Dan Schneider’s (Unpublished) Poem: To Look Away

Poetry can be about anything: even Spider-man! To prove this point, I share with you one of Dan’s superhero sonnets. A part of his countless portraits of characters throughout pop culture.

Although this poem is significantly less dense than many of his other greater works, it still contains an interesting twist & view of the message – and thus, might be more instructable as to how a person should understand this idea of writing to communicate.

Disclaimer: Do not read my analysis until you’ve pondered the poem for yourself. After all, most of the fun and power comes from how you, as a person, orient yourself to the poem before conferring with other views. In the end, much of poetry’s strength comes from intuition – although explanation & analysis can help ground intuition for later readings.

This poem is copyrighted by Dan Schneider.

 

It was only when he first read of Mauthausen,
and of the little Jewish girl- Hildie Meyer,
that Peter Parker understood what he had done
by not stopping the thief who- then- killed Uncle Ben:

Mauthausen, as you can infer from the poem, refers to a concentration camp.

These four lines state the primary thrust of the text – splitting apart the historical reality of war & Peter Parker’s realization of what it means to be a hero. They serve as scene-setting for the inversions of the next two stanzas.

In terms of technique, there is a particular subtlety in leaving the 3rd line open through enjambment. Expanding the guilt beyond not stopping the thief – to a host of other deeper implications that will become clearer as the poem passes. Also interesting is the word ‘then’ – which reinforces the split between historical & present, although this interpretation probably has lesser weight compared to the form of the poem itself – where the ‘historical’ section thrusts itself outwards from Parker’s present.

Beyond that structure, the entire poem utilizes a rhyme scheme – which gives it a lighter tone, helping fit the theme of the poem – which, is ultimately about immaturity. (In other words, as per Dan’s view of how form should contribute to meaning, it is not forced/cliched rhymes for the sake of rhyming)

For in 1943, in her own death mill,
young Hildie always chose to look the other way
as her playmates and friends were led to the showers.
But, what could she do? She had no superpowers,
was weak, starved, only twelve years old. And, anyway,
they were Gypsies, Slavs- she had her family, still…

If I were to point to the line which constitutes the stanza the most – it would be the very first line, because you could call it the ‘head-turner’. On very first glance, I thought that the poem was talking about Hildie as a victim of the concentration camp – but the later lines paint her out as one of those who seems to have escaped it, while her ‘playmates and friends’ went to the showers. Once you get this clear in your head, the ‘death mill’ takes on a different level altogether. In a way, it is one of the many images of an unaware mind (also appearing in ‘Tis Better… – and other ‘de-mythologization’ poems like The Finn & War Comix #1452) that Dan always loves to touch upon throughout many of his poems.

The last 3 lines of the stanza seems to transition into her inner monologue justifying her lack of action against the Nazis. The irony here is that all three races, Gypsies, Slavs, and Jews – would be what the Nazis considered Untermensch, or inferior people. Yet, this doesn’t just serve to outline the historical background – a mere fact – but it brings that divide into our current time. In other words, Hildie isn’t just inferior in terms of her race classification – but her lack of action & status as a child.

Now, the above interpretation might seem like it requires historical background to become clear – but even if you don’t know the details of it, you can still see inklings of the divide. The fact that she was “weak, starved, only twelve years old” or that she had “no superpowers” – and also that she sticks to her joys and ignores others miseries with “she had her family, still”. All of these qualities are immanent in the poem – although they become illuminated with context, and point to what must have been illuminated within Parker’s head – in the narrative of the poem. In fact, the existence of this divide gives a deeper possible meaning to the ‘showers’ that Hildie’s friends are pulled away to – although this meaning is more like a flicker and requires a bit of a stretch to see.

This is where I drop a cultural sidenote that is separate from the core elements of the poem: given that Superman, the definitive superhero & one of the main progenitors of the genre, was born from the idea of an Ubermensch – this provides another cultural layer to the text. Now, Peter Parker is an interesting choice to pick as the main character within the poem – since it’s not only that his backstory fits (“with great power comes great responsibility”) – but also that his character is the exact opposite of the Ubermensch signified by Superman. He’s frequently viewed as the ‘awkward nerd’ superhero – and, in a way, he’s also an avenue for such escapisms.

So, we have all these mappings & connections in place – about the divide between Untermensch & Ubermensch, between those who have the will to stop crime and those who don’t, and between childishness and maturity.

This was where young Parker closed the book, and began
to see that inaction can lead to a pyre –
like millions of Hildies, and that to not be one
could free the world from its need for a Spider-Man.

Poetry can be about anything – as long as we understand the deeper movements and essentials that drive humans to do what they do. Once we understand that, we can use any starting point as a means of communicating those general essentials.

Like, our need to close the book, put away those superhero films, and face a quality of life higher than what we’ve been kept in all this time – to go beyond ‘young Parker’. Our need to, as the first line so slyly enjambs – ‘begin’.

In my first reading of this poem, I went through it faster than I should have – and my mind made a slight psychological misreading at the last line. I read ‘its need for a Spider-Man’ – and then constituted the last two lines in my own mind as somehow just being a recapitulation of Parker’s will to become a superhero. I didn’t read the ‘free the world’ part. Yet, this act of misreading added an extra layer to the text for me.

Our minds are, after all, prone to seeing what we want to see.

In going through Dan’s poetry, there is a constant reminder to be larger than what you are, at any given moment in time. That there are hidden realities just out of reach, and there is a deep mystery at the bottom of everything. Even though a work like Watchmen attempted a sort of critique of the childish dreams implicit in the genre – it failed to be larger than what it was because of a keen sense of nostalgia & too much limits to its vision – an inability to truly extricate itself from the detritus of the genre.

We must go higher. We must say bigger things. The work of Literature is just beginning.

Dan Schneider’s (Unpublished) Poem: ‘Tis Better To Live Than To Perceive

Poetry can be about anything. The proof of such a statement comes when you flip through the whole 3000+ pages of Dan Schneider’s Collected Poetry. There is no subject that cannot be written about, nor is there any reason not to try. Yet, many people confuse this precept for superficial innovation – believing that even nonsense strings of communicatively disparate words can provide a depth of communication.

One can write about anything – and this is true in the same way that you can have a conversation with friends about any topic. But, at the very bottom of the myriad throng of things and surfaces, there are still a few human essentials that will abide, no matter what you write about.

All this sounds a bit too abstract – but all you have to do is to compare several poems from completely different poets to get a grasp of an essential movement underneath all of the hubbub. If you look at Philip Larkin’s High Windows, Wallace Stevens’ The Snow Man, Rilke’s Archaic Torso of Apollo, Du Fu’s Ballad of The Ancient Cypress, and ee cummings’ ‘I carry your heart…’ – there are movements from smaller to larger, despite all of the above poets writing in completely different styles. There is some knot that binds the ‘high windows’, the Archaic Torso, the ‘nothing that is not there’, the Ancient Cypress tree, and the ‘root of the root and the bud of the bud’. A bind that seems to encompass the widest scope of things born from the most particular things. If you take an Eastern view of life – this might be best represented by that ambiguous word The Tao. Perhaps, if some future scientist were to discover some Theory of Everything – he might find an abstract mathematical structure behind all of these poems – but such an idea is mere speculation for now.

If you look at the poems of Dan Schneider, you can see the same thread knotting together several of his poems – some of them that I’ve already analysed. For example, the image of the Mothman in The Mothman, the “no feeling I do not create” in George Schneider Plays Handball, the ‘body of perfection’ in Holy Sonnet 1, and Part 3 of Big Red. There is a clear hierarchy at work here, hiding underneath all these words – and it is not a hierarchy determined by any tangible quality or stiff aesthetic formula – but different scopes of smallness and largeness.

Okay, I’ve blathered on a bit too long on this point – so let me move into one such poem that dives into such a hierarchy. This sonnet is called ‘Tis Better to Live Than Perceive

‘TIS BETTER TO LIVE THAN PERCEIVE

My cousin never paid attention to the huge oak tree
slowly growing on France Avenue; his youth pursuing
selfish inward things, his eyes remaining dim cherubim
in the hyena dark of suburban monotony.

As the years struck by, they lunged at recognition
until one day his frail body hove back and roared
in a reptilian blood – in the colder snows,
of January winter, my cousin in worse

condition than the newfound ophidian flexion
of his mind – so he taunted, raved and clawed
at the glaring eyes of the universe

probing his own, a protozoan; under glass
he laughed, then suffocated and became
what he is. And the tree remained growing.

Disclaimer: Do not read my analysis until you’ve pondered the poem for yourself. After all, most of the fun and power comes from how you, as a person, orient yourself to the poem before conferring with other views. In the end, much of poetry’s strength comes from intuition – although explanation & analysis can help ground intuition for later readings.

This poem is copyrighted by Dan Schneider.

 

With that said – let’s break it down.

My cousin never paid attention to the huge oak tree
slowly growing on France Avenue; his youth pursuing
selfish inward things, his eyes remaining dim cherubim
in the hyena dark of suburban monotony.

When reading this poem, always keep the enigma of a title in the back of your mind – because this interplay of what it means to ‘live’ and to ‘perceive’ is a constant strand throughout the poem itself.

The very first line, despite being simple in its statement – sets up the divide. We have a cousin who cannot perceive, and a huge oak tree – possibly symbolic of ‘living’ (and the final statement of the poem fits it as such). Those of you who are more well-read in poetry might want to take note of other such poems where the symbol of the tree has been designated as something higher – like the Ancient Cypress as mentioned above, or Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus. You can compare how they choose to go about their subject matter and weigh out in your mind – who deals with the image in the widest possible manner.

But I’ve only been discussing content so far. Even in the very first line, despite the lack of punctuation, the way the statement is read can allow for a slight pause after ‘attention’ – furthering the divide.

Moving on to the next line, we return to Dan’s characteristic sly enjambments. By cutting off at ‘pursuing’, it leaves the verb hanging open, which you can cognitively map to either the ‘huge oak tree’, the ‘slowly growing’ or the ‘selfish inward things’ of the next line. Of course, the grammar of the poem links the pursuit to the lesser inward things – but the very fact that the other connections exists pose the question as to what is possible. For example, you can read the huge oak tree as representative of nature, and the fact that youth pursues that, as well as selfish inward things – can create the interpretation that ultimately, all of our selfish acts and desires are born from the same root of nature as the tree itself – and we pursue the dark roots in our own selves. But, this is merely example, and to narrow it down to this interpretation only cheapens the poem. In any case, at the bottom of it all, you can still see the hierarchy of something larger and something smaller at work.

‘Dim cherubim’ is a very interesting image – because it can link to youth & naivete, but is also slightly religious & cosmic – so it has a higher link that could be characteristic of the state that all men who lack vision fumble around in. Take the thread too far and you could even view it as a critique of religion fostering such lack of vision, but we shall not follow that because it feels too spread out from the core communication of the text. The final line of the first stanza poses a strong, kind of gothic, image for the environment that coddles the cousin in his lack of perception.

Now, realize something. If you had been keeping the title at the back of your head all this while – you would have noticed a kind of contradiction. The title poses, clearly, that perceiving is worse than living – but this first stanza seems to be a critique of a lack of perception. It seems to be attacking the cousin for fumbling around in the darkness without any deeper insight to life. With this question in the back of our mind, we can continue on to the next stanza.

As the years struck by, they lunged at recognition
until one day his frail body hove back and roared
in a reptilian blood – in the colder snows,
of January winter, my cousin in worse

The very start of this stanza provides hints of the answer to the enigma posed in the title. The strong kinetic thrust of the words – ‘struck’, ‘lunged’ – linking time to recognition. In the end, a human cannot escape its own self-awareness, as the mind will force it in times of struggle. The enjambment places recognition as perception in a general sense – but it could also be recognition of the tree, which reinforces the divide.

The next line narrows the state in which this recognition was inspired – it was created through the frailty of the body. The description of a body that ‘hove back and roared’ gives me a twisted image of an Ouroboros-like sick man turning into himself. The ‘reptilian blood’ of the next line links it to something deeper in nature – maybe even prehistoric. Perhaps, something of a comment on how consciousness – and self-perception – was born from the earliest animal’s need to perceive and engineer his environment around him to survive.

That interpretation aside – the effect of the image has multiple layers. It pulls out into the ‘coldness of insight’ (ala Stevens’ wintry view of the world in the Snow-Man), and also the wintry season of old age where we are in deterioration, or the ‘worse’. The primary movement across this stanza is a kinetic struggle turning over to a winter (whether in mind or body) state – and this has a lot of implications for how we, as humans, experience life itself.

condition than the newfound ophidian flexion
of his mind – so he taunted, raved and clawed
at the glaring eyes of the universe

The image of the snake (or Ouroboros) is reinforced through ‘ophidian’ – which, incidentally, refers to the class for snakes and other related reptiles. The enjambment here links the flexion to ‘in worse condition’ and ‘of his mind’ – which poses an interesting idea that the cousin (or his body) was in a worse condition than his mind. How many sick people are there in wards that have to suffer through the awareness of their own misery – unable to escape the dark circle that the mind creates for itself?

To follow up on this, the ‘taunted, raved and clawed’ can be linked to both ‘of his mind’ and ‘the glaring eyes of the universe’ – pointing to both the struggle within himself and the struggle against a higher cosmic force. This is the perception that is worse than life – the constant sight that we have to live under – both witnessing the good and bad things within ourselves.

probing his own, a protozoan; under glass
he laughed, then suffocated and became
what he is. And the tree remained growing.

By this point, I feel that the poem has become clearer in sight and I need not explain it to myself anymore – and I no longer merely perceive it, but it has started to live inside me. I am reminded of a moment in the Army during Field Camp – when we had to sit around in the forest and wait for the next bout of torturous training that the sergeants would inflict on us. We couldn’t bring any books, nor could we bring any phones – and so we merely had the existence of our own bodies and minds to keep us company. Most of the soldiers were engaged in chatter, and some were so tired that they were trying to rest by closing their eyes and hugging their guns. Some of them would make complaints and fling expletives to no one in particular. In such a state, I took the second option, and tried to curl up into myself.

Yet, there were the trees, and they had been there from the very start, and had probably witnessed countless batches of soldiers in such a state. If, at that point in time, I had had the vision to look up and perceive that properly – as what they were – I might have pondered the elegance of the life force inside them that allowed them to stay up in such a fashion – across the years.

Now I have the words to describe the thought. And if I had read a poem like this back in those days – I would have surely had those words on my lips, at that moment of barest life.

‘Tis better to live than perceive!

Excerpts from Otto Weininger – Right in All the Wrong Ways

It seems as though Otto Weininger is one of the most maligned and misunderstood thinkers out there. Half of this comes from the bucket-loads of misogynistic dudebro stuff that he slathered all over his main book – Sex & Character. Yet, Weininger was one of Wittgenstein’s influences – and he also happens to be one of my favourite thinkers. Wittgenstein proposed that Weininger was to be read with a ‘minus-sign’ in front of his writing in order to be understood. I sorta agree. Hidden within the seeming slime of prejudice and woman-hate are crazy ideas about the nature of logic, the amorphousness of gender, the nature of genius, and what it means to live ethically. Some of the passages from Weininger are so Wittgenstein that you cannot help but think of Weininger as the secret puzzle piece leading up to Wittgenstein’s development as a thinker – that everybody missed.

Continue reading

Transcript: Dan Schneider On…. Art’s cycles and realities

I’ve written about the poet Dan Schneider before, a few times. The self-proclaimed ‘great poet’ with a humongous corpus that, apparently, no one in the publishing industry has ever thought of touching due to his acerbic personality and complete in-your-face honesty. Pouring over his poems and the various small amount of stuff he has made publicly available has made me believe that everything he says about himself is perfectly true. The Genius of innumerable forms with a layman exterior that hides all of that.

Dan has been releasing videos and interviews on Youtube about various things, all of them with a woeful amount of views. A bulk of them involves him talking about the books and poems that he’s never published with someone from his poetry group. They contain many thoughts on Art and other bits and pieces of his life. Unlike academia, he makes everything sound way too simple and commonsensical, and so people might mistake it for platitudes, at least until they look at his poetry and see that – Holy shit, how can that guy who says stuff like that write like that anyway? (I had my true ‘awakening’ to the sheer power of his unmetered and, on the surface, clunky style when I read his Hymn to a Chrysler Building while listening to Bruckner. The sheer finesse of the poem made me want to punch a hole in the wall because, no matter how hard I tried not to think about it, I felt disgusted at the heights I had to climb to reach that level. Fucking Dan Schneider!)

Anyway, I’ve transcripted one of his Youtube videos on art for the hell of it. Enjoy!

Listener: Let me ask you about the dates and allusions and everything in your work. Do you think that detracts from the quality of the work by using allusions that one may have to look up, or do you think it doesn’t (???) once you’ve actually looked it up? But, do you think that poems should be completely standing on their own? And if not, then do you still see it as a detractor against the art of the poem?

Dan: No, because, as I said I look at the titles and I look at epigraphs and I look at the allusions as the raisins in raisin-bread. If you take out the raisins you’ll still have raisin-bread. I enjoy doing and I also think it’s good to do Art that can work at multiple levels. 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… so that’s why I –

Listener: With your poems many of them are extradiegetic, so you’ll have to bring in to other things but most of the poems can still stand on their own. There’s a few here that are great exercises as opposed to full universes onto themselves, but you can’t look at this poem and say that even if you’re weren’t willing to look up the dates and the allusions here, that this doesn’t have great lines and great music and isn’t technically a great poem.

Dan: Well it’s one of those things too. 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’.

Listener: They’ll eventually be going into Megaverses next, and then the next layer, and maybe you’ll find a child whose made the universe it’s plaything. But that’s an… we started off with the idea of the Big Bang and God and God is the Universe and the idea of Originality. Do you think that in a hundred years most of these ideas will have lapsed or do you still see the ignorance going on?

Dan: I think… I hope. I think that today’s myopia and dark ages of art will go… I think that, y’know, it’s cyclical. If you went back about a hundred years ago, a little over a hundred years ago from say between 1870 and 1910 – 1915 you know, you had, I mean art was in shit state. I mean some painters were coming along like the Ashcan school or whatnot. But writing was stagnant. I mean the novels that were being published were ridiculously bad. The poetry between Whitman and say Pound, Eliot and that ilk was really bad so it does cycle. One of the things you have to recognize too is from about 1910 or so, the 19-teens, to about 1970 or 1980 arguably, you had about 6 decades of American poetry, let’s just stick with poetry for a second, and that’s 60 years, just in America alone, forget the rest of the world – there is no other flowering of poetry like that elsewhere in human history. So you had the greatest explosion of poetry, great poetry, in one nation at one time and it lasted for six decades. If you look at most, for example, the Chinese poets – you’ll have some individual great Chinese poets but I don’t think they lived at the same time. Same thing with like the great…

Listener: Yea, some of them were centuries apart and…

Dan: Yea, same thing with the Greeks, it’s amazing…

Listener: It’s absurd.

Dan: Yea, you can lump them together. But if you look at that 60 or so years from 1910 to the mid 70s say – it’s unprecedented. So naturally there’s going to be a fallow period. You have this political stuff but I hope that individuals will get sick and tired of it say, you know, I want more, I don’t need this bullshit. You know, you can’t just eat candy all day long and that’s all that we have in culture right now is fucking candy. You know you’re just gonna get fat and you’re gonna get diabetes and you’re gonna have rotten teeth. You need something for the mind. You need something for the body.

Listener: It’s interesting to note with all the Golden Age-ism that each era of whatever flowering you have gets better than the last. So with Whitman he brought in a change in poetry and then those who were influenced from him were better than any golden age before him – if you could even name one. I find that whatever happens in the 21st century, maybe, there’s a hundred year stagnance for all I know, that begins in the next century after this one will be vastly superior than whatever happened in the beginning of the 20th century to its midpoint.

Dan: Yea, well hopefully there will be people like me or Jessica or hopefully if you flower as a great writer or Alex Sheremet or a handful of other people, they will be able to notice that. You know I mentioned Bruce Ario. He’s a good example. Bruce is someone whose capable of writing a great poem but he has no clue what he’s doing. He really doesn’t…

Listener: Bruce is a nice guy and at his best a great poet but, and we’ll talk about the E-List, when he sends poems over there it seems like he doesn’t understand what makes a good poem. He just looks to you or to others to explain whether it’s good or not and it’s partly a lack of confidence and partly just his hit and miss nature.

Dan: Well Bruce also has issues with addiction and mental disease, but Bruce I think has told his family that if he were to die that I would be his literary executor cuz I got a feeling that he’s probably got a thousand or 1200 of these Arios that I would have to thresh through. I could probably put together two or three books of good to very good to a couple dozen, 2-3 dozen, of his great Arios and by judicious editing he would look a lot better than he would if…you know I think I told you the last time I mentioned Mark Van Doren the poet who was one of the rare selections where if he had a small selection of books, he wouldn’t show up that well, but his full corpus gives a much greater range of his range as a poet. Most often, the way it is with Bruce is that you can shape someone’s legacy by good editing. With someone like me, obviously you can’t because part of the thing is I’m so sprawling. I do things in so many different ways. I mean just from the poems that we’ve discussed thus far in this session – that’s a greater range than, you know, probably any four or five great poets you could mention have in their whole corpus.

(Ario: An invented poetic form utilized by Bruce Ario that Dan reviews over here http://www.cosmoetica.com/B25-DES7.htm)

Listener: The other thing I mention is not to kiss your ass, but simply to mention what is reality. Your later poems get better than your earlier ones. You lose the near clichés and you state things more directly. More (duality?) and more dimension to it…

Dan: Hopefully that happens in all art. My prose now that I’m doing…

Listener: The thing I want to mention about that the worst thing you could say about you is that some of your shorter poems are actually worse than some of your longer ones. Now that’s a very rare thing, where I suppose you could say similar things about Whitman. Who was best when he was (excessive?)…

Dan: Well there are worse in the sense that they’re necessarily less complex. I mean, like I said, if you have a great sonnet and you have a great book length poem. The great book length poem is going to be a greater work of art. There’s no getting around that. Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening is, you know, a 12 line poem but I don’t think you can compare it to something like my Grandma Chin poem.

Listener: Or Song of Myself or the Bridge. It’s an impossible comparison due to the complex length as long as the poetry remains great. But that is a great compliment where you can say about a poet that the shortest poems are the worst as opposed to the inverse of that with most poets where you’re saying that this needs to be lopped off. Where you should stick to sonnets or you should stick to Haikus and stay away from the longer ones which are excessive and full of clichés and no metaphor and no music – nothing that you can retain in a smaller form.

Dan: Yea, it’s the challenge I face with this current spy book I’m doing, like I said. It’s going to be a long book. It’s probably going to be close to 300,000 words or probably about a 1000 published (words? Pages?). It’ll probably be by any measure a long book but it’ll probably be about half the length of the Vincetti Brothers and maybe 1/8th the length of my other book A Norwegian in the Family. So, you know, there’s the problem if you wanna talk about like a stupid Bloomian anxiety of influence – I have a great anxiety, although I don’t really have anxiety, not towards any other writers but towards myself…

Listener: The fear of failure.

Dan: Yea well and I think I’ve mentioned this before that y’know fear of failure is good because that impels me to go on and to conquer it. I do that in life. This is one of the things where in someone’s personal life or in someone’s artistic life – is keep moving. And that doesn’t mean that if you’re hitting a wall, you should just keep doing the same thing. But don’t give up on life. Don’t give up on Art or whatnot. You may have run out of gas as an artist but that doesn’t mean that someone can’t be effective in the Arts. Let’s say you were a great writer and at the age of 60 you totally lost it. Let’s say you’re 25 now. Let’s say by the age of 30 or 35 you became a great writer, and so you have a 25 or 30 year window that you write, let’s say, you’re probably not gonna be as speedy as me, but let’s say you wrote in 30 years – 50 great poems or a 100 great poems and you wrote a couple great short stories manuscripts and maybe five or six great novels. And then you find out when you’re 62 that you’re like Oh Fuck I don’t have it anymore. Well that doesn’t mean that you can’t be as an elder statesman going around talking about your work. Saying… you know instead of spending all the time wasting time, and you know you could determine that internally, instead of spending all the time…

Listener: Exactly, but that’s the thing about that, and I find it very frustrating reading great poets like Jeffers or Walt Whitman is they have some value still because of the great work they did before. No matter what your heights are, it’s not going to be all cherries when you descend to such lows if you lose it at 60 or 70  or 80. That’s just a black mark on your career. And you can do so much. You’re still obviously wise and you’re still all-encompassing as your work was before, but just give it up. Don’t leave a black mark upon your career with all this excess and crap and hollow imitations of your greatest works. Woody Allen obviously in Film is a great example, as is Martin Scorcese, as is Werner Herzog, and now its Terence Malick. Where they’re putting out these seemingly more and more pointless works that are either hollow imitations in Allen’s case or severe comedowns from what the heights that they had before was in Werner Herzog’s case.

Dan: Yea, there was someone recently…oh it was that fellow on the IMDB board I told you that had forwarded around this bullshit quote about child hood and…

Listener: CS Lewis?

Dan: Yea the CS Lewis quote and, you know, there’s this myth that creativity springs from Childlike Wonder. Well how the fuck were many great poems or great books written by six year olds? None. Because that’s a total myth. The idea that people someone get stale with age is true when you get from middle age to old age, or from your prime to middle age. But that’s absolutely not true. People are at their creative heights in their 20s and 30s, whether they’re writing a rock song or whether they’re doing painting. And sometimes in some areas, and with some artists, it might be a little bit later. I mean I didn’t become…

Listener: Yes, there’s a young man on the E-List named Thomas Evans who is 20 years old, becoming 21, and he has potential to be a great writer. His play and his novella are some of the most mature writing I’ve ever read from someone that young. But at the same time it’s not Moby Dick. He’s not writing something that is so mature and so beyond a 20 year old. This is something that writing does that no other art form has. In that it’s an adult medium. You find great painters at young ages. You find great musicians at young ages. But no prodigious writer has come about where they’re writing Moby Dicks at the same way that you’re matching great paintings to Picasso and Matisse.

Dan: Yea, and most of those visual prodigies are not really doing anything…

Listener: No, I’m not talking about the frauds. I’m talking about the real deal kids who have potential at the beginning.

Dan: Now even someone like Tom. He does have potential and I think Jessica and I were talking about this where, for example, I think from the people on the E-List… Alex has the potential I think that he could do great poetry and I think he has potential to write a great novel… but I think that’s a few years away. I think right now he could probably be a great cultural critic because I think like when he writes about politics or whatnot, there’s no voice… I mean there’s an old fellow Len Holman who, before you encountered me…

Listener: Well, I’ve read him.

Dan: Yea, so Len Holman has his own unique kind of thing, but Alex has a more inside… he digs into things with historical background and whatnot… so I think that while his fictive side has a potential to be great. I think right now he could do that greatly. Tom, for example, writes much… I told him he needs to learn how to differentiate his characters and his plays a bit better. One of the things I mentioned last time was how you need to be able to go from character to character without saying Bill said, Joe said, Bob said, Tony said. You don’t have to go five pages without that differentiation cuz even then it could get confusing, but you don’t have it at every one or every third one Maybe every fifth or sixth time a character speaks. So that’s one of the things he has to work on but…

Listener: Well in the novella, he sort of fixes some of the flaws that were apparent in the play, so he is growing already at 20 years old… and I mean, if I had a 20 years old who wrote that play and I was running a theatre, it would be in production immediately, because you have real potential with that kid.