Of Blogging and Poetry

Now that I’ve been blogging for a few months, I have some opinions about it. I’m grateful that Star recruited me to do this. I’m glad to have more of my writing out where people can see it. But I’m not entirely happy with how this is going. The initial concept was that this would be paying work—if I got enough hits. I probably won’t. Serious writing about things religious does not attract a mass audience, unlike action thrillers and other children’s literature.

Q: How should one score the soundtrack for an action thriller?

A: With sax and violins.

I do not write in terms of what will be popular. I never have. My friend Floyd Salas once said to me, “Aidan, you’re a poet’s poet, but you’ll never be popular.” True. I regard the writing of poetry to be experiments in epistemology, not entertainment. I know I’m a very good poet. There’s no point to engaging in either hyperbole or false modesty. I published a traditional “slim volume of verse” back in 1975 and gave most of the copies away to friends. One went to the late Robert Anton Wilson, who said to me, “Aidan, I read poems hoping to occasionally run across a line that makes me say, ‘Far effing out!” You’ve got six per page. At least.”  Another went to Sir Fred Hoyle, who was one of my teenage heroes. Working for Scientific American Books, I got to edit six of his books and become friends with him. He graciously wrote one of the letters of recommendation that got me admitted to the Graduate Theological Union and to the graduate division of theUniversityofCalifornia,Berkeley. (The other two I needed were written by John Archibald Wheeler and James Schevill.). In it, Hoyle said that he considered me a major poet but that I have trouble blowing my own horn. I guess I’m willing to believe them.

Another hope about this blogging has been that it might improve sales of my books. As far as I can tell, it hasn’t. I think it was worthwhile to document how I and my friends created the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn, but I don’t expect that to be of much interest to the current generation of Witches, many of whom seem never to have heard of Gerald Gardner. I’m also glad that some people can now read my Goddess Murder novel, which had been growing for about 40 years and incorporates serious research and audacious speculation about Christianity, Gnosticism, and Witches.

I used to think I had not written much in the way of poetry, but when it occurred to me to count, I discovered that my volume of collected poetry contains more poems than are in the Collected Poetry of W.B. Yeats, also one of my heroes. That’s because I craft poems carefully, as he did. I have friends who pour out hundreds of poems as a stream of consciousness, but I cannot do that. Of course, after 50 years of practice, I can sometimes write a poem that comes out on the first draft in quatrains with perfect scansion and rhymes, but I then know it had been percolating the Deep Mind for quite a while.

I had thought up Theodyssies and Paradoxologies as the title for such a book years ago, long before I decided to go for it. I think that title tells a lot about me. The first word is a pun on “theodicy,” the theory of divine justice, but as it is spelled, it would mean “journeys in search of the divine,” which has been a major project since 1955. The other word is what Lewis Carroll called a portmanteau. A “paradox” is a concept or an event that seems self-contradictory, implausible, yet there it is. A “doxology” is a hymn that sings of the central beliefs of a religion. A paradoxology would then be the sort of hymn an agnostic must sing in those moments when one must sing, despite not knowing who or what one is singing to. Not all of my poems depend on coined words like that, although my “History” poem certainly does. Its full title is:

“History,” or Shiny Pieces Found in the Ruens of a Mythology (A Catechlysm in Dialectical Sonata Form, Which Suite Accompanies a Miracle Play): Exploration of an Inscape by Meditation on the Tarot.

(That title is based on the White Knight’s explanation to Alice of the meaning of names.)  It is in 22 sections, of course, and is certainly one of my best achievements. Maybe I’ll include it on this blog. I’m thinking about that.

The actual difficulty with this blogging is that, since it makes no money, it has only the priority number appropriate for a hobby. As I write, my conscience bothers me that I’m not doing more (when I can find more) to earn money to support my family a little further away from the edge of the cliff. We’re in no danger, merely thoroughly inconvenienced. Christmas is a hard time of year. That’s why Twelve Step groups have marathon meetings on major holidays. That cuts back on the number of suicides.

I will continue to work on the sequel to Goddess Murder. It will be called (I think) A Different History of Mary. I’m also working on my general history of the Craft in the US and Canada up to about 1995. It will be called A Tapestry of Witches. I’m 72 and in good health. I think I have a good chance of being around long enough to finish all that and maybe more. I hope to be around to see my 10-year-old Bella, my Baby Bear, get married—if that’s what she chooses to do.

And why do I write so much about Jesus and Catholicism and all that on here? Because if Jesus was married to Mary, and she rather than Peter was his true successor, then a faith focused on a joyous married couple would make much more sense to Witches, who focus on the God and the Goddess of the Craft or on other Divine Couples, such as Shiva and Shakti. All that will need a new foundation myth. I’m working on that.

 

  • Roi de Guerre

    With your permission (or rather your forgiveness, since I’m going to do it anyway) I’d like to take you to task on some of your comments.

    “…I don’t expect that to be of much interest to the current generation of Witches…”

    Excuse me, but when I grow up I wanna be a Witch please. As someone who only began studying witchcraft a little over a year ago (yeah, did the year and a day, it felt good) and as someone who is decades away from the “Teen Witch” days, your blog entries describing your experiences and the history of the craft in the western world have been the Rosetta Stone for me. Finally there was a place and a person who could make sense of all the references, cross-references, drama, dysfunction, and progress of the modern witchcraft movement. That you can deliver this in understandable, empathetic tones is pure bonus for me; your constant reader.

    Yeah, it’s of interest. I frankly can’t get enough of that stuff.

    I teach that the path to wisdom begins with knowledge. Adding experience will produce understanding. The application of understanding creates empathy, and the liberal use of empathy produces wisdom. What I find on your blog is concentrated wisdom. Thany you for sharing.

    “…that it might improve sales of my books.”

    Oh! You write books too? How cool is that? And how exactly would I know? I’ve only just met you, and only on your blog. With every blog entry I get to know you a little better, and I feel that I am the better for it.

    Hell’s Belles! Please please write an entry about each one of your books. Introduce them to me (your ever-revisiting reader) like you introduced the people that you have written about.

    Make them e-books and we’ve got a deal.

    “… this would be paying work…”

    Ye-ah! I like so totally get that! Seriously though I’d eagerly pay a subscription for the things you write (see “wisdom” above).

    And frankly speaking, where’s the “donate” button on this site? Even if you decide not to charge a subscription, at least give me the chance to slip you some skin now and then.

    As a new witch who’s buried so deeply in the broom closet that if there’s a tiny attic door, hidden behind dusty old crates, inside a locked closet with a sign on the front reading “beware of rabid jaguar”; that’s where you’d find me, I can testify to the paucity of deeply educational blog postings. Not to offend anyone as I quite like postings about music, rituals, and current events. The depth of your postings set your blog apart, they give a glimpse into the world that’s available.

    So thanks! and please keep it up. The rest we can surely work out.

    Your steady reader,

    Roi

    • aidanakelly

      I thank all three of you with great gratitude. It does help to know that some people value my work. I intend to keep on blogging. I believe I have marching orders from my Higher power to share what I’ve learned. This blog was more an explanation of why I don’t post something every day.
      There’s a (perhaps apocryphal) story that once a young fan talking at Theodore Sturgeon said, “You know, Ted, that 90 percent of science fiction is crap.”
      Sturgeon replied, “Ninety percent of everything is crap.”
      That is now known as “Sturgeon’s Law,” right up there with Murphy’s Law. It applies twice over to all things religious. My intent is to contribute to that remaining one percent. I know that will not be universally appreciated. As Eliot said, human beings really can’t stand much truth.
      David Johnson, who is a Jesuit and the cousin of Dick Johnson, my late officemate at Scientific American Books, one day commented to our seminar on the Mandaeans (or something equally arcane), which consisted of the five of us who were chowing down as his guests at the steam table in the Jesuit mother house, that on any subject, but especially religion, there will be a thousand books in the libraries. Of those, only a hundred are still worth reading at all, ten are the best of them, and one is the best of all (in this case, Lady Drower). In it there is one chapter that summarizes almost everything you need to know in order to have a truly well-informed professional opinion on that subject. The job of a graduate mentor, he said, is to tell you where that chapter is, because you have limited research time to accomplish anything new.
      The plight of the amateur scholar is that he may read 500 of those books, miss most of the important, never find any of the ten, and think he is well-informed. He will then be highly indignant if someone who gets paid for being a scholar points out that he actually knows so little that the experts on the subject can only pat him on the head and advise him to take some courses in order to find out where the ballpark is.
      Sometimes I have tried to explain to such a person what the well-informed opinion actually is. Usually what I then get is an argument about why he is right, and I can respond only with some form of, “No, you’re not.”
      He may then respond with something like, “If you think you know so much, explain to me why I’m wrong.”
      I then have to explain that I’ve learned over the years that trying to educate people for free, especially people who want to argue, is futile, A person who is not in any way paying tuition almost never knows that he is supposed to be learning anything new. I have too little time left to waste it in that way.
      I have some ideas based upon experimental evidence about how these considerations apply to training new Witches in covens–but they are quite politically incorrect.

  • gaddy

    I’ve really enjoyed your “history of The Craft” posts and I’d surely buy that book if/when it is published (as I did your “Hippy Commie Beatnik Witches” book -I loved it! ) and I will be studying your analysis of the Rites of Eleusis for a long, long time.

    I’ve found your writings on recovery from substance abuse to be very inspirational; and I’ve even enjoyed your Christianity posts, although that’s not my cuppa tea at all.

    I Thank you for sharing your insights and ideas with us, I’m truly sorry that the experience didn’t live up to your expectations. My experience has been that the internet very rarely does. Ah well!

    Best of luck in your future endeavors!

  • Merri-Todd Webster

    I understand if you feel you can no longer continue to blog, but I will miss you. In any case, your blogging *has* introduced me to books I didn’t know you had written; I bought Goddess Murder and your NROOGD book for my Kindle, and I’m still working my way through your collected poetry. I definitely consider you one of the very few genuine poets I’ve seen in the whole Neopagan movement. I hope you can continue blogging, but if not, I’ll be keeping an eye out for new books. A blessed Solstice to you, Aidan.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chkraemer13 Christine Hoff Kraemer

    Aidan, I’ve been sending you e-mails, but I’m beginning to suspect I may not have current contact information for you. Please get in touch. ckraemer at patheos dot com.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chkraemer13 Christine Hoff Kraemer

      I’ve sent a few e-mails to the address you replied from, so I hope they’ve all gotten through! If you don’t see them, check your spam box.

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  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    I certainly know what you mean…having my (non-Patheos) blog has meant that I’ve sold some books, more than I would have without the blog, but nonetheless it’s not many, and certainly not enough to even pay the bills for one month every six months, much less month-in, month-out…

    If my private blog were on Patheos.com, I might generate enough hits to get paid a little; but, I’d also not be able to talk about everything that I do on there with as much freedom as I do. My column here at Patheos doesn’t generate that many hits–certainly not enough to be a paying gig of any description. (And, they don’t even give out Amazon gift cards around Christmas any longer to their writers, at least that I know of…)

    But, I do find your posts interesting and worthwhile, even though I have little to no investment in the forms of modern paganism whose histories you’re recounting. Still, it’s good to know about things and to be curious about them, and so what you write is very useful in providing that information for people.

    And, someday, we must see about having a beverage and discussing the disgraceful state of academia, whether more in your neighborhood, or more toward mine…! ;)


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