Life, Biology, and Coherence
It’s been a while since the last post. The COVID pandemic combined with political unrest is a recipe for cognitive fog. Hopefully, I’ll pull myself together soon. Wish my luck!
Rich Murphy’s poems, for me, clear away the fog of dissonance that feeds on the fears about biological and epistemological threats currently teeming throughout the country and the world.
In this installment, I’d like to make some general observations that sprung forth as I read the poems “Microbe Morning With Caffeine” and “Rationing Rationale.” The feelings that are stirred up when reading poetry are intuitive rather than emotional. This is where the real treasure of poetry is hidden. When done well, it transcends the logic inherent in prose and should be savored.
Both poems evoke a swirl of science juxtaposed to living, economics to value, and transcendence to technology. They congeal into the human being now present in the world who is working hard to maintain the coherence inherent in homeostasis. Each of us then, is implicated in the poems, especially in the increasingly shallow consciousness of the West. Like it or not, we are microcosms reflecting the macrocosm of our culture.
As we try to make sense of the world around us—some through scientific scrutiny, others through the logic of technology, many of us, through a kind of somnambulist’s dance through materialism—these poems, fenced into by realm of immanence, long, just under the surface, for transcendence.
At least that’s what they do for me. We all bring our own baggage to a poem. On the other hand, I think that much of what we carry is the similar. Tim O’Brien’s short story collection, The Things They Carried is an apt comparison. Though the contents of the each soldier’s pack is similar—dog tags, mosquito repellant, ammunition, etc—they carry personal mementos that grant individuality. There is, then, contrary to the claims of Sartre and, more recently, critical Theories of intersectionality and race, a common human nature. The poems in Practitioner Joy, for me, underscore our common humanity and complement our individuality at the same time.
Why does it feel like we are always at war?