I’m Not Well—The Voices are Back

I’m Not Well—The Voices are Back January 17, 2015

No, this isn’t about Stephen Herreid. He seems to have gone into writing exile after realizing how much he encouraged my freeloading.

Instead I have something for those who are wondering, after reading yesterday’s post (Beauty, Postmodernism, and Vodka), what Gregory Wolfe is doing to keep artists from starving in garrets.

Besides publishing IMAGE Journal for over 25 years he also recently started the Slant imprint with my personal favorite: Wipf & Stock Publishers.

So far Slant has published Erin McGraw’s Better Food for a Better World, Paula Huston’s A Land Without Sin, and Ryan Blacketter’s Down in the River.

Their latest, Daniel Taylor’s Death Comes for the Deconstructionist, might be their best yet. It has one of the most hilarious and captivating first pages in all of literature.

Forget Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and Percy:

Deconstruction is dead, long live postmodernism!
Deconstruction is dead, long live postmodernism!

Something is wrong.

I’m not well. The voices are back.

I apologize. That’s a bleak way to start. And too confessional. The world doesn’t need another Underground Man or daddy killing poet. Everyone these days is confessing everything, which leaves no space for genuinely confessing anything. Confession requires a standard, an agreed-upon line that has been crossed. It requires “ought” and “I’m sorry” and “Forgive me” and “I will not do that again.” Not for us. We confess and absolve ourselves in the same breath. “I did it. I wouldn’t change anything. It’s who I am.” To quote that great mariner-philosopher Popeye, “I yam what I yam.” Self-absolving confession. How efficient. Cuts out the middleman.

Of course I’m referring to someone you’ve likely never heard of–Popeye. A cartoon character from the 1930’s and beyond. How can I make myself understood, for God’s sake, to people who don’t share the same shards of pop culture that I have shored against my ruins? (Name the poet just alluded to. It’s an easy one).

That’s one heck of a hook! See if he keeps it up.

It also makes for an interesting florilegium when combined with the following poem:

At A Certain Age
by Czeslaw Milosz

Last shall be first. I confess this is the best place to start on Milosz.
Last shall be first. I confess this is the best place to start with Milosz.

We wanted to confess our sins but there were no takers.
White clouds refused to accept them, and the wind
was too busy visiting sea after sea.
We did not succeed in interesting the animals.
Dogs, disappointed, expected an order,
A cat, as always immoral, was falling asleep.
A person seemingly very close
Did not care to hear of things long past.
Conversations with friends over vodka or coffee
Ought not to be prolonged beyond the first sign of boredom.
It would be humiliating to pay by the hour
A man with a diploma, just for listening.
Churches. Perhaps churches. But to confess there what?
That we used to see ourselves as handsome and noble
Yet later in our place an ugly toad
Half-opens its thick eyelid
And one sees clearly: “That’s me.”

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