charles potts
 
Modus Operandum
 
I began composing Nature Lovers during the late summer of 1989 in order to have some new poems to read for what turned out to be a two[-]state, five[-] gigs[-] in[-] six[-] days tour of Utah and Idaho. It is the first sustained poetry I wrote under the influence of both Neuro Linguistic Programming, at which I have since become a Master Practitioner, and my investigation of the micro structure of cognition. I had been reading The Foundations of Neural Computing and Parallel Distributed Processing.
Nature Lovers then, both in concept and diction, enabled me to take the poem farther into the response nodes of the receiving audience than I'd been before. This amazing process stimulated me to create[,] in short order, an amount of poetry equivalent to the poetry of the previous decade, published in A Rite to the Body and The Dictatorship of the Environment. I go way back with writers who identify themselves with nature, Wordsworth[,] for instance[,] for the mystifying and mystical unity to be found there[,] and Menzu (Mencius) for his insistence that the entire state has to operate in obeisance to natural law.
I was paying dues literally during this period to half the famous environmental organizations on the planet including Greenpeace, The Nature Conservancy, The Audubon Society, The World Wildlife Fund, Earth First!,  The Sierra Club et al and was diligently reading their publications. I was at least part way up to speed on the major issues of the time.
The poems themselves insisted that I shed my own well[-] protected innocence and naiveté as we went along and I came reluctantly to the conclusion that I was dealing with an oxymoron. There are no "nature lovers" worthy of the name, unless of course we consider the Sierra Clubbers and their annual grizzly bear feast where the lucky winner motors to Yellowstone and flings him or herself into the bear’s mouth, grateful to be eaten alive. In the middle of the composition I came across and read The End of Nature by Bill McKibben and found the object of our "love" itself eroding rapidly away.
In my notes for “The Henry David Thoreau Volunteer Army” section, I alleged that I was trying to create some new real estate, or a real fighting force for some sacred earth. Some of these people were drafted¾did not volunteer¾and may feel like they are in a forced march to a different drummer¾mine. In one way or another, I know something incriminating about them all. "Did you do my laundry? How can I be civilly disobedient without clean underwear, Ma?"
The strident qualities of this didacticism are deliberate and since they will effect[affect] different people in different ways, some people may prefer them in small doses. Looking for ever[-] higher gears and a way to sustain breathing in the consistently rarefying atmosphere of despair, my search[dangling participle in "looking," which doesn't properly modify "my search"]  for appropriately heavy metaphors lead[led] me to titles such as "Uncle Tom’s Sawmill" and "The Wooden Heart of John Brown." Civil War metaphors, like the transcontinental train the war was partially fought over, carry a lot of freight. It was during a discussion and defense of such alarmist provocateuring that I blurted out, "Shit, the South won the Civil War."
The poems were dampered off indefinitely as I escaped my own conclusions through the trap door of political and economic geography, writing The Chill at Appomattox, later to be published as its subtitle, How the South Finally Won the Civil War, and with the addition of yet another subtitle, And Controls the Political Future of the United States. We and the nature from which we are irreconcilably separated will survive to the exact degree we are able to extinguish the Southern domination of American Political life[Life].
Prior to my curing myself of paranoid schizophrenia, commencing in 1969 and continuing for two decades, I entertained the simple delusion that it would only take a little self sacrifice and denial for human life to survive on earth, a perfectly crazy idea. Little did I realize then that I was not normal and the survivalist organizing principle of that illness prevented me from noticing that the vast majority of people are organized on the pleasure principle, not the survival principle. I pass for normal now and our well[-] intended and self[-] serving delusions regarding the natural world won’t make them come true.
Language separated people from nature and made their case one of cultural history, a unique, wholly owned subsidiary of natural history. Wordsworth, in his "Ode: On the Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood," the greatest poem in English, makes the point that the separation is complete and irreversible: "Nothing can bring back that hour." In our struggle through the ice ages creating syntax upon which to hang our grammar, we grew progressively more weary of being eaten alive. It is not permitted now, except in rare cases. Once, when we were part of nature, it was the norm. We think we love nature but it doesn't love us back.
 
Charles: This works well. It also reflects the deliberately provocative tone of the poems. (E.g., you do love to provoke with lines like "the greatest poem in English," a line which practically guarantees a response.)
 
I hope you'll read but forgive my bracketed notes. A couple should definitely be addressed: "affect" and "led" and probably the dangling participle. The hyphens we've discussed before. Up to you, of course.
 

Charles Potts is the author of several books of poems as well as the non-fiction work, How the South Finally Won the Civil War. He was for a long time the publisher/editor of The Temple: A Postnational Quarterly of Spiritual Poetry, and owner of The Temple Bookstore, in Walla Walla, Washington. Learn much more about this prolific and popular celebrator of poetry here.


ISBN 1929355041 * $10

Nature Lovers


Nature lovers unite!

We have only to defeat the fear

Of the dirty little secret

At the heart of the dark:

Everybody’s somebody else’s lunch.


It’s been a weird gig

To be the broken link

In the food chain of fools,

Masticating our way to the elusive apex

At thepinnacle of arrogance on the food pyramid.