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Kenneth Patchen:

So it is the duty of the artist 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 problem 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 poor obstinate monkey once and for all To verify the irrational To exaggerate all things To inhibit everyone To lubricate each proportion To experience only experience To set a flame in the high air To exclaim at the commonplace alone To cause the unseen eyes to open To admire only the abrsurd To be concerned with every profession save his own To raise a fortuitous stink on the boulevards of truth and beauty To desire an electrifiable intercourse with a female alligator To lift the flesh above the suffering To forgive the beautiful its disconsolate deceit To flash his vengeful badge at every abyss To HAPPEN It is the artist

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Are Ravers Mad?

A new German psychiatric study reported on Yahoo! News says Mental Illness Often Predates Ecstasy Use. However, although there are other reasons to question the often-reported association between Ecstasy use and neuronal damage, I don’t think this study is one. The methodology involved interviewing subjects twice at a 3.5-year interval. Quite simply, the finding that most had had psychiatric disturbance before ecstasy use would be expected, given that ecstasy use increased during the interval of the study and that psychiatric illness is more prevalent than ecstasy use. Given these two facts, most of those with psychiatric illness who reported that they had used ecstasy by the end of the study would have reported that they had not during their initial interview. The fact that the prevalence of ‘mental illness’ was higher in ecstasy users than in nonusers is misleading, and probably attributable to the fact that they apparently sought any DSM-IV (the official ‘bible’ of all psychiatric diagnoses, from the American Psychiatric Association) diagnoses. Some diagnosable conditions should not properly be called mental illnesses, and furthermore other substance use disorders, which are DSM-IV diagnoses, should probably have been excluded, as these will surely have a nonrandom association with reported ecstasy use.

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Happy belated birthday, Kenneth Patchen:

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On (December 13) in 1911 Kenneth Patchen was born in Niles, Ohio. Patchen’s varied work and talents — as poet, novelist, painter, graphic designer — are most often labeled “early beat,” in spite of an outlook that bristled at labels and the “penny-a-line vulgarity” of beat writing. Some prize Patchen’s love poetry highest, poems written to his wife, Miriam, who nursed Patchen through a decades-long spinal injury — one that kept him more or less constantly in pain and in bed for his last 12 years, and for which a surgery fund was set up by T.S. Eliot, Thornton Wilder, e.e. cummings, and others. Others prize his experiments in picture-poetry or in poetry-jazz, or the boat-rocking edge he brought to his protest poems, as here in “The Hangman’s Great Hands,” from 1937:

“And all that is this day …

The boy with cap slung over what had been a face …

Somehow the cop will sleep tonight, will make love to his wife …

Anger won’t help. I was born angry. Angry that my

father was being burnt alive in the mills; Angry that

none of us knew anything but filth, and poverty. Angry

because I was that very one somebody was supposed

To be fighting for

Turn him over; take a good look at his face …

Somebody is going to see that face for a long time.

I wash his hands that in the brightness they will shine.

We have a parent called the earth.

To be these buds and trees; this tameless bird Within

the ground; this season’s act upon the fields of Man.

To be equal to the littlest thing alive,

While all the swarming stars move silent through The

merest flower

… but the fog of guns.

The face with all the draining future left blank …

Those smug saints, whether of church or Stalin, Can

get off the back of my people, and stay off. Somebody

is supposed to be fighting for somebody … And Lenin

is terribly silent, terribly silent and dead.

There are several recordings available of Patchen reading to jazz; though none exist of this session remembered by Charlie Mingus in his autobiography, Beneath the Underdog:

We improvised behind him while he read his poems, which I read ahead of time.

It’s dark out, Jack — this was one of his poems.

“It’s dark out, Jack, the stations out there don’t identify themselves, we’re in it raw-blind like burned rats, it’s running out all around us, the footprints of the beast, one nobody has any notion of. The white and vacant eyes of something above there, something that doesn’t know we exist. I smell heartbreak up there, Jack, a heartbreak at the center of things, and in which we don’t figure at all.” Salon Literary Daybook

Here’s a wonderful page of painted and silkscreened poems by Patchen, including:

I got me the blue dawg blues.

If the devil don’t wag this world,

How come all you lousy cats

Lickin’ away at his shoes!

Here’s Kenneth Rexroth’s 1957 essay Kenneth Patchen, Naturalist of the Public Nightmare, in which he describes why he is not taking the advice of the poetry establishment of the day to steer clear of Patchen.

Today is also the eightieth anniversary of the publication of Eliot’s The Wasteland, which continues to demand our close reading.

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Kenneth Patchen:

So it is the duty of the artist 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 problem 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 poor obstinate monkey once and for all To verify the irrational To exaggerate all things To inhibit everyone To lubricate each proportion To experience only experience To set a flame in the high air To exclaim at the commonplace alone To cause the unseen eyes to open To admire only the abrsurd To be concerned with every profession save his own To raise a fortuitous stink on the boulevards of truth and beauty To desire an electrifiable intercourse with a female alligator To lift the flesh above the suffering To forgive the beautiful its disconsolate deceit To flash his vengeful badge at every abyss To HAPPEN It is the artist