from INVESTIGATIVE POETRY:
THE CONTENT OF HISTORY WILL BE POETRY
History-poesy, or investigative poetry,
can thrive in our era because of the implications of a certain poetic insight,
that is, in the implications of the line, "Now is the time for prophecy
without death as a consequence," from Death to Van Gogh’s Ear, a
Ginsberg poem from 1958.
Investigative poesy is freed from capitalism, churchism, and other totalitarianisms; free from racisms, free from allegiance to napalm-dropping military police states—a poetry adequate to discharge from its verse-grids the undefiled high energy purely-distilled verse-frags, using every bardic skill and meter and method of the last 5 or 6 generations, in order to describe every aspect (no more secret governments!) of the historical present, while aiding the future, even placing bard-babble once again into a role as shaper of the future.
For this is the era of the description of the A ii; the age wherein a Socrates would have told the judges to take a walk down vomit alley, and could have lived as an active vehement leader of the Diogenes Liberation Squadron of Strolling Troubadors and Muckrakers, till the microbes ‘whelmed him. The era of police-statists punishing citizens for secret proclivities is over. Blackmail, in other words, is going to go bye-bye. One will not in any way have to assure one’s readers (to quote, is it Martial, or Catullus?) that "pagina lasciva, vita proba," but rather it is now most definitely the age of "pagina lasciva, vita lascivior." And we are here speaking of uncompunctious conjugation, not of riches cutting up cattle from silent helicopters, or of bankers whipping each other on yachts.
Thrills course upward from the typewriter keys as my fingers type the words that say that poets are free from the nets of any particular verse-form or verse-mind. Keats would have grown old in such a freedom. The days of bards chanting dactylic hexameters while strumming the phormingx, or lyre, trying to please some drooly-lipped war-lord are over, o triumphant beatnik spores! It’s over! And the days of bards trying to please some CIA-worshipping cold war tough-liberal professor are done! done! done!
But the way of Historical Poesy, as I said earlier, is mined with danger, especially to those bards who would seek to drag the corpses of J.P. Morgan’s neo-confederates through the amphetamine piranha tank.
For let us not forget for one microsecond that the government throughout history has tried to suppress, stomp down, hinder, or buy off dissident or left-wing poets.
One has only to recall that Coleridge and Wordsworth one day were lounging by the sea shore, while nearby sat an English police agent on snitch patrol prepared to rush to headquarters to quill a report about the conversation.
Or one can read that remarkable book, William Blake and the Age of Revolution by J. Bronowski, which Harper & Row printed in 1965, to see how reactionary English creeps, with their threats of jail, or worse, for accurately depicting the nature of the early parts of the French Revolution—how these reactionary creeps caused, in a significant way, poets like William Blake, who after all was a friend of Thomas Paine, to back away from historical poetry, and to retreat, if that is the word, into a poetry of symbols, where people like King George and William Pitt and others were known by code names such as Palamabron and Rintrah.
Nor let us forget that the federal government tried to seize the first printing of Howl and Other Poems (it was printed abroad by City Lights) as it was coming into San Francisco bay.
Nor shall we forget the repressive corona of puke-vectors that I believe drove Shelley—censored, hounded by police-statists, fearful of arrest—to take upon himself a self-destruction (rest in peace, o d.a. levy) and to set sail into a mad air; nor forget ever the corona of puke-vectors that sent the empty carriages of the rich shuttling along behind the cortege bearing the body of Byron.
Nor shall we forget the fate of Ovid, who because that calmed-down murderer, Augustus, didn’t like his book and the implications of his book Ars Amatoria, was sent away from the literary scene to die in exile.
Nor shall we forget that Dostoevsky was standing ready to die in front of the firing squad when the reprieve arrived enabling him later on to "objectify" his stance into that of a jealous rightwing nut.
Nor shall we forget how the Chilean poet-singer Victor Jara was leading a group of singers while imprisoned in the soccer stadium following the 1973 CIA-coup in Chile, and the killers chopped off his fingers to silence his guitar, and still he lead the singing—til they killed him, another bard butchered because of the U.S. secret police.
Nor shall we forget how the Czar’s secret police hounded Alexandr Pushkin with a nightmare of surveillance and exile. In fact, a brief look at certain aspects of Pushkin’s life is here appropriate, in order to gauge some of the pressures that can force a poet "to become more objective," or, as the English professor who writes for a CIA-funded magazine might giggle, "to come to terms with the harsh facts of life." Or to escape into the forgetful symbols.
[Ed Sanders. "Investigative Poetry: The Content of History Will Be Poetry." Copyright © 1975 by Ed Sanders. In Talking Poetics From Naropa Institute: Annals of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics: Volume Two, Anne Waldman and Marilyn Webb, eds., Shambhala Publications, 1978.]