Trish: Neo-Romanticism

Trish: A Romance manifests an interesting chiasmus between Romanticism and feminism. The Romantic poets, as a gestalt whole (including their work), were not feminists; yet what we gleaned from their endeavor informed the reality of Aughts Philadelphia to a pronounced enough extent that, as we immersed ourselves in transcendental realities, we often turned to them for inspiration. Or, at least Trish and I did. As to what constitutes Romanticism for a creative woman, what I call a Creatrix: it is not merely the development of subjectivity/individuality, the pursuit of a distinct, irreplaceable “I”; nor is it merely the development of imagination and sensibility. Romanticism here has to do with being willing to live a certain kind of life, walk a certain kind of walk. You have to burn, as an individual, both towards creation and towards a kind of intense engagement with the world around you; and the richness of different forms and manners of experience must be the kind of richness you cultivate. It is not necessarily an anti-materialistic impulse; sex and art can both be materialistic; but it is an impulse towards living a day-to-day reality impinged upon by idealism, the pursuit of formal beauty and knowledge of forms, and the sense that “dryness,” mere academicism or didacticism, is accursed, in art as in life. Romanticism is promiscuously engaged with living on as many levels as an individual falling under its aegis possibly can. So that, at the end of Trish, when I reach a moment of truth or gist-point, it is to sum up both Trish as a woman and Trish as an ideal, who in herself stands for the entire endeavor of Aughts Philadelphia art, and the questing spirit on all levels which lead us to walk the tightropes we were willing to walk and to create from a place which embodied not only rigor bur risk:

Is it only because I can still sit
here, writing these lines, that our
escapades still seem like good ideas?
If we did end up corpses, who would
be the wiser? On this account, I
have no solid answers. I can only
say that for some reason, some humans
need the charm, the sparkle, the electricity
of romance, and will put their lives
on the line to attain it. So it was for
us. Those that are kith and kin to us
will understand. Those that aren’t may
choose to laugh at our foolishness. But
it must be dry, accursed laughter to us.

What this last sonnet offers, in miniaturized form, is a coherent, cohesive value system, a moral/ethical code around the pursuit of the aesthetic, which is disciplined towards Romanticism, both the nineteenth century aegis/movement, and the mere, not capitalized pursuit of romance. That this is both moral and didactic constitutes an irony, because this value system seems to manifest the morality of amorality and the ethics of chaos. Yet the lessons of Romanticism have to do largely with taking standardized moral and ethical norms and replacing them with equivalents for those who wish to create on high levels. In the variegated world Romanticism offers, and as we chose to take it, as post-Romantics or Neo-Romantics, the biggest failure is not, as Walter Pater would say, to form habits; to form the habit of risking your life for your work or art is actually a good idea here; the failure is to not heed the siren call of an existence supercharged by all forms of engagement with the world; to retreat into self, dull, dry, non-transcendental frigidity. Romanticism or Neo-Romanticism risks, always (also) the accusation of Peter Pan-ism in its participants; that the siren call is, in fact, a lure towards immaturity and infantile narcissism. The point must be taken that this is often the case. However, some of us in Aughts Philadelphia, the Neo-Romantic faction of Aughts Philadelphia Renaissance creativity, felt that the risks of what conventionally constitutes maturity— moderation against sensual excesses, abstention from non-sanctioned scenes and art-circuits, belief in the durability of precise routines— were too great, and that the road of excess, from 4325 Baltimore Avenue on out, was rather a safer one for us to travel on than the straight and narrow. If Romanticism has been made parochial by the Academy, we wanted to redeem it by putting it where it belongs— in the streets and the beds where its vagaries may be profitably relived. That it is at the heart of the Neo-Romantic endeavor, as I see it— the recuperation of Romantic idealism from the torpor of parochial systems back into the heart of darkness and light which is all the carnality, Dionysian wildness, and systematic dedication to romance we see in Trish. From the classroom back between the sheets.