[In Which The Onion Reckons We Would Make a Fine Addition to their Literary Staff]
My dear friends. Gentle readers. My dear gentle readers. I wish to share with you a brightly evocative, yet dimly translucent piece of wordcraft. I would that your day, evening, afternoon be illuminated with the delicate ecstasy attending such treatment of mankind’s custom of lexical expression.
It has been my pleasure, in the last years, to cultivate an interest in emerging poets. I have travelled far through Tibet, the Steppes of Central Asia, and New Zealand searching for these artists, these lyricists, these oracles and sibyls. But, as with many journeys, it was upon my return that I found the treasure I sought. Just outside my front door, as it were, in Indiana.
This tiny gem of idyllic refinement encapsulates the ardent and inconsolable yearning for that shining certainty beyond death, the loneliness thereof, those thin piping notes that strike the air with shrill clarity. With Pan, this poem floats in illusory consciousness above the groves of the sea.
In anatomy, the poem is, essentially and empirically, a historical Japanese form. It is a traditional haiku in rhythm and in its preference of a primeval burden of intent. In a scintillating moment of Delphic clarity, the poet also chooses to marry this Japanese form with the Western poetic conception of syzygy.
Syzygy’s significance extends far beyond its popular conception as “a good way to use a z and several y’s in Scrabble.” In fact, it is a long-standing poetic device. In definition, it simply means “a yoking” in Greek. It is used as a trade word for astronomy to mean “an alignment of three celestial objects, as the sun, the earth, and either the moon or a planet.” Also, to biologists, it means “the aggregation in a mass of certain protozoans [are we sure we don’t mean protozoa?], especially when occurring before sexual reproduction.” To be crude about it, you could say that when you get married, you are now in the bonds of syzygy! In poetry, however, it simply means a yoking of sounds, concepts, or images.
This yoking, as employed within the traditional Eastern framework, echoes Western poetic conventions. Rather than wrench his words into a jingling tangle of chiming rhymes, the poet attends to the reader’s ear by alliterating the greater part of the first line. Not only so, but he has elected to use words bearing syntactical and semantic similarity to each other, though each remains distinct and widens the swath of his discourse. As the day is wild and wintry, and the mountain windswept, there is alliteration with a touch of dental consonants. In fact, as n, d, and t are each dental consonants, the combinations thereof constitute further syzygetical combinations.
But even were one to leave the bonds of syzygy aside momentarily, the fact remains that the structure and weight of the individual words reveal in their shape and in themselves the poem’s essence. Such framework inherently reveals its own meaning. In cases like this, it becomes necessary to lay aside the quotidian, workaday meaning of words and allow the exigency of each eremitical word to wander through the layers of consciousness; a wild mountain man trekking through the deeps of the soul. Each word must be examined not alone, singly. These masterful words are not widowed, not bereft. They are slung together, chained. They are pulling the oars of the trireme of thought with but a single intent.
Other pens may be distracted by such evocative language, and drawn into the trap of evaluating the narrator’s experience – or worse, attempting to evaluate the extent to which the poet and the narrator are one and the same. But this distinction tends to distract from the truth by paring down the significance until it applies to a single individual. A more appropriate reading takes into account the final line and its allusion to all of creation.
Cunningly, at the last the author has compressed a wealth of imagery into a mere two words depicting an indeterminate number of figures. These recondite creatures, mountain-climbers oft seen on mountaintops by philosophers, are partners of sacrifice and prophecy. They are the heroes of the Aesopian play of Three, clambering carefully but confidently where they will no matter what trolls lurk beneath the Bridge of Consciousness in the abyss of the id’s darkness. They are the tragicomipastoral archetypes of brotherhood, their presence in the work eliciting a cathartic response to man’s place in the world: his experience of metaphysical reality via the corporeal plane; his aspiration to godhood often trampled in the mire of asininity; his undeniable bond to all of creation providing fodder for rumination and introspection.
The question may be raised as to the societal or political ends which might be furthered by this poetic effort. Though no philosophy which is worthy of the name can be pursued solely to justify a particular political end, the extant meaning bound up within it could easily buttress more cerebral arguments. In the words of Alex Ross, this opus is something of a “utopian attempt to synthesize pre- and post-industrial cultures”; as Elizabeth Crist would have it, it joins the “rural peasants, and the urban proletariat.” Ross notes that “when…divorced from its political context, it devolves into a simplistic essay in musical exoticism.”
This simple pastoral nature is reflected, mirrored and cast back by the idyllic subject matter, drawn from the gentle lives of those nearest Earth. Reaching back, far beyond the bounds of Western Civilization, back to a time of hills and valleys untrammelled by the excoriating scour of mankind. In this mirror, casting its arcane and esoteric image forward to a jaded and disillusioned age, comes a hallowed glimpse of temples, holy smoke of sacrifice and divination at the shrine of an Apollonian seer. To sterile, sanitary, stainless steel modernity, this heather scented fantasia evokes ancient wisdom anew.
Bearing that in mind, we invite you to inhale deeply this draught of verity. Steel yourselves, for it is dense with delight.
One wild wintry day
Upon a windy mountain high
I view certain goats.
[Please note that the preceding text is meant to be taken in the lightest-hearted of ways. Any misused words, curious glosses, or outright contradictions are intentional. Much love, The Borg.]