I answered, for which I’m sure someone reading this might wonder the same.
The answer is not simple and all has to do with my commitment to art and to the art of writing. It’s somewhat like a religious or spiritual calling; certainly as requisite of sacrifice and discipline as a monastery. (Read James Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, if you need further elucidation on the subject). To become a great artist, which is what I believe I am becoming at this late stage of my life (or will at least die trying to be), takes total focus and constant dedication.
Not just to creation but to observation. Many of my best friends are not just poets and artists but scientists and mathematicians because they are processing their own observations through their own disciplines. When we talk and share words they read me and hear me, they comprehend how we’re all pursuing the same thing: the truth about life and the lives we are living.
Science and Art are really just two different vantage points in the same universe. During our Rennaisance there was no such separation between science, engineering and art. Just look at Da Vincis’s sketches if you don’t believe me. And this underlines the true failing of the formal education systems. No purely structured system can account for, much less process the unstructured data of experience.
But one truth I have learnt along this way is that we are all connected; both as a species and as sentient beings. Not just to those existing in the moment we all share but for all of us, from the very beginnings of awareness and rational self-consciousness. We are all brothers and sisters of the same mind, the same awareness that is awake and cognicent.
We all share the same biology of the mind.
I imagine that when extraterrestrial sentient life is contacted, it will be the poets and artists most open to the new who will not only best describe and communicate qualitative meanings with them but decipher their language(s) to communicate with them (more of “us”?), before the actual scientists can interpret their data and the military can rationalize the threat.
From the point of commonality; this sentience itself has a common shape or form in all of us throughout time and geography. It is our human nature.
My words try to sketch its outline.
Without needing to name a god, the Buddhists have been attempting to describe this commonality of all sentient beings, for thousands of years. In art and yes, in poetry too.
It’s what poetry is for: to describe the indescribable that is true for all of us, to all of us.
The known shining its single torch down a darkened corridor to the unknown.
The unknown (not the unknowable), has always been our mind’s final frontier.
We weren’t born yesterday. We did not just become aware of consciousness. The history of consciousness is the history of us, of the ‘you’ that is reading and comprehending these words.
You are no different in awareness than the Neanderthal who stumbled out of her cave and looked up at the stars in wonder. Every astronomer I have ever known harbors that exact same wonder. Our tools maybe bigger, faster and deadlier but our minds haven’t changed, just adapted to our tools. They’re physiologically still the same; and only enhanced by the evolution of language, both associative, symbolic and metaphoric.
This is where we alll connect. The commonality of our senses’ perception and their comprehension. This is what is meant by ‘realisation’. When we make the world real. When we realise that the truths we know from our senses connect us to the world as intimately as to each other.
These are the materials I use to create art.
But why not get a day job?
I will have to.
I have learned all I can stomach for now about the tangible reality of poverty. I have made some great and tragic friends outside my walls of privilege and comfort. But when I first detected my dwindling resources, I panicked. I borrowed gas money from friends, slept in beachside campsites for free and spent too many days in chic cafes nursing one cup of coffee and a refill just to write, just to connect with the non poverished. I. applied for every job I was qualified for and hustled my books even harder.
But this did not avert my panic and the fear, until it passed of its own. And you already knnow: nothing is ever as bad or as long as we first imagine it to be. That’s when I understood how many of my needs, weren’t needs at all and that I could live without the comforting requisites of a middle class existence, just fine. In some ways better.Less consumption = less waste.
There’s what I want and what I can have and if I diminish my wants, I can have have everything I want.
When you don’t have any money, you don’t spend any money and that initself is a good thing.
The last argument that pursuaded me of the virtue of experiencing this lifestyle is that if I really wanted to write for wider audience in a profound and meaningful way, that I might need to understand and empathize with the truth of our human condition across the entire economic spectrum, not just those who can afford to buy books
And the truth is that the vast majority of “us”do not live a middle class lifestyle and that the majority of “us” struggle every day to earn what is called a living and yet seldom ressembles it.
I have met so many, so many poor people living on the streets in one of the wealthiest cities in the wealthiest state in the union, in the wealthiest nation in the world.None of us can afford to rest within our illusion of justice and freedom until poverty is no longer the default state of the human condition in America. Remember, poverty is a prison from which escape is difficult. But if we truly want to say that we live in the land of the free, then we must free our citizens from the prison of poverty.
They are “us” as well. Not charitable”us”, not pitiful “us”, not lazy, drug taking, alcoholic “us”.
I have talked in depth with enough of the so-called “homeless”. to recognize them for who they really are: The Poor. You know, those people Jesus was always talking about and Charles Dickens and Emile Zola wrote about? The idea that those without homes choose to live that way is a bigoted urban myth that need to be quashed.
Yes, may of the poor have real problems with alcohol, drugs and severe mental illness. But so does every other group and class of people I have ever known. The rich and the middle class aren’t exempt from alcohol, drugs and craziness; in fact they can afford more!
How then are we less connected as human beings?
Or is “humaness” only measured by level of income?
When I moved back to California to look after my mother, I was immediately struck by the avalanche of poverty that had engulfed my home town. As is every other foreign visitor to California, by the way. No tour of Balboa Park or visit to Sea World can eradicate the open poverty that everyone can see on the streets of San Diego. Which now more closely ressemble the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti or the extreme poverty that can be found in some places in Mexico, than any American city.
The first thing that went was the last vestage of regional or even national pride.
It is a crime against humanity for so rich a city as San Diego to maintain the level of homeless poverty that is evident to anyone who visits us. It is “our” fault. Because we are also connected to the impoverished and the socially weak.
You know, what Jesus was saying.
If I am to write the truth for those who want to read or hear the truth, then I ought to know what is lying outside the walls my middle class habits and worldview. What is it really like, not just for the impoverished but for the vast majority of Californians who also now live beyond the walls of middle class sensibilities, paycheck by paycheck?
Haunted by the memories of its long gone comforts.
What does it mean to be a human being living in America right now, in 2020. Aren’t we all supposed to have jertpacks by now?
What is the Truth of our American selves?
As Tony Morriosn said “The whole point of freedom is to free others”.
To my friends who have offered their support, I thank each one of you.
I will never forget your kindness and your humaness.
Yes I have a new book coming out in the fast approaching Spring.
It’s entitled TAKE A DEEP BREATH, A Book of Remedies and will feature much of the writing and accounts of experiences of truth that I have had living in California these last 5 years.
I hope that you will take a look.
Go Fuck Yourself, you pathetic failure.
Leave the arts to the poets, the dancers and the painters
Go get yourself a real job, a real vocation.
Fuck off and leave those of us who fight for our culture alone.
Fuck off and stop leeching the creative spirits of the secular martyrs who have sacrificed their lives on the holy altar of Art, Truth and Freedom.
Go Fuck Yourselves!
And each other in your sleazy stinking orgy of self-gratifying bigotry and weeping pustule aesthetics.
Go Fuck Yourself in the Ass With Your Own Extended Nose
Go let yourself get fucked in the ass by all the bogus arts nonprofits that pocket tax money to further their own finances while cheating artists and reviewers out of their livings.
Go write yourself a grant.
Write up your mission statement in day-glow gold-gilded writing.
Put on your ‘supporter-of-the-arts’ makeup
Keep counting the coins in your bookseller’s till
While prescribing the rules that determines who is in and who is other.
Go Fuck Yourself and try reading a book for a change.
Go read Whitman, Bukowski, Anais Nin and Henry Miller on art.
Let William Burroughs into your dreams.
Go get yourself a self education.
In the meantime, shut up, sit down and just listen:
You are the enemy of art, the enemy of poetry, the enemy of life.
And we’re coming for you.
Because all you are is in the way.
I am a paper bag, I am.
I am only as good as what I can carry.
I am a paper bag, I am.
I’m not the smart one,
I’m not the successful one.
I’m not the tall one who always won and
I am a paper bag.
I’m only as good as what I can carry.
I am a paper bag,
I’m not plastic or burlap, not I.
I am paper: rough, brown and thin
I’m not waterproof, you know.
And I can’t hold any liquids or gases within.
I only have the energy for stuff that really matters.
I’m a paper bag.
I’m only as good as what I can carry.
I am a paper bag.
Wrinkled and used and too often abused
Thrown on the floor.
Buried deep inside your drawers.
I am a paper bag.
I cannot ask you for anything more
I’m only as good as what I can carry.
The only way to explain Zen is by describing the sleepy mind. The sleepy mind describes a tree in terms of attributes and data: the number of leaves, the leaf shape, the number of branches, thickness of the trunk, the colour of bark. Which birds make use of the tree etc.
All these observable and measurable attributes are assembled as data by the sleepy mind and voila! the sleepy mind thinks it knows what a tree is. The sleepy mind can give arguments with citations about the validity of its data. The sleepy mind works well with other sleepy minds.
And the sleepy mind isn’t totally wrong, the data it compiles in reference to ‘tree’ are all real and quantifiable features of the tree. But no matter how exact or comprehensive, the data is not the tree nor even the experience of the tree.
The awoken mind merely says “Look, a tree”, and points.
Because there is no data that conveys the experience of that tree in the moment of your apprehension. The awoken mind, sees the leaves, the branches, the colour of the bark, the thickness of the trunk, which birds fly in and out of the tree as much and as well as the sleepy mind does.
But the awoken mind also sees that the spaces between the leaves are part of the tree. The negative space surrounding the tree. The unseen roots spread beneath the ground are part of the tree. The sunlight reflecting off the green of the leaves are part of the tree. The seat waiting to rest your back against the trunk is part of the tree. The awoken mind ‘see’s the tree; the form of the tree; the tree itself in all its ‘tree-ness’, the tree as a child sees a tree; not what the sleepy mind contrives to substitute as its surrogate.
I think this is the closest I can come to describing the Zen disposition. I say disposition because too much is made of practice and the philosophy of Zen when all are merely aids to assist in the unravelling of illusion and self-deception. Zen is not an acquisition of skills, rituals, garments or ideology; instead, Zen is relinquishment. It is a reminder to keep paying attention. Not acquiring but letting go: unravelling, stripping away layers of calloused skin, leaving your baggage behind and not looking back over your shoulder. In the words of the bard:
“My senses have been stripped, my hands can’t feel to grip
My toes too numb to step”.
Buddhists will talk about the Buddha-nature as universal, the same as our original nature. Don’t listen to them. The face that first looked up at your mother’s face is still there, submerged and (sometimes suppressed), within you. All that Zen suggests is that we are encumbered by needless worry, anxiety, expectations, daydreams and nostalgias that have buried your true self under the rubble of your crumbling castle and keeps you from seeing the world and your place in it, with any clarity.
We are all distracted by anxieties and worries about money, about jobs, about partners and children. That distraction is manufactured by the powerful in the society we live in to keep us consuming, acquiescent and very sleepy! It doesn’t matter if you meditate or not; if you read poetry or not; if you drink tea or practice martial arts or not. It doesn’t matter how you get there or what you wear; just that you wake up and experience the miracle of persistent and unwavering creation. The universe is created, then destroyed then resurrected millions of times a second, faster than you can blink; so try and keep your eyes open!
I leave you once again with the immortal words of the Nobel Prize laureate:
“Then take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow.
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.”
– With Compassion, Igor Goldkind, 2017
Please feel free to share and copy this.
I’m just trying to help anyone who’s read this far.
People have been asking me why I chose the risk of first publishing a book of poetry before publishing my collection of short stories THE VILLAGE OF LIGHT and my first novel, THE PLAGUE. Why launch a writing career on the back of such a neglected and unpopular form of literature?
My first answer has been that as a keen admirer of the actor William Shatner, I wanted to emulate his career; first as a starship captain (in my mind), and second, as a genius of the Art of Spoken Word.
Poetry has maintained a major position in the spectrum of human arts; true across society, cultures, oceans and centuries.
This dawning century of technological, scientific and artistic achievement; this era we currently reside in, is the exception to the human rule.
We have exchanged our ability to appreciate Poetry for other more comfortable and lascivious sensations. We have unlearned the sensibility to immerse ourselves in the healing waters of an art that we, as a species have grown like a medicinal herb in the human garden, to salve the pains in our souls and our minds .
By turning our backs on those warm healing waters we have damaged ourselves. We are all in dire need of rehabilitation.
And that is exactly what Poetry mystically, delivers.
Poetry sets you free, for free!
If you know how to notice and pay attention to the subtler colors in the spectrum of your mind’s cognition.
Which is a Poetic thing to say in that it is both metaphoric and literal at the same time.
Poems allow the mind to synthesize (reconcile), apparent opposites and to understand the deeper resonances of our human experience, in the simplest of terms, arranging words like pebbles on a dry river bank and in the broadest, to enter the harmonic rhapsody of our humanity and its sense of rhythm in this universe.
That rhythm is the breath, which is true to us all who are living. Poetry is the sound of our breathing in this world. If you want to know who a people strange to you are, read their Poetry; the words they have chosen to express themes, that persist for us all: Birth, Death, Love and the swirl of illusions inbetween.
Poetry is a drastic intervention meant to make you better. Not just feel better, but actually see, understand and *be* better than you are, which may feel strange at first.
Only bad poetry is comfortable. Trying to be the best that you are, to overcome ones self, may take more than one lifetime to achieve. But so many Poems offer roadmaps of the soul. Guidebooks from which you can detect what is universal about humanity, about the human subjective experience, and your place in this present.
So that is why I chose to launch my writing career, with my current publisher (Chameleon), with a book of Poetry:
I chose to publish Poetry first specifically because it is the form of literature that has proven to be least popular at the moment, as this marketing study details.
I’ve always stood up for the underdog, be it in life or publishing. I stood up for Comics when they were largely looked down upon as adolescent drivel. I just never thought to myself in all my years on this earth, that I would need to stand up for Poetry, because it had now succumbed to more dominant dogs.
This is a great shame to me, as a reader of great Poets from virtually every culture and time period. I mean with Poetry it really is where all of humanity meets, outside of time and space. The very center of our collective space, where language is. Each one of us is both here and there: at the edge of meaning. The words of the poem are are written by and read by the singular mind that spans all of us to that edge of comprehension. Poetry is the very understanding that we seek, in our selves and in others.
It is passive crime against our own humanity to let this art subside, due to laziness, neglect and superficiality.
So do your soul a favour and read a poem. Not just mine, any poem will do. Any Poem will set you free, for free; or at least at the modest cost of your attention.
In My (always) Humble Opinion, ofcourse.