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Essays

Essays by Dean Blehert

America, who are you?

"Everything changed on September 11."
Don't believe them, notebook.
"America has lost its innocence!"
What? Again! America must be
a professional virgin. . .

Dean examines who we are from many angles in this part verse part prose essay.

Abstract and Concrete

One function of rhyme, meter and poetical diction is to make it easy to know when one is writing (or attempting) poetry. With the rise of free verse (and long before, but less desperately), poets began asking as if it were the most natural question in the world "What IS the difference between poetry and prose?" as if they knew what prose is!

Big Lies Are Big Truths With Small Lies

When we attack the big lies that move people to vicious acts, we commonly underrate humanity. We assume that they are weak enough or foolish or hateful enough to be moved to action by lies that sound to us blatant and insane.

On Making it to the Big Time

A poet (or anyone in a challenging field where many aspire and few achieve fame) often seems to be on the brink of being discovered or making a leap into the “big time,” only to have it fizzle out, then feel that nothing came of it. After a series of such “failures,” he slopes toward despair.

Actually, few or none of these disappointments were entirely failures. Something of use came of each—or did if one notices.  After all, attention (and admiration) happened. Now it expands or not, but something has happened. I remember how after my first marriage fell apart, I realized that despite the loss and seeming end of “everything,” something had happened. I knew, for example, that a woman could love me . . .

Certainty and Opinion

Few seem to know the difference between certainty and strongly held opinion. The difference is not one of logic, elegance of proofs, documentation, etc. Applicability of conclusions is a result of certainty. Certainty works. But certainty precedes workability. . .

Cute Psychiatric Word Games

Those of us who seek to expose the fraudulent bases of psychiatry would probably be assisted by a good understanding of some of their terminology. I don't think it's worth the trouble to try to grasp every specialized term, since new terminology is invented daily, and each of the many versions of psychiatry and psychology has its own buzzwords. . . .

On Placebos and Poetry

Not to put down any specific poet, but it seems to me that when one sits through readings of fairly well-written poems (or reads them in a book) and feels increasingly dull and sleepy and bored, there are only a few explanations. . .

On The Validity of Brain Scans as Proofs of Psychiatric Theories

Dr. Grace Jackson, a psychiatrist and an expert on brain imaging, refutes the validity of the attempts by various psychiatrists to defend the "science" of their diagnoses by using comparative brain scans. Her article, which, I've linked below my own write-up, along with her references, is technical enough to leave many readers in the dark, so I've tried to put her main points into simple, non-technical language first, then link the article for those who want all the technical details

The Power of Prayer

A friend tells me that in a pinch he prays, and his prayers are answered and asks what do I think of that? Prayer is something I've thought a great deal about over the years. Prayer traditionally has meant different things to different people (to coin a phrase). Hell, it means different things to the same person.

The Human, The Spiritual, and the Complex

Dean talks about why this total simplicity, life (you, me) should be so intimately involved in complexity, so that the forms most associated with life are also the most complex forms... and covers why art involves a combination of recognition and surprise.

Pseudo-Science

Increasingly one sees articles about the overprescription of psychiatric drugs like Ritalin and Prozac among school children. Even the New York Times got into the act recently, despite its bias towards the large pharmaceutical companies who pay so much for ad space and would prefer to pretend the controversy doesn't exist. When even the Times decides that this news if fit to print, the issue is getting too hot to ignore.

How Art Works

Art, ideally, is the exchange of universes, creations, ideas, etc., where the exchange has rules (agreements) enough to make it a game, such that communication (exchange) can be considered to be of greater or lesser quality. Thus, one of the major roles of an artist is helping self and others keep the in view the ideal scene for spiritual existence: It's not that the art is ABOUT spritual existence. The art IS, as a game, spiritual existence. It is what we, by preference, do when we remember who we really are.

On Critiquing (an unpublished essay)

The dictionary says a critique is a critical estimate of a work of literature or art. "Critical" is both "Inclined to criticize, especially unfavorably" and "Exercising... careful judgment; exact; nicely judicious"--not necessarily negative. This essay explores how to use critiquing successfully.

On Reaching New Audiences With Poetry

The major assumption that narrowed the scope and audience of Twentieth Century poetry -- and other arts to some extent -- is that the basic truths of existence (or the deepest truths we can reach) are unconfrontably horrible.

One's Own World

One of the great half-truths of psychiatry is the idea that an insane person is "off in his own world". The insane person is insane to the degree that he is cut off from his own world.

Opinions of Opinions

Opinions of Opinions

Opinions are fun. They give us things to argue about in bars.... Except sometimes they're not.

Poetry and Freedom

A poet writes how she walked into a San Francisco bar, heard a wild poet richly ranting and knew that poetry was freedom - she could say what she wanted to say. She no longer had to muffle her yawps in complex ironies or silence her lusts, rages, and sillinesses. In the same 'zine (mostly articles on poetry slamming) another poet identifies poetry with freedom. Sounds good. Where can I get some?

Rather Nasty Letter to a Liberal Friend

You mention being scared by monotheistic fundamentalists, their "rightness", the violence they may do, etc. Why not say you're scared by humans? . . .

Response to a Friend's Question About Sherlock Holmes

You ask if I agree that Holmes is the first character in fiction who is above the story's turmoil. Maybe the first HERO. He's not always above it, but Watson makes a big thing out of those moments he gets pulled in precisely because he is usually detached. Of course, that IS part of the story: The oddness of someone who has made himself into a kind of detached intellectual machine.

Shrinking Creativity

Recently, I tuned in to National Public Radio just in time to hear part of the "Science" hour, where a female psychiatrist was being interviewed about her book on creativity, and we got to hear the psychiatric line on it....

Shrink Rapt Poetry (published in New York Quarterly, issue 55)

While psychiatric theories and practices impinge on the entire population, there's a special relationship between psychiatry and twentieth century poetry that renders poets particularly vulnerable: Psychiatry has been the religion of modern poetry, as closely intertwined with its practice as was, say Catholicism with the poetry of Dante. This essay examines some of the ways that the psychiatric viewpoint has impinged on poetry.

Stern Measures

We raise the speed limit - there are perhaps more bloody deaths. We lower the speed limit - a hundred million people spend 20 minutes more each day dying on freeways.

A Theory of Murder

The thing about murder is it's too easy. Where's the game? You dent a body slightly -- if it were a car, it would be easily patched up -- and it's dead. The guy is gone.

To a Friend Who Asked What is Slam Poetry

Slam poetry is whatever poetry is likely to win over an audience when read/performed in competition with other poets, where the audience tends to be people in a bar or people at a poetry-reading venue, but in any case, usually NOT the audience for academic poetry (more populist, more activist).

To a Friend Who Said That All Art is Based Entirely on Surprise

I view art as stemming from combinations of surprise AND RECOGNITION. It's based on the stimulation of expectations, followed by some BLEND of surprise and recognition. This can be put in other terms: a blend of the unexpected and of the expected resolution or fullfilment.

Television Science: the Year of the Circuit

I keep hearing authorities on public radio applying logic to who and what we are that, if applied to a TV set, might run as follows: Though tradition claims that there is life beyond this TV set, a life that continues after its demise --actual living beings who create these moving pictures, the TV set being only a means of presenting them to others --we know, scientifically, that this cannot be the case. Here is the evidence: . . .

Things you didn’t know you didn’t know:

People have been passing "amazing facts" around for a long time(even before the Internet). With the advent of email, the war has just begun! In the following example, Dean Blehert adds his own comments (in caps) to one of the "amazing" lists.

The Trap of Anti-Sentimentality in Poetry

By sentimentality, I mean the poet's expectation that the reader will respond with knee-jerk emotions to non-aesthetic signals. I mean, also, unearned responses. I mean also uses of language (and/or thought) that drain the language of utility for future use rather than add life to language (and/or thought). For example, it is now hard to use the word "love" effectively because the word has been milked too strenuously, a sort of masturbation. Good poetry takes a word like "love" and renders it usable, returns to it energy and clarity and richness. Bad poetry simply drains the word.

Tweedledee or Tweedledum? Contrariwise!

Among the mad mirrors in our culture are the two apparently opposed schools of psychotherapy. I refer not to the various approaches (talk vs. drugs, directive vs. non-directive, etc.), but to two radically opposed public personae that might be called the Dionesian and the Apollonian - the wild and the controlled.

Victims and Blame

Recently on a radio talk show, I heard an argument on an old theme: Black people should take more responsibility for their problems, said a guest. That's wrong, said a caller: It's not black people, but white people, who are to blame for the problems of black people.

Visions and Revisions

My view on revision is fairly simple: A poem is a communication from a person to another person or many people (some not born yet, perhaps). I don’t write it having in mind some absolute. If it communicates, fine. If, looking it over as I write or after it’s written, I find something that doesn’t communicate well to me (and I try to read it as a reader, not as the writer), then I try to make it better. When I feel it communicates – gets across, or will to the reader I imagine or does to most people I try it out on, then I leave it alone. If, later, I pick it up and I see a way to improve it, I change it. At what point do I consider it complete, a finished poem?

WHY I BECAME A POET—A SPECULATION

I used to have thoughts, and I’d want to tell others. I remember when I was 4, excitedly telling my mother a discovery: If you said “one two one two,” it took the same amount of time as saying “one two three four,” and that was how you could tell that 2+2=4. I said it worked with other numbers, but you had to say “sen” instead of “seven.” . . . .

Essays by Pam Coulter Blehert

The Third Dimension

"How does the artist do that?" we exclaim, seeing the vast panorama of a landscape or the modeling that gives depth to the face of the portrait or the still life on a two- dimensional painting.

A kind of magic sets the painter apart from the non-artist. Of course the painter has many tools, but one of them is a knowledge of some of the rules and conventions for conveying the illusion of depth.


  
Last updated: December 11, 2013