Tuesday, January 19, 2021

To Set a Flame High in the Air

Eighteen years ago, I read this at the memorial for my brother, Marvin, who had passed away the previous December.  It's an excerpt from Kenneth Patchen's The Journal of Albion Moonlight.  I have to bring it out occasionally to meditate on and to share with others who would care to read it.  It still holds power for me and sets me back on the right path. If I would ever truly make a New Year resolution, it would be to read this every January hoping it would aid and empower me through the coming year.

 So it is the artist’s duty to discourage all traces of shame

To extend all boundaries

To fog them in right over the plate

To kill only what is ridiculous

To establish problems

To ignore solutions

To listen to no one

To omit nothing

To contradict everything

To generate the free brain

To bear no cross

To take part in no crucifixion

To tinkle a warning when mankind strays

To explode upon all parties

To wound deeper than the soldier

To heal this obstinate monkey once and for all

To laugh at every situation

To besiege their cities

To exhaust the primitive

To verify the irrational

To exaggerate all things

To inhabit everyone

To lubricate each proportion

To experience only experience

To deviate at every point

To make one monster at least

To multiply opinions

To work only in the distance

To extend all shapes

To acquire a sublime reputation

To sport the glacial eye

To direct all smoldering ambitions

To masquerade as the author of every platitude

To overwhelm the mariner with improper charts

To set a flame high in the air

To exclaim at the commonplace alone

To cause the unseen eyes to open

To be concerned with every profession save his own

To raise a fortuitous stink on the boulevards of truth and beauty

To lift the flesh above the suffering

To flash his vengeful badge at every abyss

To kneel with the blind and drunk brigands to learn their songs

To happen


It is the artist’s duty to be alive

To drag people into glittering occupations

To return always to the renewing stranger

To assume the ecstasy in all conceivable attitudes

To reel in exquisite sobriety

To blush perpetually in gaping innocence

To drift happily through the ruined race-intelligence

To defend the unreal at the cost of his reason

To obey each outrageous impulse

To commit his company to all enchantments



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