I. “We are gathering interior circumference.”
“No longer a phantasm and not yet a sign, the unreal object of melancholy introjection opens a space that is neither the hallucinated oneiric scene of the phantasms nor the indifferent world of natural objects…. The topology of the unreal that melancholy designs in its immobile dialectic is, at the same time, a topology of culture.” – Giorgio Agamben, Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture
Virtualis is a dense and lyrical book mediated by visionary and philosophical language, commemorating “the vibratory distances between dreams.” Dowker and Stewart use exquisitely ornamental language to exalt the majesty of the senses in poems I found to be radically potent. This book weaves a kind of lexical magic as threads of stunning lyricism and metaphysical fantasia so vibrant it feels like a synesthetic dream. These poems appear as phantasms from the depths of the imaginal – bridging philosophy, musical language, at once odd and angular yet exquisitely crafted, like Brancusi’s Bird in Space. This book includes a reading list of philosophy books that are quoted, including works by Agamben, Deleuze, Benjamin and others.
Virtualis functions as a voyage into pure consciousness. The text’s mindfulness is a rich ore of ekphrastic palingenesis. The mix of some pretty heady philosophical language with soaring lyrical fantasia is something I find totally stimulating: “Our vocabularies maintain subjective principles not immediately apparent as the (inexplicable) lure of verdure.” The book’s philosophical language gives weight to its ethereal fantasia, grounding the book’s assemblage point in a preternatural realm of euphoric convergence weighted in the shells of some spectral egg, creating layers upon layers through which these poems can be enjoyed.
“Genus is dissolute. Vagrant is its range. It is the logical effluvium of some proto-binomial urge. Brute geogeny overwhelms ontology. Basic array of itinerant fragrance and mute fruition.
Spaces are their own bloom. A gauge of any and several congenital avowals. This rate brain interpretation lichen aligned phosphorous chorus to appall us (o rhodopsin bop voluptuary).
To divulge is lysergic (time-section light-thought in lilt). It is febrile nostalgia. Rapt state. Atavistic splendour of that chymical epoch.
There are silences, mania . . . convalescence.
Distractions avalanche here. See selah –– a shapely cadence. The converted word installed in perfect retrograde.”
This is pretty ethereal stuff, and these abstractions generate a vortex of ideation that moves me as a reader into a realm of ideas for which there are no words. Imaginal texts can lure us to a state of the royal art, Raja-Yoga, where the mind is a kind of kaleidoscope fluctuating between realities all condensed into a multilayered assemblage.
Virtualis is a confluence of worlds in the sense that this book is a meeting place of ideas, of forms, of Beauty. The condensation of vertical space here is so utterly ripe with alchemical gold, forever “in the process of disassembling the semblance / of an open space.” Virtualis exemplifies the rajasic qualities of energy, movement, generation and animation. These are poems of “a mostly ghostly trace” that move through a luminous realm of alternative perceptions toward an aphasic state devoid of all mediocrity and ugliness. Its singular bravado is a daring exploration of sonic beauty and the integrated psyche. I commend the authors for their generosity of vision, and for willing to look “along the fringes of consciousness.”
II. Language and Palingenesis
“It is a living world–inhabited by creatures of flesh and blood, subject to the law of becoming, of old age and death. Hence it requires a periodical repairing, a renewing, a strengthening. But the only way to renew the World is to repeat what the Immortals did in illo tempore, is to reiterate the creation. This is why the priest reproduces the exemplary itinerary of the Immortals and repeats their acts and words. In short, the priest ends by incarnating the Immortals. In other words, at the time of the New Year the Immortals are believed to be present on earth once again. This explains why the ritual of annually renewing the world is the most important religious ceremony among these California tribes. The World is not only made more stable and regenerated, it is also sanctified by the symbolic presence of the Immortals. The priest, who incarnates them, becomes–for a certain length of time–an ‘immortal person,’ and as such, he must be neither looked at nor touched. He performs the rites far from other men, in absolute solitude, for when the Immortals performed them for the first time there were yet no men on earth.” – Mircea Eliade, Myth and Reality
I’m keenly interested in the renewal and regeneration of language because it feels to me like the renewal and regeneration of consciousness. I find there is a superficial sense of coherence in daily life, but as we expand our awareness or allow for it to expand we experience energy directly, and to see energy directly nothing remains the same. It is direct access to the unmanifest primeval perception.
transfixed contraries so disposed.
These flowers of delirium blossom
in that aporia, a frenzied catatonia
or raving calyx array, a mutant line
to a smooth space engendered,
the implicit lucidity of the body
in the near fields of the unreal.”
Virtualis is suggestive of the dizzying nature of infinity with a steadfast eye on the glory of dissolving into an image uncreated – forever unborn, gazing at everything and nothingness. The unreal is suggestive of the imagination, Plato’s world of forms, of ideas that exist independent of the mind. In this sense the unreal is actually purer and more vibrant than the waking dream we experience daily. The “topologies of the unreal” do not represent a map that can be navigated or easily accessed. This is not for being oblivious of knowing how to navigate the territory, but for entering into this initiation into the unknown. It’s a phantasmagoric realm, and I find that the mundane nature of the visible often requires an alternative.
(phantasmic), as though
dissolution that brightness
confound, concomitant occupation
by other emissaries of the Imaginary
and various semi-real entities,
assorted sorties with centaurs
and centauresses, satyrs
in alterity even
as in the continuum
a procession of essences and eminence
(so many oscillations across the ectoplasmic reticulum)”
In The Republic Plato talks about a world of forms and ideas that exist independent of the mind. It is suggested by Plato that this is the real world, and the world we live in is illusory. These forces come from the outside of creation and enter into creation – they are as outside as outside can be. The infinitesimal center of our being extends outward through all of the layers of energetic being (intuitive, mental, spiritual, physical, etc.), and that transmission moves outward through the layers of perception, as Julius Evola once wrote, “nothing takes place in this world that did not originate first in the next world or in the invisible dimensions.” There is an esoteric belief that poetry exists independent of the mind and that it’s something to be channeled, like a kind of alien psychic energy. This realm of pure ideation “inferred from the infrared” is like a melting pot of wondrous inspiration. Or Castaneda’s shamanic impulse that led him to intuitive states of silent knowledge. As Dowker and Stewart write, “The eye is as apocalyptic as / reason.”
Virtualis explores the same space as the unknowable infinite eternal – it is the essence of life. To break the trance, the sleeping spell of being human, of being mortal. To become operational through a vision – an extension or an expansion of an energetic awareness. Perhaps poetry cannot begin until it is complete. Until it is renewed. This is to distract us from the pain and anguish of being unborn, of being uncreated, of existing without the renewal and rejuvenation that is vital to creation. Virtualis is the poetry of palingenesis. It is the topology of a whole world uncreated, waiting to be made anew.
Chris Moran lives in Columbus, OH. His chapbook GHOSTLORD is forthcoming from Solar Luxuriance.