Emotions and Inter-Dialogism

How do the emotions of individuals play into, or out of, Inter-Dialogism? To make an Inter-Dialogic leap into someone’s brain and out again, and glean whatever you can, presupposes in the individual making the leap that personal emotions will not interfere with the process. Obviously, human consonance being what it is, this cannot always be the case. The murkiness of making an Inter-Dialogic leap while one’s emotions are wreaking havoc with one’s ability to perceive truth is a fact of life, both in literature (the more personal varieties of literature) and in our daily lives. In fact, the core essence of both Meta-Dialogism and Inter-Dialogism are threatened by their potential chiasmus with chaotic, disheveled, impenetrable emotions, and by the sense that without the objectivity that manifests along with emotional detachment, both of these leaps become mere leaps of faith, unsteadied by a relationship to what might be called intuitive empiricism. This plays out in poetry, literature, and drama, in the manifestation of unreliable narrators, characters desperate, destructive, unlucky, and emotionally unsteady enough so that, as intuitive as they might be, neither we as an audience nor they can ever really be sure they are drawing the right conclusions from whatever situation might be at hand. Inter-Dialogism is dogged by subjectivist interests every time, so that rose colored or dark colored spectacles take raw data and misshape them or configure them out of proportion. Apparition Poem 1488 is a case in point— a representation of a harsh situation— complete severance of contact with the beloved in question for the protagonist— with no reason given. What ever Inter-Dialogic leaps have been made on both sides have led to stalemate; even as the protagonist, as besotted as he might be, must adopt the dry ice approach in discussing his predicament:

liquor store, linoleum
floor, wine she chose
            was always deep red,
            dark, bitter aftertaste,
            unlike her bare torso,
                        which has in it
                        all that ever was
                        of drunkenness—
to miss someone terribly,
to both still be in love, as
she severs things because
            she thinks she must—
            exquisite torture, it’s
            a different bare torso,
(my own) that’s incarnadine—

We assume here that there have been Inter-Dialogic leaps on both sides. Yet, if these are two emotionally vulnerable, emotionally unstable individuals, what has been communicated from brain to brain cannot sink in and be assimilated the right way. This is especially the case if booze is involved, which confuses boundaries and senses of proportions and forces things to flow in a warped direction. That warpage gives 1488 an eerie glow of strange dimensions and unclean leaps, unclean consciousness. The significance of the linoleum floor as a symbol is that it works as a synecdoche of all the different forms of warpage on offer here— alcoholism, emotional desperation, overactive imaginations, and (perhaps most tragically) Inter-Dialogic leaps which suggest both some purity of intention and some genuine psycho-affective chemistry, but which are getting trampled by the inhumanity of the landscape these characters inhabit. Linoleum floors are cold, un-homely, homogenous surfaces, which reflect (also) the coldness of the complete severance between the two in question. The warm, companionable, sensuous side of drunken-heartedness— vino veritas, also— is being buried by consciousness which can no longer have stable reactions, so that what has been learned from the requisite Inter-Dialogic leaps knitting soul to soul cannot be recalled and skillfully employed the right way. It may be the case that the muse of 1488 knows this, and that it accounts for her severance of the relationship. If so, the protagonist has a ways and means of accessing a note of pure pathos, which resounds in the poem, even as he also reveals that his assumed mastery of his muse’s heart, and what it has in it (“all that ever was/of drunkenness”), has to be false, because he seems not to know the reason for the sudden severance, which should be clear to him. When Inter-Dialogism is nullified by subjectivist interests, consciousness can fester and transform itself into all shapes and sizes of narcissistic delusion, even as the protagonist in 1488 attempts to reach beyond his narcissism.   

Melopoeia and Time

The tradition in serious poetry, of poets anthropomorphizing impersonal forces (Love, Time, Beauty) is a rich one, even if it fell into disuse in the twentieth century. John Keats, for example, will always address impersonal forces like Love, Time, and Beauty in a personalized, I-thou manner. He thusly imposes on the aesthetic context the resolutely personal (odal) world which is his insignia. The Modernists and post-modernists found Keats, and Romanticism, naïve for this anthropomorphizing proclivity; yet, the tunnel vision they imposed on poetry, involving the hegemonic power of the impersonal, objective, and synthetic, shuts down the humanistic and the imaginative in a surfeit of emptiness and unmusical banality. As for how this issue is dealt with in Apparition Poems— if Time, for instance, is to be anthropomorphized— one compromise solution involves taking Time and making it a dry iced, impersonal “it” in an I-it chiasmus situation. Thus, the perceived hokeyness of making everything personal is avoided, even if a confession is also made that impersonal forces like Time may stand in Inter-Dialogic relationships with our consciousness, metaphorically jumping into our brains and making incisions, not out of a conscious will, but out of unconscious, emanated power. Time, of course, is merely (as Kant teaches us) an intuition, something our brain imposes on what matter is empirically given to us, and also an aid to register perceptible changes in matter. The problem, for the poet swimming in these waters, is that human consciousness generates emotions about these processes. So, we have Apparition Poem 1067:

 I want to last—
to be the last
of the last of
the last to be

taken by time,
but the thing
about time is
that it wants,

what it wants
is us, all of us
wane quickly
for all time’s

ways, sans “I,”
what I wants—

One of the oddities here is that melopoeia, and melopoeiac tension/release games, compensate for the frustration of the protagonist’s circular Inter-Dialogic interaction with time as an impersonal force, impinging on his consciousness. The music manifests in clusters, which is my usual manner/mode of melopoeiac practice, and in end-rhymes as well. The Inter-Dialogic tension here— the knowledge that anthropomorphized time “wants,” in an impersonal fashion, to co-opt and destroy everything I, as an individual, either have or have created— makes it so that the poem, which begins with “I want” and finishes with “I wants,” has in it a sense of metaphysical exploration of combined or “mutt” interactions between personal and impersonal forces, what has perceptible bounds and what does not. The problem with the poem anthropomorphizing Time is that the poet’s instinct to do so, though it jibes with his aesthetic intentions, must nonetheless be riddled with the doubts and inconsistencies of consciousness reaching too far past itself, and its own empirical understanding. The principles of pure reason— Kant’s top rung of what human cognition can achieve— can only speak of Time as an intuitive force in human consciousness, and not strictly knowable past that. We do not know if Time-forces inhere in the universe which manifest some form of consciousness or personality. They might. To the extent that the poem sketches a semantic and melopoeiac circle in space, where the end and the beginning are rough parallels, what is suggested is a sense of stalemate with an impersonal force which cannot help but touch us, in both Inter-Dialogic interactions and out, while also manifesting evidence that no consciousness can inhere in it, and the personal and the impersonal become so hopelessly intermixed that the poem gets lost in its own music. To be lost in melopoeia, while also dry iced by an I-it perspective, makes the poem its own kind of hybrid, built of parts which ache to transcend their limitations and know what is not readily known, even as what is shown to consciousness here is frightening and frustrating. 

Kierkegaard and Dry Ice

The complex relationship between Inter-Dialogism and philosophy cannot be simply or succinctly enumerated. When consciousness leaps into other consciousness, the basic questions of phenomenology remain the same— what is inside our consciousness, what is outside, what is held or bounded in or by consciousness, and what is not— only issues of individuation, difference, and distinction manifest to lead any inquiry into any number of both theoretical and semantic quagmires. When philosophical issues are addressed in serious poetry, the potential and actual arabesques out into cognitive space become innumerable, especially when Inter-Dialogism is used in a new capacity. What happens when, as often happens in philosophy, allegorical figures are employed? From Socrates to Zarathustra to Abraham, philosophical texts must lean on symbolic representations of individuals, to delineate the essences of philosophical dilemmas and interests. Abraham, we know, was Kierkegaard’s major choice is his most pivotal text— Fear and Trembling— and he, as an author, asks us, as an implicit “you” in an I-thou relationship, to attempt to leap into Abraham’s consciousness when the Lord asks him to climb the mountain and sacrifice his son, seemingly for no reason, and testing Abraham’s faith, sharpening his faculties of perception. Apparition Poem 1613 subsists as both an interpretive vista onto Kierkegaard and a tangential representation of an implicit “I” who has been able, it would seem, to achieve the requisite Inter-Dialogic leap into Abraham’s consciousness, though we know Abraham to only be a figure in an allegory, rather than a partner in any intimacy:

Follow Abraham up the hill:
to the extent that the hill is
constituted already by kinds
of knives, to what extent can
a man go up a hill, shepherd
a son to be sacrificed, to be
worthy before an almighty
power that may or may not
have had conscious intentions

where hills, knives, sons were
concerned, but how, as I watch
this, can I not feel that Abraham,
by braving knives, does not need
the one he holds in his rapt hands?

What the implicit I sees in 1613 is a kind of loop around unconscious processes of governance— that God himself may rule the Universe from a center of consciousness or not, and that the subtle mental strength Abraham gains from contact with this Universe Force unconsciously begins to direct his thoughts and actions, which take on consonance with being sharp, incisive, knife-like. The final loop, we see, is that, in a binding chain, the “I” in the poem becomes sharp, incisive, and knife-like from Inter-Dialogic interaction with Abraham (and it is implicit by this time that Inter-Dialogic interactions may happen with characters in allegories as well as flesh and blood people), who has inherited his incisiveness from the Universe Force whose consciousness or unconsciousness cannot be gauged or mastered. If the dry ice rule applies here, as it does for most of Apparition Poems, it is because all philosophy, as heavy as it is on intellect and allegory, is touched by dry ice, and I-you queries ride shot-gun to the objectivism which must drive the thing forward and turn the proverbial steering wheel. Is some real I-thou intimacy mixed in? To answer this brings us to a philosophical critical crux which is very strange— strange, in 1613, because the protagonist seems to be (mystically, uncannily) attempting an Inter-Dialogic leap into our brain, as he (unconsciously) sees what he sees, and steps back out again, leaving a sense behind that philosophical awareness can be governed by unconscious processes and impersonal forces all the way through, just as many of the most salient Big Questions, both for science and philosophy, are impersonal ones, and can only be conjectured at in an impersonal, if not unconscious, manner. The implied “you” in 1613 is rather rare, and demanded by a literary context; a merely philosophical context would stay in the third person; but, in attempting a bridge and a chiasmus between philosophy and literature, aids the reader in feeling a sense of humanity amidst all the objectivism and dry ice. Yet, the contradiction inheres that in addressing the Big Questions on any profound level, it is almost always individual consciousness which is able to produce breakthroughs in science and philosophy, cloaked in the impersonality and objectivity (governed, also, often unconscious processes) of the third person. If poetry is able to enter this game seriously, the first person singular must re-make itself as explicit, and personal, to give whatever construct is at hand the insignia of the aesthetic, and allow the reader graceful entrance.

Dry Ice

The “dry ice” approach to serious poetry— I-it employed over I-thou— forms an interesting chiasmus with what I call Inter-Dialogism. When you want to jump over the hurdle of ordinary consciousness into the consciousness of another, however briefly, and if the Other in question is set at a natural distance from you, as can happen in many contexts, the result can be insight or a mystified sense of helplessness. Think how this works in terms of worldly power— militaries, judicial systems, governments— and how individuals who fall under the aegis of these conglomerate interests are forced to make their points and gather their information. If you meet another personage, with the insignias of worldly power on them, one way or another, your attempt to make the Inter-Dialogic leap may or may not be hampered by timidity, reserve, prudence, intimidation, coercion, or a sense of being toppled by protocols. Often, if the Inter-Dialogic leap is to be made and the insight gleaned (leading to whatever further action the situation or context demands), it must happen quickly, once the powerful party has somehow been shocked into revealing themselves. Worldly power, as relates to the individual consciousness of those who bear it, can create a brain white-washed by its own armature of complexities and protocols, which make it so that, when both partners in a conversation have vested worldly interests, Inter-Dialogism is beleaguered by the dry ice of no intimacy whatsoever, and often, no brain symmetry (interchange of nations). Everything remains resolutely impersonal, even as, as everything created by the human brain, political armature must show cracks and strains, and those skilled at noticing those cracks and strains can make an Inter-Dialogic leap towards figuring out another consciousness. This all manifests in Apparition Poem 1345, from Apparition Poems:

Two hedgerows with a little path

between— to walk in the path like

some do, as if no other viable route

exists, to make Gods of hedgerows

that make your life tiny, is a sin of

some significance in a world where

hedgerows can be approached from

any side— I said this to a man who

bore seeds to an open space, and he

nodded to someone else and whistled

an old waltz to himself in annoyance.

The situation appears severe— the protagonist of the poem is spinning out an allegory for someone we assume to be a government or military functionary. The purport of the allegory is the idea that when the human race plans to move forward, forcing individuals to worship forces that degrade, abase, and trivialize their lives usually, and needlessly, disrupts human progress. As to why the Inter-Dialogic needs of the protagonist swerved him towards employing this allegory— the functionary’s reaction would have to reveal, one way or another, at least a part of his brains, and thus make the situation more comprehensible to the protagonist. Thus, the whole Inter-Dialogic interchange has to happen without there being any personal emotion involved at all. Inter-Dialogic reactions dry iced this way, without any personal emotion, when represented in text, are a taste some may have more than others, just as the first, dry iced set of Apparition Poems may be preferable to some over the more personal Cheltenham Elegies. Here, what is set forth is a situation in which the functionary’s reaction— annoyance— leaves in enough ambiguity that the reader must decide for him or herself if a real Inter-Dialogic leap has been made or if the protagonist misjudged his adversary. He has attempted to initiate a battle of mystification— a sense that boundaries are being crossed, so that who is mystifying who becomes an open question. This reality is, as I said, political more than personal, just as the Elegies have politics built into them only on secondary levels. Why dry ice in serious poetry is interesting as an aesthetic effect is that most sensitive temperaments understand that the dry ice effect has its own aesthetic grandeur, just as Shelley’s snow and ice storms in Mont Blanc are strangely, eerily gorgeous. As for 1345, the poem ends with the situation seemingly power-blocked; allegory told, allegory rejected; and yet we know that in politics, responses can germinate over long periods of time. Thus, the battle of mystification works for the reader too, who will be unable to predict either the precise context of this battle (no precise playing field, like Cheltenham) or how it may turn out in the end. The entire edifice is on ice.

Menace and Foreboding

One subtext of the entire enterprise of the Cheltenham Elegies is that the significations of the American suburbs must change. From the dulcet and the banal, the suburbs acquire an aura of menace and foreboding. How the menace and the foreboding are incorporated into our view of the American suburbs connects directly to Inter-Dialogism. What happens when the leap from one consciousness into another is made, and what is seen is perceived to be a direct threat to the individual who initiates the leap? This may happen in a number of different contexts, including social situations in which individuals are not only required to keep their cool, but to maintain the wonted placid façade that is the suburban insignia. Even more murky are situations in which the individual who makes the Inter-Dialogic leap perceives a genuine threat, with some genuine intimacy snuck in on another side of things— in other words, the insignia of betrayal. This goes beyond mere troubled brotherhood, into a place in which the drama of life and death is so intricately complex and elaborately woven that everything (again) is lost in ambiguity, and love and hate are impossible to distinguish. This is where the individual with Inter-Dialogic tendencies (like the Elegiac Protagonist) gets beaten back with his or her own limitations— emotions take over, and where there is any sensitivity, it is lost in confusion and despair. Keats inverts this process, in the Odes, into being lost in a haze of sexualized, musical ecstasy— the Odes and Elegies find two parallel lines towards consciousness losing itself, in self-transcendence towards dissolution into higher realities. As the Elegies’ blackness meets the Odes’ whiteness in the Gyan chap, a foundation is built of wonder around the possibilities of poetic language. Yet, in Elegy 260, we finally come face to face with the brick wall in all the Cheltenham characters’ consciousness— they cannot let go of their pasts, and replay all the most important scenes of menace and foreboding in their heads endlessly, in an eternal loop:

I was too stoned to find the bathroom.
The trees in the dude’s backyard made
it look like Africa. You were my hook-up
to this new crowd. The same voice, as always,
cuts in to say you were fucked up even
then. You had a dooming Oedipal
complex. We were all wrapped tight,
even when we got high. I was the
only one getting any, so you both
mistrusted me. African trees & easy
camaraderie. A primitive pact sealed
between warring factions— my spears
(take this as you will) for your grass.

Dealers in the world need to have an intuition, a sixth sense. The need to be able to intuit who around them is for real and who isn’t. The problem with the Elegiac Protagonist here is that he isn’t completely a dealer. He appears to be an accessory to dealers, and nothing more. Yet, his sixth sense informs him in this memorized loop (“The same voice, as always…”) that he is being betrayed somehow by someone he cares about, probably the hero/anti-hero from 261, and there is nothing at all he can do about it. Elegy 260 is rather unique, among the Elegies, because it does not come to any definite conclusions; in fact, the poem ends before the action starts, leaving the readers to configure for themselves what the nature of the action exactly is, and what the betrayals might be. When betrayal of individuals is involved, Inter-Dialogism becomes profoundly horrible, a waking nightmare which brands individual minds for all time with the decisive moments which made or broke them. The funny twist involved in 260 involves sex— that if the Elegiac Protagonist is about to be excluded from something important, his success with girls is what may be standing in his way, which has caused hatred and resentment to migrate towards him, and this betrayal. In the suburbs, the fates of individuals are often decided sotto voce, and in the kind of accents which may accompany the reading of weather on TV or a game show host’s opening monologue. Quietness and stillness do not preclude viciousness and petty larceny to souls. All the menace and foreboding built into Cheltenham as a construct have to do with these levels, and with the sad, sick sense that suburban deaths are potentially as banal as suburban lives. That the Elegiac Protagonist lived to tell his tale cannot efface the Inter-Dialogic horror of whatever he sees in his friend’s brain here, and the Meta-Dialogic defense mechanism voice he has developed to counter it (“you were fucked up even/ then”). Where this leaves Inter-Dialogism is a variegated place which can cover the gamut of human thoughts and emotions. Elegy 260’s version of Inter-Dialogism is one of the hardest, and also the most realistic— in Cheltenham, as in much of the rest of the human world, human life, often claimed to have some sanctity inhering in it, is actually, in practice, as cheap as a dime, and treated with the extreme lowliness of those who live in the dirt.

Brain Symmetry

It is arguable that it is possible to reveal, in literature as in science, that symmetry exists between human brains. Though no two human brains are alike, where there is symmetry between interests, common circumstances or experiences, and genetic data, there is also brain symmetry. The effect between characters in a drama of this phenomenon— brain symmetry— is an interesting one, because, like William Wordsworth finding interest in “similitude in dissimilitude” generally, why two brains that have symmetrical properties might make for greater intimacy but also greater antagonism is an interesting question. For Inter-Dialogism— the jumping of consciousness into other consciousness and out again— the individual who makes the Inter-Dialogic leap, if it is into a brain which shares some symmetrical proportions, may then experience extreme euphoria or extreme discomfort, but the reaction is likely to be much more drastic, intense, and compelling then if the leap was into a brain entirely Other. Brain symmetry syndrome manifests in Elegy 414:

And out of this nexus, O sacred
scribe, came absolutely no one.
I don’t know what you expected
to find here. This warm, safe,
comforting suburb has a smother
button by which souls are unraveled.
Who would know better than you?
Even if you’re only in the back of
your mind asphyxiating. He looked
out the window— cars dashed by
on Limekiln Pike. What is it, he said,
are you dead or do you think you’re Shakespeare?

The Inter-Dialogic energy here is all over the map— this Antagonist is so close to the Elegiac Protagonist, on so many levels, and yet so distant on others, that we can feel both his despair and irritation. Troubled brotherhood again. The 414 Antagonist is also, we can intuit, someone who might have developed into a writer or artist, but has been held back by circumstances which did not plague the Elegiac Protagonist. Yet, neither he nor the Elegiac Protagonist may know or realize why this may be the case. We find ourselves, as readers, awash in ambiguities— why is intimacy so frustrating, both in its ability to enlighten and its ability to tantalize, between two characters? When a character finds him or herself jumping in and out of another’s consciousness, and then repelled out again, and yet so close (possibly) to revealing the entire truth about the character in question, the dramatic tension, scintillating to watch if “scribed” in the right way, also demonstrates why closeness and intimacy can be so frustrating among the human races. The partial— partial revelations, partial knowledge— is a tease. In 414, the Antagonist is so entirely teased by the Elegiac Protagonist that he attempts every semantic trick in the book to get the visceral reaction he wants— he flatters, insults, cajoles, levels with, laments, compliments sideways and backwards, all with the sense that he is talking with another, more successful, version of himself, which is its own torture chamber for him. Because, as the scene is lit, we never see the Elegiac Protagonist’s reaction, all we know is that he does not feel it is important to interject. He wants the camera to remain closely focused on his Antagonist, knowing (as we know) that this is someone not that different from him, who has been forced to say “I” and not mean it. The Antagonist is articulate and has some depth and some honesty consonance to him. He may or may not also have literary talent. But the lighting effects want his voice to be heard alone in 414. Not just that— by lighting him alone and his rap, we can see how the Inter-Dialogic energy is working from him into the Elegiac Protagonist and back out again, including what in the Protagonist might be repelling him away, without the reciprocating energy from the Protagonist into and out of him being visible as well. That is how the levels of ambiguity frame the drama of 414. It is for the reader to reject closure and figure out some of those dynamics if there is any symmetry between their brain and the poet’s.

Irony and the Elegies

As to what is revealed, in the Elegies, by Inter-Dialogism and Inter-Dialogic interactions— the leap of the consciousness of an individual into another’s consciousness, and then out again— we have seen that all Inter-Dialogic revelations are merely partial. No one can see or reveal anyone else’s brain in totem. But partial revelations are also conduits to revelations of irony— that what is revealed, what emerges on the surface, might be contradicted by something unseen, once the one consciousness is repelled out of the other. A case in point, of irony emerging from Inter-Dialogism in the Elegies, is 420:

The Junior Prom deposited me (and fifteen
others) on the floor of her basement. I could
barely see daylight at the time, and at three in
the morning I began to prowl. I was too scared
to turn on any lights. She emerged like a mermaid
from seaweed. I needed comfort, she enjoyed my
need. We had gone out— she was bitter. The whole
dialogue happened in shadows. No one was hooking
up in the other room, either. You spiteful little princess.

The way the Elegy concludes— “You spiteful little princess”— suggests the emergence of a duality. The heroine/anti-heroine of the poem is, in the context of the poem, a spiteful little princess— yet, if she were only that, if she were a one-dimensional character with no drama built into her consciousness, would she be worth writing about? The same applies to the hero/anti-hero in 261; we know he brings his dare-devil streak to the surface, and that he reacts negatively to the Elegiac Protagonist pulling rank for his status as an artist in Cheltenham; yet the way 261 concludes establishes a kind of parity, so that the Elegiac Protagonist has ways and means of insinuating that there is more to this character than meets the eye. The surface level or layer of the character is then riddled with ironies, and the potentiality of drama, through shocks and surprises. Intuition is a key to these revelations— what Inter-Dialogic interactions reveal to intuition, the hidden depths of another’s consciousness, are what make the figures in the Elegies both compelling and dramatic. The intuition is not just the writer’s, or the Elegiac Protagonist’s; it is something to be held and to function in the consciousness of the reader as well. How the reader reacts to the dramas in the Elegies depends on what intuitively strikes him or her as interesting or provocative. As to what the dire battle is in 420, and whatever else the spiteful little princess might be hiding, the leap can be made also into what the Elegiac Protagonist wants from her here— what kind of comfort, physical or emotional, or both— and back into the position that she has certainly leapt into his brain, seen what she has seen and then been repelled back out again, and then acted accordingly, and spitefully. Does she have reason to be tiny-minded and spiteful? Readers need to act on their hunches and expand their consciousness into this frozen moment, and live out part of the drama between the two brains for themselves. Then, they can begin the labor of establishing who is more spiteful, and tiny-minded.