the emptiness that springtimes do’ – the love of the Myth is like the love of springtime – a classical pastoral image skewed. ‘Distilling your denial into a tear, singular as a day, but ten times as salty’ – perhaps the fear of the Mothman creating tears of fear in the viewer? Although the viewing was only for a single day – the viewer can taste it for waaaay longer. But, in the end, it is still born from your denial, and your own flaws as a human.

Each night he must
dissolve in to a crane, an owl, or a bugaboo
of dismission that underlies comfortability.
But his is not there. He regards it a disease
that the earthbound must overcome. He does
it by looming over the American night, the consensus
universe that you construct. Sometimes, he watches
you as you whistle by the wonder he swallows whole.

But finally – why do Myths exist? These are dreams where ‘dismission underlies comfortability’ – in the end, it is for human comforts that they dream, so that they can better take in bitter reality. Yet, it is a ‘disease that the earthbound must overcome’ – but the Mothman, as an idea, has already overcome it (‘He does’). He is the ‘consensus’ – the ‘universe that you construct’ – both singular and plural delusions, delusions of mass and delusions of individuals (told in just a single enjambment). He is there to loom over the country as a myth, as a higher existence watching you to find him, reach him, or even overcome him (perhaps by expunging our myth-making organ from us through future scientific developments) – and he will swallow your imagination whole.

If you catch him
looking at you, be very afraid. Not of him,
nor some grim intent, but because his eyes will curve
in to you- hold your eye up to his eye, it is all
blood- a deep placidity no human can share, nor bear,
cool and pure as the scent of a stark dry thing
the wet of an animal’s nose remembers, the mist
of a thunderhead’s calm, the drum of rain on umbrellas.

Then, in the end, there is no ‘grim intent’ hiding behind his eyes – but they will ‘curve’ and bend into your vision – ‘hold your eye up to his eye, it is all’. What is it all? Blood – the Natural machine is calm, a ‘deep placidity’ that ‘no human can share, nor bear’ – Nature is apathetic and calm, so we must build ourselves delusions for fear that we would be destroyed by its coldness. But, one day we may be able to see the world for what it is – as ‘cool and pure as the scent of a stark dry thing’ – and maybe one day our ‘animal nose’ will scent it out and remember that within our storms, within this ‘thunderhead’s calm’ – we have our own ‘umbrellas’ – our creations have conquered nature. We have no more need for dreams.

Why do not more people heed the words, poesies, and the call of this mind with such insight? They too, are perhaps lost in their own myths – while the large eye of the poet – Dan – stares over them.

Dan Schneider’s Poem: Death of a Spider – Dan vs Robert Frost – Meaning & Elegance

Edit:

Dan noted that he also had James Emmanuel’s To Kill A Morning Spider in mind when writing his poem.

And he objected to my narrow idea of ‘music’ because his poem contains its own alliteration & assonance – and not just a focus on meter. Personally, I am really biased to those kinds of musical & metrical poems – so there’s weight to that objection. Somehow, ‘unlearning’ that bias is gonna be something I have to pick up.

(08/05/17)

This shall be a comparative analysis between Dan Schneider’s sonnet Death of a Spider, and Robert Frost’s sonnet Design. The latter is, of course, written by one of the masters of formal music. Dan, on the other hand, writes in what he calls an ‘omni-sonnet’ – which is actually his name for a sort of contained free verse 14 lines. So we can guess who definitely wins on the front of ‘musicality’. But poetry is not merely musicality, but meaning – so let’s see how each poet works within this theme.

1. Frost’s Design

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth–
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth–
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?–
If design govern in a thing so small.

Frost’s poem is an exercise in lightness, so it’s not just that he was being musical – but his verse contributes mood to the meaning. The first four lines are ‘thick’ or even ‘ugly’ – ‘fat & white’, ‘rigid satin’, ‘death and blight’ – versus the ‘lightness’ in the next four lines – ‘morning right’, ‘snow-drop’, ‘flower like a froth’, ‘dead wings… paper kite’.

Essentially, this creates a mirror effect – where the first four lines are grim and the next four – whimsical. Although they describe the same scene. Repetition of ‘white’ of course in the first 3 lines places so much focus on that colour of purity – which is tainted by the scene of death, but after ‘morning’ comes in, it seems as though the images turn into ephemeral beauties – stuck between rigid pain and floating away.

Then, the next stanza begins its questioning – what brought these 3 elements together in this dance of death? Metaphorically, they extend into a force of evil, a victim, and a ‘neutral land’ – all mixed in the same colour of innocence. The conclusion is the questioning of ‘design’ – coming to the conclusion of it being a ‘design of darkness to appall’.

Of this poem, I can say that it is supremely elegant, since basically it usually the same 3 images repeated 3 times in every four lines – but it develops these images without making them banal. The most complexity of meaning comes not from the questioning, but from the clashing in the first stanza. Without it – the latter part would probably be too didactic.

But – shall we call that it’s limit? In the end it merely descends into that kind of ending. How shall Dan fare against this theme?

2. Dan Schneider’s Death of a Spider

Its camber up the ceramic white surface
fails again and again. The sides are too steep
as I imagine it. Its legs giving way
eight times as often until they cannot grace
themselves with an order. This time is to wait
for its strength to feed on its own, as I see
its outline dissipate from the bathtub’s slope,
as it tries yet again. And I can relate
to its failure, no matter its own deftness
of being, as it tries again. With each slip
its focus shuts out the world, in relation
to escape. I simply take it in my grip,
wrapped in tissue, till it no longer misses
its life. Its struggle, itself, caked by motion.

If you take the perspective that Dan could be thinking of YOU as the spider – it feels like a royal royal stab in the gut.

But I’m getting too ahead of myself. Don’t think of that meaning first. Let’s look at the sections.

Its camber up the ceramic white surface
fails again and again. The sides are too steep
as I imagine it. Its legs giving way

The first two lines sets up the over-arching image of the spider climbing the bath-tub. The poet intervenes by the third line – placing himself from the standpoint of viewer or ‘imaginer’. These three lines come together to set up the idea of ‘struggle’. That much is apparent.

eight times as often until they cannot grace
themselves with an order. This time is to wait
for its strength to feed on its own, as I see

Calling account of the spider’s eight legs pushes the ‘again and again’ in the previous lines further, but it enjambs at ‘cannot grace’. This implies some kind of light removed from the spider – but the next line is quick to reveal what it is – ‘an order’. In other words, opposed to Frost’s notion of design, this is brutal trial and error.

Then, there is a waiting – for ‘its strength to feed on its own’. If Robert Frost was elegant in verse, this is elegance in meaning. Notice how the grammar allows for two possible meanings – either ‘feeding on itself’ or ‘strength to feed with its own power’. Then, the poet’s viewpoint returns, coming together with an ‘as I see’. This can be condensed the entire description of human struggle, or in a wider view, animal struggle – trial and error to either self-consumption or independence.

Yet, Dan (or the poet narrator – the human perspective) is always on a higher plane, watching.

its outline dissipate from the bathtub’s slope,
as it tries yet again. And I can relate
to its failure, no matter its own deftness

Enjambing changes the ‘dissipate’ from verb feeling to noun feeling, so you feel as though the dissipation were standing at the slope, slightly more concrete. The next step returns the refrain of the struggle – but now the poet’s thoughts have cycled through imagination, sight, and now into relation. Which is, actually, how a person gains experience – from internal thought, witnessing empirical experience, and finally understanding and developing a connection. But that’s a side idea – the main idea here is that the poet understands this ‘failure, no matter its own deftness’. Yet, this understanding does not allow for mercy.

of being, as it tries again. With each slip
its focus shuts out the world, in relation.

Extending ‘deftness’ to ‘of being’ removes the description from just the mere action of the spider – but places it in a kind of internal action surging through its body. Then, the repetition of ‘try again’ once more – and cutting off at the ‘slip’ to the next line.

‘its focus shuts out the world, in relation’ – this is one of the killer lines. Robert Frost’s morality of some unexplained higher design, even of mere darkness, doesn’t apply here. This makes you think of all the things that people strive to do, fail, and become worse and more relentless in their mistakes. Because they have nothing left but the struggle, they cling on to it. Think about, for example, anarchist revolutionaries wallowing in their own ideology, or tyrants struggling to maintain their position at the cost of others – or even some troll Finnish girl – or even bad poets. Failure does not necessarily lead to knowledge gained (and this is where the dictum ‘fail again, fail better’ does not apply) – but it may lead to devout persistence. It also can be applied to a bigger picture explanation of survival of the fittest – of all these beings trying to move in one wave for survival.

to escape. I simply take it in my grip,
wrapped in tissue, till it no longer misses

And then, the poet/Dan steps in, providing a path. Will he set the spider free with its grip? What does it no longer miss? Does this mean it no longer misses the top of the bath-tub?

its life. Its struggle, itself, caked by motion

No. Dan slays it. It’s life. It’s struggle. Its own self. Slathered with bloody motion and a history of its own failed attempts. It no longer misses it. It was all the better for it. Was it? Was this all there was to it? The finality of the sentence is chilling.

Now compare how much oscillation of meaning occurs between Frost & Dan – and see how many times one poet pulls the rug from under you, again, and again, and again.

Dan Schneider’s Poem: Big Red (Structure)

  1. Introduction

We’ve looked at many smaller poems, but how does one create a big one?

This won’t be an in-depth word by word analysis, but I’ll be focusing on the macro-structure of Dan Schneider’s poem called Big Red. It’s not found on his website at Cosmoetica, but it’s published in another online magazine. Go and check it out.

This ‘triptytch’ is based on the life of Malcolm X, the black power minister that was nicknamed Red in his youth due to his red hair. Each part of the poem looks at a different period of Malcolm’s Life – starting with his criminal youth, segueing into his period as an advocate for aggression against white oppressors, and finally ending at the time of his assassination, when he had converted into a higher spirituality.

Every part of the poem has an ‘argument’ that summarizes the portion, as well as an epigraph that opens up into its themes. At the start of the poem, there is an over-arching epigraph as well.

This top-down approach allows for a lot of space to maneuver. After deciding on the overall thematic structure, all Dan has to do is to fill in the gaps of each section and have the internal language bounce and play against each other. If he can do this successfully, then he will be able to bring internal life to this single character, while also having the structure itself surge outwards to comment on a greater kind of cosmic vision.

  1. The Arguments

Let’s start by looking at the arguments in each of the 3 sections:

The Argument: In 1945 a two-bit hustler named Malcolm Little ruled the Harlem night. Born on May 19th, 1925 to the Reverend Earl Little and his wife, Louise, Malcolm had a childhood fraught with temptation and danger. Taking a cue from the Romans, he became their greatest advocate.

The Argument: In 1960 a hollow hustler named Malcolm X held The Nation Of Islam. Born from the ashes of a February, 1946 arrest– and subsequent years in prison– X devoted his prowess to persuade to the service of one Elijah Poole cum Muhammad, a tin-pot prophet of the kind the Apocalypse forewarns. But X minded not.

The Argument: In 1965 a devout man named El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz was murdered at 3:30 P.M. on February 21st. Born from a pilgrimage to Mecca, Shabazz drank from the well of Zenza, as well from his own soul. The Muslim-cum-Moslem, at last, was at peace.

The subtle poetry starts from these arguments, because these are where Dan, as the omniscient creator, can make his judgments upon Malcolm. Within the poem itself, he writes from Malcolm’s POV – so this is the only section where his ‘objective’ voice will come through.

Dan’s judgment is definite – Malcolm X was a hustler and he was a pawn to a ‘tin-pot prophet’ from the Nation of Islam. The first two sections are ironic and make fun of Malcolm’s hypocrisy while simultaneously using his voice – but the last section paints it deeper by having his final words be a grandiose cosmic vision. In this way, even this judgment isn’t purely fixed, but the entire poem works to paint him as a flawed visionary. It admonishes but lionizes the man in the best way possible.

  1. The Sections

The sections are entitled ‘Punk’, ‘Brimstone’, and ‘Bullet’.

Punk is written entirely in Afro-American vernacular, and this might, of course, cause some people to cringe since Dan definitely ain’t black – but he’s an ex-mafiosi with his fair share of the streets. I’m not American nor am I a scholar of Afro-American linguistics, so I absolutely cannot provide any judgment on how well he does the voice. Dan has said before that The Autobiography of Malcolm X was one of his most personal favourite books and he describes it like this:

The 1st of the books was Alex Haley’s Autobiography of Malcolm X. In the ghosted pages detailing that brief foray of breath in form I 1st found a real kindred in words. An odd pairing, at 1st blush, I admit. But lighten Malcolm Little’s skin, move him forward 30 years, & lop a decade off the age of the teen Malcolm’s adventures & 1 curiously finds a near blow-by-blow assessment of my childhood in the gloomed streets of Ridgewood, Queens- just a bullet’s chip away from the Stygian heroin galleries of Bushwick, Brooklyn. I must have been in my mid-teens when I encountered the tale. I do not recall whether it was an assigned read at school or a chance encounter at a library. No matter. It mattered.”

So Dan’s intent on writing this part in such a style is critical, intellectual, and personal. Which you must bear in mind given that this part is a crude portrayal of how Malcolm Little fucks a white girl who was “shittin’ ‘bout how she needs a Negro stud to ‘set me right!’” with liberal scatterings of the N word – and how he beats up another guy for wanting to “rip me mah due”. It is unrepentantly racy and will definitely set off a million triggers from BLM advocates. Thus, thee fair warning to you all who care.

(For those who don’t care, it’s just fucking funny and far better than David Foster Wallace’s crappy attempt in Infinite Jest – the book that Dan thinks is one of the worst books of Literature to ever exist)

Most importantly, it paints a completely flawed and dark picture of Malcolm Little with unflinching grittiness and brutal language. Although, Dan has to do his poet shtick, and so he scatters some strange words here and there, like ‘copacetic’ and ‘combinated’ and similes like: “and dis bitch is like same Lillian Gish bein’ I tied down to some railroad tracks not knowin’ dat de Detroit Red Express is bearin’ down on her”

It also happens to use the slang ‘.45’ – although I’m not scholarly enough to know whether they used that term back there.

There are several important points here. The main refrain that Malcolm uses is how ‘everything has a price’, and how ‘you just gots to learn the system’. The encounter with the white girl ends with him terrorizing her while she’s tied up because she’s ‘crashing their scene’ – despite getting a good lay with her in the process. He beats up the other dude because he got ripped off.

Choice is another overarching thing, with the very first stanza saying “You can do it or you can not do it; that’s the choice – it’s like some cat who comes dicing for some reefer without any stash”. This ‘price’ and ‘system’ in this part of the poem refers to the society and the brutal exchanges in the underground criminal system – but by the end it seems to ring with cosmic proportions.

Brimstone is written in the form of one of Malcolm X’s sermons. It is a condemnation of the white man as a race and is aggressively Black Power. Yet, it also contains several ironies and hypocrisies when contrasted with the last section.

Malcolm, for example, calls out “what the white man so laughingly and gently calls – the game, the system, to steal and rob” – and this harkens back to the ‘system’ described in part 1. So that poses the question – were the vices that Malcolm was stuck in for the first section derived from this system of oppression, or was it born from his own choices?

There is also the repeating refrain in the sermon where Malcolm ‘charges the white man’ – ‘I charge the white man with havoc’. But Dan, with his crystal sharp enjambment, makes it so that each new repetition segues with the previous one, so it reads as ‘with havoc; I charge the white man’ – blending the condemnation with aggression Malcolm’s aggression and sinful ‘charge’. Other hypocrisies come within the sermon when Malcolm condemns the white man for ‘women in slavery’ – despite his own savagery against one in the first part. To add an ironic tone, Dan adds an ‘I know you know I know’ in that line.

Then, Malcolm ends each stanza of the sermon with this:

The acme of evil
Is the great white devil.

And it is just so goddamn RIDICULOUS a metaphor that I was giggling to myself. This ridiculous metaphor undercuts everything that Malcolm says in its ridiculousity.

Anyway, there are other parts where Dan will enjamb when Malcolm makes a statement that seems to be implicating something else, but when cut, will read like he’s implicating himself. For example:

I come before you as a vessel formerly filled with sins
Of the white devil; yet I come before you

Or:

I am nothing. I have nothing. I have no purpose
Save this service. And I come before you.

Which gives everything a more existential tone where Malcolm X is throwing himself into being a pawn for the Nation because of the lack in his soul.

This part has a strong tone of Biblical poesy, calling in mind William Blake and his mystical decrees. Cadences and repetitions that build into images. But being situated in a large poem like this gives the style a deeper heft, because the grandeur of the tone is put into question. And there’s also that constant ridiculous refrain to make fun of it.

After all that, this part ends with the prophetic:

“The truth is out there.
Just open your eyes…”

Before going into the climax, which is the transcendent verse of the dying reformed Malcolm.

Bullet – this is the moment when Malcolm’s tone becomes like a Messiah. It talks about relinquishing hate and being one under Allah. It includes this beautiful mystical stanza:

This universe is a tiny mote, caught
In the spin of minds and systems and galaxies
Mankind is but its simple wonder.

This, if you know Dan’s style, is his galactic description. Like the other poems where he will use galaxies and space as images to juxtapose off small micro human experiences. With this stanza, and the saintly tone, the ‘price’ and ‘system’ are placed in a cosmic light. This time, the karmic price and the systems of the cosmos.

And then, we get this as the finale:

My friends, this final tale shall I tell:
A man, one day, down to the delta
of a seaward river went. He feared
its terrible break and awful pull
until the sea spat mighty Leviathan
at his feet. As the beast slowly
and pitilessly died, the man did
nothing save roar inward, at this omen,
and he wept, in fear, as nothing,
nothing at all, occurred….”

And I myself – I was like: Did Dan Just Steal The Ending To Fellini’s La Dolce Vita As A Cosmic Parable In His Malcolm X Poem In Order To Create A Kind of Existential Echo Ending For Big Red HolyshitFuck?

Damn. Dan. Damn.

  1. The Epigraphs

The rule is – never use an epigraph as merely itself. Always use it to play off the themes, maybe even ironically refuting them if you wish.

The poem begins with this epigraph:

‘If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.’ —Frederick Douglass

And this can be read as an admonition of the people who mythologize Malcolm X without taking into account his true flaws. It also calls up that ‘necessary aggression’ stance that Malcolm X stood for in his life. And one more reading is that it also harkens to that karmic sacrifice he has at the end of the poem – where he is finally free after a life of struggle.

Punk opens like this:

‘You are a glass that I have paid to shatter
and I swallow the pieces down with my spit.’
—Buying The Whore, Anne Sexton

Given that the entire frame of the first section seems to be Malcolm Little talking to another white woman, probably a prostitute that he’s pimping out to other people, this fits in perfectly. It’s calling to question his own love for vice – the ‘pieces’ that he’s swallowing.

Dan doesn’t just use the epigraph here, but he even makes reference to it in Brimstone, where Malcolm X says:

Spit out the white devil’s poisons,
spit out the white devil’s lies
lest you be surprised with the shards you find
infecting the very spit you swallow.

And given that Sexton was a Confessionalist poet, it could also be a sly nod to how Malcolm is himself using his sermonizing as a way to placate himself for the vices caught in his own soul from his youth. How what seems to be talking about greater societal things is actually an inward call to himself.

Brimstone, incidentally, uses this epigraph:

‘The man without a purpose is a man who drifts at the mercy of random feelings or unidentified urges and is capable of any evil, because he is totally out of control of his own life.’ —Ayn Rand

And this is probably the only time you’ll see Ayn Rand used in a manner that is correct.

But this epigraph pushes deeper into the existential void that drove Malcolm X to fall straight into his aggressive ministerizing.

And finally, Bullet has this:

‘Forget the Past, his fate and fame shall be
                                  An echo and a light unto eternity!’
                                          —Adonais, Percy Bysshe Shelley

Which is absolutely beautiful. I don’t think I have to explain it here.

  1. Conclusion

With this, I have shown how Dan sets up his longer massive poetry – like building up a massive cathedral. He places the foundations, uses the correct epigraphs and setting to create the most complex picture of an individual he can muster, and fills in the details while having them interplay with each other across this portions. He has a very clear picture of what he wants to achieve and achieves it.

I have yet to swallow his humongous American Imperium – which spans the entire history of the USA and ends with a Science Fiction Space War section. Needless to say, the man’s skills are insane. Publish him, goddamn!

Dan Schneider’s Poem: You Are All Desire (And Commentary on the Poetic Meta Game)

Lately I’ve been looking up some Go strategy and Chess strategy, and, in the past, I’ve had experience with playing trading card games like Magic: The Gathering. Anyway, all this is leading up to some conception of poetry, and Art/Lit/Media in general, that is slightly more different than the aesthetic theories that many people seem to subscribe to.

Coming across Dan Schneider’s poetry is contributing to some of that, because it feels as though he’s playing the medium of poetry like an elaborate game – making artistic decisions with sound intellectual foundations while also considering the ‘meta’ – as any good card player would. It’s really exciting because it feels as though he’s the first person who conceives of it like that – and it has a lot of implications for the future of creation in general.

Okay, lemme get a bit into some gaming terminology here. In MTG and other kinds of card games, people usually say that there’s the game itself, but there’s also the metagame. A trading card game is a type of game that requires both logic and creativity, moreso than many other types of games. This is because there’s an always changing card pool that you draw your resources from, and although limited, its vast enough (provided that the makers balance the cards properly) that there can be many many many options as to what sort of deck you want.

Half of the game is decided before competition itself begins, because much of your victory comes from reading the probable strategies of the other players out there and creating a deck to counter that. If you are a good player on a field but have a deck that isn’t fit for the competition, you’ll lose against a normal player as long as they have a deck that can easily trump yours. Then again, because you’re still dealing with human variables, it could also go in the way where your skills on the mat, combined with the other player’s bad moves, will lead to your victory – but you have to be very lucky for that to happens enough times for you to get to the final round.

Reading the poetry of Dan Schneider is like watching some guy take the entirety of Literature as a meta-game, and countering it with his own deck. Choosing the areas where people haven’t yet staked out their artistic communication – and tailoring his own works such that it fits into those cracks. Dan is a beastly writer that wants to cover all the bases possible such that his words will shine out above all the rest in the long run – to the point where anyone who can perceive what he’s doing will have no choice but to find his works unforgettable and built on the strongest structures. As he himself stated in his own video on artistic realities:

“If you just read something at a straight narrative level and get something from it – great. If you can read it at an allusive level – great. If you can read it at a metaphorical level and a political level and then a philosophical level…I wanna do some poems that aren’t self contained. I wanna do some poems that are dependent to a certain degree on other works and what not. Why wouldn’t I wanna do all poems in all kinds of ways? I wanna do all things in all (words?) which is why I call my show Omniversica and I prefer the term Omniverse to Multiverse when it comes to physics because a Multiverse – the presumption is its multiples of this universe. For me, Omni is better than Multi cuz Multi just says ‘many-of-things’. Omni says ‘many things in many ways’.”

And, in this case, I want to focus on one of his love sonnets, entitled: “You Are All Desire”:

YOU ARE ALL DESIRE

My needs, they fall away from me. (Dull flesh-
can it convince itself?) They are: oxygen-
to flame each breath; sources of food and water-
to quell the instinctual ravening
brought by you; sources of clothing and shelter-
to protect my body from the world’s duress.

My needs, they fall away from me. Not you,
my love, for you are verging on somethingness,
like the full beats of my growing heart, which falls
likewise itself, in infinite crashes
into conflagrations which are only all
that keeps my sonnetry in this small purview

which falls from me to you. Should you inquire:
You are not a need. You are all desire.

Dan himself has stated that Love Poetry is one of the hardest kinds of poetry to get into and stake out something great, because it’s a subject that has been so utterly overdone that you have to fight against everyone from Shakespeare to Cummings to Neruda to Berryman who have already communicated all sorts of things about it in their own poetry.

So, by looking at how Dan fares in the micro and meta, we can see how his ‘counter-deck’ method of poetry works.

My needs, they fall away from me. (Dull flesh-
can it convince itself?) They are: oxygen-
to flame each breath; sources of food and water-

The very title – ‘You Are All Desire’ – immediately tells the reader that this is a Love Poem, but this is where the magic starts. The fact that Dan used ‘Desire’ rather than, say… ‘You Are The One I Love’ – doesn’t place it in that definite boundary. How he teases out the meaning from this word ‘Desire’ will be explored as the poem continues.

So we begin with the first line. In the linguistic possibility space of the poem, Dan chooses to begin with ‘My needs…’ and the line itself is smooth in its rhythm, but this is where he begins to work on his intellectual counter. Since he’s chosen to attack the field of Love Poetry, he has to start with something that calls that to mind, and this opening line seems to be a very standard opening of talking about the lover’s all-encompassing nature, eliminating even ‘needs’.

Yet, there’s the parenthetical ‘(Dull flesh-‘ there, which jars the thought, even though it still falls into the normal message. For example, with a more Shakespearean or old view might have come up with something like:

My needs, they fall away from me. My dull flesh is brightened in your view.

But Dan’s attack begins in the next line, where he ends the thought with ‘can it convince itself?’ – which is talking about whether love can indeed transcend its biological station. Suddenly, the ‘needs vs desires’ theme is set up, and then there’s the introduction of the word ‘oxygen’. This innocuous word is actually like an atomic bomb in terms of creativity, because it reeks of the scientific turn that counters the normal love poem tone.

But, immediately after setting ‘oxygen’ – he describes it as ‘flaming each breath’ – and we are back into the linguistic realm of the normal Love Poem, where fire is a standard motif. Yet, notice how this love poem conceit is used not to describe the lover, but to describe the needs. Desire has to fight against the ‘fires’ of life itself in biological necessity. Immediately afterwards, it returns to the realm of science with ‘sources of food and water’ – which has a very documentarian tone to it (“the animal has to find sources of food and water to survive”).

to quell the instinctual ravening
brought by you; sources of clothing and shelter-
to protect my body from the world’s duress.

This biological tone is continued in the next line with ‘instinctual ravening’ – and yet ‘quell’ is a poetic turn. Then – another attack in the next line – love returns as a conceit when Dan switches it so that the ravening is not brought by biology but ‘brought by you’. Yet, he simultaneously attacks the next line – enjambing at ‘sources of clothing and shelter’ – to make it seem as though it reads that the ‘sources of clothing and shelter is brought about by you’.

Go professionals will tell you how the game is played with a balance of attack and defence. You have to lay pieces down to push forward, but also draw back to solidify those areas you’ve staked out on. The best moves are those that can attack and defend at the same time. When you read Dan’s poem here, it feels like he’s doing the same in these two linguistic realms of the Love Poem and scientific description – after choosing his meta-theme (Love Poem), he chose an approach to enter (Biological Need vs Mental Desire) – and now he’s killing it by playing like Go Seigen. He attacks from one realm, but swaps over, and uses that other field to solidify his previous realm. This balance is so subtle that it requires an extremely close reading to see its power.

Final part of the stanza, ‘protect my body from the world’s duress’ does the same. It solidifies the biological description from the last line, but it also provides an intellectual split between body and world – returning back to the overarching theme. Combined with the ‘brought about by you’ & ‘instinctual ravening’ – this ‘duress’ could either be read as the ravening caused by the lover, or the lover protecting against the biological realm of Nature. The fact that it encompasses both ambiguities is what makes the poem so strong. It is not a description, not a noun – but a verb. When reading it you feel yourself within this struggle.

My needs, they fall away from me. Not you,
my love, for you are verging on somethingness,
like the full beats of my growing heart, which falls

From here on, the rest of the poem will turn away from that biological view, and return to the cosmic love tone. The first line is a restatement of the struggle that occurred in the first stanza, but now it seems as though love has won, because the needs have fallen away. Yet there is still an ambiguity, because the enjamb makes it read like ‘my needs fall away from me, but not you’ – so is a great twist that makes a small comment on unrequited love – how it can be so directly affecting to the lover but not the person who is the subject of that love. The next line uses an abstraction ‘verging on somethingness’ – which opens up the theme into many avenues, making the poem feel larger. But in this case it also has the philosophical implication that its talking about how love, an immaterial thing, can become ‘something’ against the material world of needs. So the abstraction still fits within the theme. And, the next line roots the abstraction down into a full simile – ‘the full beats of my growing heart, which falls’ – which is both calling back to that theme, by creating this physicality where the abstraction, love, is tied to the beating of the heart. The enjamb at ‘which falls’ is a continuation of the love phrase of ‘falling for someone’.

likewise itself, in infinite crashes
into conflagrations which are only all
that keeps my sonnetry in this small purview

‘Likewise itself’ is a turn that is very much grammatical play – because the previous line was a simile describing how the lover was like a beating heart – but this extends it from simile into the speaker’s own direct palpitation – extended with ‘infinite crashes’. The next line, ‘conflagrations which are only all’ enjambs at that ‘all’ to bring out the ‘all-encompassing’ nature of the love, while the crashes and conflagrations place make it ambiguous whether the poet thinks that it’s a good thing or a bad, possibly destructive, thing – a very old theme of course – since Donne. The final line is very Shakespearean in its opening up of the theme to the poem itself, but it also seems to be a twist, because Shakespeare was all about the Immortality of words with his:

When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.

But this is a lessening compared to the previous grandiose hyperbole about conflagrations. It talks about how his sonnet is actually hindered and stuck into this theme rather than opening up. It could be read as a meta-attack on love poetry itself, the overdone genre that people keep writing bad fluff in, when they could be writing about other stuff – like Bela Kiss the murderer, or Comic Books, or Poverty.

which falls from me to you. Should you inquire:
You are not a need. You are all desire.

This couplet is the BOMB. It wraps everything up in such a nice package. It calls back to the standard motif of the poet’s dedication to love in the ‘which falls from me to you’ – but notice how the last line restates the theme of this struggle between need and desire, yet it also seems to be an admonishment. Dan has given his abstract lover his poem, but taking into consideration the ‘small purview’ – is this a dedication or a putting away? Perhaps, the finality of the last line is Dan, the poet, firmly stating how small love is in the view of greater needs – and he’s throwing it away, relinquishing it to his greater duty to art. But the entire poem is also about that struggle. Does love win in the end as a thing that can overcome needs? Or is it unmasked as merely a fading desire? The poem encompasses these two views, and puts it into action. Some will perceive it as victory, others, as falling away. It doesn’t matter to Dan – he has staked his poem into your cognitive ground such that it fits your view of it while also dragging you out into the other view by posing it as a question.

But notice, overall, how clear the effects are, both in the wider scope and within the poem itself. How so much is a subversion of tropes, while simultaneously honouring them. It feels written with extremely clear intellectual objectives in mind – and yet it also flows naturally. This is called winning at both the meta-game and within the game itself. It goes against the idea of poetic spontaneity and wild passionate creativity (although it could also have been written within that state), and shows how poetry can be created on the firmest and clearest intellectual foundations. One of the comparisons that Dan has used to describe poetry before is claiming that poetry is like a High Jump Event while novels are like running a Marathon – one is about years of training condensed into the burst of a single moment, while the other is about sustained effort, though it doesn’t have to be as focused. But, because of that, good poetry is still hard and requires effort – and it can’t be done by just anyone.

So, I also wish to remove myself from that mindset of ‘wild individualistic creativity’ – and wish to understand how the sublime is built on clarity and the development of meaning. How, despite ambiguities and obscurities, it can be just as much a high intellectual process as the other fields. Until people realize this, and talk about it in these terms, and become better at their critique of these things – there will always be the naysayers who think that it’s merely a fancy born from silly passionate intensities. But, these people will just have to remember – It is not a need, it is ALL desire.