excerpt from an interview with Sergio Cohn for Azougue
SERGIO COHN: Some ecologists hold that the balance of an ecosytem may be judged by the presence of great predators, as they are at the top of the food chain. Taking this into account how can one draw a parallel between poets and great predators?
MICHAEL McCLURE: Sergio, I understand the thrust of your question and it has a political aspect that is too complex and too important to answer.
My generation: Amiri Baraka, Diane di Prima, Robert Creeley, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Joanne Kyger, Philip Whalen, and others have with great outspokenness, in the ongoing universal biocidal war against nature, been an ongoing source of social sanity and reason. The effects of this are not measurable in a political or societal way. The willingness to out-speak with their own bodies in public places is more anti-political than political. We have spoken out endlessly for what Herbert Marcuse called the “Negative.” It is an outspokeness and a living example of disdain for “one dimensionality” For Marcuse one dimensionality is — the absorption into the inner life of the rules of social commerce, propaganda, and urban insanity, until there is only one dimension — and there is no difference left between what was once our inner life, and commercials for tennis shoes, the obliteration of Nature, and factory farming of living animals. As a poet I make my statements against the “American Way.” What we depend on are the great examples of inspiration and imagination whether it is in the late Goya-like painting agonies of artist Philip Guston (which shook me yesterday — so much so that I had to stop and be thankful that Guston presented these horrors.) Where am I without Jack Kerouac’s great poetry (Mexico City Blues), the Sung Dynasty Buddhism of Su Tung-po in his poetry, and the love sonnets of Neruda, where without the 13th century Japanese Dogen (founder of Soto Zen), Amiri Baraka’s raving re-establishment of Blackness against the sea of White, Robert Creeley’s tiny dynamic jewels of fresh news of our passionate condition, or Diane di Prima’s epic Loba and her Revolutionary Letters ? Where without many such other brilliancies of poetry? Without them we would all have lost far too much.
I’ll finish this with a poem:
“…History is but the shadow of their shame,
Art veils her glass, or from the pageant starts
As to oblivion their blind millions fleet,
Staining that Heaven with obscene imagery
of their own likeness. What are numbers knit
By force or custom?”
Man must be alone
and in love with beings, all beings alive
in the demi-instant’s flash of their inter-layered
spiritual occasion. I shape language
to structure thought
while the hummingbird and bomber
fly above the nearby oak tree top.
IS THIS ENOUGH
to bring down force and custom
and twist the circuits
AROUND ME INTO SMILES OF CONSCIOUSNESS?
BLESS BLAKE, D.H. LAWRENCE, HANS ARP,
DI PRIMA, BARAKA, LORCA,
for shining with their inspiration
so mine stands proud.
What are numbers knit
by force or custom?
This interview, with poet & editor Sergio Cohn, the author of EVENT HORIZON, appeared in Portuguese in the Brazilian magazine AZOUGUE.