Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Winner, Poem of the Month, by John F. Walter


Freezing In Phantasmal Light, by John F. Walter

Throw away mousepads, wolfman gone to snow! Blood moon glows
with a crispness not envisioned in virtual risings ever displayed.
Nocturnal light was shunned a century ago, yet the lunatic mood
persists in you. Resist that urge back onto neverland's screens.

When did you last to real window steal? Once upon a frozen fall?
Dim subjects swoop into the room: the mind maps a wife, a child--
their own ghost-boards held in hand, happiness' geiger counters.
La luna llena, te espera.... but a report zooms into upper left corner:

news coming in from an iceberg sighting--LIVE ICEBERG CAM--
as a frigid voice like a slur swings by, no longer language.
She's turned on an ambient strobe, the baby wails on the patio;
time to nosh a midnight nano snack cast rudely on the keys.

No "Tranquility Sea" frees your gaze from this fractal flicker. Choose.
Shall love return, the iceman thaw, or baby take chill in our winter?

This visual poem, with its sweeping horizontal lines, expressive tone and chilling admonitory language, serves up an icy warning to the present age of video voodoo, internet idolatry and the ever-pressing urge toward Virtual. Walter presents, in sonnet form, a one-act play where you are the central figure and the setting is under a blood red moon that glows ‘with a crispness not envisioned in virtual risings ever displayed.’ Up close and personal, the narrator cautions the reader to resist the lunatic mood that wants to replace real light in favor of a transmitted image, on ‘neverland’s screens.’ The poem begins to turn on the question posed in S2, “When did you last to real window steal?” and rhetorically answered, “Once upon a frozen fall?” The icy metaphor is adroitly carried throughout the poem (iceberg sighting, iceberg cam, frigid voice, iceman thaw). We are led into a mini-vision where ‘dim subjects swoop into a room,’ and we imagine a wife, a child, with their happiness toys (ghost-boards, Geiger counters), simulating a world in miniature, focusing and displacing attention away from the present and into a phantom zone of flickering larval images and thoughts... into phantasmal light. And yet, there is still a moon that awaits you, written in Spanish, to reinforce the symbol of pristine beauty. Is the moon, an essential icon of reality in the poem, real; and better, is it lovely? The vision is interrupted with news coming from a remote camera on an iceberg; a ‘frigid voice’ communicates something ‘no longer language.’ Here is the full immersion we’ve been waiting for, the slip past surreal into the non-real, with time pixilated by an ambient strobe… inopportunely and rudely interrupted by a glimpse of reality: the baby cries, get a snack, keep it moving. Inevitably, the poem ties its own knot, as do we. There is no exit from this virtual panacea, no beautiful moon photo of a real sea on a real moon. Not in the simulacra we forge. Interestingly, Walter slips in the nudge, ‘CHOOSE’, as a stand-alone entreaty, dangling, as it were, at the very end of the penultimate line. The message is clear: it’s not too late. But change demands decision. Personally, and outwardly, to a culture ramrodding through a virtual hole in the cosmos. In the stunning couplet to end, there is a fascinating tone shift in the question, “Shall love return?” It turns out what the poet is speaking about refers as much to real love and adulation for real things, as it does in perception or consciousness. A brave new notion for a modern world distracted by the ‘fractal flickers’ of the virtual world.

Here is a quintessential ‘pre-Simulationist’ poem that addresses key notions that engage artists and writers today. Even if we think we live in a Platonic Cave, or feel left for dead by Descartes and his little demon, our common sense experience of the natural world still tells us that this amazing cosmos we take in through the senses and map our way through is infinitely superior to any 'copy' or perfectly realized simulacra we can fabricate, invent or google our way towards. While our imagination has genuine intention (it is always about real people and real things in the world), and even when we choose to mediate with symbol, word, icon, or even a 3D virtually rendering between our consciousnesses and that cosmic awareness, we never match or even awkwardly approach the Real. On the other hand, the poem seems to indicate, we more easily fall into serious dysfunctional delusion. A clever semblance, perhaps, but still virtual and fabricated. Do we want an Absolute Fake of a moon that we can grasp with phantom tentacles, or a real moon that we can contemplate in the sky, land upon, and dream our way toward the stars from? Can we hold the moon and its double in our gaze at the same time, and if so, do we remember to love all the ones under the sublunar reflection it returns? And does the apprehension of real things affect our art, our understanding, and our appreciation for the world around us? -EDN

Brief Bio
John Walter is a U.S. citizen writing in beautiful Granada, Spain, where he splits his time with his theatre productions in LA and wandering the subterranean mazes below Granada finding fodder for his novel on Al Qaeda and Sufi mysticism (ANNIHILATION). He is an accomplished poet working on his first book of poems, a noted playwright with plays produced off-Broadway, SOHO, SF and often in LA. Walter co-founded the ‘pre-Simulationist Movement,’ (along with the author of this article and several other artists/writers), an artist’s movement that is finding new ways to surpass the exhausted postmodern epoch and its errant constructions of language and thought.



  1. Ed, many thanks for alerting me to this link. Walter's poem is intriguing. I'll need to study it further to make an intelligent comment, but on the sensual level the music is hypnotic and the usage is fresh.

    Diana Manister

  2. Thank you Walter and Ed for your introduction to pre-Simulationist poetry. The work of your group packs an amazing number of ideas into a small space.

    This work is not for beginners, but I think I understand, on a visceral level, your frequent juxtaposition of the technological and natural worlds. You are accurately, often fighteningly, capturing the conflicts inherent in modern life.(That comment applies to you as well, Ed).

    Instead of packing the ten thousand things into my life, I opt to simplify, looking to the Tao and to emptiness.

  3. Your writing has a throb to it, John. It's liquid and it pulses. There's juice. Electric. Alive. Probing, seeking, trying to understand, find solace. Can the moon do all this?

    What I read, and it's my bias, is something I myself can become by spending too much time stuck in my books with my words. Or another might get trapped in working long hours in a sterile office building. We all get so immersed in our activities we forget to go to the window and look at its brilliant white magic.

    For me, then, it's not so much the fractal flickers on the screen that pose the real threat but the addiction to it to the exclusion of immersion in nature, laughter, love, the sensuality of living.

    Your words come as a brilliantly composed reminder of intimacy, connection, the communion of self and spirit and each other.

    I love the wolfman and the blood moon and the window and the wife and child and the icebergs and the criss-crossing of Keatsian sensibility with jazz zombie riffing. Geiger counters and ambient strobes and nano snacks, a true trove of literary tropes making a rich poem of many treasures.

    Can't say I've enjoyed reading anything as much as this piece in quite awhile.

  4. Thank you Brenda, Ann, and Diane. Brenda, reading comments like yours is one of the reasons I know that we are going the right way through the probabilistic cloud with our pre-Sim movement, even if we can never tell true north, or if our cat is alive or dead, or if our brain is in a vat, or if the prayers that saved my life came from a God who cried real tears like a child when he lost his favorite marble, the earth, in the cracks between the stars.

    Brilliant analysis of this poem, Edward, that not only elucidates this poem but illuminates several key themes and issues interrogated by the pre-Simulationist movement we co-founded together. To tell the truth, you've shed light on my imagery from a different standpoint from mine that gives me a perspective on my own intention, and I humbly thank you for this pellucid insight, particularly in the way the poem is in a sense an absurdist one scene play--Beckettian in its observation, though certainly far from those heights in its execution-- that loops and loops unless one does indeed 'choose.' I couldn't have asked for a more relevant, gripping and astute short critical commentary on this poem. I am honored to be have been selected as a guest on your blog.

    The short bio is super. Major kudos for a superb presentation. I don't think I've ever been better presented.

  5. I deeply appreciate the wise words here of John Walters and have a deep respect for his intelligence and poetry. I also greatly appreciate Ed's explanation of the poem in all its beauty and content. My first impression was the magnificient imagery here(the moon, the bedroom, the child) and I was reminded of Plato's cave; secondly the crafty imaging of reality in contemporary times and the lure of living in the shadows that seeks to imitate but never completely fulfills. This poem harkens a profound message. Thanks.

  6. Ooh, a new Blog to bookmark...first time visitor long time fan. :)

    -Leah G.

  7. John,

    Your work continues to move and inspire me. Thank you, Leah

    P.S. Sorry if I recently scared you about moving back to the US--we'll take you back with open arms. :)


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