Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Apocalyptic Poets

Well obviously, even within the context of the last century, there have been a few of these.   Yeats and his “The Second Coming” with its “center cannot hold” comes immediately to mind.  And since H.P. Lovecraft and his friends also liked poetry in addition to Horrific Science Fiction, I knew he was not alone.
But I had no idea that there were so many of them.  Whole movements of them.  In fact it can be confusing where one group starts, and the other begins.  The group I am highlighting at the moment is Henry Treece and the Poets of the Apocalypse that did their writing primarily in the 1940s.
Treece wrote with a lot of Freudian imagery mixed in with Kafka imagery which can be a bit jarring to the modern hearer.
These stories often portrayed personalized, unconscious, visions of death and annihilation.
This one is particularly amusing (from Salmon, Arthur Edward, Poets of the Apocalypse, Northwestern University 1983):
At sundown Jane led the brindle cow over the hill…As they passed between the hedges, honey-suckle called out to them in a soft sweet voice…A circling peewit…called down. And a mouse in the furze at the edge of the wood called across.
Only Jane noticed these invitations…
But suddenly the black cloud above the spire opened its mouth, and from between its cankered yellow teeth shot row upon row of dazzling lightnings.  Thunder rolled with a Miltonic clatter…Brouhaha! Brouhauhaha!  Jane smelt singed hide, and heard the hot blood gushing into the ditch… A black cat burst through the hedge and shot screaming through the furze that carpeted the woods…
Jane, by this time, felt no doubt that she was becoming a copy of the cheaper Daily Press….
Her mind grew contented, and fainter…Her hands grew into a Comic Strip, and her feet into a Sports Page, and her eyes into the Society Column…And she blanched, and bent double, and fell flat in the dust.
Or more conventionally:
The shapes of Truth are no man’s history
Or hope; born in the horny womb of Time,
They die with the daylight, ere the Surgeon’s hand
Can grasp the knife to solve the mystery
Of feeling and the half-formed word. Sand
Trickles slyly through the palm like this,
Playing the hour-glass with the living bone,
Wife to midnight sigh, the foetal wish.

As Arthur Edward notes: 
“The emphasis on terror and violence in the art of Treece… is also a response to the terrifying objective condition of world history in the late 1930s and 19402…. Conventional Gothic dread of the undead becomes Existential and Neo-Romantic dread of impending doom or nothingness…"
On a political level the self describe Apocalyptics were Anarchists with an interest in the natural wholeness of the individual: what might today somewhat translate as holistic well being.  As neo-romantics, they differed from the earlier romantics, by  their emphasis in matters of the human psychology.

No comments: