Catherine Basilicata

Catherine Basilicata, Australia

No more Goodbyes

What if I never kissed your lips again
Or feel the touch of your warm embrace
How would I go on
Without you my heart has no place to belong.

Someday I’m hoping love’s going to draw you away from the sea.
Until then my heart remains empty,
So, I’ll just have to believe
Somewhere out there you’re thinking of me.

The day you let me go and your next hello,
It’s not goodbye.
I’m hoping to see you again,
I’ll be remembering our times, and if time is on our side –
There will be no more fears or cries.
Deep in the ocean, there’s one thing you can’t deny:

You think I’d be strong enough to make it through,
And rise above when you emerge from the sea,
It’s so hard when you’re missing someone so long.
Please no more goodbyes.

 

Catherine Basilicata lives in Wollongong, Australia

Colin James

Colin James

Two poems

AN ANTI THEIST’S SURRENDER

The lines of children were cognizant
of an uprising. This was evident in
their diffidence to the wind and the way
scars healed from the inside despite
a continuous onslaught of moral beatings,
the noble bullies barely having time to adjust.
Fatalistically, the swooning became the resolve.

CHOKING ON AFFLUENCE, THE COUGH SYMPTOMS

I watched some human like insects
scale my foot and drill into
the bone above the ankle.
I felt nothing.
Waist bent anomalously
ears, eyes closer.
They climbed higher
voices, not pronounced words.
They reached the top of my head
just as the sun was giving up.
I went cross eyed trying to explain,
this was not substantively organic.

 

Colin James has a book of poems Resisting Probability from Sagging Meniscus Press and a chapbook A THOROUGHNESS NOT DEPRIVED OF ABSURDITY. He lives in Massachusetts.

Philip Loyd

Philip Loyd

Elephants Never Forget

I sneaked another peak at her across the bar, trying my best to not look like I was looking, but it was too late, she had seen me already.  Why was I trying to avoid being seen?  Because I was shy?  Not hardly.  I was lonely, and I didn’t want to look like it.

More than that, I was horny, REALLY horny.  The only problem was, she was fat: hippopotamus fat.  It was nothing a few more beers couldn’t take care of, however, and anyway, there’s no shame in being lonely.

She looked familiar.  Maybe I had seen her before.  She just had that look about her, like I knew her from somewhere.  I looked in the other direction, but it was too late; she was already on her way over.

“Excuse me,” she said, “but you look so familiar.  Do I know you?”

“I’m not sure,” I said, still trying to pretend like I hadn’t been looking.  Loneliness is a hideous bitch.

“I’m sure I do,” she said.  “Do you come here often?”

If a man had said that, it would have been a line.

“Not really,” I said, “at least, not anymore.  It’s been fifteen years since I moved out west.”

“It’s just that, you look so familiar,” she said.

“It happens.”

“Where do you live out west?”

“Aspen.”

“Aspen?” she said. “Cool.  I’ve always wanted to go to California.”

So she was dumb.  So what?

“Are you from here originally?” she said.

“Yes, just down the road.”

“Did you go to Briardale Elementary?”

“Yes.”

“Small world. Me, too.”

“Small world,” I said.  “Would you like another beer?”

Stupid question.  Turns out, the fat cow could drink me under the table.

She said her name was Kelli.  Kelli, with an i.  Kelli with an i ?  That did sound familiar.

“My name is Jeffery,” I told her.  “Jeffrey Joe Paul.”

“Jeffrey Joe Paul?” she said.  “Of course.  I knew I knew you.  Kelli Kirkpatrick.  We went to McKinley High together.”

“We did?”

“Yes, silly.  Mrs. McGonaguill, homeroom.  Don’t you remember?”

“Kelli Kirkpatrick?”

“In the flesh.”

As we continued talking, drinking more and more beer, it all started coming back to me, where I remembered her from, and it surely wasn’t Mrs. McGonaguill’s homeroom.  It was here, right here at this very same bar.  My only hope was that she had forgotten all about it.  The problem was, elephants never forget.

“You don’t remember meeting here?” she said.

Damn!

“Not as such,” I said.  I was lying.

“Granted, it was a long time ago,” she said, “but I remember it just like it was yesterday.”

Of course you do.

“It was the night of the big fight, remember?” she said.  “You and I ducked out just in the nick of time.  Then we went down to Lazy Dave’s, then back to your place.  Still don’t remember?”

I told her sorry, but I did not.

“We made love until the sun came up,” she said.  “Of course, I’ve lost a lot of weight since then.  Maybe that’s why you don’t recognize me?’

elephant

Lost a lot of weight?  Sweet Jesus.

“You told me you would call,” she said, “but you never did.”

That’s because it was a line, you stupid cow.

“I tried calling you for weeks.  I called your house, I called your work, I called your mother, I came by your apartment, I left notes on your door, I sat on your porch all night waiting for you.”

Of course I remembered.  It’s the whole reason I moved to Aspen in the first place.

“So what happened?” she said.  “Why didn’t you call?  You said you would call.  I was waiting for you to call.”

You’d think at this point a guy like me would have enough sense to get the hell out of there.  You’d think that, but you’d be wrong.  Remember what I said about loneliness?  It’s a hideous bitch, and it’s no goddess.

I decided to deal with it the same way I deal with most of my problems: by drinking more beer. By morning I realized, I was going to have to move again.  I hear Atlanta is real nice this time of year.

 

Philip Loyd loves fat chicks and cheap beer, though not necessarily in that order. His first novel, You Lucky Bastard, is represented by New York Literary Agent Jan Kardys. Loyd lives in Dumbass, Texas.

Walter Hoelbling

Walter Hoelbling

gone

where have conversations gone
long time passing
where have all our love words gone
long time ago
where have all our love words gone
mobiles took them, every one
when will we ever learn
I hope they will return

wiehere have all the mobiles gone
long time passing
where have all the notebooks gone
long time ago
where have all the kindles gone
turned to tablets, every one
when will we ever learn
there will be no return

where have all the tablets gone
long time passing
where have all the smart phones gone
long time ago
where have all these gadgets gone
been recycled every one
never they will return
never they will return

where have all the users gone
long time passing
where have all the texters gone
long time ago
there lie all the facebooks slain
people try to speak again
when will we ever learn
hope they again can learn

 

Obviously trying to do a half-serious, twitter-age version of Peter Seeger’s “Where have all the flowers gone?” (My favorite rendering is by Peter, Paul, and Mary)

Bill Cotter

Bill Cotter

Two Poems

COMING UPON

Incautious, still, and breaking the peace
Of the lake, I hear the swan’s unease
And sense, in its startled trumpetings,
Time is measured in the beating of wings.

Across the brown veined beds of reeds
Now rippling and dropping their silver beads,
There comes the sound of whisperings,
“Time is measured in the beating of wings.”

Coerced from shadows into light
And tense with the need to take to flight,
She knows, caught in the water’s transient rings,
Time is measured in the beating of wings

And, so, on the heard puffs of air,
She rises, high and higher, where,
Expanding and blue, the sky sings,
“Time is measured in the beating of wings.”

ECHO

from Bird Song

I cannot replicate the sweetness of those notes
I heard at dawn; the player’s joy
Is his alone. But, yet, in hearing, floats
A raft of memories to buoy,
Persist, but never cloy
And so, on the fading edge of dusk and thought
There remains an echo of a song and the joy it brought.

Jesse Bant

The Music Man in the Sky

There was a flautist jamming in the stars, and I used to sit watching, seated on air. He made me cry one day but I wasn’t really that sad. His tunes were just too good, they had me skating around upside down all over the icy place. Didn’t know which way was up, so it rained.

Well it was just too bad.

One day I was doing my thing in the rainy cold sky when I cast my binoculars to the shoulder of Orion. There were attack ships on fire, but where was the Music Man? I couldn’t hear anything, there was only silence and then you’re sobbing.

Who are you and what have you done with Jammin’ Sam? Why am I now crying too? That skull in your uplifted palm, who does that belong to? Ah, I have detached my self from myself again, it is only my humbly decaying corpse who intrudes upon my pleasure.

So is this the skull of that musician? Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio.

No, it cannot be, for…

It be. How sad.

The stars are out in force tonight, they form a – a skull. So that is where you got to, you flutey fellow of infinite zest. Your body has been broken down into carbon, which has been then gravitationally sucked into a super-hot funky party. It seems that they have now exploded into a strangely sinister silhouette. That’s how you would have wanted it, Jammin’ Sam.

I best be off now. Intransient water-based beings like my good self haven’t any time for such trivial blowings-on of some jazzy musician.

I am crying.

Where did the music go? Your songs?

But up there, kicking it with the stars, I would listen all night. Now your skull smiles down on this ethereal dude. I don’t mean to be rude.

In my mind’s eye I still hear the tunes. Rhythm and blues. So take off your shoes and salute to the flautist who jammed, the soundtrack to the universe.

To that superheated constellation (who used to be Sam), which now grins fatally at those mere mortals who dare to jam.

To the mortals who dare to jam, salute.

To the end of time, play on, play it again, and don’t stop playing.

You may fall quiet (as Sam did), but others will play on.

For the past I weep, for the future I laugh. Aint it always the way. Till another day. To the flautists I say do continue to play. It is the price you will continue to pay, immortality for eternal musical appreciation, because I will remember.

I still remember the music man in the sky.

Ian C. Smith

Ian C. Smith

Three Poems

Artifice

He photographs her on the Cobb at Lyme Regis,
a shadowy shot to be published in a journal
unimagined then like other scenarios
destiny stores between expectation and realisation.

They had read The French Lieutenant’s Woman.
Wave-smash sprays her op-shop cape
as if a film is being enacted in a surf-hiss of grief,
a heartsore woman staring seaward from the revetment.

Absorbed, they learn of a town, its yeomanry, transformed,
chaos caused by the adaptation of a romance.
Karel Reisz repeatedly directed a scene set in 1867,
sheep driven over muddied cobbles past this teashop.

They lean in, picturing soldiers in scarlet tunics,
the cinema dormant in destiny’s plot development.
His staged photograph forms part of memory’s mirage,
a film location he would revisit if possible.

For many seasons he travels only in his thoughts,
acknowledges novels are devices, artificial,
as John Fowles didactically reminded readers,
so too, films with towns disguised as the past.

Another book, about tramping England’s eroding coast
below Lyme’s fossilized cliffs, carries him sweetly back.
He recalls her cape, touch, dark green velvet,
wonders what became of it, of the characters they were.

Mme. Blanchard hits the roof

Summer, 1819, Napoleon grounded, but not human spirit.
Those basket cases, balloonists, hang in clouds.

Paris by night, a sight to die for.
To reach for the sky is the French tradition,
so, too, looking down on people.
She looks good in that Regency style,
diminutive, décolletage cinched above a high waist,
dressed to kill, you could say, or to be killed.
She is the queen of fireworks, pity about hydrogen.

In the Tivoli Gardens the bandstand rocks,
warm air above lit by her Bengal lights.
A magical rain showers the sky silver and gold
from parachute bombs she lights with a long taper,
thrills revellers whose murmur drifts up to her
floating inadvertently close to a sparkling heaven,
a suitable distance from her terror of crowds.

Riding her gondola, a skimpy thing like herself,
she sees her balloon ablaze, begins her descent,
feathered hat lost, a rushed farewell performance.
The house roof’s pitch steep, her rigging tangled,
fire almost out, burned, broken, she can’t hang on,
she who once remained aloft all night over Rome.
It’s me. Help! Sophie gasps, then the cobbles.

Not VCs, VD

They huddle sorry-arsed on the platform sharing Turf cigarettes,
faces above khaki greatcoats, demeanour, of older men,
any ideals of medals not what they imagined,
inventing tales, their ultimate destination vague,
a vanishing point joked about but yearned for.
They watched back yards passing by, recalled games,
kitbags in the rack, windows streaked, their gaze opaque,
no risk now of being blown up, yet their world askew.

Crown land, an exclusion zone, rude architecture,
kangaroos and copperheads patrolling the bluish bush,
army doctors’ blunt indifference unmitigated by nurses,
women soon to be only memories of mixed emotions;
porridge and penicillin, a muddle of menial tasks,
a caste quarantined from locals who believe propaganda;
troop movement, training exercises, returning heroes,
who remain ignorant of anything to do with this lot.

Look, there I am long after the war was over, a boy searching
for his lost dog he will never see again, walking
away from the murmur of his family’s regret, almost
stepping on a coiled snake under the cover of trees,
calling, whistling for things to be as they were.
He reaches the old army reserve where a breeze stirs,
nudges his cigarette smoke, a flap of cardboard on a shed,
sunlight on a soiled window as if trapped there long before.

 

Ian C Smith, P.O.Box 9262, Sale, 3950, Australia icsmithpoet@gmail.com

National Young Writers Festival

Gerald Ganglbauer
Publishing My Way

National Young Writers Festival 2002


I used to be an independent book publisher for ten years and also a print magazine publisher, and even though I do print and web design for a living these days, I am still publishing literature on the Internet – purely out of love for the written word. In my early twenties I was Austria’s youngest publisher and most of the emerging writers I first published are established authors today. Back then I was always running on sheer determination and Arts Council grants, however, I never cashed dole cheques as I never received unemployment benefits in my life, and only once I had to sell my Yamaha XT 500 bike to pay a printer’s bill.

From the 1970s on many new small publishers emerged to become professional players in the book market. I was one of them from 1984 to 1994, and had gained a reputation for hard hitting avant-garde. I even founded and managed a writers’ street festival in Graz, a city very much like Newcastle, from 1982 to 1986. Some say, indies is the only place where contemporary literature belongs. On the other hand, there is not just the small press out there today. The ‘old’ publishers like Penguin are often taking very young new names on board. Therefore, if you don’t produce crap, it’s only a matter of time to find the right match (just as in your love life), as long as you have enough passion, talent and patience.

When I asked Kylie Purr, the festival manager, what the audience would expect from our panel, she reckoned it could be some practical information of how to self publish. Where to get ISBNs and such hands-on stuff. My alarm bells rang: in all these years I would have never published my own book in print. If your heart goes to publishing rather than writing, learn the trade or ask people like myself for help (just don’t think computers do it all for you), start with your mates’ work, and leave your own material better in the drawer. It’s OK if you read it at events you organised or write in a (maga)zine you edit, but just don’t do your own books, ever. It’s damaging to your career.

With few exceptions, self published books lack editing, professionalism, get nowhere in the media, as no reviewer takes them seriously and never make it onto the shelves and from there to the readers anyway. Leave that to the experts without embarrassing yourself. You can’t be dancing on two parties at once. Take the long road and start with submissions to lit mags, and read your stuff at as many gigs as you can get. Make friends with a published writer, and ask if he or she could recommend your work. Also, when you read the books you like, talk to the people who made them, as these are the ones who would eventually take you on board as the right publisher for your own material. No point in ringing every publishing house listed in the Yellow Pages.

However, if you write non-fiction, know exactly who and where your target audience is (bypassing bookshops with your own distribution), can afford to invest at least the equivalent of a new car, are a quick learner how to market and promote your ‘product’, and are prepared to cooperate with (and pay for) graphic designers, typesetters, pre-press houses, printers and book binders, go for it as you would start any other business. If all works out, you should have earned your royalties and made a profit. But that’s not my way (and supposedly not yours).

So far I talked about paper books, what about new media? Well, a real book is still a book in print. No-one will download an e-book onto his or her PDA to take it to the loo to read. Not many would bother reading a longer text stored on a CD-ROM on a computer screen. Well, not the general public (unless it’s non-fiction, where the search functions can come in very handy). There are, of course, works conceived for multimedia only, but I assume we talk about traditional texts here, where e-books are a great marketing tool. Instead of hundreds of pages of expensive and environmental unfriendly paper you just send one URL to a potential publisher.

Editors, literary agents, film producers and the like also search the Net for new material. And, yes, you get the occasional nerd who prefers a (free) e-book to a paper book he or she has to borrow and copy or buy. In my opinion e-books are an important step towards the real thing, but have your material edited (or stress it’s not edited) and presented in a user-friendly format. Again, it might be better to have your e-books published with an established site, rather than on your own homepage, for they already have the traffic you will take years too create. Copyright issues with the electronic media have finally been sorted out, so in this regard there’s nothing to worry about any more but getting the written word out there.

This paper was presented at the National Young Writers Festival
Newcastle City Hall, 7 October 2002

See also: Evading the jaws of giants. Independent publishing in Austria.

Consciousness States and Literary Creativity

Hermann J. Hendrich

It is for this reason (representing the true character of objects) that I hold the somewhat unusual view that artists are neurologists, studying the brain with techniques that are unique to them and reaching interesting but unspecified conclusions about the organization of the brain. Semir Zeki in ((3), p 80).

Fluidum

Already in the late forties of the last century Andreas Okopenko, an Austrian poet and writer, started to take notes about a certain consciousness state, which he experienced often. Later he began to call this state ‚Fluidum‘, „… At this enthused discourse at an age of 16 I called this phenomenon this reactive feeling upon a selected reality, FLUIDUM, I don’t know why.“ ((2), p 20/21) His first publication about his self observations appeared in an Austrian literary magazine in 1977 (1), much later a version with more examples and some comments by the author himself can be found in the two volumes of his selected writings (2).

Okopenko tried very hard to give us a good description of his ‚fluidum‘ as well as some definitions, a few of those I am presenting in an English translation.

„But the essential cannot be found in these encirclements, which do not sensually exceed thoughts or feelings, but something similar elementary or irreducible as the experience of the five senses.“ ((2), p 28)

„An important component of the fluidum is the affected one. The feeling of a fluidum comes most often as a shock.“ ((2), p 31)

„The fluidum is unique and mirrors subjectively the uniqueness of the moment. It hits like lightning. It is in the moment when it is perceived. During a fluidum the constituents of the moment are being felt as a whole and not as a collection of particular elements. The fluidum is an integral for experience within a time differential.“ ((2), p 53/54)

It should be noted that Okopenko by his heritage and upbringing has been a person from the eastern part of Europe (Moldavia) transferred to Vienna in his early teens and so has had a scholling experience with a number of different languages.

„The experience (of a fluidum) is functional: recognising (perceiving, reflecting), but also always dynamic: as seizure <Anwandlung>, enlightenment, lightning. The whole of the concept ‚fluidum‘ is an indivisible complex of objective content and excitement.“ ((2), p 27)

„The fluidum is not being exhausted in the optical realm on one side, and on the other side much conscious scanning does not lead to any fluidic experiences.“ (2), p 25)

„The fluidum is also one of the phenomena of pre-language thinking which is sometimes put into disgrace by the philosophers. (Thinking in pictures – not anything unclear! And not in icons! – clear perceiving of relations between seen or sensual imagined objects; before the words appear for them. …)“ ((2), p 29)

„The experience of a fluidum has similarities with spontaneous or provoked states of enlightenment or mystical intimacy, without a faith however at the fluidum.“ ((2), p 31)

„The clear sight in its meta-wordly aspect is the ‚direct experience‘3 … and one day the flash of the highest insight, the clear, happens, and with it the sight of the true reality.“ ((2), p 35)

In order to differentiate his fluidum experiences from the Eastern world view Okopenko mentions:

„In my fluidum experience I wander … over the limits of the subject, this tragic bearer of ‚the always opposite one‘ (Rainer Maria Rilke); until the confluence of the subject into the world of objects: into the midst within, at the suspension of contrast…“ ((2), p 38)

In 1963 Andreas states:

„You are recognising that everything you tried to say remains incommunicable. It can not be said with all the painstaking images of reality. It clings to the images but has its own nature.“

If these last two sentences give way to a feeling, which overcomes (I believe) many of us in the writing business sometimes, Okopenko certainly points to the problem of communicating consciously experienced phenomena. Especially states of consciousness apart from any mood may be very difficult to describe in a way accessible for the laywoman or the student.

Noting the additionally provided examples of Okopenko’s own poems or prose lines I suggest that his truthful self-observations fall into two categories, one characterised by this spontaneous enlightenment, and the other by a certain revelation, a heightened awareness, especially in the direction of aesthetic experience, but also of nature poetry.

I would like to add some other descriptions about fluidum by Okopenko. „Fluidum is an emotional state with existential resonance, or before an infinite horizon, basically it could happen always, even to catch up to a given narrow feeling.“ ((2) p 53)

„Maybe a great calm and a feeling of clarity comes over us.“ ((2) p 53)

„The Fluidum is singular and subjectively mirrors the singularity of the moment. It hits. It is complete in the very moment it is experienced. The elements of the moment are being felt as a unit and not as a cluster of individual pieces. The fluidum is an experience integral in a time differential. Despite the uniqueness of a fluidum all of one’s own fluidi are similar to each other, and one’s own and strange fluidi are also similar to each other, since each unique moment is similar to another one, and each psyche resembles another one. Artistic, fluidic communication: one zest for life alarms the other one.“ ((2) p 53/54)

The important thesis by Okopenko regarding poetry can be formulated as follows: The fluidic state of an author (poet) supports the development of new ways to write and to form poems. He cites a number of poets like Ezra Pound, James Joyce and T.S. Eliot, whose poetic works show an influence from the fluidic consciousness states. Especially the imagism from Pound seems to hold much in favour of Okopenko’s thesis. He believes very strongly that in writing poetry one tries to communicate ones own fluidic experiences. I believe an example of one of his poems from 1950 should somewhat clarify his intentions: a partial translation follows.

Now the various depths are being separated
Now you don’t eat in the best way cut up flowers
They do have their own scent, not a good one,
Now you eat bread from last year’s harvest or drill sharply
Into a tin can and cut around
The first slice of a canned piece.
As fast as possible you harness yourself before the rest of the country coaches
Breathe the yellow shaft
Pant the song in the yellow brown stubble field
From pursuing gray under the spread out gray
And then the sky rushes down.
You can only see a few steps ahead
The earth receives an adverse play explosions
Fountains of upwards pelting rain bundles
And sloping downwards, broken
And overlapping circles everywhere all the time.
Soaked man,
Man of the threethousand steps!

(From ‚Zu Herbstbeginn‘ (at the beginning of fall) in Okopenko 1980.

In my view: there is still a story, and the poem is full of surrealist influences, but when we take these away there is a rest, which may correspond to the fluidic experience: a certain hold in individual time, a widened consciousness state, which is able to observe simultaneously many different events on more than one sensual plan.

Let’s take a few lines by T.S. Eliot:

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
The inner freedom from practical desire,
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sence, a white light still and moving, Erhebung without motion, concentration
Without elimination, both a new world
And the old made explicit, understood
In the completion of its partial ecstasy,
The resolution of its partial horror.
Yet the enchainment of past and future
Woven in the weakness of the changing body,
Protects mankind from heaven and damnation
Which flesh cannot endure.
Time past and time future
Allows but a little consciousness,
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.

(T.S. Eliot 1963)

This part of a longer poem (Burnt Norton) really has the ‚fluidic‘ quality Okopenko tries to demonstrate in his essay. Despite some contents which lead us to later discussion in my paper.

Let me end with a poem in English by Samuel Beckett:

Da Tagte Es

redeem the surrogate goodbyes
the sheet astream in your hand
who have no more for the land
and the glass unmisted above your eyes

There is little to add. (Maybe no thing).
(Samuel Beckett 1961)

Synaesthesia

Some aspects in Okopenko’s description of his Fluidum lead to the discussion, if this consciousness state has some common elements with Fluidum. Usually synaesthetic experiences are defined as the production of mental sense impression relating to one sense by the stimulation of another sense.

‚A Review of Current Knowledge‘ has been written by Richard E. Cytowic in PSYCHE, 2 (10), July 1995. In his ABSTRACT he summarises very clearly all aspects, which are interesting to neurology and art & consciousness.

Under 2.8 he writes „…The spatial location of objects is also strikingly remembered, such as the precise location of kitchen utensils, furniture arrangements and floor plan, books on shelves, or text blocks in a specific book…“

A descriptive passage from Andreas Okopenko ((2), p 23): „Suddenly – be it spontaneously or provoked, a watercock becomes of enormous importance to us, which has been indifferently looked at before. Or a room appears in a moving-perspective to us and becomes exciting for us. Particularly the alienation (‚Verfremdung‘) does much for a fluidic movement in the presence.“

„A whole landscape including the smallish human beings, little houses, vehicles, their perspectives, flowers, closenesses, distances, their weather, fragments of conversation, manifest values and no values, their tragedy, their humour, youth, age, water, heat, wind, single movements constantly everywhere, embedded in the nearest and the farthest surrounding, sucking in prehistory until world future, in addition superpositioning with my own small and large history, my appetite, clothe status, health status, working plan, with hopes, resentments, sexual life, this fitted into the world and this observing one self that all may become enchanting in the simultaneous experience (and not in remembering it).“

This poetic recall of a fluidic experience seems to me to be the only overlap between Okopenko’s concept and the general acceptance of synaesthetic ones. In this regard I would like to point to Cytowic’s paragraph 3. ‚History Of Synaesthesia‘ as well as to Braddock’s paragraph ‚Synaesthesia: A Case Study in Phenomenology through Vicarious Experience‘ in (5) and to the section ‚Artists, Poets and Synaesthesia‘ by Ramachandran and Hubbard in (6).

Besides the point, that Okopenko mentions a number of poets, whom he suspects of having had ‚fluidic‘ experiences, and whose names we find again in the articles mentioned above there is little evidence, that ‚fluidum‘ could be really listed within the synaesthetic experiences.

The discussion about synaesthesia lead to very interesting speculations, which should be noted by writers and literary reviewers, as „Second, we propose the existence of a kind of sensory to motor synaesthesia, which may have played a pivotal role in the evolution of language.“ (Ramachandran and Hubbard in ‚Synaesthesia – A Window into Perception, Thought and Language‘ in (6)). A similar view on the evolution of language is expressed by Harry van der Hulst in Hulst 1999.

Reviewing the above mentioned sources I am declined to think, that the ‚fluidum‘ of Okopenko has very little connections with anything being discussed within the realm of synaesthesia. There is one point which should be mentioned, however. The literature points to a fact, that synaesthets within the group of poets, writers and artists in the wider sense of the word are unproportionally existing compared with a more general group.

I am no synaesthet: music recalls emotions in my mind, but no colours, and paintings are just paintings for me. Understanding the main feelings of a synaesthet I still do find a phenomenological problem within this area.

Maybe the sentence by G. Braddock in his ‚Beyond Reflection in Naturalized Phenomenology‘ (5) on page 13: „In short, our phenomenological verdict about synaesthesia and its role in normal perception will be directed by all of the above information, and, in fact by any other information that might push our account of the phenomena in one direction or another.“ Serves well to my ideas at this time in writing that ‚account‘.

It may be interesting to note, that the German term ‚Doppelbegabung‘, intended to describe artists creating original works in at least two different art provinces, like poetry and music, or painting and theatrical propositions, may only try to group persons as synaesthetics together.

To own this heightened awareness in perception in form and intensity of sound, colour, bodily movement or rhapsodic prose may have been sometimes an advantage for the individual, leaving it to achieve a carrier as shamane, sorceress, cave painter, rock scratcher, and later into the roles of bards and clowns. It can be summed up by two sentences of Robert Allott:

„The process of art production as a biological reality presents problems for a number of aspects of evolutionary theory (e.g. fitness, altruism, gene determination of behaviour, gene selection) which may best be solved by defining or amending the theories rather than by ejecting the art process from the realm of biology. If the arts are correctly treated as biological in origin and in the process of artistic creation, the issue that matters, on the the analysis in the preceding section, is not the node of transmission of cultural pattern (via hypothetical memes, culturgens, etc.) but the origination of the cultural patterns, artistic or cultural ‚creation‘.“ (Allott 2002)

Freeze

(An associative description)

After a short while travelling in the tram during the onsetting twilight the view from my wide open eyes remains sharply focussed in the direction of the fast passing building walls with windows, entrances, shops, and in between lying billboards. The passengers are perceived as precisely outlined shapes throughout the field of vision, especially, if one moves. Familiar faces are resolved into strange features. (The way of viewing, the representation of the surrounding objects must have been widened.) The written signs on the shop portals are being perceived as such, but the meaning of the agglomeration of letters cannot be recognised.

The colours and shapes on each poster appear extremely clear, but cannot be combined together into a picture. Mirrorlike glass surfaces surrounded by dark brown frame wood, the phenomena themselves start to win significance, and those concepts which regulate the representation of objects are not involved.

In a way Jennifer Church gives us some explanation wen she writes in her article ‚Seeing A’s and the Double Bind of Consciousness‘ (4) on page 99: „Central to aesthetic experience, but also to experience in general, is the phenomenon of ’seeing as‘. We see a painting as a landscape, we hear sequence of sounds as a melody, we see a wooden contraption as a boat, and we hear a comment as an insult.“

Back to my ‚inside‘ report:

No effort can be felt by keeping the look forward even throughout many minutes. After these minutes the visual attention widens itself over the total field of view, no difference between foreground and background can be made anymore, the movement of single elements against each other, the shifts and overpositions can be observed, without moving the direction of the view, all things happening simultaneously. During this time acoustic phenomena can be perceived as well, and in contrast to the visual experience the meaning of utterances, even when more then one persons speaks at the same time, can be understood.

Thinking in a certain respect has actually ceased, since stimuli or analogue chains are no more followed at all. The capacity of conscious perception is just large enough to accept the immensely large abundance of visual and auditory details. The progressive loss of significance leads one to indulge in a strong feeling of strangeness. The normal atmosphere of feelings and emotions vanishes. The self is no longer included in the reality around it.

Another citation from Church’s above mentioned article, page 103, following Kant’s insight: „although seeing seems to be a twoplace relation between the seer and the seen, and thinking appears to be a twoplace relation between the thinker, the object of thought, and what is thought about that object, conscious thinking also requires one to merge an object with the way it is presented. “ And later on page 105: „This is not to say, that all thinking must be accompanied by images; sometimes thinking amounts to little more than the syntactical manipulation of symbols.“

Without being able to compare my ‚freeze‘ experience with those of others I can only speculate, that there are certain ways to loosen the ‚double binding‘ in consciousness space.

Since introspection does not give me any hints, how I really manage to click on freeze, I must leave this consciousness state to further investigations.

It seems also, that Eastern meditative practices lead to a similar state.

Zazen, Zen

‚zen‘ is a translation of the Indian Sanskrit word for meditation. Meditation has been passed down as one of the three facets of Buddhist practice (i.e. morality, meditation and wisdom). It is the most essential of the practices taught by Sakyamuni Buddha who himself attained supreme enlightenment by single-mindedly penetrating zazen.

In his Fukan Zazengi (The Universal Promotion of the principles of Zazen). Dögen says, that the crux of zazen is „non-thinking; that is the essential of zazen.“ This non-thinking is impossible to explain. If it could be explained, then it would not be non-thinking. Non-thinking is just non-thinking and there is no other way for you to experience for yourself in zazen.

You can’t understand with your brain. If you practice zazen, on the other hand, you can experience satori unconsciously. The posture of zazen itself is satori. Satori is the return to the normal, original condition. It is the consciousness of the new-born baby. Unlike what many people think, satori is not some special state, but simply a return to the original condition. Through the practice of Zazen one becomes peacefully. Through one’s body one can discover the consciousness of satori. So posture is very important. You can’t discover satori with your head in your hands like Rodin’s thinker. That is why people in the East respect the posture of the Buddha. It is the highest posture of the human body. Chimpanzees and babies cannot experience satori. Babies are in their original condition, but then karma obscures it, and we must regain that condition. Chimpanzees don’t nee to; they are always in their original condition. Only human beings have lost it and become complicated and so they must regain it.

Zazen clears up the human being mind immediately and lets him dwell in his true essence. Zazen transcends both the unenlightened and the sage, rises above the dualism of delusion and enlightenment. Through zazen we break free from all things, forsake myriad relations, do nothing and stop the working of the six sense organs.

Awareness is the ontological ground of phenomenal appearance, which only have reality as manifestations of Nature.

From these diverse statements (Maybe one wants to look up ‚Lecture on Zen‘ by Alan Watts) it seems plausible, to compare ‚freeze‘ with Zen When we lose the name of an object do we lose the object too? Patches of colour, sounds without meaning remain.

Andreas Okopenko writes about ‚direktes Erkennen‘ and Satori and believes, that Haiku or Zenrin are very close to a fluidic kind of poetry.

Conclusion

Literary creativity is a wide area, where new imagery, new forms for poetry or prose or new philosophical thoughts or recombinations are tried out and performed. Throughout our writing history stimulations have been sought by poets and writers in general to wake up creativity. Heavy smoking seems to be the one most often used ancillary, but alcoholic fluids from beer to whisky served some as well. In the modern literary history the use of many kinds of substances with mind expanding or mind changing abilities have been in use.

So it lies near that specific consciousness states, reached without the intake of any chemical substance at all, could serve this purpose as well.

From the various descriptions of poets, especially in ‚Fluidum‘ by Andreas Okopenko, one receives the impression, however, that the fluidum or synaesthetic experiences serve indirect means for literary creativity. It is the impact of these experiences which the poet tries to describe or bring into a communicable form, using language. Okopenko points to the theory of writing zenrin and haiku.

The role of ‚fluidum‘ may be described by using some words of explanation, Okopenko has written (2) about a request, to explain one of his own poems:

Strange Night

Blue cold wind of May
Gasdischarged from moon brown clouds,
Bushy tree tops driving
Avenue chestnuts wood
No rain will arrive until now

Seltsame Nacht

Blaukalter Maiwind
aus mondbraunen Wolken gasend,
Buschende Baumspitzen treibende
Allee Kastanien Wald
Es will bis jetzt nicht Regen einlangen

(partial presentation)

„Fluidum is a feeling with existential resonance, in front of a unending horizon, basically always possible, to be catched up with a given narrow emotion……About a great silence and a feeling of clarity overcomes us.“

It seems to me, that writing in this sense means reliving those episodes of unusual consciousness states. Okopenko has, however, scanned modern literature for remains and suggestions about fluidic experiences, brought forward in writing. For details see (2).

Synaesthetic experiences lead to somewhat different examples, many of those cited in the mentioned literature. A large number of poets used metaphors including colour references, as well as painters like Wassilij Kandinsky (The yellow sound) worked from the synaesthetic experience of music and colour. We can state that synaesthetic poets and writers have an internal source for creativity in their poetic work.

‚Freeze‘ and Zen – may I combine my intentions here? – can also not be used for writing while you are in a freeze or enlightened. Remembering those consciousness states, however, should spur the strife of writing. Using my freeze experiences I tried to get into what I repeatedly described as an ‚hot point‘ within myself, finding there the opening lines of some of my emotional moving poems. Let me end with one of it:

Heart Your Shaking
As by asked for I had
Only one hand – gratified touch
Ask never what aggravated me
Entrusted to clarity


Literature

(1) protokolle No 2 (1977), Wien, Jugend und Volk
(2) Okopenko, Andreas 2000/2001, Gesammelte Aufsätze Vol I & II, Klagenfurt, Ritter
(3) JCS Vol 6 (1999) June/July
(4) JCS Vol 7 No 8-9 (2000)
(5) JCS Vol 8 No 11 (2001)
(6) JCS Vol 8 No 12 (2001)

References

Allott, Robert 2002, homepage
Artaud, Antonin 1965 Antonin Artaud Anthology San Francisco, City Lights Books
Beckett, Samuel 1961 Poems in English New York, Grove Press
Blackmore, Susan 1999 The Meme Machine Oxford, Oxford University Press
Cytowic, Richard E. 1995 Synesthesia: Phenomenology and Neuropsychology PSYCHE, 2(10), July 1995
Dennett, Daniel C. 1996 Kinds of Minds New York, BasicBooks
Eliot, T.S. 1963 Collected Poems 1909-1962 London, Faber & Faber
Greenfield, Susan A. 1995 Journey to the Centers of the Mind New York, W.H.Freeman &Company
Gregory Peter N. 1985 Tsung-Mi and the single word ‚awareness‘ (chih) in Philosophy East and West Vol 35 No 3 July
Hendrich, Hermann J. 1999 in der strassenbahn – über nichtlineare bewusstseinszustände Electronic Journal Literatur Primär, Wien 1999
Hobson, Allan J, 1999 Consciousness New York, W.H.Freeman and Company
Hulst, Harry van der 1999 So How did Language Emerge? Second fall Lecture Skidmore College
Joyce, James 1927 Pomes Penyeach Paris, Shakespeare & Co
Kandinsky, Wassily 1912 Über Bühnenkomposition in Der Blaue Reiter München, R. Piper & CO
Kandinsky, Wassily 1912 Der Gelbe Klang in Der Blaue Reiter (as above)
Kerouac, Jack 1961 Book of Dreams San Francisco, City Lights Books
Kerouac, Jack 1958 The Dharma Bums Penguin Books
Metzinger, Thomas 1995 ed. Conscious Experience Thorverton, Schöningh/Imprint Academic
Miller, Matt 2002 Jack Kerouac and the Satori Highway in Literary Traveler
Okopenko, Andreas 1980 Gesammelte Lyrik Wien, Jugend und Volk
Pinker, Steven 1997 How the Mind Works New York, W.W.Norton & Company
Pound, Ezra 1949 The Pisan Cantos London, Faber & Faber
Pound, Ezra 1934 ABC of Reading New York, New Directions
Priessnitz, Reinhard 1978 vierundvierzig gedichte Linz, edition neue texte
Scott, Alwyn 1995 Stairway to the Mind New York, Springer-Verlag
Wiener, Oswald 2000 Materialien zu meinem Buch VORSTELLUNGEN Ausschnitt 05, TU Wien, Wien 2000
Wilson, Edward O. 1998 Consilience New York, Alfred A. Knopf

Dieter Sperl

Letters from Vienna

Whenever I had set about it as a sixteen-year-old, when as a twenty-year-old, now as a thirty-two-year-old, so when I was a seventeen-year-old, when as a seventeen-year-old I had got to know someone, a woman, a child, a man, a warm expanse, or moments of a taut movement, absently lying in the sun, or just parts, individual parts, an individual part, jet of water, when something fell into me, took me with it, a desire set itself free, a desire which set me free, for hours perhaps only minutes, perhaps there was no desire, I don’t know, never known where it came from, why it came, a strand of hair perhaps, perhaps there was no desire at all, but what then, I wrote a letter in my head, I went through streets, through a wood, I wrote a letter in my head, whenever it was a love story, perhaps it was never a love story, always something else, I don’t know, just like now, I don’t know, people don’t write letters like this, people don’t write letters like this, even now people don’t write letters like this, come in the children in the train compartment call to their mother who is outside the compartment smoking a cigarette, come in or you won’t come with us, hunt with hounds periods of being in love, perhaps, give yourself up, you had to betray the rules, and not occupy any more room, simply break off, simply break off now, three further cats say there is water, this radical claim to completeness is shattered, I don’t ask, where does it come from otherwise, a fascistic line, I don’t ask where does it come from otherwise, where do these catatonic effects come from, on this summer’s morning I can’t listen to any more music, it’s an attack of affection for this world, at a table with plants on it, walk to a mountain, when we hadn’t noticed each other, walk along a mountain, everything as if all at once, what a body, which then draws me to just in front of this world, what a body, and when I then went to the front of the house, we were looking in the same direction, the window opens, the difference throws us into our own monologue, and with my feet frozen into the ground, so much time between the noises, I said to the doctor, and raindrops between the wind, a car driving up, I don’t know, cold on my temples, cold on my skin, raindrops like ice crystals all over my body, you creep through the grass like a Red Indian, suddenly the drops tear through the trees, the drops tear because I’m not even nearby, other realities speak quite normally, as if I had caught a letter between these drops, between the crystals, caught a letter, but what is the difference actually between people who live on their experiences and those who live for life, at the beginning there are intensities, then time comes along and takes us with it, then fears come along and take us with them, we are permanently making compromises to bear it, as a child I was always sad when it stopped raining, looked into the puddles of water, out of the window, between the curtains, with my head between the curtains, dragged across a table for just a few minutes, so infatuated with this absence, I don’t know, I’m only imagining it, when all traces have been torn up, and brush the first snow out of the window, then go hunting, then go hunting, when it breaks out, as pain, it then breaks out again and again, with the fur boots, like a joke, then hurled against the wall, with these frozen fingers, fallen back like this, a seventeen-year-old beginning a letter, like a thirteen-year-old, or later as a twenty-year-old, I never began this letter, this letter never needed to be written, because you would like to say something which reaches beyond itself and actually stupidly enough stayed at home, only here, only here, never look for the answers who you are and where you are, this body, which is painful perhaps, you’d like to be so far away here and now, these desires which grow out of physical attacks, and what they end in, these fingers, when we change our position in the morning, take our first steps and take stock of ourselves, in the smallest movement, like storm clouds brewing, always to say now, although you’ve already lost yourself with those earnest movements which only make us look ridiculous.

as the saying goes

to give your sheep or your cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him.
shunryu suzuki

then whenever there’s a light or there isn’t a light or the darkness on your head the cars driving or the lights the lights which they cast in behind the curtain through the curtain when they cast in lights movement between the dogs sit in the forest and stay between the leaves lie until it’s morning rapid wingbeats of a magpie cold wind on your ears but a certain a certain very slow rumble is closely interwoven with the spring you can perhaps hear the steps in the glass if you could only hear better the steps in the glass between the plants and the stones just towards morning past the bird on the roadsides it was always winter then or autumn never summer with your coat open no longer right in the head as the saying goes everything forgotten perhaps a few seconds or less perhaps you only imagine it now one voice now another that was your childhood they’ve given it up no questions not even any more questions the old conversations when they come and force themselves into the here and now how are things they ask just as how things are we answer when they come and ask us in me in the plants and animals in this october as if they were dancing the fishes before lively rainy days quite near where they’re at home and the sounds of grinding from the dismantling section they hang at night over the suburbs as if they were dancing from the side into the holding stack in the smell of hot hotplates you put off your happiness to a day in a sun outside the city just towards morning to tear off farther and farther away on so many car journeys at night when it was raining above all at night when it was raining with your head pressed to the window the wipers in your head feeling the lights of the cars driving by before it had become sunday in the car in the morning on the way to work in the traffic jam before the car finally got warm before it finally got warm in the car you were usually already there on the tennis court in the midday heat only the bodies they’re still running no animal in sight only a car is standing there abandoned you don’t know you only imagine it with a yawning abyss your feet in empty space someone is screaming someone is having convulsions in my chair until the days are almost exhausted the faces behind the houses along the walls on this morning people are going round so close is it the strong wind when something makes the body vibrate when things get noticed everything almost dies out after a day such weak traces and flies under your palms that the bodies between the trees from day to day quite suddenly begin to flutter the hands on the hunt then on the hunt then to question to look to question on and on to continue like this on and on when steps suddenly move into a corner death follows another christmas never comes never comes push the pram through the countryside on and on to question to continue like this on and on the heart flickers on the screen go to another town sitting down in the sun be overlooked in streaming rains and push the pram through the neighbourhood start a file of what you’ve done wrong something like memory and dream or the clouds then towards morning all the appearances which are being spoken do an about-turn and come towards you step by step there is no reason to do something every day to wheeze tongue hanging out to grow up like this what’s been contained for so long when it forces itself with superior strength it suddenly forces itself out everything lies out in the open and plunges down into the staircase on my head cactuses are growing two dogs are running fast entangled in the snow to the point of being totally surprised blue window-openings veiled women often in black children playing almost everything grows here like each pulse-beat the minutes or seconds then one keyword then another girls show off their dolls after they’ve been beheaded always long since somewhere else each pulse-beat marry or not have children aiming straight for the goal without a break to force forward like this at our feet now one childhood now another a few steps a few steps still acceptable long seconds only sun and dirt limited to a few parts of the body only the flamingos leave behind their attitude to the rain in the night I had built a bird cage without moving a finger tongue hanging out when we come to perch in front of the mountain of work tongue hanging out with whole heart and body on the tennis court behind the house father’s superior at work a tall man with a black beard and affected movements is playing against a small boy but he’s stuffed himself so much that he’s pulling strips of peppers out of his mouth and throwing them in the rubbish bin with stimulated hands caught up in such weather with all this hair just a few hours now one birth now another at this hour this place now and no reason to reach a particular state tongue hanging out

Translated by Gordon Burgess.