On Reading “The Penguin Book of English Verse”:
on my iPad and Exercise Bike
For the twentieth century, the Irish
have possession for more times than you would think.
Possessed by archaic words like stones
in the soiled richness of their dark speech
obstructing progress and breaking plows,
they know the blessed curse of not forgetting.
Funerals are their real celebration
of life. No one can be praised until dead,
lest the Sidhe and old gods kidnap the child.
They prefer mad to sane, drunk to sober,
celebrating the rural storied object
over the City’s speed-drugged bank routine.
But when the Irish get into money,
they become caricatures of excess—
as we see in the scat left on the land
by the Irish banks and Celtic Tiger.
As your common drunk is a failed mystic,
your entrepreneur is a Brit manqué.
Here too are the Irish women poets.
It’s now not only Heaney and Longley,
Kinsella, Carson, Mahon and Muldoon,
but Eiléan Ní Cuhuilleanáin,
Eavan Boland, Nualla Ní Dhomhnaill.
We Yanks also have those touched by Brigid.
Why should only the men be vatic bards
when there are wild sybils the gods ride hard?
My mother was too burdened holding Dad up;
it fell to me to watch, listen, and write.
My father was a drunk, preferred life in bars,
ordering a round to buy the respect,
he couldn’t earn at home with food and rent,
and when Mom nagged him, slugged her in the mouth.
Once she’d had an infected tooth removed–
her blood gushed on the red mahogany
where she’d set out the pile of bills unpaid
because of what he’d spent on getting drunk.
He slugged her in a rage; a jet of blood
shot out from her wound onto the table
and carpet she had worked herself to buy,
lace curtain Irish that she was, but disowned
for marrying a divorced Protestant–
a boom-time salesman and Depression drunk.
His karmic reward that cold winter was
pneumonia and the pain of sclerderma.
The war ended, we moved from Chicago
to LA , a city without neighbors
or Catholic relatives to define us.
Dad’s sclerderma-clawed hands hurt too much
to hit Mom, so there was an untruced peace,
and he moved out to an old veterans’ home.
The dream-drunk Irish recoil from dull life—
the old cult of heads cut off from bodies–
and Dad’s inability with money
got hold of me as I would rather write
than work for millions, speculate in land,
or be tenured as an academic.
Reading this book through shows me how I am
not truly English or American.
Americans–Beat or Black Mountain–are
more poets of open space and blind sounds;
formal verse is too rooted and contained—
flower pots instead of tectonic plates—
William Cullen Bryant and not Whitman.
They love Williams’ open typography,
Ginsberg’s flashing Gay exhibitionism,
Ashbery’s overheard attended chatter
of New York restaurant conversations,
the randomized lines, The New Yorker’s chic
preference for the prosaic poem.
No wonder I end up in Portland, Maine,
in between one West Coast and another.
William Irwin Thompson (born July, 1938) is known primarily as a social philosopher and cultural critic, but he has also been writing and publishing poetry throughout his career and received the Oslo International Poetry Festival Award in 1986. He has made significant contributions to cultural history, social criticism, the philosophy of science, and the study of myth. He describes his writing and speaking style as “mind-jazz on ancient texts”. He is an astute reader of science, social science, history, and literature. He is the founder of the Lindisfarne Association.
His book, Still Travels: Three Long Poems was published in 2009 by Wild River Books. Order a copy from Amazon.
Works by William Irwin Thompson
Memoir – Farewell Address at the Lindisfarne Fellows Conference
Memoir – Pilgrimage to Lindisfarne: 1972
Memoir – The Founding of the Lindisfarne Association in New York, 1971-73 – Part I
Memoir – The Founding of the Lindisfarne Association in New York, 1971-73 – Part 2: A Community in Fishcove, Long Island
Memoir – Building a Dream – Part One: Lindisfarne in Crestone, Colorado, 1979-1997
Memoir – My Dinner with Andre Gregory: Lindisfarne-in-Manhattan, 1977-1979
Memoir – Building a Dream/The Shadow Side Part Two: Lindisfarne in Crestone, Colorado, 1979-1997
Memoir – Building a Dream/The Cathedral Part Three: Lindisfarne in Crestone, Colorado, 1979-1997
Memoir – Conclusion: The Economic Relevance of Lindisfarne
Memoir – Raising Evan and Hilary: Reflections of a Homeschooling Parent
Memoir – Sex and the Commune
Memoir – Raising Evan and Hilary
Memoir – With Gregory Bateson’s Mind in Nature
After Heart Surgery: Hokusai’s Great Wave
A Lazy Sunday Afternoon
Nancy Grayson’s Bookstore
On Reading “The Penguin Book of English Verse”: on my iPad and Exercise Bike
Wild River Books/Poetry – Nightwatch and Dayshift: Cezanne
Anatolian Days and Nights and the Cultural Evolution of Spirituality
And the Votes are In: The American Elections of 2010
Avatar – When Technology Displaces Culture
Bedtime Story for a Civilization
The Big Picture: Reflections on Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines
The Big Picture, II
Child Abuse and the Catholic Church
The Digital Economy of W. Brian Arthur
From Shamanism to Religion, Part Two
From Religion to Post-Religious Spirituality, Part Three
From Religion to Post-Religious Spirituality: Conclusion
January 1, 2011: Reflections on the Philosophical Notions of Republicans
January 6, 2011 – Part Two: The Etherealization of Capitalism
Nature and Invisible Environments
Of Culture and the Nature of Extinction
On Nuclear Power
On Religion – Part One
On Religion and Nationalism: Ireland, Israel, and Palestine
On Transnational Military Interventions
A Pagan Ur-Text of the Lebor Gebála Érenn
Part 1 – The Shift from Industrial to a Planetary Civilization
Part 2 – The Shift from an Industrial to Planetary Civilization
Part 3 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – The Recovery of a Cosmic Orientation
Part 4 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civlization – The Global War for Drugs
Part 5 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – The New Jerusalem
Part 6 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – Catastrophes as the Spur to Institute Tricameral Legislature
Part 7 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – Complex Dynamical Systems and Tricameral Legislatures
Part 8 – The Shift from a Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – Israel and Palestine: Sic transit gloria mundi
Part 9 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civlization – On Sarah Palin and the Technocratic Society
Part 10 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – On Conspiracy Narratives as Expressive of the Transition from the Nation: State to the Noetic Polity
Part 11 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – Global Awareness and Personal Identity
Part 12 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – Conclusion: The United Nations
Political Meditation for the Fourth of July, 2011: Can We Shift from Empire Back to Republic?
St. David’s Day, 2011, Technology and Social Change
Saint Patrick’s Day, 2010: Us and Them: Identity and the State
Some Reflections on Hurricane Sandy and an Outline for a New Civilization
Technical Hubris: and the Sinkhole of Obama’s Centrism
Television and Social Class
Thanksgiving Day, 2010: The Uses and Abuses of History
The Elections of 2010
Thoughts on My new Kindle App: on My Mac iPad