The Eye of Change

source: RJ Wats


Art, and its written and oral expression literature, particularly poetry, and it’s on the behalf of that muse that I sit down and write, has been for us, and I mean us in the human sense, all of us, something more than a creation we take in merely to enjoy or pass the time, whatever we say about it, whatever it truly is.  With it we behold creation itself, some small or large measure of this manifold enigma we call life, we call the world.  In a remoteness of seeing it magnifies our own deeply personal and startling world, personal because we live a dual life of inner and outer, but it is in that inner that we live, watching the outer as though it’s some tall stranger to whom we must respond as lovingly as if it were our own very self, startling because of all the passion that brightens through us, all the feelings that seem to have their fount in the deep and dim seat of creation itself, are a party to its immense and immeasurable unfolding, of all the thoughts that soundlessly speak through the corridors of our minds so intensely jumbled with a chaos of meaning, a chaos in which we reason out the order of our life.  Art does not simply try and make sense of this; it moves our own meaning a measure beyond.  It aims not at flattering our littleness, our crude perspectives and mean ways of looking.  It heightens seeing, challenges us, provokes us, and sometimes, even laughs at us, but if it is indeed art, it does this with a finesse and timeliness that can only come from an artist confronting a mirror. It is art, not religion, not science, not philosophy, not politics with which we move the world towards its destination, the play up, and it is only when these things are embodied by art (and by that I mean they are no longer their governing selves but have become backdrops for art) that they have the power to move it because art, unlike anything else that we behold, has the strength of passage to reach that intimate place in us wherein we keep our most treasured and heartfelt notions, and once in there to give some part or parcel of them a good going over, to which we cannot help but respond, be that in outrage or in awe.  Unlike the eye of the lot of us, the collective glare, art can open on anything without the least shudder or moral spasm.  Art, you see, has the eye of God.

It’s the pride of every age to think it’s at the advancing front of history, the highest peak of art and culture any age has yet climbed, or at least at some height where it looks down upon all the glory and grandeur of past ages as just stepping stones to the mature realness of its own, the age that matters, and if it does see a beyond it sees it in terms of the humanity of the day, dressed in those selfsame clothes.  Any age on the future, with its eye on the future, cannot see a fundamental high-reaching change in the human fabric, a rise on the inner nature.  It sees the future peopled by people no different in kind from the people of its own.  It envisions changes in outer wear: technological, environmental, political, social, and cultural changes.  No wide open eye there is on an inner change in humanity.  Our day is no different in these respects from past ages; only we are caught in the throes of a revolution in communication and availability of information that makes our day a day in court.  In our courtroom humanity is the defendant, Mother Nature and human nature the prosecution, survival the judge, and the possibility of a bright inner change in humanity the public defender, one we have yet to assign to our case.  I doubt many at this magnificent moment would agree with me, but it might be that the future (one that has arrived at some sight I might say) will not look upon ours as the bright forerunner of better ages, nor even to be better than any age before us, not in human terms at least.  Technology fools us into thinking we’re advanced, but by nature we are not largely different from people of old in the ways we react to things, in the ways we live, in the things we daily do.  They will see yet another ignorant age, but one in which human destiny was deliberated, or at least the one in which we first began to look upon ourselves as a world and not only as a nation or a people, and in that seeing begin to realize we can see ourselves as that or die.  Of course it goes without saying I see that we’ll see that.

A poet lifts up his head.

But it’s not my purpose here to be political.  I want to point out something, but before I bring my point home I’d like to provide another kind of search engine for the Internet, but one not as apparent as the ones you find online.  This engine is inside you, but we’ll have to do a background search first to get it to come in view.  The world is going online, and it’s not really looking at itself doing that, not, that is, with any depth of seeing.  For all the compiling bits of information that’s trying to sum it all up, all the blogs that are trying to speak it all out, all the web pages that tell us this or that, all the everything we can put on the world wide web trying to get a word in edgewise, we seem to be missing the point.  We are doing it just like we do everything else, by simply occupying it, filling in the space.  Of course many are talking about this virtual takeover, the incivility involved in the conquest, the anger, the hatred, but I want to say something about where this is taking our creative heights, something perhaps better said in a poem but it wouldn’t get any eye, and it’s what I’m pointing out as to why.  In all this going online art is being domesticated.

There’s no sitting room.
It’s time to take it to the field.
What sterilizes this tour is called forth grade avant-garde.
And most studies of alcohol dependencies…
We did the girls molested interactive art dialogue.
Your partner is bad men.
Can we get bigger than that?

There is one thing about life, its most seemingly fundamental aspect as a matter of fact, that even art rather tends to avoid being largely concerned with symmetry and form even when it’s trying to get around those – the messiness of life.  A case can be made that it’s the province particularly of poetry to measure this, given the nature of the verbal inner eye, and just look inside your head at your thoughts as they swirl around the world to see what I mean by that, but we’d lose focus.  Life is not only messy, full of the discombobulated, the out of sequence, the impossible to tell in any story in its rampant and confused completeness; it’s also quite dirty, scattered in every corner with little icky bits that we’d rather not tell anyone about or even really look at squarely ourselves, although we do spend a great deal of our life trying to clean these up or at least sweep them under the rug, especially when the lot of us gets a look at them.  Who does not have dirty little secrets that they whispered in life’s gutter ear, its cesspool of ill deed, at some point in the journey from the cradle to the grave?  Just look on the Internet.  I don’t think we yet truly understand the implications of having a world wide web when that we posting on it is as ignorant to the depth of life as we are.  Far from being a well of living water from which we can drink of the heights of the human heart and mind, accessible heights that can even teach our lows how to climb, what if you think about we’d like the Internet to be if it’s to become something more than just an easily accessible place where we can comfortably sell our wares (what’s taking the field), it’s threatening to become more a very virile and visible collective subconscious, chock-full of all the bile and bitterness, smut and self-righteousness, of our lower instincts.

Do you hear me Houston?
We do have a problem.
I gave a poet laugh.

We turn now to the artist, who is often on the margins: the nonconformist, the unorthodox, the rebel, the dissident, the heretic, the iconoclast, and in some cases, where there are perhaps no patrons other than art and immensity and the artist has no recourse but to bare soul to both, the outcast, but I’d have to add an amendment here: this spirit of an artist is becoming no so acceptable in today’s market, although its toned down or overly exaggerated imitation seems highly prized.  Whatever it is that makes and artist an artist, I think even with reluctance most would agree that it’s something more than just some genius of craft and technique.  Something there is that makes an artist look at the world and life and look so passionately there is no choice but to develop God-given abilities so to speak this, paint it out on the canvas of some craft.  It’s either that or explode.  That something, that impetus if you will, can often be found in life’s messy room, its dirty corner.  The biographies of a good many artists bear witness to this.  Of course you can be normal and be an artist, and there are many normal artists.  This has always been demanded of an artist by society, demanded of anybody, to be normal, but it’s the particular domain of artists to examine normality, poke it, prod it, and push it around, not only in their art but in their very lives, the former being a sublime public epiphany of the latter, as much as we’ve divorced, re-married, and divorced again these two figures in our commentaries on art.  But they sit together and look into the hourglass of immortality much deeper than a critique can readily see; they’re soul mates, a union as I see it from the perspective of a poet that my soul forms, which brings in a more fundamental union into the play between one’s art and life, that between soul and nature.  The more, I have found, that I’m able to write by my soul, the more nature herself gives it its rhythm and form.  What music would sound more natural and inevitable, what song more wild and free?

Is it crafted on unusual?
I say verse technique,
There the soul lay guesthouse,
A strange caller,
A Hercules.

Being that as such, that many artists are for the most part pushing the boundaries of what is considered normal and acceptable in a society, both in their art and in their lives, they can be quite questionable people by today’s standards.  (I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, but we are becoming, even in the secular, rather puritanical).  In such a moral climate a good many artists, most especially those who are not politically correct, the artists who throw three sheets to the wind and challenge the status quo and craft change, wouldn’t be worth the risk to an art or literary journal with a sound reputation to uphold.  In the decision whether or not to give a piece of art the public eye, if we were to get in somehow into the sitting room of publishers and editors, in many cases it’s not the art that’s being declined; it’s the artist.  I’m sure there has been some spirit of this around art from the very beginning: those who publish or display art rejecting that art, whatever its mastery of expression and technique, from an artist of questionable moral or mental state, fringe or outlawed political affiliation, of heretical religious ideology or lack of religion, or, as I’ve seen to be a deciding factor in declining a poem or other verbal art in today’s Western literary journals, to have any faith at all not based on doubt in relation to God.  (Although the question seems out of place anywhere we put it, I can’t help but ask it here: why have we cloistered away today’s poetry in literary magazines and reviews if poetry is what we celebrate it to be, a spoken opening of our most aesthetic verbal eye?  You’d think it would be much more popular if the lot of us is as sophisticated as we imagine ourselves to be and if what we are creating and calling poetry today is indeed that.)  Unquestionably this blacklisting of artists has always been dogging art, but in the contemporary literary scene, because of the hypersensitivity in public morality making people so angry nowadays it’s a looming threat to anyone who dares question it, one that is largely coming about from this quite sudden and very personal public eye opening upon people in their dirty messy rooms the Internet enables, allowing also anyone with Internet access to investigate anybody that has any presence on the web, and most au courant artists do, I would venture to say that this today is taking literature, particularly poetry, back to an era when a religious authority jealously guarded its publication, on the watch to exclude any poem not in keeping with its paradigm or any poet not in line with its lifestyle, but here it’s not religion doing it or the state doing it in the name of religion (or a sociopolitical ideology as has been the case more recently), at least not now in the West, but the secular literary establishment itself.

Is this simultaneous submissions?
Who would guard favor?
Can you get your poet out?

I am not here granting a poetic license for immorality, advocating its carte blanche acceptance in society, although undoubtedly that would be the main criticism of this piece by the glaring collective eye.  I’d just like to point out that it’s with us and always has been, and our most usual way of dealing with it when it’s been uncovered by the lot of us, making a finger pointing spectacle of it that we parade in print and the airways across the public imagination, doesn’t help us deal with it and discover in it what there is to bring us beyond it, why people do evil things and how to have them stop, what the bad is here to teach the good so that both can get better.  Is born the artist.  Despite the art gospel of today that seems to have particularly gotten poetry by the horns, that art is simply there, fills no purpose other than to be appreciated, although it is expected, if it is indeed art, to move us, culture us, art for the longest time has been showing us the inside of life’s dark and shuttered rooms.  You would wonder if there is some purpose behind that.  Art has this habit of putting beauty there in the way it so stylishly opens its aesthetic eye upon it, and surrounded by such beauty in the midst of what to us has always been rather ugly, we are carried a measure beyond a simply moral view of things, looking at things strictly in terms of good and evil, black and white.  We are widened, and in that wideness can now see clearer to better deal with the moral issues that confront us.  This is not to become broad-minded for the sake of being cultured, or to live up to an ideal, or simply because we should.  I’m speaking in very practical and pressing terms; if we do not become so as a species we will not survive.

I’m not going to question.
Keep your nose clean.
I’ll put on the story you always want to hear.
Does this open all of us?

In this context, art, far from being a corrupter of our morals however much immorality it shows us, quite naturally and without us even knowing it, works evil out.  And I would add here that behind the art, however remotely, is an artist doing that, in regards to evil done or evil received, the art being a creative manifestation of that process made public, but I would also add that the most powerful art along these lines, that which takes the question of evil its farthest towards answering, sometimes even answering it, would be that created by an artist who has either done grave wrong or entertained the notion far stronger than what would be considered normal (by the times anyway).  The reason such art would be more compelling would become clear in the light of the ever-present need we have for self-understanding, greater even than our need to understand the world and its impact.  Of course art shows us a good many things other than the immoral room, as wide and multifarious as that room is, as universal as it is in the human subconscious, shows us anything possible for the human imagination to conceive, but in whatever art shows us it’s doing something to our imagination, something a bit magic, something to wonder at; it’s making it bigger at the same time it’s turning it in upon itself, and in all that expanding and contracting, like in the growth of a star or the making of a universe, we grow to what more is possible; we take a shine to the undiscovered.  Art puts us there, can take us anywhere, even to the end of evil, even farther a field than God.  That is why I say whatever we magnify with art can only be a backdrop to that act of creation itself.  Something there is bigger than even God, who is the ultimate measure of immensity for many of us.  That something beyond imagination artists are trying to measure, whether they know that or not, however large or small their measure.  In a manner of speaking, it could be said that God, in the sculpting and illustrating of all these worlds and universes and what is bigger than universes and bigger still, is himself an artist capturing on film what wonder this is that he’s seen.

What exactly do you want,
Like the name of a story?
It’s Universe
In our particular heritage sweepstakes.
You have to write it
One to three,
Make host positions clear.
We get bigger universes.
We outgrow that tide.
Now where we at?
Larger than Space.

Now the question now that I’ve made my point: what is an artist’s measure?  As might be clear by my describing it as something unimaginable (although that doesn’t mean we can’t try and conceive of it, which is in effect what an artist is trying to do), it isn’t the tangled flesh of life with all its robbed passion and squelched expression, nor the now upside down now right side up world trying to find a balance in immensity, nor even the artist’s ability or inability to untangle life from itself and right the world and show us this miracle or failed attempt, although in this last we’ve given lots of glory to an artist making the attempt, made immortal as a matter of fact, and put art in its place.  So to rhythm this angled ascent right I must mention my own art and say the measure in poetry.

It wouldn’t do prose.
If you know better:
What was I gonna do?
What’s that supposed to mean?
Your energy,
It’s a base-level reaction?
Somethin’ unsaid.
You’re on home plate.
Get struck out.
Hey, you’ve lost the ball.
The doctor,
This gonna cost bunch of money.
What are you trying to do?
Just poetry.
Lift your results.
Come quick for me
I only had One.
That’s such a common UFO.
This stopped how many people?
Get your beans together
And a number of years
You’ll be the lake house
Of where understanding takes a seat
Fly fishin’.
Did I bore yah?
Now, what you needed for an airplane.
Wait daddy,
Get my socks on.
Lay down alone in yourself.
Roll back inside.
Silence utter
Causes verbal.
Live in
That’s not such a jolt.
Go watch TV.
The last word:
Bear witness.

3 thoughts on “The Eye of Change

  1. rhymingreason5

    I’ll be honest. I don’t quite “get” your poems (a failing on my part, I’m sure). But everything you wrote in the initial sections of this post was what poetry is to me. Your words, your wisdom, your undulating, never-ending sentences – they took my breath away. I’m so happy I found your site. There were so many lines I wanted to quote and tell you I loved, but I’ll just stick with this one for now: “Something there is that makes an artist look at the world and life and look so passionately there is no choice but to develop God-given abilities so to speak this, paint it out on the canvas of some craft.  It’s either that or explode.”❤️


    1. Donny Duke Post author

      You would find my more recent Twitter poetry easier, which represents yet another further development of opening to inspiration, and recently I saw a line or two that shows me another tier that God knows if I’ll get to it or not. It’s taken me so long, and I started when I was 7, to get my poetry to a place other people would more readily appreciate it, most especially my muse, which this post is an earlier form of. In the following posts, which are just pure muse, I try and give a since of what I hear and see most constantly, when I’m inward that is, but that can be just mentally quiet digging a lotus pond, how the first few lines The Watchers of Eternity Arrived. I’m speaking about a continual stream of voice and vision within which poems arise whole as they are seen to on the page, which get edited, as can be seen too, also done by voice and vision. I was learning my craft. These poems came out of that. Nowadays my daily muse is much more organized and clear, although I myself could interpret the older stuff, and it pained me others couldn’t so easily, but that development has taken 20 years.

      I’ve really toned down my prose as of late, because it’s sat there for years unread, and I thought that people just couldn’t follow it the sentences are so winding, but hearing you appreciate them validates my own urge to create them. Thank you so very much for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. rhymingreason5

        I look forward to reading the rest of your posts and observing the evolution of your poetry. Don’t get me wrong, as someone who used to teach English for a living, there were several moments I wished you had used periods to shorten your sentences!😂 But I guess, when the truth of what someone is saying speaks directly to you, it appears beautiful in whatever form it’s presented. I’m so happy to have “met” you.

        Liked by 1 person

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