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"Biographies perked my interest but it wasn't until I picked up Beat Generation writers that I realized how wide open, how wonderful, how wise the world of literature could be..."

on the off chance that the unknown is astir:
a reckoning or two
essay by julio peralta-paulino


I was reading the Graves talk from a Paris Review interview and it seems he didn't much care for Milton. I don't blame him, I took a peekaboo at Paradise Lost and Found and couldn't get into it.

In any case, Graves says it's obvious to him that Milton was a hair freak and unfortunately so constipated that an awful smell came through his writing.

Clearly, not a compliment.

It brought to mind the rather shocking passage from Hemingway's A Moveable Feast. I mean the one in which he brought to light an arguably private incident between himself and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I haven't yet had such a strong visceral sensation while reading an author. Dead or alive.

And I hope not to have need or occasion to hop into some unveiling of any hush-hush position which I might have been alongside or which I shall be sharing in the wrong or right of future songs or lights.

The prelude is a passing thought.

I didn't feel near to those scriveners, although I have cultivated a great appreciation or respect for Fitzgerald, and I can pretty much postulate that I still don't.

What really caught my reality was how real and unexpectedly close mine own mythos comes to Graves' ideology.

For example, his briefly related theory that time doesn't really exist. It is an idea that has sweetly distracted my thoughts since I developed more substantial interests than say what is common to a schoolboy.

Of course, I didn't have occasion to entertain Mr Graves' philosophy before browsing that Q&A.

Read I, Claudius and the second historical novel. I'd seen the photoplay production and years later read some of his verse.

And The White Goddess happens to be high on my reading list.

I thought to think back through writers that have made me feel something, something beyond concept or sentiment. Those are common, even among the so-called hacks and hounds that pretend to be scribes.

Tolkien and Steinbeck were early inspirations. Wonder and empathy, respectively came through their work. Dickinson and Cummings came a little later. Admiration and perhaps envy, filtered into my senses.

However, it is difficult to detail the exact emotions because it was during a time when I was also learning about the so-called birds and the bees.

Biographies perked my interest but it wasn't until I picked up Beat Generation writers that I realized how wide open, how wonderful, how wise the world of literature could be.

Equally, philosophy -with its sometimes poisoned delusion that tries to position an exact definition of an abstraction until it is drowned past logic with so many words and references- raised my curiosity but I trust that I am not alone in stating that the eloquent simplicity of the Eastern School of thought pretty much says it all. Nietzsche might be poetic, but Lao Tse is a poem. One is pretentious. The other is without pomp.

I write it without hesitation, although it seems that any sensible argument for the construct of karma or for that matter spiritual consequence is entirely devoid of reason. I should add that I hope I am wrong for I have my faith and after all this who wouldn't want some type of heaven… The obvious response, if we may take a minute for frivolity, is the nonbeliever…'I am an atheist, thank G-d', someone quipped.

In any case, there are several or perhaps more than several books and certainly poems which I could point to as containing a type of greatness which seduces as if the perfect lover were holding your hand and whispering in your ear that love is true.

For example, Master and Margarita, The Drunken Boat, The Pisan Cantos, Night, and to make a long list particularly abbreviated, the overwhelming and impossible creation that is Finnegan's Wake.

Recently, to return to the subject as it were, when I read the first section of Anne Rice's recent historical novel about Jesus, I felt the presence of a child. When I read Norman Mailer's first chapter of Castle In The Forest, I felt an uneasy curiosity which could possibly be defined within some spiritual realm.

I don't think one is either capable or open enough to get any feeling from too many writers. Of course, it is an arguable point that there are -at any given time- very few writers capable of offering a real sensation, a daring sentiment which makes the reader feel what should be termed ethereal.

All this without taking into account articles, essays, The Bible, and Shakespeare, and especially screenplays…

In the interview, he contradicts himself a bit. It is a tender irony that one would have to sleep on or contemplate further after reading, at least if one is -alike myself- entirely engaged in the text instead of evaluating the exact signification.

If memory serves, he implies that poets “move” from one muse to
another as a matter of consequence or simple harvesting of aliveness…
The changes which lead to experience…

That is, on one side. On the other, he suggests, that it is wayward for a maker of verse to be wanton.

The implication and the suggestion seem -at least to yours truly- to resist each other on several levels.

One could see it as the eternal conflict between flesh
and spirituality, given the premise that there is a dispute amid sex and faith.

Is there?

My own lingering thought and limited experience tells me there is. Of course, in any possible reality or any realness that is within reach, there doesn't have to be any feud.

It is simply a matter of view point. We have allowed sexuality to be categorized, catalogued, and controlled by church and state. A rather unfortunate situation for humanity, a group that by and large is at its best when breeding (if this is not a clear point, simply consider the obvious; no offspring equals no future).

I propose a, if we may take another minute for folly, a sex Olympics. My apologies to the homosexuals and anchorites, for indeed the purpose would be pregnancy and birth.

It could be, within our advancing medical knowledge, done as non-contact sport, but someone would need to restrain the Mediterranean and Tropical participants.

Might as well do it the old-fashioned way.

I digress.

And to conclude, as if this were anywhere near an essay, I am most certainly a hair freak. Luckily I never did eat enough to be truly constipated.

If my writing smells, I hope it is the odor of Clove cigarettes, coffee, the city I happen to inhabit, or that it has been published by a scratch and sniff magazine.

No matter, the resolve resides in the reader's interpretation, what Nabokov claimed to be most important: the individual reader.

Sometimes, the reader is my self.

Sometimes, it is another.

All the work under the wild wisdom which is understandably muse, which is undeniably woman.

How lucky am I to have found a kindred spirit in Robert Graves? Excuse my quasi-rebuke in the passing thought prelude, it's just that even kindred spirits might find reasons for dancing on the ground of disagreement.

Of course, I am not so determinedly stubborn - despite my sometimes narrow reckoning - to admit that there could have been some other meaning in his seemingly whimsical evaluation of Milton.

Be that as it may, I am away to pen for the muse, to pine for the higher music of love and learning, to waylay the weighty sorrows with page-turning prose and tingling poetry.

(illustration: john richen)


Julio Peralta-Paulino is a writer currently at work on several projects. Some of his recent work is featured at City Writers Review and Jack Magazine. He is thrilled to be once again included in the eclectic and hip publication known as Smokebox. More stories from Julio Peralta-Paulino can be found in the Smokebox Archives.

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