Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Part 2 of a Docent's tour of my poetry.

From 1982 to 1986 I worked on a long mythic poem that remains largely unexcavated from my notebooks. It morphed into The Song ov Elmallahz Kumming, a poem in six books. This is a historical poem, in a manner of speaking. It is the story of a Divine Messenger (Elmallah) who is sent to Ertha to spiritualize her. Each book is a particular historical moment. Book 1 is Elmallah's first impression. Book 2 is a prehistoric panorama. In Book 3 Elmallah takes the form of Dumuzi, of Sumerian myth. He is the husband/worshipper of the goddess Innana. I have rewritten that myth, holding closely to the original narrative, but giving it a new intention. Book 4 is set in Constantinople, as a retelling of the story of Justinian and Theodora, rulers of Byzantium at its pinnacle. From my extended stays in Istanbul I gleaned the detailed backdrops for many of the scenes in this book. In Book 5 I move to medieval France and the remarkable story of Heloise and Abalard. It is a very cinematographic retelling of their history, the penultimate scene in Elmallah's awakening of Ertha. Finally Book 6 is set in the Shoah (the Holocaust). A female "disciple" of Kalonimus Kalman, the great sage and rabbi of the Warsaw Ghetto, escapes from the nazi death grip to carry a Torah scroll to Palestine. This book is still incomplete and must be read in its rough copy version (a formidable task, I daresay). And this brings us to the current state of Elmallah's awakening of the human Soul. This long poem is a richly textured and visual historical-spiritual journey. I have reread it many times, and yet it still astonishes me. I often wonder if I was the author, or merely the stenographer.

With Ammung the Ruwenz ov the Tempel, I Herd... my poetry takes on, not just a Jewish flavor, but a devotedly Jewish voice. It is a collection of gleanings from the corners of fields that have been planted and harvested by my many teachers. In these times, the sages harvest in such abundance, that even gleaners like me come away with visionary wisdom. You will hear the songs and prayers and revelations of a profound Jewish renewal that is reshaping the world, in spite of everything. These poems have no overt narrative connecting them as a single story. The narrative instead stands as backdrop: the Shoah (Holocaust), the restoration of Israel, and the Divine subtext that drives all history.

In 1972 I had a moment of clarity and wrote, "What is spirit to the flesh is flesh to the spirit." I didn't understand that aphorism until ten years later, after watching my perspective move in a slow sweep from the physical and linear towards the spiritual and analogic. Another 25 years later, and now I see that this movement has become the defining feature of my poetic development. My focal point has moved progressively to more rarified levels of consciousness. In the Harvest ov Nations is grounded in a personal and psychological perspective. I wrote The Song ov Elmallahz Kumming over a 15+ year period. I began it more or less on the same plane as Harvest, with a fairly linear and continuous narrative. But by Book 3, the Innana story, the narrative began to fragment, as the focal point oscillated between the human and transmigrant (a phrase I'm coining here to convey a very literal transpersonal state). That became the dominant mode for the rest of Elmallahz Kumming. With the poem Ammung the Ruwenz ov the Tempel, I Herd... physical reality faded into a metaphor for higher states, including the transmigrant and the Prophetic (in which one approaches the Divine Imperative). In the poem I am currently composing (which is not yet available to read), the dream state is the closest I come to the physical world.

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