Lunar Foundations

 
 

Early Iterations of The Lune
 

BILL MOYERS: Well, that’s why I’m not so sure that the future of the race and the salvation of the journey is in space. I think it is... right here on earth in the body, in the womb of all of our being.
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, it certainly is. I mean, when you go out into space what you’re carrying is your body and if that hasn’t been transformed, space won’t transform it for you. But thinking about space may help you to realize something.₁



he Lune is a magazine of new contemporary poetry, each issue authored by one or two poets as a stand-alone collection. As a periodical The Lune approximates the motion of its primary namesake (the moon) both internally and externally: it is limited to 29.5 pages of poetry (roughly the number of days in a lunar cycle), and it is released monthly (the English noun month stems from various Proto-Germanic words tied to the usage of a lunar calendar, in turn stemming from the PIE verbal root *Meh, “to measure"). Like poetry itself, the journal is inspired by an endless variety of manners, methods, and modes of living. By focusing loosely on poetry as a singular developmental impulse in and of Earth hopefully this exposition will unveil a relatable history.

Photo by Brian Buckley

Photo by Brian Buckley

The Lune is phenomenologically modeled after the moon's polysemantic impact and designed to honor correspondence. Now two literary instances are worth looking at closely: 1) Dante's epistle to Cangrande della Scalla, 1319, and 2) Baudelaire's poem “Correspondances," 1857.

1) In Dante's letter to his patron (and esteemed friend) Cangrande, he moves to introduce the Divine Comedy as a whole—having dedicated Paradiso (Book III) to Cangrande—because “those who wish to give some kind of introduction to a part of any kind of work ought to offer some information about the whole of which it is a part." In further qualification of the mind behind his project, Dante explains:

…you must know that the sense of this work is not simple, rather it may be called polysemantic, that is, of many senses; the first sense is that which comes from the letter, the second is that of that which is signified by the letter. And the first is called the literal, the second allegorical or moral or anagogic.2

The Lune is no Divine Comedy, but like the Divine Comedy it shares a polysemantic origin-story. Instead of literal to allegorical, The Lune's trajectory is technical to poetical (discrete to suggestive).

The Book of Moons, an early prototype

INTERLUDE: Under the guise of technological advancement humanity is moving rapidly beyond the cultural realm and/or social consideration of the written word. We seem less interested in the phenomenal word, holistically, and more interested in its phenomenal image, individually (exit: verse, enter: graphic design). For example, we stop thinking (pensively) about the moon because we can go/have been there: there is a technical solution to the question. Question: what is the moon? Technical answer: the moon is a natural satellite of Earth. Poetical answer...

The Lune is not a single textual document with multiple authors but multiple textual documents with single-authors. This brings us to certain mathematical foundations: squaring the circle and the Lune of Hippocrates (Hippocrates, in this case, of Chios, the mathematician; contemporary with Hippocrates of Cos, the ‘father of modern medicine' and author of the Hippocratic Oath).

In exploring the “quadrature of the circle"—a mission undertaken through the ages, from Euclid and before to Joyce and beyond—(our) Hippocrates was the first to derive the exact area of a curved figure mathematically and specifically by using a straight edge and compass (Euclidean precepts). The Lune of Hippocrates is “a lune bounded by arcs of two circles, the smaller of which has as its diameter a chord spanning a right angle on the larger circle." Hippocrates failed to calculate at once the equal areas of a circle and a square, which was the ultimate goal. But in the process he gave us an astronomical first-take on the angular symmetry of celestial overlap (or something like that).

From the Lune of Hippocrates—the image of a circle overlapping a circle to various degrees—we come to understand that people were watching light interact with Earth's natural satellite in new ways and according to advanced principles of mathematical reasoning. It is helpful to attach the name Hippocrates to the lune because it reminds us a human being was thinking about circles and recognized the interaction of three familiar cosmic objects: Sun, Earth, and Moon.

2) Here is the 1932 Columbia Encyclopedia's entry for Charles Baudelaire:

Baudelaire, Charles (shärl′ bōd-lâr′), 1821-67, French poet, author of Les Fleurs du mal (Flowers of Evil), and of translations of Poe. His life was made wretched by misunderstanding, poverty, and debt, and by the excesses which killed him after furnishing much of the material from which his poems are drawn. He was a perfectionist who wrote exquisite lyrics on questionable subjects—some of the poems in Les Fleurs du mal were attacked as obscene and its publication was suppressed until the offending verses were removed. His translations of Poe are French classics. See the Studies by Arthur Symons and Enid Starkie; and also Henry James, French Poets and Novelists, and G. Kahn, Les Symbolistes et les decadents.

Why Baudelaire's poem, “Correspondances"? In order to remind us of symbolism, the use of symbols, and Symbolism, the literary movement, of which “Correspondances" is considered to be an inspiration and precursor. We return to the 1932 Columbia Encyclopedia:

symbol [Gr.]. The most important and profoundest use of symbols is in WRITING; whether the mode is of ALPHABET or of something else, the symbolism is precisely the same, because in writing a sign is used to represent something (in LANGUAGE) which can exist perfectly independently without the representation. This suggests, perhaps, the essence of a symbol: that its existence is entirely dependent upon the thing it symbolizes, while the thing symbolized has no dependence of any sort on the symbol.₃

symbolists, in literature, a school originating in France toward the end of the 19th cent. in reaction to the bold realism of the preceding period. Symbolism, designed to convey impressions by suggestion rather than by direct statement, found its first expression in poetry but was later extended to other arts.₄

It is rumored that the French symbolist writer Alfred Jarry cited Hippocrates of Chios as a father of pataphysics, “the science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments." In LuNaMoPoLiS, this makes sense—The Lune is an imaginary solution to the problem of information. And what is the problem of information?

That in navigating the immensity of detail made available by human life we forget the immensity of detail beyond it. As emotion to intellect there is much in living we cannot control, and life would hardly be life without it: a lack: an absence: emptiness: potential.

Potential brings us to Jack Collom, pioneer of ecopoetics and poetry education. Since the 1970s he has taught poetry to children and adults with equal enthusiasm and expertise, from elementary schools to nursing homes to Naropa University. In the chronology of things and incidents after which The Lune takes its name, the very first and foremost is a short poetic form invented by Collom (and Robert Kelly—more info. below). We hope The Lune carries with it Jack's legacy of outreach, enthusiasm, and endurance. And there is another without whom the journal would not exist:

Dave Korn (A. C. Shackleton) is a modern American nomad. His writings, overwhelmingly intimate and meticulous, are all set down in pursuit of essential human experience, whatever that is and wherever it is found. (Here is a phenomenal example.) One of Dave's artful letters to myself was a collection of personal stories, complete with a table of contents. On a timeline of The Lune's physical incarnations, Dave's booklet is year one. (More on poetry as correspondence in the short essay, “Correspondences: letter writing as archetypal liberation.")

The very first iterations of The Lune as a literary journal—The Book of MoonsNo. 1No. 2No. 3—were dedicated to housing “eleven word poems." The eleven word form has a few different incarnations, and “lune" accounts for two:

  1. the Robert Kelly lune: A tercet of 5 | 3 | 5 syllables
  2. the Jack Collom lune: A tercet of 3 | 5 | 3 words

The Kelly lune was invented for the benefit of English-language haiku, to achieve some measure of the brevity that gives Japanese haiku such power. Kelly names the form “lune" according to its thirteen syllables (corresponding to the thirteen lunar months) and its crescent-like shape. A lune by Robert Kelly:

thin sliver of the
crescent moon
high up the real world

The Collom lune was invented for the benefit of English-speaking children, to give them a more intuitive short-form to compose; Collom names the form “lune with Kelly's blessing, and it can be seen as the gibbous to Kelly's crescent. A lune by Angela Prange (2nd grade):

Here I am
in the dark purple tulips
riding a horse

More on the lune as a form can be read in the short essay, “American Haiku: reading and writing short form poetry." The eleven word form—its idiosyncratic rootedness in beginner's-mind—is central to a poetics of delight (see: luminosity), which is tangentially attributable to Anne Waldman via Lorenzo Thomas, who notes that hers is a poetry “informed by a delight in experiment and a deeply motivated quest for what she has referred to as a ‘spiritual community.'"

Speaking specifically of housing delight we come to the writings of Gaston Bachelard, esp. The Poetics of Space (La Poétique de l'espace, 1958). Investigating the lived experience of architecture Bachelard encourages an imaginative relationship to space and celebrates the shifting of the heart and shaping of the mind. We understand that the poet is at home in the movement of things and things are at home in the movement of language and language is at home in the movement of the poet…

In holding onto books and letters for years and years, we preserve a relationship in thought and feeling to the author(s) of the object(s). And this preservation is not fixity but wakefulness, the capacity to focus and find meaning in that which occurs to us: in a name, in a moment. The Lune evolved from a love for poetry to a study of poetry to a collection of poems to a look at poets. It has been a letter from the dearest of friends, a collection of eleven word poems, an envelope-bound edition of Pomes Penyeach, and now a monthly journal of new short works by the most compassionate authors this side of the Milky Way.

Long may we observe the moon, the luminous omphalos of all human history. Long may we share language and recall our myriad names.


References:

₁ Campbell, Joseph, and Bill Moyers. “Ep. 5: Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth — ‘Love and the Goddess'." BillMoyers.com. Moyers & Company, 8 Mar. 2013. Web. 31 Dec. 2015.

₂ (cont'd) Which method of treatment, that it may be clearer, can be considered through these words: ‘When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a barbarous people, Judea was made his sanctuary, Israel his dominion' (Douay-Rheims, Ps. 113.1-2). If we look at it from the letter alone it means to us the exit of the Children of Israel from Egypt at the time of Moses; if from allegory, it means for us our redemption done by Christ; if from the moral sense, it means to us the conversion of the soul from the struggle and misery of sin to the status of grace; if from the anagogical, it means the leave taking of the blessed soul from the slavery of this corruption to the freedom of eternal glory. And though these mystical senses are called by various names, in general all can be called allegorical, because they are different from the literal or the historical. Now, allegory comes from Greek alleon, which is Latin means ‘other' or ‘different'.

₃ (cont'd) This definition precludes classing language itself as symbolism; for though words represent ideas, it may not be said certainly that ideas may exist without language. It is also important to note that something may be a symbol and have an independent existence of its own; thus the king of Great Britain may symbolize the unity of the British Empire, but he has no real function in British government besides any such symbolism. Artistic representation of whatever sort must be regarded as symbolism to a certain extent, but a distinction in terms is introduced in art, which seriously modifies the meaning of the word symbol: although the drawings at ALTAMIRA are symbolic in one sense (i.e., a drawn reindeer), they are said not to be symbols in another more common sense, since the artist represented a reindeer by copying its appearance. If he had drawn two horns and considered that to represent a reindeer adequately, the two horns might be said to be a symbol for a reindeer. Such symbolism is all-pervasive in every kind of art, especially because it lends itself to rapid, comprehensive, and compact use.

₄ (cont'd) The early symbolists experimented with form, as did the PARNASSIANS, and evolved free verse (vers libre) which has outlived the movement itself. VERLAINE, BAUDELAIRE, Gérard de Nerval, and MALLARMÉ were precursors of the movement, which reached its full tide in the work of LaFORQUE, MORÉAS, and RÉGNIER. In drama it is represented by Maeterlinck; in criticism, by Remy de Gourmont; and in music, by Debussy. The influence of these French symbolists not only gave rise to similar schools in England, Germany, and other countries, but also may be traced in the development of the Imagists (AMY LOWELL, POUND, ALDINGTON, Hilda DOOLITTLE) and the various decadent schools; it is likewise evident in extreme form in the work of T. S. Eliot, Proust, and James Joyce.