On Vocation

It was 2015, and I was just two years removed from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University. The MFA program drew strength from an unparalleled ethos of delight in experiment and concern for humanity, plus the city of Boulder's cultural and environmental dynamism; and I was fortunate enough to be working at none other than Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Café, where (two years prior) I met my partner (and current art director of The Lune) Indigo Deany. Boulder—more than the sum of its parts—was unquestionably a haven for poetry, or my understanding of what poetry could be: a calling.

But I no longer live there. And settling into a new place in today’s America, one gets the sense not only of the great physical distances (and “time zones”) that are integral to this country’s character, but of the great spiritual distances between people, as members of a more-or-less singular species. I am grateful for the fact that a digital “web of connectivity”—satellite networks, radio-waves, highly concentrated and variable light—enables this very correspondence, among most of the others I regularly enjoy. But there is something alarming about computerized distance—or rather something alarming about our preferences, when faced with such tools as are now ubiquitous—and I frequently find myself paralyzed with vocational doubt, in spite of all so-called contact

I am concerned—perpetually—that under the constraints of our financial system (or treatment of finance, in general), identifying as a “poet” is increasingly a matter of supplementing other, more readily capitalistic pursuits. Is “poet” becoming more title than role? The question disturbs me. I find it urgently important to celebrate (honor, uplift) those who are willing to risk the poet's vocation, to heed the call as fully as possible. (By risk, I mean make at all costs, which is to say refuse any valuation that places a clause of limitation upon something that is essentially free, boundless: meaning) So, it is not a financially reliable endeavor. But does that mean it is irresponsible? I ask in earnest. What does it mean when to refuse a sum of money is to refuse a healthy life? This is not freedom. ("Alley Violinist" by the poet Robert Lax is, considering the above, crucial reading.) There are lots of people working to destabilize the system that perpetuates this reality, but to destabilize a system is, invariably, to destabilize oneself (see: “Decolonization Anthropology: A conversation with Faye V. Harrison”). Are we willing to deal with it? I am fortunate to even be able to ask the question. And more, as lunes:

      Do you have
      a job? No, I don't
      really have anything.

      Do you have
      a job? Yes, I work
      to stay honest.

      The law tells
      us how to live. We
      often break it.

      Art shows us
      how to live. We often
      break it open.

More than for the aforementioned “web,” I am grateful for those indelible makers in the world whose work demonstrates—independent of a regular and reliable “connection”—an attention to the call, quiet or uncertain or challenging as it may be. The artist creates bonds by compassion: a “suffering with,” an admission of the struggle that is common, root of community, that which is shared. “Connection” is thus inherent. In a certain sense, the technological concept of a “reliable” connection belies the connective power of our multisensory existence, as “the gods belie direct treatment” in this passage from David Mutschlecner’s Poetic Faith:

“There are powers at play in the mind and in the world, there is a kind of Hermes that holds the key to the hallway between them. Numinous experience is hardly dead—it remains utterly endemic to the human person. We can color holy dread with sarcasm, we can deny that holy awe has any objective place, but such responses are shown for everyone, at one time or another, to be false. The world is full of gods, and the gods belie direct treatment unless direct treatment admits the full mysterious experience of being human.”*

There is so much, in the poetry of personhood, that serves as vocational (re)assurance. Here’s Anne Waldman in “To A Young Writer” (from Makeup on Empty Space, Toothpaste Press, 1984):

      Never forget you are what you are
      making, the intricacies of feeling
      change in autumn—how crystal the
      conscious mind, how unsettled the
      leaves seem—and not be irritated.
      It may be conflict it may be personal
      it may be political or religious in
      the sense of terminology, vocabularies.
      You strain your muscles, the thing
      gets lifted and poetry is important
      it’s food. The words never take you
      back to where you start from, but they
      might change the figuration of the
      mind and glow.

On this note of transfiguration—of the necessary visitation of our former selves and endeavors upon our current occupations and ideals—I am happy to announce a few of The Lune’s recent movements:

1) We have listed the titles of four full-length forthcoming projects, and are honored to be associated with such remarkable humans; while all details are subject to change—with much work and communication left to be done—we wanted to share the visions as they take shape.

2) In conjunction with a re-articulated mission and publishing philosophy, we are once again open to reading new work for publication, and—as a result—are overjoyed to introduce Ace Gallagher as The Lune's photography editor. Full details on our new (sub)mission page.

3) While trying to maintain a more-or-less stable reading environment online, we consistently make small changes to the website that hopefully add life-force and depth. One such change is the availability of PDF previews for every title in the chapbook series. Please download at your leisure, and share freely.

Yours in the ancient lexical light & warm stone syllables of the ancestral hearth,

Joseph Braun
Editor & Publisher