Visionary Voices Read Aloud (Milton, Blake, Whitman, etc.)

As per our discussion this morning, we will meet in two weeks, on November 6th, to pickup Milton again.

Video conference:

In preparation for our discussion of Book 2 of Milton, here are some images William Blake created about Paradise Lost. These are a few of the several hundred photos I obtained at the recent Blake exhibit at the Tate Britain museum in London (which runs until February 2nd, 2020). In 1807, Blake developed 12 designs on 12 sheets to illustrate “Paradise Lost” for the Reverend Joseph Thomas. Here are eight of those 12 sheets. This was the during the middle period of Blake’s creative life, and, interestingly, followed an encounter Blake had with the law where in 1803 he was accused of having assaulted a soldier. and of having uttered treasonable statements about the king. These were eventually dismissed, but it must have left Blake shaken, and 1804 and 1805 was the period when Blake broke off relations with several of this friends over disagreements with relation to work that Blake believed had been taken from him.

Sorry, the white dots in the photos are reflections of the lights inside the museum on the glass facings :

The Rout of the Rebel Angels from Heaven :


Satan Calling Up His Legions

Satan, Sin and Death : Satan at the Gates of Hell

Satan Watching the Endearments of Adam and Eve

The Angel Raphael Warns Adam and Eve

The Temptation and Fall of Eve

The Angel Michael foretells of the Crucifixion :

The Judgement of Adam and Eve :


Hi @Geoffrey_Edwards, just checking the dates on this—there is already the original Savitri group scheduled for 11/6.

That means either we wait till the second Wednesday of the month, or we do it tomorrow (the 5th Wednesday of this)…or we pick up a different make-up day. Some Fridays can work for me. Whatever day, I’d like to keep up with the reading. We must keep the fires of hell burning with the glories of heaven!

In addition, I would like to suggest we broaden our focus. Yes: Milton, Blake, Whitman. Yes: Aurobindo. But what kind of work, what kind of poets, are we really talking about—who else can we include in the mix?

How can we make this not just about recovering the Old but also creating the New?

My friend Ben Williams is working on producing a series of events at Naropa University, tentatively entitled, “Cohering a Counter-Cultural Lineage for the Sake of Emerging Futures.” It’s grown out of conversations he’s had with myself and many others—and his being inspired by visionary music, poetry, art, philosophy, and discourse especially coming out of the 60s but with even deeper gnostic roots, as we’ve been exploring.

What do these poets, artists, and cultural-revolutionary figures have in common? I would suggest we are dealing with more-than-archetypal, actually historically effective emanational beings in consciousness: Visionaries, Seers, Prophets.

How interesting that the appellation Bard in English is so close to the word Bardo in Tibetan, which refers to the liminal space between life, death, and recurring incarnations.

How would the group feel about re-creating this series of readings (inclusive of what we’re already doing with MBWA, but recasting it as well) in a way that opens to the full spectrum of (usually countercultural) geniuses whom might legitimately designate as Visionaries, Seers, Prophets, and Bards?

We could create a dedicated sub-channel for these, and a Zoom link so any member can initiate an event in relation to the theme—it has a place to build energy and grow.

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I really like this idea, @madrush. Also, weirdly enough, I went to a reading on Sunday given by different poet laureates (Toledo and Cleveland for the most part - many cities have poet laureates, in the same way there is also a national laureate), and my mentor from Toledo read - Joel Lipman, he is a visual poet, but also writes poetry (words without images) on the page. Two relevant links:

As a visual poet, there are interesting overlaps between Joel’s work and someone like Blake. Joel is a visionary, but in a hilarious, more secular way - he reminds me of the painter Philip Guston, in a way, someone who loves the high and low, visionary and obscene, obscure, disciplined, found. He wrote the introduction to a book of Bern Porter’s. Porter is also interesting and relevant in many ways to the concerns and interests of Cosmos.

Anyways, I mentioned Cosmos to Joel, and he was genuinely interested, and said he’d be down to learn more and maybe do something with us. I think he would be a great person to involve us with.

“Series of Pictures” by Joel, from 2018

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Those links look interesting, @AndrewField81. :chipmunk:

I will check them out after work…

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Tomorrow works for me, if @johnnydavis54 can also make it. And I am open to broadening the group of poets, but not too much, as I already find keeping track of Milton, Blake, Aurobindo and Whitman quite a challenge. I just don’t want us to lose our focus…

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It’s more about the framing for me. Why these poets, and not others? What’s special here? I too would want to follow through with our readings (especially of Milton’s PD, since it is a complete work)—but I would like to create a space which invites other explorations (including by other participants) as well.

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I can make it tomorrow, Geoffrey. I look forward to hearing about your take on Milton and Blake.

I sense there is bifurcation point, a fork in the road, perhaps different attractors for different actors? How much depth? How much span?

I am less interested in who we read as I am in how we read and that those we read a text with are given our generous and complete attention. Do we allow each person to give expressions to the idiosyncratic and strange, the queer and ineffable?Are each of us given space to develop our very own metaphors? Or do we rehash what some expert thinks? Like in your old fashioned, factory model English class, where you were tested, labeled, and dismissed.

How do you determine Old/New, Marco? This is not so obvious to me as it seems to be for you. So much of what I hear and see in the contemporary art world is highly derivative.

I think we should respect that some like to keep their options open, while others like to follow a procedure. Both styles can create good work. There is no freedom without constraints ( Bateson) and options if adhered to too much soon become lost opportunities. Creating a focus is hard to do on these forums, to squander attention it is fairly easy? I want to avoid becoming another FB info dump.

I’d love to meet these visionaires. Bring it on. Perhaps, we can articulate what want to happens tomorrow. So, what are we moving towards, what are we moving away from? What are the patterns that connect?

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments.

I share this interest with you, John. We could practice such as disposition while reading any authors or texts.

That is a good question for me.

The Old has an eternal and transcendent feel to it. That something perdures in time—for centuries, millenia…—is itself impressive. The Old sometimes is covered over with a cloak of familiarity, the thought, “I’ve read that before, or heard enough about it; I know what it’s about.” Some stalwarts of English literature or the dead Western canon may fall into this grouping.

But what is Old can be experienced as New through Participation and Active Imagination—IF the Old supports such engagement, such as our chosen authors do.

The New feels fresh, wild, unprecedented. The energy is on the surface—and there it may end. But there is a New which is visionary and eternal whose energy is not only on the surface but runs deep. Then as we peer into and live with the New we begin to see how Old it is in fact, how deep it goes.

I do not believe I am bifurcating as much as going meta and going deeper. I would like to see the Readers/Writers Underground hold a space for an Open Occulture. We are braiding Milton, Blake, and Whitman—a triple strand loosely twining around Savitri. Those are two small groups with some overlap, yet the pairing is arbitrary in another sense. The spiritual dimension of these poets draws them together, yet as gnostic voices they are not alone.

I am thinking from the perspective of a journal and cultural platform: what things belong together and how do we name them? How can readers and interested participants find their attractors? I am suggesting we think about useful groupings that invite participation.

If I hear about a reading group for Milton, Blake, and Whitman—I think, Oh, that sounds like a grad seminar in English-language literature. By contrast, if I hear about series of events focused on Visionary Poetry, which just happens to be reading works by Milton, et al—but in conception opens a space for many more voices and artistic modes—that’s a lot more interesting to me as a potential participant. I could suggest an exploration in the same general vein and others could join me if they wish, as we share a frame of reference.


Here’s Lucifer coming out of heaven, ask I discussed :


Can we get a temporary link to the video? I am looking forward to reviewing what we discussed, as there are a lot new ideas coming through our discourse event. Much thanks!

Here is a temporary link that I hope works:

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I’ve been out of the loop of this group, unfortunately. Are we still meeting bimonthly? And are we sticking to John, Will and Walt, or venturing farther, nearer, deeper etc. afield?

I would love to do “Song of Myself,” but after that I’d personally be in favor of turning from Whitman to a different poet. I love Wallace Stevens - have people read him? - and think he’d be a great addition to the crew. What do people think? Are there specific poets people want to focus on? My background is mostly 20th and 21st century American, but I’d love to hear about poets people are interested in reading. We could even choose specific individual books by contemporary poets, if we wanted to get a sense of the current climate and work being done. That might be a fresh angle after looking at these epics, collecteds, and so on. Just a thought - it might be interesting to compare stuff today to the usual suspects. Well, what do people think?

Hi Andrew, we are still meeting bi-monthly, every 2nd and 4th Wednesday. However, since we didn’t do the full Milton meeting on 10/23 we did it on 10/30 (the 5th Wednesday) instead. I am not sure if the recording is up, but if not I’ll take care of it this weekend.

For our next meeting we agreed to focus on Blake—the Songs of Innocence, I believe. Then I imagine we could do Experience. Then perhaps Blake on Milton, and then I hope (my suggestion) we go into Jerusalem? I would also like to make it all the way through Paradise Lost, so I am assuming we are still weaving a treble-braid.

I would not mind veering from Whitman, though I don’t really experience Wallace Stevens on the same register as these other 'visionaries. I feel Stevens as brilliant and deep and intensely poetic—an incredible intelligence, no argument—but he doesn’t excite me in the same way. I would be more interested in a voice who feels more inspired and challenges my own reading to new octaves.


And what is meta-stability?

It’s like a ball in the hollow near a steep incline. A soft blue egg, from a mourning dove nest, that fell from a tree. The soft blue egg in the palm of my hand is unstable but still a potential. And what can I do with a soft blue egg that fell from the nest?

And is there a relationship between meta-stability and meta-poetry?

And what was poetry before meta-poetry?

And what happens right before meta-poetry?

And does that meta-poetry have a size or a shape?

O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed.

And is this above quotation from Milton? Or from Blake? Or from someone else? And can you figure that out without Googling?

And what is that way, Marco, that Stevens doesn’t excite in you? And is there anything else about that way, that does excite you? Does that way have a size or shape?

Are we moving towards what we want or away from what we don’t want?

And where does that we come from?

I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear the bottom of my trousers rolled…

And as I grow old, is there anything else about that?

And what kind of ‘I’ is that?

It is an ‘I’ that wants to build a ship of death

It is an ‘I’ that can “go meta”.

Dave cut the record down to the bone
And now that got me rocking on the microphone

" Reading is not seeing. The visionary moment is below and beyond textuality: in imaginative inception and thoughtful after-effects." Poetry and Mind, Laurent Dubreuil.

Most children are synesthetes and have perfect pitch. What happened to that capacity? It disappears around the age of eight which is around the time children become aware of death. Can we re-create the conditions for that return or is that magic lost? Can we, through art, conspire to create a post-tragic world?

How can we contemplate poems without becoming attached to them? If we could perform this in the moment as we read/write/recite we would be ( I imagine) moving towards a second-order poetics.

Are we there yet? And is there a relationship between my improvized musings and what was once called Quantum Poetics?

Let’s use all of our knowledge ( including vocals and under the table feet moving to a beat) and use all of it well. I don’t care who we read but how we read them. Can we read with a coordinated Third Eye and Third Ear? Or are we doomed to a dissociated tragic past that repeats itself ad nauseum located from the neck up.

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In case this is helpful or productive for later meetings, I thought I’d throw out some names in contemporary poetry, in case we decide to go that route. There are very many contemporary poets, but that does not mean they are all any good, tbh. There is, unfortunately, so so much hype in the poetry world, and social media doesn’t always help with this. And because no one evaluates anymore, that’s the muddle, hopefully temporary, that we are in.

But there are some contemporary poets that I think are worth their salt and might even freshen up the mustiness of the dreaded weighty collected and/or epic feel. Here are a few of them, (and please feel free to read more about them; the link should just be a starting point, but they have all published at least one book if not more):

Okay, here are some younger, somewhat less established poets, though still really interesting, fun, smart, etc.:

Elisa Gabbert

Chelsey Minnis

Christopher DeWeese

Karl Parker

Here are three completely established but still consistently astonishing poets:

Anne Carson

Louise Gluck

Carl Philips

I appreciate your zeal, Andrew, and the temptation to throw out names is one of the problems I find with the online world. We have plenty of names, faces, voices, hungry ghosts, seeking fifteen minutes of fame. A tendency to hyperlink has led to an acceleration that I find very unhealthy, an addiction that leads to information dumping. Marjorie Perloff. arch rival to to the late Harold Bloom, declares there is too much poetry being written these days. No one can read a small fraction of it well , much less be in a position to evaluate larger trends. This dilemma is amplified by our tendency to cut and past into a nightmarish sense of overwhelm.

What kind of evaluation? Thumbs up? Thumbs down? Press the like button? What are the norms that you apply? Which norms? A complex entity such as a poem, can be evaluated how exactly? Poetry often creates confusion in different readers and at different times. The history of criticism is tangled. A knot rather than a braid.

As Woody Allen once quipped," I took a speed reading course and then read War and Peace. It was about Russia."

I find the slow and arduous practice, we have already established with Milton and Blake, is refreshing rather than boring. I like the epic. If you want to skip all of that and get to the good parts I wonder where those good parts come from?

And when, throw out names, Andrew, what happens right before you throw out names?

And when you want to throw out names, what happens next?

And when you throw out names, what do you want to have happen?

Perhaps, we can follow our original plan, as stated quite clearly. If this is time to change course, we can decide amongst ourselves. If this is a waste of time or worth persevering in an ongoing group effort, each of us, no doubt, has to find our own reasons for continuing or dropping out. We have our own metaphors, our own psychic ecology.

These on line forums are fragile and easily perturbed. One stop shopping and frantic multi tasking appears to be the norm. This kind of norm is not where I want to evaluate from. Evaluation, like SATs and IQ tests, seems to me to be a waste of my time. This is a concern that maybe we can address tomorrow? I am sure you have your own concerns which you already have articulated. We may have widely different notions about evaluation. Evaluations and endless standardized testing creates conditions for Neo-liberal Self, who has no sense of a shared past, and is going nowhere really fast.

So, Andrew, there are many fields, that are demanding your attention. Which are the most important for you AND for the group to explore? My time is very limited and what I give my meta-attention to, I must decide very carefully. I am over committed already.

It would be great if you start up a new space where you can throw out all the names you want to. I would support that initiative. I like many of the names you have thrown out. If we had but world enough and time…

I’m sorry to say I don’t know who composed these lines…though they sound like Wallace Stevens could have written them. They remind me mostly of lines I myself have written (an old poem I’ll dig up one of these days)—an apotheosis of the Modern Mental structure on the high crags of the mind.

Wallace Stevens makes me think, contemplate, fathom the depths…go meta. To me, his voice is not as expansive, robust, and wild as I feel the need for these days. I want larger canvases and bolder visions. I am in an epic-brooding mood. There is a large roundness (size, shape) to the visionary that I feel is called for by the times. Wallace is subtle and often feels detached from his subjects in the modern mode. He is a keen observer of the subtle, less a prophet of new worlds.

That said—maybe the very fact that Andrew suggests Stevens is reason enough to return to him. My desired outcome is poetic education, and I surely still have much to learn from Stevens and almost any other poet that anyone here would suggest.

@AndrewField81: I appreciate the links to contemporary poets, though I agree with John about the limited usefulness of a preponderance of links. I already have too many tabs open, in multiple browsers, and many, many bookmarks I will probably never get back to.

I would love it if you chose one or a few poems by one or two poets you feel especially drawn to and you introduce us here in the forum to their work, maybe even lead us in a close reading, allowing for divergent responses.

There is so much good poetry we haven’t read. And much dross. I think we need editors and curators with critical skills who can locate the fine, useful, timely or untimely (or timeless) work for a given audience (such as ourselves) and bring it to mindful, careful attention.

I look forward to our gathering tomorrow morning. Thanks for caring about poetry!


Hello Gentlemen,

Sorry for the confusion - I actually honestly thought I was being helpful, but I guess they were a bunch of links. Tbh, I was actually trying to do what I was criticized for, fwiw - i.e. actually cull, from the overwhelming {choose metaphor] of the Internet, things I thought were personally valuable, interesting, etc. But I guess there could have been a better of doing so - sharing individual poems, as Marco suggested, or some such thing.

John, I don’t know how this happened, and I’m totally fine with this, but sometimes when we talk about evaluation, I have the feeling that you are referring to a straw man, even an abstraction, which has nothing whatsoever to do with what I am describing, imagining, talking about. I really cannot conceive how robust evaluation, judgment, whatever you want to call it, is tantamount to standardized testing?! Or for that matter neoliberalism, whatever that word means? I mean, I don’t really follow the reasoning here. How do you see them as similiar?

Marco, in terms of your comments on Stevens,

I guess I think you are certainly voicing a common criticism of Stevens, but I guess I should add that I think the criticism is also sort of unfounded and based on a more superficial understanding of Stevens and his ouvre, to use a fancy word. Stevens, for me at least, is one of the most satisfying poets I’ve ever read. I really mean that word, “satisfying” - like good sex is satisfying, good food is satisfying. Stevens is satisfying for the soul and spirit. I don’t know how else to put it. He is able to articulate aspects, even regions of desire that I had never experienced in a poem. I was listening to a Dylan song today at work - it was a live version of a song called “Corrrina, Corrina,” and he sang a certain phrase, but the way he sang it was piercing, even wounding, it was so remarkably acute, beautiful, subtle, strong. Sure, Stevens I guess is subtle, but he is also quite strong, robust, astoundingly and richly speculative while being grounded in the wide particulars of his vision. Stevens, in other words, is completely a visionary poet, I think at least. And I of course would be glad to share poems by him, if he is of interest. He is a major poet.

One more thing about Mr. Wallace - he is the one who wrote, “music is feeling, then, not sound.” For me, this is one of my favorite things I’ve ever read about, well, music, however we intend the word. It is simply true, to my understanding, neither more nor less. And Stevens’ poetry, of course, is feeling more than anything. And the feeling is so wonderfully deep, interesting, fascinating, that he finds vast light-spilling vaults, “frameworks,” to fit it in. And maybe that’s why he’s so satisfying to read.