The Anthropology of Magical Forms

Sigmund Freud. Photo by Max Halberstadt. 1921

I want to discover the magical links
Before they appear

Though to be honest I’d much
Rather actually see them
Than invent them whole-cloth
or whole-sale

Wouldn’t it be great if that were to happen?
Hallucinate my way into poetic fusions
Instead of just writing them?
Instead of twisting myself

Into pretzels alchemically
With nonsense salt
On top
Or on the plate?

This is what it all comes down to
For poets seers prophets and
Kitchen repairmen
Who turn the world upside down

This is what it means to have
Rimbaud’s gift
Lost too soon
To guns in Abyssinia.…

Across the Universe


Blue Shift


It’s not just that stars
Are yellow photographs
Left for Kafka to enfable

It’s not just that stars
Cover histories and make
Puppets for Rilke

They really do light our nights
Like flash bulbs in Arabia
A Mosque open skyward

A mirage of water
To die for

Wicked games above us
These stars fall on Rimbaud
And replace his guns

His Abyssinnia

With teenaged boats
And lapping
Cresting waves

Like night cafés
In Arles for Vincent

For McLean


—by Douglas Pinson


Journey in Progress

The Sleeping Gypsy, by Henri Rousseau. 1897





The objective of traveling can not
Be to lose oneself

Unless it be for a moment —
The sun shining like cartwheel fire
Between Grecian temples

The notes wrapping themselves around
The winged-legs of Flamenco
Dancers at night in Seville

The first taste after dawn
Of farm-cherished nourishment
In Grange, County Waterford

Or the view from that tower
In Paris
With soldiers at the base
Looking for dirty bombs

And Roma


The objective can’t be escape

Absolute severance

It can’t be to transform
One’s ghosts into lost shadows
Or shadows into dust

Rimbaud could never leave himself
Behind in the Africa of the guns

Gauguin always met Gauguin
Even among his Tahitian brides

The goddess Circe could not make
Odysseus forget himself or his



Almost Dionysian Almost Free

Penny Lane, played by Kate Hudson

Rockers get to be Dionysian. It’s their thing. No one expects them to add the Apollonian, though they must to create music objects, or create as individual artists. They must. But the Dionysian is what their fans want, see, expect — in concerts, at least. Do they expect the same things when they sit at home, alone, listening to records of the same singer, the same band?

Right now, as of 2009, it is probably true that musicians can combine the Dionysian and the Apollonian better than any other kind of artist. Chaos, trance, inebriation, intoxication of one or more forms, group celebration and loss of the self, the dying of the self in that group celebration and swooning fall out.…

Dino Campana, Poète Maudit

The tragic case. The artist apart. Mixing dreams with metaphors of wandering in and out of dreams. Mixing ancient, primal scenes, Mediterranean blood, the gods and goddesses of our imagination with the teeming cities and futurism of the early 1900s. Never able to quite express it. Never able to stay fully enough in the moment to be rationally, carefully mad. Rationally, carefully behind the words as the world engulfs you. Because of the world. Because of woman.

Dino Campana is one of the most remarkable poets of the 20th century. His Canti Orfici ranks with Rimbaud’s Une Saison en Enfer, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, and Rilke’s Duino Elegies for visionary, hallucinatory power.…

Michaux, Meidosems, and the Art of the Uncanny

Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch. 1504.

 I first discovered Henri Michaux in the 80s, thanks again to Paul Auster’s anthology of 20th Century French Poetry. One of the truly magical writers of the last century, Michaux was blessed and cursed like Kafka with a sense of endless anxiety and dread and the comedic possibilities of both. He shared with Marianne Moore and the Magical Realists the ability to create surreal gardens with real frogs, but added serious warts on them all. He possessed the idiosyncratic and curmudgeonly qualities of E. M. Cioran, Samuel Beckett, and Thomas Bernhardt, along with the vivid, mischievous, almost mad imagination of Hieronymous Bosch.…

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