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The Blog Bog
By Matthew Paris
Looking for David Meltzer
One of the ways I make my way through the innumerable blogs that are offered in the Internet is to think of people I admire because their writing suggests they are on civil terms with the divine. I run their name with the word "blog".
Blog itself is a word that implies some monstrous blend of a log and bog, that is a grotesque mix of a ships diary and a personal mire perhaps in the moors north of England or its muddy woodlands that the logger has been stuck in, sitting in a torpor in an old rusty Chevrolet.
"David Meltzer is a name I've admired because odor decades his poetry seems intimate with sublimity and hermetic intuitions. This Miltonian from the West Coast must be older than I am; for all I know he might be dead. Since I like to read I don't mind the company of many dead people. I know if I can't explain the feeling I get when I read great verse or attend a concert of Marc-Andre Hamelin. I don't need to.
One could look upon it as a kind of charismatic business. The poet or musical can guarantee the cambric and profit in his enterprise because he and the moneymen know assorted acolytes are still seeking out the zoot-suited Delphic oracle. I like a little Delphic hot sauce in my life.
"Yet whom do I get from the Google machine when looking for David Meltzer? The blog for Dave Meltzer. Who is this Dave Meltzer? He is I must say one of the quality writers for wrestling magazines. He is quite an amusing fellow. His blog led me in turn to Scott Keith's Blog of Doom. There are series of such journalists who orbit around the Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation, an organization so deeply rooted and given zircon prestige in pop culture that Donald Trump appears on its Wrestlemania shows.
I would recommend both Dave Meltzer's blog and for that matter Scott Keith's Blog of Doom to anyone who is writing right now and wants to have some sense of whom their readership might be. Meltzer, Vince Russo, Scott Keith, this whole gang writes well in the breezy and more than slightly blue manner of the rock journalistic manner of Lester Bangs and Nick Tosches; it is a style possibly invented by Hunter Thompson. For that reason alone they might be valuable to look at for poets. They use oral argot as poets like Kenneth Fearing did once.
Besides that, we can all use new and effective armature in our choice of rhetoric. How we talk and think is the very sinews and musculature of our poetic voice. Of course some great writers like Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Mark Twain and even Ronald Firbank didn't quite write English. Yet the point of departure they took to produce what they did is the same as either David or Dave Meltzer.
The image of the writer among those who collect abound the Blog of Doom is not somebody with a professorial bemused air who takes in mortality and its follies at the other end of a aromatic pipe. They savor Hells Angels, wrestling, political conventions, assorted low rhinestone arenas of pop or found art with the earnestness of a Quentin Tarentino. They are always one step from shuffling and scuffling, then throwing up like Elvis. Kicking a cow patty wouldn't ever be beneath them.
Rather than being presumptively annoying by examining the sometime rank and fetid rhetoric of these bottom fen warblers, labor many of us can do well enough, I'd rather discuss what a poet like David, not Dave Meltzer, has to know about his readership when he produces verse. It's what we all need to know in 2015 as much as David Meltzer I was looking for did in the 1950s. These people are reaching a readership among tens of millions of people who are enthralled with pop culture, or perhaps one as might more properly call it, hagiographia about the resident iconry of our singular free popular republic.
Could we shift so easily from epics of voyages, the intrepid intents of Gilgamesh and Faust, the domestic woes of Hamlet or James Tyrone, take a berth at the bottom of a Hamburg-American steamer to embrace a junky materialism New Jersey landfill like William Carlos williams, then travel in a jeep to the religious faiths of our time: wrestling, other sports, celebrity politicks and the synthetic careers of naked singers who can't sing, pundits who can't think? If we do the rhetoric has to be at least slightly comical. Wrestling as both Dave Meltzer and Scott Keith admit, is not an honest contest of skill but a kind of commerce offered by bogus household gods. It's equally true of our politics.
Looking for David Meltzer (cont...)
It might be one of the sources of popularity of Hoer's epics that few of his readers ever endured the difficulties of his characters. When the miseries change the subjects of poets have to shift to accommodate the difference in the novel woes of their mercurial readership. It's obvious from the desperation and easy modulating to rage in the rhetoric of these wrestling writers that they are feeling very vulnerable to the venoms of something we should find ordinary enough: the constant and tireless blare of media inviting them to believe in an illusion. It might be politics; it might be the dark realities of why in one way or another even sports is fixed, not kosher, all about a bunch of glittering whores whither they are politicians, athletes or tuneless naked chanteuses taking the money and running off to some Florida niche surrounded by a moat of starving crocodiles where they too can fight off the electronic monsters who challenge their sanity.
One wouldn't create for such a readership listening themselves to that murderous thrash of reptiles or those among us who will only feel secure when they heard from the foaming black water that harsh saurian music a run of poetry or a set of witty picaresque prose narratives about a minor perilous social situation. Most of these magical battles are baldly echoed in tireless assaults of Archimago and Duessa in The Fearie Queene.
Yet in a certain way the public latrine rhetoric hides a deeper dread of such necromancers and gods. What if the thaumaturges and assorted imps of the night have better things to do than to clobber oafs who are fundamentally trial?
The irony in Dave Meltzer is that this kind of writer is that the author is the first to tell the reader he is infinitely more corrupt than any of his ultimately unreal or damned characters. There really is no action these jades, mountebanks, jackanapes and talented scribblers claim they are not doing, have done, or will do in the next half hour. They is nothing they wont say no matter how offensive it might be to deter their enemies spreading sugared yet lethal mendacity in volume with the genius of Johnny Appleseed on a fecund tear. Their foes deserve it. Besides, measure and Troy detachment is not their trump.
Yet Dave Meltzer, not David Meltzer, and even Scott Keith's vaunted Blog of Doom have readers because they are describing in a kind of involute way an existence to which their readers resonate: a life of longtime libertines hanging on by their infested toenails to a cliff trying to ferret out truth in a realm of wizardrous machines among vaporous mirages.
Poets since Homer, certainly Wordsworth and Coleridge, Whitman and Poe, are always thinking of whom their readership might be. If they are thinking about the sublimity of the cosmos they might be attracted to the highflying David Meltzer. On the other hand if they are thinking of themselves as corrupt jades being lied to in all direction about everything from politics to professional writing, they are going to be a different kind of readership than somebody like David Meltzer not Dave Meltzer, is going to pick up.
All right, I never got to read David Meltzer's blog if he's alive and if he has any. Tant pis.
A Few Last Senile Thoughts on Whitman
When I was twenty I examined the various models of rhetoric presented to me by a university trying to ape a fictional Oxford intent on making me an imaginary English provincial. I decided I was by a wonderful coincidence the very kind of bestial fellow the secular bishops of that provincial institution thought should be caned, cuddled and treated as the poltroons we plainly were. Who spoke for me? Was it Richard Nixon? Maybe.
I though since I was looking for my individual voce I should look elsewhere among people who were like me. One was Walt Whitman. He was after all like me a native of Brooklyn.
After imitating his style for a few poems I realized that as seemingly casual as his craft was, part of his genius was to disguise how artificial his rhetoric had been. That should have hardly been a surprise. In fact any poem like any movie or any play is like any court testimony a deep falsification of any claim it might make to imitate life.
Our mortal existence lamentably is filled with clichés, tedious moments, repetitions and a kind of elaborate design that would be unthinkable and insufferable in any poem, even in any good prose writer.
Life never hopes to please anyone nor tries to be tolerably amusing. We can be sure we are in a temple of Art of some kind when we find our social company more entertaining than usual.
I admired Whitman's intellect as much as his talent. He wanted to create a rhetoric for the world's first free papillar republic and he did it. Unfortunately he was unappreciated in his lifetime, hounded from his government job for his scurvy carnal verses and died broke.
Beyond that it occurred to me that perhaps Whitman, one who had joined McPherson's The Sorrows of Ossian. The Bible and American conversation into an idiom perfect for him and all his imitators like Sandberg. Still nobody could say it was an incandescent rhetorical arsenal one might savor in a bar or any other place of American public assembly from a brothel to a cemetery. At most it might have been in the style of some Biblical quotes offered in sermons.
However Whitman's verse is never boring, never filled with clich‚s, not overly repetitious. never other than ingenious and intelligent, often aiming at and achieving sublime effects, not a semi-soporific tedium. Nobody wold mistake it for a style that mirrored most conversation, even among gods. Art always has more economy and comeliness than Nature.
"I attended some common bars featuring ballad recitals as they did in the days of Wordsworth and Coleridge. Casey At the Bat was only one of them. They had blues singers, urbane show tune singers with cunning pianists. Besides that people read daily newspapers featuring newspaper poets like Franklin P. Adams, Dorothy Parker and Samuel Hoffenstein. There were plainly other ways to mount an American rhetorical style besides Whitman's solution.
I do remember a lot of limericks sung in bars. Here are two of mine:I have no idea what in Raboof
Where none of the homes have a roof
What ascents and falls
Occurred in their walls-
Their harpers are mute and aloof.
Zafoom, say some of the bards
Any such poetic style would have to make these falsifications of their nature as Whitman did when he produced Art that avoided the jingly sound of anthems and quatrains. In avoiding rhyme and meter, Whitman's style also distanced itself from Miltonian inversions of syntax that slowed or thickened the lines of those who imitated Milton.
Clearly Miltonic rhetoric would never do for a free republic though Milton himself had he lived in America probably would have been the most zealous of patriots in it.
I became after awhile interested in the urbane lyrics of I've been really been around the block pop songs at their best, the newspaper poets, most especially blues lyrics. One could sing the blues as one never did other forms of rhetoric. Its sources in Black slavery, prison life and buskering in Chicago couldn't ever be called elitist. Blues style as poetry would have to follow the rules of poetry. No clich‚s. Ingenious writing. My favorite bluesman in his intents was Big Bill Broonzy.
Broonzy was a resident of the real cultural capital of America: Chicago. He was a great satirist who always had irony and urbanity in his lyrics. If somebody were to say to me that I was working in the model of Big Bill Broonzy I would thank him.
Some say our institutions don't appreciate our Artists. Big Bill was offered a job at a college- as a janitor.
He did better than Poe and Whitman. That's progress, folks.