Because we lie. It’s the nature of us as beasts. We use language to shackle incohate, wordless things and haul them out of bodies – our own and those of others. and then, like PT Barnum, we announce what those raw things are.
(Come and see the shape of your own quickening blood! Witness the Mysterious Shadow of Desire! Thrill to the cornucopia of love and rage, hate and beauty!)
And you come, and you look, and you see, and you say Yes, that’s it. I could never get hold of it. Thank you, even though I feel like I’ve been ripped to pieces.
And we smile with teeth and eyes and trace the scars under our clothes, the tattoos of our own agony, the pulsing hunger that is never satisfied. The gleam in your eye, the stirring of your soul – it is meat and drink to us.
We bask in the shine of it, luxuriate in the shadow, because for that one moment you become as us.
The monstrous numinosity inside you surfaces, and calls out to us, and for a moment we can feel kinship with the thing-that-still-calls-itself-human.
It ripples outwards, shows the weave that binds us all, the noose about our necks. Because poets know. We remember that in earlier eras, way down deep, beneath the front of things, by the backward-way, we made-things-so.
And we still do. Every dream of patriotism, every shaped moment, every image you perceive? We made that, and in doing so – we made you. We made you, your fathers and your mothers, your sires and grandsires, your ancient dams and matronae.
All carved out by the singers, dreamers, shapers and makers.
And you see, we made poet a palatable word. We made ourselves seem less mad, softened it, hid the prophecy and the soul-sending down deep. Wove a deliberate forgetting over the world so you wouldn’t catch us at it.
Only entertainment. Only words. Only propaganda. Only fiction.
entertain (v.) late 15c., “to keep up, maintain, to keep (someone) in a certain frame of mind,” from Middle French entretenir, from Old French entretenir “hold together, stick together, support” (12c.), from entre- “among” (from Latin inter; see inter-) + tenir “to hold” (from Latin tenere; see tenet).
Sense of “have a guest” is late 15c.; that of “gratify, amuse” is 1620s. Meaning “to allow (something) to consideration, take into the mind” (of opinions, notions, etc.) is 1610s.
tenet (n.) “principle, opinion, or dogma maintained as true by a person, sect, school, etc.,” properly “a thing held (to be true),” early 15c., from Latin tenet “he holds,” third person singular present indicative of tenere “to hold, grasp, keep, have possession, maintain,” also “reach, gain, acquire, obtain; hold back, repress, restrain;” figuratively “hold in mind, take in, understand.”
The Latin word is from PIE root *ten- “to stretch” (cognates: Sanskrit tantram “loom,” tanoti “stretches, lasts;” Persian tar “string;” Lithuanian tankus “compact,” i.e. “tightened;” Greek teinein “to stretch,” tasis “a stretching, tension,” tenos “sinew,” tetanos"stiff, rigid,“ tonos “string,” hence “sound, pitch;” Latin tendere “to stretch,” tenuis “thin, rare, fine;” Old Church Slavonic tento “cord;” Old English þynne “thin”). Connecting notion between “stretch” and “hold” is “cause to maintain.” The modern sense is probably because tenet was used in Medieval Latin to introduce a statement of doctrine.
And that was that – despite the fact that we sing and speak and send thousands, millions to their deaths. Despite the fact we own your time and attention, and open certain ways while closing others.
Despite the fact that the fruits of your labour are spent on what we ensnare your attention to,
Despite all that, we’re liars. Most of us are excellent at lying at ourselves, in perpetuating the mass-amnesia that we’re nothing more than marketers, servants of neo-capitalism, of governments.
The number that remember our origins? That recall what we still are – nightwalking terrors, soul-traders, liberators and enslavers, madfolk and terrible, awful hybrids of strangenesses?
Vanishingly. Fucking. Small.
Remembering that our power comes from no-power, because we made even the idea of power itself in order to explain how-things-may-be-done.
We descend into the dark, you see. Down into the deep below. Down into the pulsing red night, the freezing chill mists, into the plays and where the Primordial never could wear a mask.
And it eats us. Gobbles us up. Dismembers us. The re-members us. Puts us back together, raw and wounded, to spew out ashblack blood-ink.
So we return from the bone-places, the marrow of the world, and we look and we see what all our sleeping, amnesiac brethren have done.
And we howl. We howl at the injustice, the fear-ridden toxicity which has been left to bloom, untended. Our responsibilities left undone, those ever-present poisons left untransmuted by our minds and bodies, those forgotten dead who were never mourned, never sung to with blood and sacrifice and honeyed soothing kindnesses.
We are so few. So very few, now. Even what we are has long become a twisted aping, a half-remembered dream, of us.
But we remember, awoken by Powers which brim with vitality, wakening us to the beauty and terror of existence. Old mad, masked gods, for whom even godhood itself is a mask. Shapeshifters and wanderers with quicksilver tongues.
Don’t let poets lie to you. This is your warning. It’ll do no good, but it must be said. Only your own Soul will speak what is needed. Only your own journey will bring you what you need. But that journey will take you into the realms of poetry and song, and all the things that can never be thought with the mind you thought you had.
And if you make it down, you aint coming back as ‘you’. You’ll be a mad bastard like the rest of us, and lords of lords, it will very much hurt to realise that existence is pure joy, absolute creativity made manifest.
Oh, you’ll suffer. But that suffering will drive you on like a goad, push you deeper into the realms of mastery-which is-knowing-death.
There’s a reason gods of poets are often gods of death too. You know this. you really do.
We’re like the Devil, see: If we didn’t exist, you’d have to invent us.
And you did, we did.
Because that’s we do.
poet (n.) early 14c., “a poet, a singer” (c. 1200 as a surname), from Old French poete (12c., Modern French poète) and directly from Latin poeta “a poet,” from Greek poetes “maker, author, poet,” variant of poietes, from poein, poiein “to make, create, compose,” from PIE*kwoiwo- “making,” from root *kwei- “to pile up, build, make” (cognates: Sanskrit cinoti “heaping up, piling up,” Old Church Slavonic činu “act, deed, order”).
Replaced Old English scop (which survives in scoff). Used in 14c., as in classical languages, for all sorts of writers or composers of works of literature.