LOVE IS AN ACT: IN PRAISE OF ROMANTICISM

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It is time to be honest about love.

We are going to argue that love—truly romantic love—rejected as cheap and backwards these days, will save the world.

First, we admit that love is rare, and it dies rather quickly. Everyone experiences this. We like something if it benefits us, and all sorts of human relationships are based on practical arrangements. Love, and here we will skip a definition, since it refers to what most of us have experienced at some point: it is mad, complete, mystical, and full of desire. It is not friendship. It can strike us before puberty, but after puberty, the charisma involved largely partakes of sexuality.

It is a truism to say love requires focus. Love must be intense, have intensity—if it is what we know as love, it must be intense—and this brings us to love’s desire for beauty. It wouldn’t make sense for love to involve many things, for this would be to dilute and diminish by spreading too thin, all that love is, and we agree love must have intensity.

Love must have a physical dimension, and to have the force and importance love requires, love should be rare, but not so rare as to be beyond human possibility, and a certain social comprehension. Individual human beauty fits this criterion—human beauty is rare, invokes intensity and focus, and though rare, is accessible.

In the same manner that durable, attractive, and rare metals such as silver and gold will always signify value in terms of wealth in society, human beauty, whether we like it or not, is the coin of love.

We begin with individual human beauty.

But now we have two more elements.

These elements are based on the idea that love is an act.

Do we mean in the sense that “acting” is fake? “To be able to act” is simply what a successful person is able to do. One can say that beauty is “fake,” in the context of love; but this is to assume that the attractive, which is desired, is insincere, but how so? Acting, like beauty, might be construed as fake in “matters of the heart,” but this view, in the name of a fake “depth,” is the superficial one. If something is truly desired, and if any action, including “acting,” belongs to the category of achieving what is desired, how can it then be deemed superficial? We are forced to use acting, action, and act, and all these three words imply—since we are not talking of friendship or the spiritual, but the concentrated madness of love.

When we say “acting,” we do not include lying, or being dishonest in any way which hurts the beloved. We mean “acting” with the goal of loving one person. The “act” is for love, not for “playing around.”

After beauty, there are two layers of “acting” involved:

One: micro-acting, which refers to the natural charm of the person, an unconscious extension of physical attractiveness, and

Two: macro-acting, which involves the actual “behavior of love;” making vows and uttering words of promise, committment, passion, excitement, praise and, naturally, love.

Micro-acting is crucial. One can be physically attractive, but have very little actual charm. Physical beauty is necessary, but even necessary is micro-acting, the way a person smiles, their personality, how they “act.” We have all seen the attractive face which loses all its beauty the moment we experience that dull something in the person behind it. Beauty exists cleverly and minutely.

Macro-acting takes work.

Micro-acting is just the way the person is.

All three, personal beauty, micro-acting, and macro-acting, mutually enhance each other, and all three are present in love.

Acting, even as we are describing it here, in a heightened, non-pejorative way, is typically seen as wretched, superficial, dishonest, and unseemly.

But what we are saying here is that acting is at the heart of romantic love, and romantic love could not exist without it.

Romantic love is not necessary to marriage and children; there are many societies where marriage is arranged, or where women are second class citizens, or worse, and therefore breeding does not require love at all.

Here we notice two things. Romantic love, which may lead to marriage and children, is not necessary to these two things.

But when it is, it requires women to be free and equal to men.

If this is true, is the western tradition of romantic love directly involved in equality for women?

And if romantic love does require “acting,” is this why romantic love is easy for other societies to disparage, and why romantic love is increasingly viewed as insincere, useless, and crazy—especially with increasing contact between the west—and societies (Islam, for instance) which put more of a premium on breeding, and submissive women, than romantic love?

Recall that the major trope of romantic love as “madness” comes from Plato, who opined human breeding farms as a national ideal. (Plato redeems himself in other places, defending love, and the equality of women, but his pragmatic side had moments in his famous society blueprint, “The Republic.”)

What if romantic love is the true path to free and equal women, to a free and equal society, and love itself?

What if romantic love faces grave danger before the more practical forces of not only societies which enslave women, but groups who view romantic love as a backwards and superficial act?

Much has been made recently of the unlikely alliance between feminists and Muslims—how could these two groups possibly be allied?

Both oppose romantic love.

Islam prioritizes modesty—marriage in which the woman is subordinate.

Romantic love does not fit into this scheme.

Feminists (and many sexual progressives) dislike romantic love—since it prioritizes attractive and flirtatious females. Indicted here is the great western tradition of dead white male literature of the roaming, independent, pining male poets, and their beautiful female muses.

But the great tradition of romantic love does not feature enslaved, uneducated, subordinate women. Nor does it feature empty-headed, sexual bimbos, either.  And women can be beautiful in millions of different ways.

The Romantic poets, Keats and Shelley, loved educated women.

Equals. Women who could appreciate their poetry. Women (think of Mary Shelley) who were writers, as well.

Poe’s “Ligeia” is an entrancing, mentally and spiritually powerful, woman. Poe rejected as a literary ideal the merely sexual or physically attractive female. Flirtatious women meant nothing to Poe. But the woman poet was a source of great admiration for the American.

The great tradition of Romantic love features strong women. Otherwise it is perverted Romanticism.

Two wars. One should never fight two wars.

Women do not put on uniforms and go to war against other women. Men do that.

In nations where men fight other men and keep their women veiled and subordinate, men fight two wars, one against men, and another against their women.

These societies which fight two wars tend to lose out to the countries in the west—whose women are free and educated—the result of the western romantic literary tradition.

Here’s to Romanticism—often portrayed as reactionary, but it is quite the opposite.

Our readers have noticed we have championed the poet, Ben Mazer, who is just now bringing out his Selected Poems to a great deal of acclaim.

Ben Mazer and Scarriet are leading the revival of Romantic poetry.

We must admit that romance is an act—in the superficial meaning of that word.

We must admit to love’s superficiality.

Even as we defend it.

It is through poetry that micro-acting and macro-acting become one; and the poet achieves the charm of the lover—which all desire to possess.

Romantic love may just be the answer to world peace.

If the world heeds this essay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WHO IS THE GREATEST LIVING POET?

Sushmita Gupta, painter, mother, teacher, wife, was born in Kolkata. She grew up in Bhilai, a Russian-Indian steel township in central eastern India, with perpendicular roads, and large trees which flowered during the summer and became fragrant at night. She presently lives in Oman.

She is proof that the sensitive female soul is the essence of poetry.  She reconciles the elements of the universe.

Her online site, Sushness supplies a much better view of her tasteful and prolific output.

Here on Scarriet we offer only a few poor, inflamed arguments in favor of her (the best arguments contain fire) and two of her poems.

She reminds us of Shelley, who embraced primary elements of psychology and nature.

Nor is she afraid to offer wisdom, in the ancient sense.

American poets—after Poe—a sophisticated lot, tend to be suspicious of wisdom—their excellence lies in quirky and difficult points of view.  The school of Bishop/Lowell, for instance.  Auden, perhaps, was the last poet in English who made a real attempt to sound wise.

The Bold And The Peaceful

I rushed.
It was bright.
It was crazy.
A tornado full of life.

The unpredictability!
The speed!
The danger!
My bold streak drew me to it.

I rushed across the field,
To be carried and caressed
By a tornado.

Almost there,
I stopped.
The peace within me,
Made a terrible mismatch.

The bold and the peaceful.
That is me.

In this minor poem by Sushmita Gupta, which resembles the minor poems of Shelley, we are struck by emotion, clarity, and psychological truth—the poem carries us away with its energy and immediacy—exactly like a tornado; the poem delivers its expressiveness without fuss, and because there’s no fuss, the reader is engaged; there is no hesitation, pretense, or straining after the right little details. The poem has the rigor of religion, the flow of the poem has an epic force and size, which permits the whole of the emotional expression to make itself felt. A child could understand the poem, and this is part of its appeal, and yet its subtlety is profound. The poem’s movement is psychologically astute. The key line in the poem is “I rushed across the field” and here is all the remarkable imagery we need. The very balance of the poem threatens to break it apart.  The duality is not a cancelling one, but in a brilliantly ironic way, the very source of the poem’s fury.

Sushmita Gupta is the greatest living poet.

Fame, as we all know, is based on hearsay—the T shirt is an extremely popular piece of clothing, but its popularity is not up for discussion, nor can it be mitigated by academic debate.

None can say what a great T-shirt is—it is the simple design of the T-shirt—invisible, ubiquitous—which is the “great” thing; the great poem is not akin to a great T-shirt, obviously; but the great poem achieves an excellence similar to the invisible, ubiquitous reality of the T-shirt as it exists in the practical world of clothes.

We should make it clear that Sushmita Gupta is the last person in the world who would make the claim that she is a “great” poet, much less the “greatest living poet.” She is too busy enjoying life, which includes writing poems, to ever worry about such a thing; she writes for friends, which is the practice of most poets—famous, or not.

She is humble and gracious—Scarriet makes this “great” claim on her behalf, without her knowledge, for pedagogical purposes only. We call her “great” only to advertise our own critical taste in poems written in English, which we have long developed and maintained. It ultimately doesn’t matter what a poet thinks, or whether their life circumstances justify the content of their poetry; we care, and only hope our readers care, for the poetry.

Judging poetry today is hindered by two things.

First: poetry criticism is hobbled by the cant which supposes that poetry has no relation to a made object with a clear design. “Poetry is not a T-shirt!”  Yes, true.

But indeed the poem—which belongs to life, and not to a rarefied, non-place, swirling about in a haze of intellectualized assumptions—is, like a T-shirt, a made object with a clear design.

Intellectual pedantry—which seeks to dazzle, without making sense—disagrees with the common sense premise that poetry is a “made object with a clear design,” and this pedantry wildly expands to assert that the more a poem is unlike a “made object with a clear design,” the better it is.

And so authority becomes not just partially perverted, but completely perverted. This is common in rhetorical pursuits, such as poetry, literary criticism, or politics—where rhetoric itself separates people, even though all people, in almost all cases, want the same things.

This is the first thing: on dubious authority, a poem is not recognized as a poem.

Second: although an appreciation of poetry will always exist among people who wear T-shirts, the process by which poetry is “officially” recognized is in the hands of the well-placed, academic, few—who devotedly pursue the error we just outlined.  This is especially the case, since the teaching of poetry was replaced, in mid-20th century America, by the college writing program apparatus, in which ambitious individuals transformed themselves from poets seeking fame into poetry teachers seeking fame, ensuring critical, philosophical confusion on one hand, and the precise kinds of unfortunate divisiveness and calculating hierarchy, often seen in politics, on the other—with the emptiness we would expect.

“Who is Sushmita Gupta?”

To the ambitious and well-positioned who ask this indignantly, we have no response.

Sushmita Gupta has neither bought into the expertise-cant of razzle-dazzle, formless, unclear poetry, nor has she ambitiously clambered her way into the maze of the creative writing industry.

Now obviously, this article, featuring two Sushmita Gupta poems, will not reveal to our readers what a real poem is, or any such nonsense—our argument above is not to be taken as a definition of poetry, but only a glimpse into what informs our own particular taste, out of which arises our judgment—that Sushmita Gupta’s poetry is deserving of lofty notice and serious recognition.

We spoke earlier of the importance of a poem’s formal design. Every poet should properly, and naturally, have a specific design on the reader—these two “designs” are nothing without the other—the poem’s visible, formal properties on one hand, and the poet’s invisible, emotional, and social intention, on the other. The more these match, the more successful the poem.

When we first had the pleasure of reading “His Words,” by Sushmita Gupta, we felt an emotional kick, and we were pleased at how seemingly without effort the emotional kick was administered. Only after reading the poem, again, with a critical eye, did we recognize its formal perfection.

The poem contains six stanzas. In stanzas two through five, the first part of each stanza is concerned with what “he” does to “her.”

The final line of these four stanzas reveals, progressively, the result of what he does to her.

We see effect on her, and also the effect of her—as when an image, such as “petal” is used.

The result of the last line of each of these stanzas is also her words, the poet’s, on “his words”—his words and her words contend within the poem, in an unspoken manner.

Sushmita Gupta’s poem, “His Words,” is more than a poem vindicating itself. The poem transcends its own poetic rhetoric in its final line—even as it remains securely within the arc of the poem.

It could be argued that the poet, in her final accusation—as a poet—is accusing herself, though this is not explicit.  There is meaning within meaning—within the poem, and one final possible meaning—outside the poem itself.

Nothing is left out, nothing more is needed—and every part of the poem belongs to every other part, as well as to the whole.  The measured perfection and ease, is breathtaking—even as the subject itself is a dramatic whirlwind.

~~~~~~~~~~

His Words

He chose
Each word,
With utmost care.
He strung
The sentences
Into lyrical poetry.

His writings
Touched her,
Like she was
The most beautiful.

His writings
Caressed her,
Like she was
A fragrant being.

His writings
Stroked her,
Like she was
A tender petal.

And she felt,
Being carried,
Over the threshold,
And pledged herself to him.

Only,
He did not know
She lived.

 

 

 

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