Tuesday, May 19, 2009



Mallarme's Commandment: "Everything that wishes to remain sacred must surround itself with mystery."

Poets must surround their work with an aura of obscurity.

A moat of mist.

Like the mouth of Avernus they must exude a miasma.

They must remain unapproachable, hidden behind the cloud of their strange verbiage.

Here's how Lawrence describes the nameless Christ-figure in The Man Who Died:

"So he went his way, and was alone. But the way of the world was past belief, as he saw the strange entanglement of passions and circumstance and compulsion everywhere, but always the dread insomnia of compulsion. It was fear, the ultimate fear of death, that made men mad. So always he must move on, for if he stayed, his neighbours wound the strangling of their fear and bullying around him. There was nothing he could touch, for all, in a mad assertion of the ego, wanted to put a compulsion on him, and violate his intrinsic solitude. It was the mania of cities and societies and hosts, to lay a compulsion on a man, upon all men. For men and women alike were mad with the egoistic fear of their own nothingness. And he thought of his own mission, how he had tried to lay the compulsion of love on all men. And the old nausea came back on him. For there was no contact without a subtle attempt to inflict a compulsion. And already he had been compelled into death. The nausea of the old wound broke out afresh, and he looked again on the world with repulsion, dreading its mean contacts."

Given this world of mean contacts, the mania of societies and hosts to compel a mass mindless allegiance,

is it any wonder poets recoil in self-isolation from that "mad assertion"?

Better the dreamstate of our semi-somnolent rhymes,

our hallucinatory lulls of glossolalia,

our REMpoems, than that "dread insomnia" . . . .

Noli me tangere, unless you're a disciple: didn't Mallarme say somewhere he would be content with a readership of 12?

(Every poet gets to be his own Judas, of course.)