Monday, December 23, 2013

Analysis of "Why I Am Not a Buddhist" by Charles Bernstein

Original poem reprinted online here: "Why I Am Not a Buddhist" by Charles Bernstein
Originally read: June 25, 2013
More information about the Poet: Charles Bernstein






In the "About the Poem" here Bernstein writes about how he's wrote these types of poem before like, "Why I Am Not a Christian" and "Why I Don't Meditate" -- and for this poem in particular the writer was "both sophistical and sincere (a favorite combination)."  Bernstein further goes into his intent for writing poems like these with:

"My concern is more What is false? than What is truth?

All true poetry comes from deep fear, immobility, timidity. (I love Walter Benjamin’s essay on Hölderlin’s timidity.) This is our common ground, our temporal consanguinity (blood ties).

Reality is not kind.

I’d tell you in an instant, if I could."

Bernstein's aesthetic shows in the first line of the poem.  "Reality cons me as it spur(n)s me."  The parenthetical of "spur(n)s" is the catalyst in the poem, but not the most impartant part of the line.  It's the notion that "Reality cons me" is plainly put out there.

Then the next line, "This is the road to eternal" plays with the idea of something more, but what is there more, "Consanguinity," (bloodline).  Something generational.  Yes, going back to the first line, reality cons me -- but the result will always fluctuate between spur and spurns as stated with the contrast in this line,"eloping with / Hope and leaving me to pick / Up the proverbial bag."  Always on the move away or toward reality.

The last line is cheeky, "But that's the argument for" that puts a whole new context to the poem.  What the speaker writes is the knowledge of this occurrence -- reality conning me, but spur(n)s me.  What if by having this knowledge constantly go around is a sense of mindfulness associated with "Buddhist" (at least according to him).

The question would be what would the argument against be?  Lack of knowledge?  Not be emotionally attached to reality?  Well...that's also "Buddhist" too in a way (see Four Noble Truths).  What's presented is a linguistic and philosophical paradox.  The poem is not a statement or a question, rather it presents a personal musing which traps the reader in as well.

My concern is more What is false? than What is truth?

All true poetry comes from deep fear, immobility, timidity. (I love Walter Benjamin’s essay on Hölderlin’s timidity.) This is our common ground, our temporal consanguinity (blood ties).

Reality is not kind.

I’d tell you in an instant, if I could - See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/23607#sthash.uzki92DS.dpuf
My concern is more What is false? than What is truth?

All true poetry comes from deep fear, immobility, timidity. (I love Walter Benjamin’s essay on Hölderlin’s timidity.) This is our common ground, our temporal consanguinity (blood ties).

Reality is not kind.

I’d tell you in an instant, if I could - See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/23607#sthash.uzki92DS.dpuf

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