Monday, February 26, 2007

"It Is As Though" And "The Poem Is Not The Poet"

It is as though in processing I'm unwrapping old, crumpled papers and having to smooth out and reread them. I find new dots among the familiar ones. It's an ever-so-subtly-altering constellation of dots I'm connecting... epiphanies and revelations, such that astonish and amaze me. Each time I go at it is another way of grappling with having come this far, having become who I now am, and appreciating that I'm still evolving.

Good Morning Friend,

It is my understanding that the foundation as to my reading your poems is that you are not the poem.

That I, when reading your poetry, must enter it as though it were a conveyance, a sort of diving bell, one that takes me down and down -to some vast oceanic realm. It is for me to accept and respect: understand that it is not the poet, but the poem that is. It is what it is. I must allow myself to enter this bell and be conveyed where the poem intends.

I confess to feeling a bit confined and sealed in. The views it affords me are meant solely to be seen as its own world, speculative, perhaps whimsical, fanciful, and very often metaphysical. The depths to which the bell takes me must be respected, regarded (despite my claustrophobia) as inviolable. You mandate this: my being its occupant. And under no circumstances must I confuse the conveyance or the vistas as YOU yourself!

You are not what the conveyance would have me think of or look upon. Nor be allowed to to speculate and conjecture (even remotely) that the vistas are of you, my Friend. That would be violation of that inviolable and most private you reserved for no one.

If the The poem is of itself (inviolable) it must remain solely a conveyance to where you would have me taken. It is your wish I should not be confused by any other presuppositions I might fancy. Appreciate what a challenge it is you set before me!


The bell is impermeable. Yet, I suspect an all too frail a veil. As you friend, your wish for privacy is sacrosanct.

My own poems are also conveyances( as are my drawings, my book art annotations, stories, etc.) conveyances that I also see as ciphers, secrets I wish not to hide, but expose to the light of epiphany.

As you are well aware, I see my work as my sole accessibility to that which is metaphorically pornographic, (not be looked at). I sort through these. I am heartened when these mysteries and secrets are deciphered, exorcised -neutered. I think it is here where our differences lie. You as one poet, and I as your admirer and friend use our art to different ends.

I respect you, respect your admonitions as to how you would have me read your poems.
And I defer.
I am

your friend, Norman

Sunday, February 11, 2007

To Rachel For Editing

What is hard for me and perhaps easier for you, Rachel, editing this, accomplishing with my
writing what photographers do in the dark room with the printing of their negatives: including cropping it. What I think is needed is your doing a Reader's Digest bit of condensing this blog.

Read below and tell me what do you think. Edit it if you think it needs it.

'On the crude side of looking at pornography, (given that most people are drawn in looking at that which is not "meant" to be looked at, it is transgressive..... (I paraphrase.) Pornographer intend their being transgressive.

Soft porn or hard, in our zeitgeist, we know we are not allowed to look. Sexuality is not to be looked at. Something biblical, something that goes on about 'the nakedness of our fathers' and all that. Seeing one's parents at it goes to the heart of the matter.

In the culture such as when I came in on it, looking was taboo. It was to acknowledge my seeing how often it was acknowledged by Christian and Jew alike in breeching. It is what makes porn the very antimatter of the matter of being God fearing.

And the perennial multimillion dollars of world wide industry pandering to its being honored in the breech. Given, that Christianity is the prevailing common nexus governing our emotions / notions: in this part of the planet it appears to me that we all think pornographically about our sexuality.

A journeyman myself, once, having consciously attempted this genre in the decades of the 70s thru the late 80s in the drawings I made, I remember wanting my drawings at least to be honest as pornography. Not about suckering poor horny slobs like me to go and buy something that was contemptuous of my loneliness and state of need.

I was emphatically not intending making art. The drawings were about my own horniness, serving but a singular function: allow me in my be-numbedness to feel something, even though it engaged me genitally. It was at least 'honest'. Rachel, in the editing, do not delete this. And do not delete that the sole criteria as to whether or not I 'authenticated' it was my own erection and my own ability to experience exquisite orgasms. It was not solely that. At the same time I was acknowledging all manner of realizations about this. Some mundane: that my status was as a closet, pornographer, an amateur. I reasonably adhered I rule out measuring my panels or making them with a straight edge. It was to be 'home-made'. For 'my-eyes-only'.

In the latter 60s and decades into the 80s I made many comic strips I thought to be pornographic. I knew I was in defiance of the moralities and religious convictions of my neighbors on my street, and the parents of the children I I was teaching in the school I worked in. It was a dreading sense of this that I did this, spending inordinate hours at it. I was aware of the danger I was in should ever I be apprehended at it.

Yet, what seemed to warrant my justifying it was the realization of what sorts of things I was addressing, what sorts of taboos I'd chosen, singled out: this curiosity I had as to this aspect of the partnering! I, a married man, found myself inordinately turned on by couplings that were lesbian,gay! Drawn as to a flame that were I to get too close ......?

Rachel, I couldn't buy into sex that to me was violent or sadistic. Such was not about the sex I sought for myself. My interest was not in criminality or power struggles or aggression. The motifs I centered on were about sexual initiation and sexual seduction. orgasmic achieving encounters, the tactile experiencing of the naked alignments of genitals, lips, hands, and so forth: attaining rapture. The story that accompanied my doing this work, the one I kept telling myself all during those decades was I was also learning how to draw. That aspect of it, if nothing else, was valid. Came true.

This, the facture crossed other terrains. The journey took me beyond my own provincialism. My intent was merely to cross barriers of taboos. Yet I found myself doing other things also: immersing myself in mysteries. Most especially pertaining to my accessing 'identities' having to do with my parents and how they tried and succeeded in thwarting my efforts in trying to discover who I was. (I was my father's child from a prior marriage.)

There were many layers as to my inquiring into sex and sexual taboos and making 'pornography'. My addressing these motifs were something very like dissections. I remember in biology lab in college, my being given this frog to cut up. And I learned how delicate a task it was without doing damage (obfuscating what it was I was supposed to be clarifying / reveal). The morality questions as to my really making 'porn' laid less heavily on me than my fearing I could damage my specimens. Working in this genre had me realizing there is about human sexuality expressions that have direct bearings on how we think of ourselves. Know and not know.

It is in this context, Rachel, that I discovered another significance of this work: It did me.'

This draft 2/ 10/ 2007

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Have You No Shame?

Who was this man? This lone man making shameful drawings, rendering with pen and india ink on paper drawings depicting comic book panels and the antics of heroes and villains grotesquely engaging in sex? The usual fisticuffs and mayhem and murders were replaced with impermissible partnerings.

He was making a kind of home made pornography, indulging in a kind of Gilbert and Sullivan Innocent Merriment. He was middle-aged, celibate, married. He was a loving father, a devoted husband – made his living as an art teacher in the public schools on Long Island, in the State of New York. This pornography was all done in secret.

Irving and Millie, his parents, kept his birth identity from him during his childhood. The truth they kept from him was simple: he was not Millie's. She was not the woman who birthed him.

He learned of this at a summer sleep away camp. The man who came to tell him this was his real mother's husband. He found out where he was staying that summer and came out to visit him, show him baby pictures and street-vender photographs he'd seen and knew to be of him. Ones taken of a child he had been long, long ago. He said her name was Tillie (not Millie). And that she was Irving's first wife.

It was in the ciphers of this man's drawings that the realization blossomed. The drawings bespoke a deep deprivation, an obscene injustice, namely that his parents had taken something very real from him – his identity. His right to know and be himself.Who was this man? This lone man making shameful drawings? Who rendered with pen and india ink on paper (pure whimsy,) drawings depicting comic book panels and antics, of heroes and villains grotesquely engaging in sex? In impermissible partnerings instead of the usual fisticuffs and mayhem and murders?

He was in the middle years of his manhood, (late thirties, forties, fifties) a celibate man, married. He was a loving father, a devoted husband, made his living as an art teacher in the public schools on Long Island, in the State of New York. This was all done in secret. Was, if truth be told, captive to this whatever you call it, his 'pastime'?

There was in this, a kind of naivete, a Freudian role-playing. He imagined that he was in some way learning what it was to truly be 'making art' -even as he was making 'pornography'. He was being an artist, and also the school teacher who seemed to recognize understand that this was an emulation. What he was achieving was what the Dadists and the Surrealists had already done at the beginning of the century. He was following in their footsteps, the incomparable Marcel Duchamp and his adored hero, Pablo Picasso.

His drawings were more than porn. He was seeing them as 'Ciphers'. They had in them secrets. Perhaps of Mankind. Or just his secrets. Even as to who he was!

For three or so decades he'd been in its thrall. He had come to ascertain profound realizations -epiphanies. He'd known nothing of his origins. Nothing about the mother he'd sworn an oath never again to see or communicate with. He'd effectually cut himself off from his own identity'! He'd existed all this while with truly no real sense of his having one. It was to be without having a soul. All this had been hidden, obfuscated because of his parents -their shame and embarrassment as to who he was. Admitting who I was was to be publicly disgraced and shamed.

Their keeping the man-become-artist-and-pornographer's birth identity from him and therefore from the world he would also have to keep that secret from his two younger brothers. This inflicted on him terrible harm. He would in introspection look at his own actions and indescretions, his own flawed behavior as the cause of shaming them, being an embarrassment as well as a burden. Throughout his childhood, he would feel this way and never comprehend there being any other explanations for it. It was perennially a cross of guilt he bore for having continually failed them, for having been the ingrate, and the fool. The secret was so simple: he was not Millie's. She was an impostor. The man who came to tell him this that summer day in the Adirondacks at a summer camp was his actual mother's husband. He found out where I was staying that summer. I was a camp councelor. He came out to visit and show me baby pictures and that street vender had made of me on a pony.I'd seen them many times, knew it be of me. I was the child long, long ago. Her name was Tillie. (Not Millie). And she was Irving's' first wife. The teenager, when his father came out to tell me his side of it had pledge and promise tearfully, never to see Tillie again, 'this whore' this cuckolding female -never again!

It was in the drawings, the ciphers they comprised that the realization blossomed: the merriment felt and achieved -were to reveal how profoundly that child had been abused and harmed. The obscenities as per drawings bespoke deprivations, obscene injustices -namely that my parents had taken something tangible from me -my identity! My right to know I had one, and be the man I have become."