An Old Wooden Printing Machine and a Declaration: What the True West Is

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I’ve had a project simmering for a while which the awful movie The Last Jedi has pushed onto the front burner: the making or co-creating of a kind of ‘Magna Carta’ declaration of the True West – what it is and why the current backsliding, self-sabotaging version of it we have today is still vastly worth defending, if necessary with our lives, and at the very LEAST with our pens and printing machines.

Today at a coffee ‘bubble’ (I love bubbles, whether drinks or quiet conversation bubbles – just not the asset kind which is about to implode – but that’s a detail compared with the big picture of what we’re doing to our culture) with Raewyn my wife we were nerdishly reading two of the books we got at a garage sale – one was The Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet, and the other a book of poems by Spike Milligan, Open Heart University. I read one poem which stood out for me as I do printmaking and hope to do much more:

To Toni Savage and his Old Wooden Printing Machine

When the great tree

Loomed from high-falling,

Her green head pitching down,

Till the great body lay still-straight,

Was she to be heard no more?

Men took her, Piece by piece

And togethered her again,

In new bowen shape

and from her dead body

Words came, and those printed sounds

were stamped with loving care on

the warp and binded weave

of a paper made – from her sister.

Sober truth survives

Her breeze still blows

on the mind of men

and sinks such roots

As no tree, has ever sunk.

So Toni used some of the timber to make a woodcut printing block, I assume. I thought, Yes! I had been thinking of using etched steel, but symbolically it would be wonderful to make a woodcut, and print a poster like the Magna Carta or Luther’s 95 Theses, on flax paper to outlast the ephemeral pulp fiction of the newspapers and popular books hastening the downfall of the West.

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Paris Dawning

 

A Platonistic poetic homage to the foundations of the True West, and to The Second Coming by W.B.Yeats. Read The Second Coming here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/172062 Or see a youtube video animation (a little disconcerting) of a photo of the aged Yeats dramatically reading his own poem:

I have been working on a painting of trip we made to Paris in 2015 (I’ll put an image up here when it’s ‘done’), and as is my custom now  (see my www.altarsofart.com) I was also planning a text of silver or copper embossed letters to go around the frame. I needed a poem to draw on for this, and added to my recent thoughts on the True West and its declining influence in the real-world culture of the free West, it pushed me to the unusual – for me – extremity of writing poetry! I will no doubt keep worrying over the wording for a long time, but may not manage to improve it much, so here it is, as is. The last stanza has a reference to the Jewel of Knowledge in my epic the Apples of Aeden (vol I available free here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/243499):

Paris Dawning

Picked apart and picked apart by the blind watchmen

Stone by stone, line upon line the Western wall is crowbarred from within,

The foundations turn to clay, the cornerstone is discarded,

And through the gaps the godless void is seeping, invoked in dirges to the blackstar,

The deathstar, sent by a matricidal empire, heralded by nihilists and jaded hedonists

To loose a blood-dimmed satanic tide in every world.

 

Surely some truth still hides deep

Beyond the reach of the deconstructive bulldozers and the deathmetal din?

Surely Damien’s demonic blowflies will not have the last word,

Surely there will be an answer from the Deep?

The Deep! Hardly are those words mocked by shallow keypads

When a vast metaphor from the antique West

Transports me down beneath the ruins,

Somewhere under Athens, beneath the Parthenon’s golden ratios.

And look! A single candle still burns in Plato’s cave, in caverns measureless to empirical man.

 

But the blind watchmen have been there before me,

The ancient writing is chiseled off the wall.

Now darkness falls as atavistic hands, filled with a passionate intensity,

Scrawl savage ultimatums to the prisoners, who bargain for their heads

While our best remaining watchmen vacillate in trembling silence and trawl the web for clues.

 

But in Paris in the spring beneath the mathematical tower

Some still hold up the secret jewel of knowledge to the tree of life

as the true Isis stands resurrected for the motherless,

the balance is restored, the solipsistic spell is answered and refuted,

And the platonic sun rises also over Cantor’s paradise

Rejoicing like Zarathustra, endlessly bestowing.

  • Peter Harris, 16.1.16

 

If the poem (or parts of it) inspire, do share this online. For the True West and those who seek it still…