Quiddities (Philosophical Poetry): Bold Format

 

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Quiddities is a collection of philosophical poems drawn from Adam Fieled's 2010 Blazevox print book Apparition Poems, featuring a unique preface and bold-formatted for easy reading.

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“Quiddities (Philosophical Poetry)” Adam Fieled

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Apologia Ezra Pound famously remarked that when poetry strays too far from music, it ceases to be poetry. I would like to opine, as a tangent thought to his, that when the higher arts stray too far from philosophy, they cease to be the higher arts. Philosophy, no less than literature, is a series of narratives; and that higher-end, intellectually ambitious literature should twirl and torque meaningfully around philosophical quandaries and discourses is something that English-language poetry has forgotten in the last half-century (and I mean “pure” philosophy, as differentiated from literary theory or aesthetics). The leveling process by which no distinctions between high and low art are made, as a precondition to post-modernity’s preponderance, has effaced interest in the “fundamental questions” in favor of narrow, nihilistic ironies and corrosive but intellectually superficial cultural critiques. But that, without reprising Romanticism, English language poetry can reclaim interest in pure philosophy and the crux questions of human existence, is the assumption these poems make. As such, they are angled against everything in the English language oeuvre after T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets,” including the array of Deconstructive, non-narrative poetics, which confuse the respective (though not completely antithetical) functions of philosophy and poetry in an excessive and demeaning alienation of the aesthetic. How my approach differs from Eliot’s is this— rather than compressing the sensory data relevant to his inquiry into succinct forms, he prefers to paint on a wide canvas. The sharp points of his piece, often expressed in axioms and aphorisms, suffer a dissipated sense of being too generalized; an intermittent chiasmus with the tactile is represented, but focus is all too often lost in digression and imprecisely motivated meanderings. Many of Eliot’s axioms are, in fact, quotations (from, among others, Heraclitus and St. John of the Cross); and his Modernistic allusiveness chips away at the potential philosopher’s stone of original cognition for him. The poems in “Quiddities” are compressed and formed in the manner of John Keats’ Odes; not, of course, that the poems are odes, just that they are meant to convey mystery-in-brevity; and a sense, however sodden with disillusionment and despair, of enchantment. For enchantment in intellectual mystery, where English language verse is concerned, few poems but these Apparition Poems after the English Romantics will suffice. Modernism and postmodernism presented many shortcuts to a sense of engaged cognition;

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but the full enchantment of the depths and mysteries of the human mind and its powers of perception and discernment was not perceived or represented. Impulses which could have led to these representations were deemed too earnest, in a milieu and context which prized irony, and mistrust of any form of depth, especially subjectively maintained cognitive-affective depth, with or against impulses which could be deemed Romantic. If “Quiddites” is not merely a reprise of Romantic impulses, it is because the mysteries the poems encompass and close on are not comforting. Wordsworth’s conception of intellectual enchantment is positivist; he follows a pedagogical path to teach us, with a discrete, didactic, and circumscribed system, how to think. This is the thematic backbone of “The Prelude,” his masterpiece. Intellectual man, he informs us, can always fall back on Nature; and Nature has the capacity to endlessly replenish intellectual man. The other major Romantics offer more naïve versions of the same intermittently comforting premise; even if Byron and Keats have ways of building levels of permanent encroaching darkness into their visions, too. The intellectual enchantment in “Quiddities” ends in itself; the poems offer no system as a transcendental antidote, and nothing is endlessly replenishing in the poems except the endless montage of thought (thoughts on more thoughts). The enchantment offered by “Quiddities” is strange and (in a contradictory way) bitter; cognition has no recourse but to recur endlessly, in a sensory landscape as blasted and dystopic as the poems themselves. To circle back to Eliot again, where “Quiddities” is concerned; it is cognition over the (or a) waste land. But that the human intellect can and should develop its own kind of narcissism, over the dictatorial narcissism of the senses, especially in America, is presupposed. The human mind is the only enchanted place with any genuine permanence for mankind; that is the key and primordial supposition here. Adam Fieled, 2013

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#1345 Two hedgerows with a little path between— to walk in the path like some do, as if no other viable route exists, to make Gods of hedgerows that make your life tiny, is a sin of some significance in a world where hedgerows can be approached from any side— I said this to a man who bore seeds to an open space, and he nodded to someone else and whistled an old waltz to himself in annoyance.

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#1613 Follow Abraham up the hill: to the extent that the hill is constituted already by kinds of knives, to what extent can a man go up a hill, shepherd a son to be sacrificed, to be worthy before an almighty power that may or may not have had conscious intentions where hills, knives, sons were concerned, but how, as I watch this, can I not feel that Abraham, by braving knives, does not need the one he holds in his rapt hands?

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#1617 Philosophy says that poets want to lose. What are conditions of losing: to whom? The conditions (to whom they concern, to unrepresented phantoms, mostly) are colors, which, to transcribe, require a solid core of nebulous necromancy which philosophy calls (for its own poetic reasons) “loss.” I took this from one strictly (which necessitated looseness towards me) for himself, took several median blended colors and painted a razor on the roof of a red building. Then I fell off. But I lived.

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#1622 Poor Schopenhauer’s axioms: all in the will is a fight to beat other wills. I see him in his meager room, his will bent not to do much, save himself the trouble of fighting these ineluctable battles, but not able to refrain from eating, breathing, shitting, fucking, all those simple acts that are will-to-survival, but Arthur casts himself into a future of power, not knowing when it arrived it was to be a crass joke, ended with face in turtle soup.

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#1625 The “I” that writes cannot be (he told us, perched on a hill of flowers which he crushed, but, of course, incompletely, and not all of them at once) strictly for-itself as it has no substance: a student walked up, pricked his forearm (the back side of it) with a small razor, he cringed but only briefly, leaning forward so that a row of buttercups doused him yellow. The “I” that writes has a relationship that is very much for itself, but it has a strictly independent existence, so that what constitutes a human “I” has no meaning for it. Now, you need to know this: I was not the student with the razor, but I supplied the razor to the student that cut the professor’s forearm, but you will never know how I got it, or why.

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#1476 Days follow days off cliffs— do these things we do have any resonance, do they rise into the ether, or are they to be ground down into pulp, briefly making earth sodden, then dissipated dust scattered over plains too vast, blasted with winds, rains, storms, to be counted or harvested?

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#1480 How horrendous, to realize there are people in the world with no soul, walking zeros, hollow spaces, dead end interiors, permanently frozen faculties, how horrendous to watch how they borrow words of others to sound profound, but each echo reveals there’s nothing behind it but the kind of charred silence that comes after a corpse is burnt— how horrendous, how it makes some of us cling to what we feel, how we feel, that we feel, and that everything we feel is so precious, specifically (and only) because it is felt, and stays felt.

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#1281 You can take for granted lots of God-awful garbage in places deemed important by fools; this goes for every thing, including poetry. Why? Because the world runs (has, will always) on mediocrity, so safe, so comforting, like a mug of hot cocoa on a winter’s night, or a mediocre simile, people want others to be mediocre, to be fools, that’s just the way things go, people are nothing to write home about, or (if you are writing to God) nothing to write about at all, the world is no mystery, all the mystery is in the night sky, looking up.

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#1241 Why does no one tell the truth? Because the truth is (more often than not) absurd. No one wants to look absurd, so no one tells the truth, which creates even more absurdity; worlds grow into self-parody, systems grow down into gutters, whole epochs are wasted in perfidy; Cassandra finally opens her mouth, no one listens, they want her to star in a porno, set her up with a stagename, she learns not to rant, visions cloud her eyes, cunt—

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#1168 The essential philosophical question is incredibly stupid— why is it that things happen? You can ask a thousand times, it won’t matter— nothing does, except these things that keep happening, “around” philosophy.

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#1067 I want to last— to be the last of the last of the last to be taken by time, but the thing about time is that it wants, what it wants is us, all of us wane quickly for all time’s ways, sans “I,” what I wants—

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Credits Artrecess2— 1625 Great Works (UK)— 1067 Jacket Magazine— 1345, 1476, 1480 PFS Post— 1613 Stoning the Devil— 1168, 1241 (all poems in this collection are drawn from the Blazevox ’10 book “Apparition Poems”) Cover painting is “Learning to Dance” by Abby Heller-Burnham

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