“First of all, you must never speak of anything by its name—in that country. So, if you see a tree on a mountain, it will be better to say ‘Look at the green on the high’; for that’s how they talk—in that country. And whatever you do, you must find a false reason for doing it—in that country. If you rob a man, you must say it is to help and protect him: that’s the ethics—of that country. And everything of value has no value at all—in that country. You must be perfectly commonplace if you want to be a genius—in that country. And everything you like you must pretend not to like; and anything that is there you must pretend is not there—in that country. And you must always say that you are sacrificing yourself in the cause of religion, and morality, and humanity, and liberty, and progress, when you want to cheat your neighbour—in that country.”
“Good heavens!” cried Iliel, “are we going to England?”
Poets and Lovers has been living for two years, in an epoch where freedom of art is increasingly under attack.
Our website host has courageously created and maintained the website of the artist Graham Ovenden, who had been convicted following a police and judicial frame-up by bigots who assimilate child nudity in art with “obscenity” and “child abuse.” This website gives much detail about police misconduct and false allegations, as well as the theft and embezzlement of the artist’s property by his estranged wife and son. The police was certainly displeased, and it took pretext of the publication in Pigtails in Paint of images from an acclaimed comic by Debbie Dreschler, dealing explicitly with incest, to raid our host and confiscate part of his material. After much pressure, in a moral climate where the accused is presumed guilty and has to prove his innocence, he was railroaded into a “guilty plea” and told the court what it wanted to hear, which led him to prison.
As before, most recent posts have been revised versions of articles previously published on Agapeta. New posts included poems by Paul Verlaine, by Michael Field (Edith Cooper and Katharine Bradley), and by girls from Freinet schools in France, as well as some pop songs about young girls, or about men who love them.
The posting frequency slows down. From August 2019 till the end of 2020, it was one article every three days. Now in 2021, I have reduced it to one every four days.
In the near future, beside republishing posts from Agapeta, I intend to present further poems by Michael Field, Émile Blémont and Francis Thompson, as well as more love songs.
The eclipse of poetry
Everyone can name several famous 19th century poets. But do you know any contemporary great poet? Today, the public is generally attracted by images rather than by text, one will look at the picture of a lovely person rather than reading a love poem.
In his book The Autumn of the Middle Ages, the historian Johan Huizinga noticed that in France and Burgundy during the 15th century, painting reached its perfection in a harmony of a general thematic scene with minute background details, while most of poetry—even the one celebrated at that time—had become conventional and overloaded with details. He interpreted this fact as a feature of the decline of the Middle Ages: the predominance of the sense of sight, closely linked to the atrophy of thought. Thus the contemporary seduction of striking images at the expense of meaningful text could also indicate an atrophy of thought in a declining social organization.
Joseph Campbell on love and morality
The book The Power of Myth (Anchor Books, New York, 1991) collects conversations of Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers. I quote from it (page 254) a very apt statement on the purpose and style of Poets and Lovers:
MOYERS: Then what does love have to do with morality?
CAMPBELL: Violates it.
MOYERS: Violates it?
CAMPBELL: Yes. Insofar as love expresses itself, it is not expressing itself in terms of the socially approved manners of life. That’s why it is all so secret. Love has nothing to do with social order. It is a higher spiritual experience than that of socially organized marriage.
In order to remain true to itself, Poets and Lovers will always be immoral and full of secrets.
The International Female Girllovers Collective, formed in 2001, kept for several years a website titled Butterfly Kisses and subtitled “celebrating love between women and girls.” Some traces of it remain on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, see here and here. There was a page with poetry; in this archive, the five poems at the top can be found by clicking on the links.
I recommend the first text in the list, the prose poem “The Pretty Little Flower” by Cutie Cake, an erotic allegory about the gift of the beautiful hidden treasure of a young girl. The third, “Hymn to the Daughter of the Twentieth Century,” is an English translation of a small part of the poem “An die Tochter des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts” by Marie von Najmajer, which appeared in her collection Der Göttin Eigenthum (Vienna: Konegen, 1901), pp. 139–52. See also “Lucia” and “Sunrise” by Rahyne, the fourth and fifth in the list.
Bill Hall on ageism
I found a scathing criticism of age discrimination in CSC Nusletter, Vol. VI No. 3, August 1980. Until recently, the full text could be read from its first page here. Most interesting are three paragraphs dealing with the oppression of children, which I have transcribed into a Google Document. Despite the usual discourse about the idyllic time of childhood innocence, adults resent as an unbearable oppression to be “treated like children.” As Hall writes,
Most monstrous of all, “dependents” whose dependency is socially and legally manufactured, are supposed to be incapable of “moral” choice in a society where only the very rich and the very powerful choose for the rest of us anyhow!