MAKE JOHN CROWE RANSOM GREAT AGAIN

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Helen Vendler’s review of Ben Mazer’s The Collected Poems of John Crowe Ransom (Un-Gyve Press, 2015) in the New York Review of Books last year did not start a Ransom revival. Our nation’s humiliated pundit class has been preoccupied with other issues recently.

When clothes come off and barriers come down, it makes us feel uncomfortable. There are walls and then there are walls. Persons and nations. The law attempts to bar and unite at once. You cannot come in here but of course you can. You will show us what you have but yes you can be clandestine.

We all know a point has no density. It was da Vinci who asserted that a point in geometry is like a zero in mathematics—it is a marker which is crucial for taking up no physical space.

We can argue in abstract realms to much understanding and profit, but when it comes to physical spaces, disputation inevitably turns into a war. Physical means a fight. Abstraction is the only chance for peace. As soon as we talk of physical walls, physical barbarians will be there. Look at the unborn child and the fight over that. Things must be born. But things also must not be born.  Private property enrages the anarchist; the middle classes watched in uncomprehending horror—and still do—as anarchist rage exploded in 20th century modern art—a business run mostly by independently wealthy anarchists; vapid, sharp pieces flying in static-crackling, faux-humble, morally ambiguous terror, causing madness and poetry which goes on for too long, either in the air or in the mind, the paper-thin derangement of the 20th century avant-garde, called at one point “Futurism,” by its Italian fascist wing, but going by all kinds of names in its cult-like fervor, in its simultaneously scattered and focused Margaret Sanger rage, reflecting a world (small place!) which lost its wits (was it 1900? 1850? Who knows?)—in what might be called Britain’s Revenge Against America, the slick British Empire, with its singular, secular, modern reach. The Empire’s genocide against the Irish, India, Arabs, Persians, and Africans, the Opium Wars against the Chinese, the tacit support of the Confederacy in the American Civil War, barging gloriously into World War One to kill the Huns, appeasing the Nazis, and finally turning the United States of America into a CIA Deep State image of its self. That lawyer-clever, Ivy League, leafy-quiet Empire. That one. The one run by London. Divide to conquer. Plant bombs secretly and don’t say a word. White Boss Man Workshop subverting and subduing nations for their raw materials. “We shall write National Geographic. You shall be in it.” Write the history. Make the history. The British Empire on which the fake sun never sets.

The 20th century avant-garde began its rise during World War One, and grew along with German and Japanese militarism, haiku prose poetry, primitive painting, hideous Brutalist architecture, and atonal music in the 1920s and 30s.

As this horror successfully rose, these gradually fell: Platonist/Judeo-Christian philosophy, the glories of Greece and Rome, Renaissance art and poetry, Pope and Byron, and everything splendid which had gone before. Poe said poetry belonged to beauty, but the 20th century disagreed.

In a valuable new edition which collects all of John Crowe Ransom’s poems in one place for the first time, the editor Ben Mazer, in his restrained and sage introduction, focuses on self-conscious self-censorship and revision, of a poet’s own work, over time. The poet, in this case, Ransom, the boy from Tennessee who went off to fight in the Great War and study Greek and Latin at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, treats his poems very much as if they were written by somebody else. Ransom never included poems from his first volume, Poems About God, (Holt, 1919) in Selected editions of his poetry, even though Robert Graves asked to reproduce them, and they were full of fascinating lines and themes.

John Crowe Ransom—and we find this out from Mazer’s now definitive edition—also wrote exceptional poems never collected at all. There’s something strangely half-hidden about this placid Southerner, hyper-explaining essayist, enterprising editor, and slightly mad, gifted poet.

Ransom’s poems are not formalist in a boring way—erratic at times, but even when they are not great, they are beautiful and creepy:

The swimmer’s body is white and clean,
It is washed by a water of deepest green
The color of leaves in a starlight scene,
And it is as white as the stars between.

(from the first poem in Ransom’s first book, “The Swimmer”)

John Crowe Ransom, in his highbrow formalism, overall learning and philosophical acumen, the central place as essayist, theorist, editor and mentor of Modernism in the American mode, the leader of Middle America Modernism—not only as a New Critic, not only as one of the academic leaders of the Creative Writing Program movement, but as poet, editor, philosopher, essayist—is as vital as Pound, (and more accessible and philosophically rigorous); and it is high time, not just for the sake of American Letters, but all Letters, that we, as literary and practical Americans, end the neglect of John Crowe Ransom.

But before we resurrect Ransom, there’s something we need to get out of the way. It has to do with tribal politics—which the British Empire has always exploited and gloried in, on the way to its phenomenal divide-and-conquer success.

In “Under the Locusts,” the 14th poem of Ransom’s first book—published when the highly respected Ransom, a World War One veteran, a school teacher, professor, a Rhodes Scholar with a Masters degree from Oxford University, was 31 years old—we have this stanza

Grinny Bob is out again
Begging for a dime;
Niggers haven’t any souls,
Grinning all the time.

Perhaps this passage is why John Crowe Ransom, despite being the most important and influential poet/critic in 20th century American Letters, a Bollingen poetry prize winner in 1951 (the same controversial prize Pound won when he escaped hanging for treason), founding editor of the Kenyon Review, mentor to Jarrell and Lowell, the intellectual leader of New Criticism, author of iconic poems and essays which define Modernism better than any other—has been neglected and nearly forgotten.

Controversy has certainly not covered up Pound—who has many admirers.

“Blue Girls” by Ransom may be the only truly perfect poem in existence. (Mazer’s edition gives the two distinct versions, the 1924 original, and the great revised one from Ransom’s 1945 Selected.) Pound never wrote anything as good.

But to return to Ransom’s embarrassing stanza:

Robert Graves—editing and reprinting Ransom’s Poems About God as Grace After Meat in 1923—did not reprint all the poems in Poems About God, in Grace After Meat. Ransom sent a revised and partial copy of his first book to Graves, including “Under the Locusts.” Graves chose to reprint “Under the Locusts.” Ransom, having made a number of subtle changes to the poem, kept the “nigger” stanza intact, except for one slight alteration of the punctuation.

Grinny Bob is out again,
Begging for a dime;
Niggers haven’t any souls,
Grinning all the time.

According to Ransom’s New Criticism idea, one shouldn’t or (cannot?) read poetry when one is bothering with the intent or the milieu of the author.  This prohibition certainly becomes stretched when looking at this stanza. Perhaps the poem does not reflect the poet’s feelings, but that of the “old men” in the poem. Then, perhaps, the New Criticism (and true poetry) triumphs and Ransom is off the hook? Here’s the poem in full:

What do the old men say,
Sitting out of the sun?
Many strange and common things,
And so would any one.

Locusts are sweet in spring
For trees so old and tough;
Locust trees give sorry shade,
Hardly good enough.

Dick’s a sturdy little lad
Yonder throwing stones;
Agues and rheumatic pains
Will fiddle on his bones.

Grinny Bob is out again,
Begging for a dime;
Niggers haven’t any souls,
Grinning all the time.

Jenny and Will go arm in arm,
He’s a lucky fellow;
Jenny’s cheeks are pink as rose,
Her mother’s cheeks are yellow.

War is on, the paper says,
Wounds and enemies:
Now young gallivanting bucks
Will know what trouble is.

Parson’s coming up the hill,
Meaning mighty well;
Thinks he’s preached the doubters down,
And why should old men tell?

(Grace After Meat, 1923)

Auden said of Yeats, “Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.” The same could be said of Ransom, whose poetry often matches Yeats for poignancy and beauty: the mad American South hurt Ransom into poetry. But this is a cynical view—though most love that Auden quote. Ireland isn’t mad. America isn’t mad. The British Empire is mad. Or, we’re all mad.

Ransom and the Tennessean New Critics, before they assumed the New Critic name and mantle, defended, in 1930, the pre-Civil War, agrarian, American South in their prose anthology I’ll Take My Stand.

Later, in 1937, the evolving Fugitives—the Fugitive was Ransom’s poetry club and small magazine when he was a student at Vanderbilt—as they were turning into the New Critics—championed Pound’s haiku prose modernism in their text book Understanding Poetry. 

Brooks and Warren were the New Critic editors of the influential text; the two writers were close associates of Ransom, and we’ll never know precisely how Ransom felt about their book—which, trying to look forward, perhaps, not only praised the crackpot Pound in its pages, but outright condemned the Southern formalist Poe (obviously an influence on the poet, Ransom), copying an attack by the English critic Aldous Huxley—who ridicules at some length the rhythmic magic of “Ulalume.”

This was the same decade—the 1930s—which saw Pound’s friend T.S. Eliot give his speech against Jews at the University of Virginia. After Eliot intervened to help his friend Pound in 1945, he would attack Poe in “From Poe to Valery” in 1949. Ransom’s reputation as a poet—no doubt given a boost by his Bollingen win in 1951, (and it was every poet’s desire to be published in Ransom’s Kenyon Review during the 1950s—it was practically Plath’s highest dream)—nevertheless continued to fall: either his poetry was too similar to Poe’s, or the newer, more progressive, post-1945, Modernists couldn’t face down “Under the Locusts.”

The New Critics generally revised their reactionary views, like many Modernists, after the Nazis were soundly defeated in 1945.

The Agrarians quixotically played into the hands of the old British Empire.

Ransom and the Agrarians, in their love of the bucolic, explicitly decried American industrial capitalism—the one thing which allowed the U.S  to be strong, independent, and free of the British Empire.

The reactionary politics, and the “Empire” context we are putting it in, is not meant to be definitive, and can be seen as insidious, but just as easily it can be seen as quaint; Ransom was complex, and smarter than his fellow New Critics; over the symbolic mural of both politics and modernism, social and theoretical, Ransom was subtle, sage, and adept, equally facile at discussing religion or the impressionistic poetry of Wallace Stevens.

It would be unfair to see Ransom as only a “Southern” writer, as Poe is often cheaply and unfairly characterized. Critics too quick to make geography in literature paramount betray themselves as the most shallow kind.

Ben Mazer wisely avoids all controversial speculation; like the good scholar he is, Mazer sticks to the facts before him, and provides a bountiful treasure of a book in his Collected Ransom, replete with wonderful appendixes.

Speaking of Wallace Stevens (d. 1955), whose fame rose as Ransom’s fizzled, (Helen Vendler held aloft the Stevens torch; nothing equivalent was done for Ransom), there is a poem in Ransom’s second collection (Chills and Fever, 1924) which bears comparison to Stevens’ well-known “Peter Quince,” published in Stevens’ first collection, Harmonium, in 1923.

“Peter Quince” debuted in Alfred Kreymborg’s Others magazine in 1915; not a free-verse poem, as it should have been, in those early revolutionary days, but it passed muster with Pound and Williams’ Kreymborg’s clique, evidently, because of its risqué sexual nature. Stevens was never a popular poet—too abstract and professorial, the “lecture” often spoiling the music; Stevens never quite succeeded the way Frost did, in being “wise” in a relaxed, “contemporary” manner, and, exactly like Ransom, there was in Stevens’ poetry often that hint of the old-fashioned, which condemns the poet to artificially-clever-and-imitative purgatory—even if the beauty of the poems slaughters the meager prose rantings of everyone else. After the passage of much time, we realize: this isn’t old-fashioned, it’s good. The poetry becomes safe to like. This should happen to Ransom—at least, if not more, interesting than his contemporaries.

John Crowe Ransom’s “Judith of Bethulia” owns passages which remind one of “Peter Quince,” and in its precise stanzaic structure, lacks the trembling, insouciant, and exquisite music Stevens brings—and yet, Ransom’s poem has a more focused, coherent, and haunting narrative. Ransom, unlike Stevens, provides no lesson on “beauty;” instead Ransom’s “Bethulia” is immersed in a number of factual things, of which beautiful pathos is the unspoken and shimmering crown.

Judith of Bethulia

Beautiful as the flying legend of some leopard
She had not yet chosen her great captain or prince
Depositary to her flesh, and our defense;
And a wandering beauty is a blade out of its scabbard.
You know how dangerous, gentlemen of threescore?
May you know it yet ten more.

Nor by process of veiling she grew the less fabulous.
Grey or blue veils, we were desperate to study
The invisible emanations of her white body,
And the winds at her ordered raiment were ominous.
Might she walk in the market, sit in the council of soldiers?
Only of the extreme elders.

But a rare chance was the girl’s then, when the Invader
Trumpeted from the south, rumbled from the north,
Beleagured the city from four quarters of the earth,
Our soldiery too craven and sick to aid her—
Where were the arms could countervail this horde?
Her beauty was the sword.

She sat with the elders, and proved on their bleak visage
How bright was the weapon unrusted in her keeping,
While he lay surfeiting on their harvest heaping,
Wasting the husbandry of their rarest vintage—
And dreaming of the broad-breasted dames for concubine?
These floated on his wine.

He was lapped with bay-leaves, and grass and fumiter weed,
And from under the wine-film encountered his moral vision,
For even within his tent she accomplished his derision;
She loosed one veil and another, standing unafraid;
And he perished. Nor brushed her with even so much as a daisy?
She found his destruction easy.

The heathen are all perished. The victory was furnished,
We smote them hiding in our vineyards, barns, annexes,
And now their white bones clutter the holes of foxes,
And the chieftain’s head, with grinning sockets, and varnished—
Is it hung on the sky with a hideous epitaphy?
No, the woman keeps the trophy.

May God send unto our virtuous lady her prince.
It is stated she went reluctant to that orgy,
Yet a madness fevers our young men, and not the clergy
Nor the elders have turned them unto modesty since.
Inflamed by the thought of her naked beauty with desire?
Yes, and chilled with fear and despair.

For our money, this is better than Pound, and rivals Stevens.  What’s not to love here?

Buy Mazer’s book. Read Ransom’s poetry. And Ransom’s prose, too. Ransom doesn’t just write about New Criticism, or the South.  To begin, we suggest two of Ransom’s great Modernist essays in Garrick Davis’ Praising It New.

If Ransom is to be revived, Ben Mazer, with his wonderful, scholarly, edition of the collected poems, has done something very important.

YES! ANOTHER SCARRIET POETRY HOT 100!!!

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1. Vanessa Place —The High Creator does not create.

2. Kenneth Goldsmith —Death to the “creative” once and for all.

3. Simon Armitage —Best known for 9/11 poem, wins Oxford Poetry Professorship

4. A.E. Stallings —Lost the Oxford. World is still waiting for a good New Formalist poet.

5. John Ashbery —Doesn’t need to be good. Unlike New Formalists, his content and form agree.

6. Marjorie Perloff —Must confront this question: is the “non-creative” nearly racist by default?

7. Ron Silliman —Keeps tabs on the dying. Burned by the Avant Racism scandal.

8. Stephen Burt —Stephanie goes to Harvard.

9. Rita Dove —We asked her about Perloff; she laughed. No intellectual pretense.

10. Claudia Rankine —Social confrontation as life and death.

11. Juan Felipe Herrera —New U.S. Poet Laureate. MFA from Iowa. Farm workers’ son.

12. William Logan —“Shakespeare, Pope, Milton by fifth grade.” In the Times. He’s trying.

13. Patricia Lockwood —“Rape Joke” went Awl viral.

14. Lawrence Ferlinghetti —At 96, last living Beat.

15. Richard Wilbur —At 94, last living Old Formalist.

16. Don Share —Fuddy-duddy or cutting edge? It’s impossible to tell with Poetry.

17. Valerie Macon —Good poet. Hounded from NC Laureate job for lacking creds.

18. Helen Vendler —New book of essays a New Critical tour de force. Besotted with Ashbery and Graham.

19. Cathy Park Hong —Fighting the racist Avant Garde.

20. David Lehman —As the splintering continues, his BAP seems less and less important.

21. Billy Collins —His gentle historical satire is rhetoric nicely fitted to free verse.

22. David Orr —Common sense critic at the Times.

23. Frank Bidart —Student of Lowell and Bishop, worked with James Franco. Drama. Confessionalism.

24. Kevin Coval —Co-editor of Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop.

25. Philip Nikolayev —Globe-trotting translator, editor, poet.

26. Ben Mazer —Neo-Romantic. Has advanced past Hart Crane.

27. Amy KingHates mansplaining. 

28. Sharon Olds —Best living female poet?

29. Louise Gluck —Her stock is quietly rising.

30. Jorie Graham —Her Collected has landed.

31. George Bilgere —If you like Billy Collins…and what’s wrong with that?

32. Garrison Keillor —Is he retiring?

33. Kent Johnson —Is his Prize List so quickly forgotten?

34. David Biespiel —One of the villagers trying to chase Conceptualism out of town.

35. Carol Ann Duffy —The “real” Poet Laureate—she’s Brih-ish.

36. Cate Marvin —Poet who leads the VIDA hordes.

37. Lyn Hejinian —The best Language Poet?

38. Dan ChiassonNew Yorker house critic.

39. Michael Robbins —As with Logan, we vastly prefer the criticism to the poetry.

40. Joe Green —His Selected, The Loneliest Ranger, has been recently published.

41. Harold Bloom —The canonizer.

42. Dana Gioia —The best of New Formalism.

43. Seth Abramson —Meta-Modernism. That dog won’t hunt.

44. Henry Gould —Better at responding than asserting; reflecting the present state of Criticism today.

45. W.S. Merwin —Knew Robert Graves—who recommended mushroom eating (yea, that kind of mushroom) as Oxford Poetry Professor in the 60s.

46. Marilyn Chin —Passionate lyricist of “How I Got That Name.”

47. Anne Carson —“The Glass Essay” is a confessional heartbreak.

48. Terrence Hayes —Already a BAP editor.

49. Timothy Steele —Another New Formalist excellent in theorizing—but too fastidious as a poet.

50. Natasha Trethewey —Was recently U.S. Poet Laureate for two terms.

51. Tony Hoagland —Hasn’t been heard from too much since his tennis poem controversy.

52. Camille Paglia —Aesthetically, she’s too close to Harold Bloom and the New Critics.

53. William Kulik —Kind of the Baudelaire plus Hemingway of American poetry. Interesting, huh?

54. Mary Oliver —Always makes this list, and we always mumble something about “Nature.”

55. Robert Pinsky —He mentored VIDA’s Erin Belieu.

56. Alan Cordle —We will never forget how Foetry.com changed the game.

57. Cole Swensen –A difficult poet’s difficult poet.

58. Charles Bernstein —One day Language Poetry will be seen for what it is: just another clique joking around.

59. Charles Wright —Pulitzer in ’98, Poet Laureate in ’14.

60. Paul Muldoon New Yorker Nights

61. Geoffrey Hill —The very, very difficult school.

62. Derek Walcott —Our time’s Homer?

63. Janet Holmes —Program Era exemplar.

64. Matthew Dickman —The youth get old. Turning 40.

65. Kay Ryan —Are her titles—“A Ball Rolls On A Point”—better than her poems?

66. Laura Kasischke —The aesthetic equivalent of Robert Penn Warren?

67. Nikki Finney —NAACP Image Award

68. Louis Jenkins —His book of poems, Nice Fish, is a play at the American Repertory Theater this winter.

69. Kevin Young —A Stenger Fellow who studied with Brock-Broido and Heaney at Harvard

70. Timothy Donnelly —His Cloud Corporation made a big splash.

71. Heather McHugh —Her 2007 BAP guest editor volume is one of the best.

72. D.A. Powell —Stephen Burt claims he is original and accessible to an extraordinary degree.

73. Eileen Myles —We met her on the now-defunct Blog Harriet Public Form.

74. Richard Howard —Pulitzer-winning essayist, critic, translator and poet

75. Robert Hass —U.S. Poet Laureate in the 90s, a translator of haiku and Milosz.

76. Rae Armantrout —Emily Dickinson of the Avant Garde?

77. Peter Gizzi —His Selected, In Defense of Nothing, came out last year.

78. Fanny Howe —Is it wrong to think everything is sacred? An avant-garde Catholic.

79. Robert Archambeau —His blog is Samizdat. Rhymes with Scarriet.

80. X.J. Kennedy —Keeping the spirit of Frost alive.

81. Robert PolitoPoetry man.

82. David Ferry —Classical poetry translator.

83. Mark Doty —A Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

84. Al Filreis  —Co-founder of PennSound

85. Frederick Seidel —Has been known to rhyme malevolence with benevolence.

86. Sherman Alexie —Is taught in high school. We wonder how many on this list are?

87. Marie Howe —Margaret Atwood selected her first book for a prize.

88. Carol Muske-Dukes —In recent Paris Review interview decried cutting and pasting of “Unoriginal Genius.”

89. Martha Ronk —In the American Hybrid anthology from Norton.

90. Juliana Spahr —Has a PhD from SUNY Buffalo. Hates “capitalism.”

91. Patricia Smith —Four-time winner of the National Poetry Slam.

92. Dean Young —His New & Selected, Bender, was published in 2012.

93. Jennifer Knox —Colloquial and brash.

94. Alicia Ostriker —“When I write a poem, I am crawling into the dark.”

95. Yusef Komunyakaa —Known for his Vietnam poems.

96. Stephen Dunn —His latest work is Lines of Defense: Poems.

97. Thomas Sayer Ellis —Poet and photographer.

98. Carolyn Forche —Lannan Chair in Poetry at Georgetown University.

99. Margaret Atwood —Poet, novelist, and environmental activist.

100. Forrest Gander —The Trace is his latest.

 

 

 

 

 

DRUGS & POETRY

Robert Graves

“There’s nothing classy or poetic about opium. It has the same effect as morphine and heroin. You get relaxed and energetic at the same time. Problems become unimportant. You feel sleepy, but if you go to bed you lie awake. You itch all over. You get constipated. You get hungry, especially for sweets. You get patient and understanding. You get nice…..an opium high can be described in one word: comfortable. It’s weird that people get to where they’ll give up their souls for stuff that just makes them comfortable.”
…………………………………………………………………….Eric Detzer

“Everywhere and at all times, men and women have sought, and duly found, the means of taking a holiday from the reality of their generally dull and often acutely unpleasant existence. A holiday out of space, out of time, in the eternity of sleep or ecstasy, in the heaven or the limbo of visionary fantasy.”
…………………………………………………………………….Aldous Huxley. “A Treatise on Drugs”

“Over the centuries our Hindu philosophers have seen everything come and go. Empires, religions, famines, good times, invasions, reforms, liberators, repressors….and drugs. Drugs are among the most influential and dangerous powers available to humans. They open up glorious and pleasurable chambers in the mind. They give great power. Thus they can seduce the searcher away from the path.”
……………………………………………………………………Sri Krishna Preem

“Why, the slave trade was merciful compared with the opium trade. We did not destroy the bodies of the Africans, for it was our immediate interest to keep them alive; we did not debase their natures, corrupt their minds, nor destroy their souls. But the opium seller slays the body after he has corrupted, degraded and annihilated the moral being of unhappy sinners, While every hour is bringing new victims to a Moloch which knows no satiety, and where the English murderer and Chinese suicide vie with each other in offerings at his shrine.”
……………………..quoted by Karl Marx in an article, Opium or Commerce, Sept 20, 1858

“The Way of Heaven is fairness to all; it does not suffer us to harm others to benefit ourselves. Men are alike in this in all the World; for they cherish life and hate what endangers life. O majesty, control your wicked. O, Majesty, you can order the opium not to be grown, the fields hoed over, and sown instead with the five grains, and thus show the sincerity of your politeness, and humility, so our countries may have peace, together.”
…………………………..Letter of Lin Tse Hsu about the opium trade to Queen Victoria, 1839

“Everything one does in life, even love, occurs in an express train racing toward death. To smoke opium is to get out of the train while it is still moving. It is to concern oneself with something other than life or death.”
…………………………………………………………………….Jean Cocteau

“Oh, jab me with your needle a hundred times and a hundred times I will bless you, Saint Morphine.”
…………………………………………………………………….Jules Verne

“Woe to you, my princess, when I come. I will kiss you quite red and feed you till you are plump. And if you are forward you shall see who is the stronger, a little girl who doesn’t eat enough or a big strong man with cocaine in his body. In my last serious depression I took cocaine again and a small dose lifted me to the heights in a wonderful fashion. I am just now collecting the literature for a song of praise to this magical substance.”
…………………………………………………………………….Sigmund Freud

“If you think dope is for kicks and for thrills, you’re out of your mind….If you think you need stuff to play music or sing, you’re crazy. It can fix you so you can’t play nothing or sing nothing.”
…………………………………………………………………….Billie Holliday

“All excess is ill, but drunkenness is of the worst sort: it spoils health, dismounts the mind, and unmans men; it reveals secrets, is quarrelsome, lascivious, impudent, dangerous, and mad. In fine, he that is drunk is not a man, because he is so long void of reason, that distinguishes a man from a beast.”
…………………………………………………………………….William Penn

“The Times reports that a new study has found that the use of such stimulants and antidepressants as Ritalin has increased dramatically in the past few years, not merely among hyperactive preteens and teens, but now among preschoolers. We’re talking about two-,three, and four-year-olds. Babies! Prozac is also being prescribed….to these tiny tykes!”
…………………………………………………………………….Jim Hightower

“Prohibition, a dismal failure, not only increased law-breaking, but also created a criminal class that turned to gambling, drugs, and prostitution when the 18th Amendment was finally repealed in 1933.”
…………………………………………………………………….George Bruce Woodin

“The drug war is just a U.S. excuse to control our countries.”
……………………………………………Evo Morales (Bolivian Presidential Candidate Aug,2002)

“When we finally decide that drug prohibition has been not more successful than alcohol prohibition, the drug dealers will disappear.”
………………………………………………………….Ron Paul (Republican Congressman Texas)

“No stars were visible in the long night of the opium habit.”
…………………………………………………………………….William Cobbe

“Narcotics in Hollywood is a complete story unto itself, and it finds parallels with the world of stage and music, all of which received unprecedented attention from magazines and newspapers; reading them now, one gets the impression that the world had succumbed to an epidemic of addiction.

“In spite of, or perhaps because of the evidence of misery, corruption and waste, our fascination with opium persists to this day. Stereotype-shattering contradictions such as the ease with which strict Victorians accommodated drug habitués throw into question our notions of pre-twentieth century lives, habits and values and in doing so, help clarify our present-day attitudes towards drugs and drug addiction. And though we may try to shake off the myth of the Morphean slumber and the promise of profound dreams and boundless creativity, it’s doubtful that opium will ever let us”.
…………………………………………………………………….Barbara Hodgson

“We are making these drugs for Satan-Americans and Jews. If we cannot kill them with guns, we will kill them with drugs.”
…………………………………………………………………….Fatwa of Hezbollah

“I remember someone saying if you try heroin once you’ll become hooked. Of course I laughed and scoffed at the idea but I now believe this to be true.”
…………………………………………………………………….Kurt Cobain

“Opium, horrible and blessed connection of pleasure, destroys our organs and senses. The healthy appetite and the bourgeois sensation of feeling good and tired have to be sacrificed. The eyes water, the ears ring. Objects, printed words, people look faded. Sounds and words wander randomly in the tiny mechanisms of the organs of hearing.”
…………………………………………………………………….Gezu Csath

“Intoxication is not unnatural or deviant. Absolute sobriety is not a natural or primary human state.”
………………………………………………………………….Richard Davenport-Hines

“According to one analysis, retail sales of illegal heroin, cocaine, and marijuana generate close to $27 billion, with an unreported illegal income of about $21 billion. Illicit sales of all drugs have been estimated as high as $75 billion. Any way you cut it, that’s big business. Three groups have a vested interest in keeping it that way: Organized crime, terrorists, and drug enforcement agencies all make their living off drugs….”
…………………………………………………………………….Georgette Bennet

“In the roster of pop-culture medical doctors who don’t reflect well on the profession, includes the character of Dr. Henry Jekyll, created by Robert Lewis Stevenson. Jekyll’s self-medication experiments turned him into the sociopathic Mr. Edward Hyde, with fatal side effects. After dreaming the story, Stevenson, despite suffering from tuberculosis, wrote the 60,000-word classic in a six-day, cocaine-fueled frenzy.”
…………………………………………………………………….Erin Barrett & Jack Mingo

“The Incas believed that the Gods presented coca to the people to satisfy their hunger, to provide them with new vigor, and to help them forget their miseries…..It was intimately involved in their religious ceremonies and in the various initiation rites; and that shamans used it to induce a trance-like state in order to commune with the spirits. It was a far too important commodity to be used by the common Indians, and their exposure to coca was very limited before the invasion by Pizarro and his conquistadors.”
…………………………………………………………………….John Mann

“There is always a need for intoxication: China has opium, Islam has hashish, the West has woman.”
………………………………………………………………Andre Malraux, Man’s Fate

“Picture yourself in a boat on a river,
with tangerine trees and marmalade skies…”
………………………………………….John Lennon

“During World War II (1941-45), President Franklin D. Roosevelt legitimized smoking by declaring tobacco an essential wartime crop. Even Army training manuals of the day urged leaders to “smoke and make your troopers smoke.” Gen. Douglas MacArthur himself demanded a better supply of tobacco in the soldier’s daily ration. He ordered that $10 million raised for the war effort “be used to purchase American cigarettes, which, of all personal comforts, are the most difficult to obtain here.”
…………………………………………………………………….Tara Parker-Pope

“a deep dichotomy between reason and irrationality can be seen in the world’s tremendous appetite for alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol is the liberator of the irrational. Caffeine is the stimulator of the rational. It would appear that the human spirit craves both poles and turns to these most familiar of drugs to achieve those ends.”
………………………………………………………………………………...Braun

The Science and love of Alcohol and Caffeine

Thanks be to God, since my leaving drinking of wine, I do find myself much better, and do mind my business better, and do spend less money, and less time lost in idle company.”
…………………………………………………………………….Samuel Pepys

By the early 1960s, though, something bigger was afoot than whether or not LSD was a truth drug. The public was discovering the wonders of the CIA’s brainwashing drugs, and attitudes towards hallucinogens in the United States were shifting.

The shift had resulted partly from the fateful chain of events set in motion in September 1952, when Robert Graves had alerted Gordon Wasson to the existence of teonanacatl, the ‘Flesh of God.’ This stage had culminated in 1957 with the publication of “The Discovery of Mushrooms that Cause Strange Visions” in Life magazine. That year, Graves visited Wasson in New York, and the two men spent an evening listening to a recording of Maria Sabina’s mushroom ceremony. This, wrote Graves, was “the most exciting event” of his stay in the United States.

On 31 January, 1960, the pair listened to the recording again, this time after they had eaten some mushrooms. Graves found the experience revelatory. A week later he wrote to Wasson that “this was not merely a red letter day but a day marked with all the colours of the rainbow.” The mushrooms, he said, had broken down the barriers in his consciousness with the result that “I am now able to see pictures in my mind far more clearly than I did before.” He concluded that the sacred mushrooms should be distributed across Europe and America. “Why reserve these drugs for the mentally sick?” he wrote. “They should be given to the mentally whole. Especially to poets and artists.”

Four months later he indulged again, this time taking synthetic psilocybin tables made by Albert Hofmann at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals. On 8 July, 1960, he reported to his friend William Sargant that the synthetic product did not compare favorably to the real thing. “Don’t be deceived,” he told the psychiatrist. “It has left out the magical principle and sends you to Coney Island not to Eden (like the other).”
…………………………………………………………………….Dominic Streatfeild

I took Peyote in the mountains of Mexico and I had a dose of it that lasted two or three days with the Tarahumara, and at the time those three days seemed like the happiest days of my life.

I had stopped tormenting myself, trying to find a reason for my life, and I had stopped having to carry my body around.

I realized that I was inventing life, that that was my function and rason d’etre, and that I suffered when my imagination failed, and Peyote gave it to me.”

…………………………………………………………………….Antonin Artaud

A note on Peyote.

“Wow, I have learned more in six hours than in the last sixteen years!”
…………………………………………………………Timothy Leary in a letter to Arthur Koestler

“I have been born again. I have just been through a psychiatric experience that has completely changed me. It was horrendous, I had to face things about myself that I never admitted. I was an utter fake, a self-opinionated bore, a know-all who knew very little.”
………………………………………………………………….Cary Grant

“…the young men have a rude health which runs into peccant humours. They drink brandy like water. They chew hasheesh….taste every poison….”
……………………………………………………………Emerson, Essay on English Traits

Why Marijuana?

“It makes you feel good, man. It relaxes you, makes you forget all the bad things that happen to a Negro. It makes you feel wanted, and when you’re with another tea smoker it makes you feel a special sense of kinship.”
…………………………………………………………………….Louis Armstrong

“Which is better: to have Fun with Fungi or to have Idiocy with Ideology, to have Wars because of Words, to have Tomorrow’s Misdeeds out of Yesterday’s Miscreeds?”
…………………………………………………………………….Aldous Huxley

“If alcohol is queen, then tobacco is her consort. It’s a fond companion for all occasions, a loyal friend through fair weather and foul. People smoke to celebrate a happy moment, or to hide a bitter regret. Whether you’re alone or with friends, it’s a joy for all the senses. What lovelier sight is there than that double row of white cigarettes, lined up like soldiers on parade and wrapped in silver paper?….I love to touch the pack in my pocket, open it, savor the feel of the cigarette between my fingers, touch the paper on my lips, the taste of tobacco on my tongue, love to watch the flame spurt up, love to watch it come closer and closer, filling me with its warmth.”
…………………………………………………………………….Luis Bunuel

“Intelligent people discussing interesting things in an intelligible manner. Quite a concept. Steele’s newsletter became Tatler, the first modern magazine; his idea of correspondents and sections provided the prototype for the modern newspaper, the one institution that all agree is essential for a vital democracy (London’s second oldest newspaper is Lloyds News, which began as a bulletin board in Lloyd’s Coffeehouse.) Small wonder that pamphleteers of the time wrote that “coffee and commonwealth came in together…..to make a free and sober nation.” Coffee-houses had made civilized conversation into a popular sport.”
…………………………………………………………………….Stewart Lee Allen

The Devils Cup

“It is disgusting to notice the increase in the quantity of coffee used by my subjects….Many battles have been fought and won by soldiers nourished by beer, and the king does not believe that coffee-drinking soldiers can be relied on.”
…………………………………………………………………….Frederick the Great

“For this sparkling outburst, there is no doubt that honor should be ascribed in part to the great event which created new customs and even modified human temperament-the advent of coffee….which brings forth the sparkle and the sunlight of truth.”
…………………………………………………………………….Michelet

“One need only compare the violent coffee-drinking societies of the West to the peace-loving tea drinker of the Orient to realize the pernicious and malignant effect that bitter brew has upon the human soul.”
…………………………………………………………………….Hindu dietary tract

“When the sweet Poison of the Treacherous Grape
Had acted on the world a general rape…..
Coffee arrives, that grave and wholesome liquor
That heals the stomach and makes the genius quicker.”
…………………………………………………………………….anonymous Puritan (1674)

Aside from sobering up the workplace, coffeehouses gave Brits an alternative to taverns in which to meet and talk. Taverns were not the safest place to discuss politics or religion. Everybody was armed or drunk, usually both, and proprietors sensibly discouraged heated discussions. Coffeehouses, on the other hand, encouraged political debate, which was precisely why King Charles II banned them in 1675 (he withdrew the ban in eleven days).

At breakfast Beethoven drank coffee, which he usually prepared himself in a percolator. Coffee seems to have been the nourishment with which he could least dispense and in his procedure with regard to its preparation he was as careful as the Orientals are known to be. Sixty beans to a cup was the allotment and the beans were often counted out exactly, Especially when guests were present.”

…………………………………………………………………….Anton Schindler

Dear Arthur,

Things are happening here which I think will interest you. The big, new, hot issue these days in many American circles is DRUGS. Have you been tuned in on the noise?

I stumbled on the scene in a most holy manner. Spent last summer in Mexico. Anthropologist friend arrived one weekend with a bag of mushrooms. Magic mushrooms. I had never heard of them, but being a good host joined the crowd who ate them. Wow! Learned more in six hours than in the past sixteen years. Visual transformations. Gone the perceptual machinery which clutters up our view of reality. Intuitive transformations. Gone the mental machinery which slices the world up into abstractions and concepts. Emotional transformations. Gone the emotional machinery that causes us to load life with our own role-ambitions and petty desires.

Came back to the USA and have spent last six months pursuing these matters. Working with Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, Allen Ginsberg the poet. We believe that the synthetics of peyote (mescalin) and the mushrooms (psilocybin) offer possibilities for expanding consciousness, changing perceptions, removing abstractions.

For the person who is prepared, they provide a soul-wrenching mystical experience. Remember your enlightenments in the Franco prison? Very similar to what we are producing. We have had cases of housewives understanding, experiencing satori describing it –who have never heard of Zen.

There are inevitable political-sociological complications. The expected groups are competing to see who should control the new drugs. Medicine and psychiatry are in the forefront. Psychiatric investigators (hung up as they are on their own abstractions) interpret the experience as PSYCHOTIC- and think they are producing model-psychosis. Then too, the cops and robbers game has started. Organized bohemia (and don’t tell me it ain’t organized, with rituals as rigid as those of the Masoic order) is moving in. There is the danger that mescalin and psilocybin will go the way of marijuana ( a perfectly mild, harmless, slightly mind-opening substance, as you know). And of course the narcotics bureau hopes that it will go the same way–so they can play out their side of the control game.

We are working to keep these drugs free and uncontrolled. Two tactics. We are offering the experience to distinguished creative people. Artists, poets, writers, scholars. We’ve learned a tremendous amount by listening to them tell us what they have learned from the experience.

We are also trying to build these experiences in a holy and serious way into university curricula. I’ve got approval to run a seminar here–graduate students will take the mushrooms regularly and spend a semester working through, organizing and systematizing the results. Its hard for me to see how anyone can consider himself a theologian, psychologist, behavioral scientist if he had not had this experience.

So how does it sound? If you are interested I’ll send some mushrooms over to you. Or if you’ve already been involved I’d like to hear about your reaction. I’ll be in London around June 8th and would like to tell you more about the cosmic crusade.

The memory of our weekend last winter remains as an intellectual and emotional highspot.

………………………………………………………Best Regards to you,
………………………………………………………………..T.L

………………………………………………..from the Letters collection on Leary.ru
………………………………………………..also see Tim Leary Correspondence on Archive.org

~
http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/LSD/stevens2.htm
http://www.socialfiction.org/?tag=graves

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