Thursday, July 28, 2011

Stephen Ellis and Mallarme

 "There are deaths at 20 and burials at 80," Ed Dorn wrote, presuming that we are wired for living, that the shelf life of curiosity, wonder, and innocent openness approximates that of the body. A sensible assumption. And since Romanticism, a prevalent one, one to which  even Dorn is attracted. (As I am.) But perhaps it's not that way. Perhaps death of spirit is written in the genes as surely as the blossoming of body hair, as indelibly as that which drives the male gristly bear to eat other-fathered cubs, perhaps a callous disregard to life's possible joys was central to the survival of the species for hundreds of  millennia. Perhaps it was the only way to make it over the perilous heights of another ice age.  Perhaps. 

Yet the "argument" against this, is as ever, that which in our presence says otherwise. The fullness in voice and vision, the delightful complexities, etc. The voice I "heard" once while alone in the car next to me saying, "You know better than that," breaking off my silent list of self-congratulations or petty woes. (The voice almost broke into sound and afterward, the car silence sounded exactly as though it had.) Yes, I did "know better than that."Surely. Undoubtedly.  And in the same way I know giving "God's / / anatomy a chance / towards bliss," though it might be taken satirically, is the most viable direction in which to reach. After all, it's the most exciting. As the poet wrote, "Though it famish us, yet would we feed."

Cognate Contravention
                              --for Aija Uzulena

Submerge yourself
in the world

and reign, small,
supreme and disastrously

sublime. Only
a mind wracked by

illegitimate things
is beautiful, and as bully

as heart's scars
renewed as necessitating

orders of magi, descending
where sun rises,

and the reverse. Aspire,
always to the first

kiss that completes
the ignition of yet another

entirely new order, a
homeless skeleton that waits for

the caress that will give God's
anatomy a chance

toward bliss. Infinite
allure bears repetition

and the good grace of knowing
where to add more

and where to chisel and cheat
curves too beautiful to 

believe. Let's us continue to 
learn to read whatever we can 

make our own, for melody 
and method, practicalities

of pure spirit, and leave it
at that never, but to feel the ground

of loving disputation, bleached out
daily in a round of sound.

                           --Stephen Ellis



I bring you the child of an Idumaean night!
Black, with a bleeding pale wing, feathers
plucked, through the grass burnt by aromatic
herbs and gold, through the icy panes, alas! still
dark, the dawn cast itself on the angelic lamp,
palms! and when she [the dawn] showed this relic
to the father trying to smile as an enemy, the blue
and sterile solitude shuddered. Oh lullaby-singer
with your daughter and the innocence of your
cold feet, welcome a horrible birth, and your
voice recalling viol and harpsichord, with your
withered finger will you press the breast through
which flows woman in sibylline whiteness for the
lips which the azure air of virgin makes hungry?

                                     --Stephane Mallarme
                                            [trans. Chase Madar]


Stephen Ellis was born in 1950, and has lived, so far, in America, east of the Mississippi river, and further east, some years in North Arabia. He has learned how to use his hands and feet enough to realize that “to think” means “to thank,” and so often is given to say, “hand me that piece of thing, there, will you, please?” He edited, with Stephen Dignazio, 26 issues of the little magazine :that: (1992-1996), and was also the editor and publisher of over 120 broadsides and fascicles under the banner of Oasis Press (1996-2005), including in each series such poetic stalwarts as Kenneth Irby, Alice Notley, Nathanial Tarn, Robert Creeley, Lee Ann Brown and Peter Gizzi. His books include A Book of Currencies (1997), The Long and Short of It (1999), Interface (1999), White Gravity (1999), A Natural History of Suchness (2001) and Opulence (2010). In September of this year, he will be traveling to Riga, Latvia, to take part in the annual ten-day festival honoring Latvia's most celebrated poet, Rainis.

Further poems can be seen at his blogspite, TOAST –

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