A Quiet Revolution: Ella Longpre's “Separation Cosmology"
Ella Longpre's Apocalune, A Separation Cosmology, has been a thrilling document to prepare for publication. I think (perhaps foolishly) that I speak for most editors in saying that it is not unusual to be thrilled by the process of preparing new work for the public. Simply put, working with Apocalune has warranted some soft-spoken editorial wonderment.
Before doing anything with Apocalune—before holding it, before reading it, before even knowing it is a book—one encounters Longpre's confluent suggestion: the idea of apocalypse fused with a view of the moon. As a word, Apocalune clearly stems from “apocalypse," which means “revelation" or “disclosure," from apo- “off" and the Greek kalyptein “to cover, conceal." Kalyptein comes directly from Calypso, a nymph in Homer's Odyssey, “hidden, hider," perhaps originally (mythically) a death goddess.
Perhaps more obviously, the name Apocalune incorporates the title of its periodical vehicle, The Lune. So, Longpre's text moves with an awareness of its vehicle's modality. In a single word—its name—Apocalune is an expression of the material connection necessary to the life of any literary impulse. A literary impulse is a movement among symbols. And on earth, symbols are particular to human consciousness.
Longpre's title is a diaphanous first-thought that asks us to peer into and beyond the phenomenon of pairing (coupling). Apocalune is an etymologically cloaked concern for humanity's continuation. The result of this concern is A Separation Cosmology, the mythic awareness that all things—persons and planets alike—are bound by their distance to some sort of original unity. This is parenthood. This is poetry.
In his 1988 dialogues with Bill Moyers, Joseph Campbell is at one point in the final episode (“Masks of Eternity") moved to distinguish between the beautiful and the sublime. The distinction becomes necessary in discussing “peak experiences" and “epiphanies." Campbell identifies the peak experience as coming about in the experience of one's relationship to the harmony of being. Epiphany he qualifies as esthetic experience, “a fortunate rhythm…struck by the artist," producing radiance.
But the radiance produced by art is not limited to that which is beautiful—it stems also from the sublime. The saint and the monster are equals in the human pursuit of "a fortunate rhythm." In terms of rhythm, the saint unifies, the monster breaks.
In countless religious traditions, the end of the world is seen as both beautiful and monstrous. So what is the meaning of Apocalune, the end of the world in sight of the moon? It is not Longpre's Moon that is dying, it is humankind's earth. And the beloved Moon is watching. Earth's apocalypse becomes an imposition of torture. But Apocalune shows us how to hold the radical distance, how to see unity (continued life) in the break.
Two of Longpre's poems are erasures of James Joyce's Ulysses. Here is a related critique by Marylu Hill of the “Telemachiad" and m/othering:
While his mother is alive, Stephen has mastered all the tricks by which he can deny her selfhood, thus keep her safely within reach for both comfort and denial. But with her death all this changes. The fact of it causes Stephen's crisis of identity by forcing him to recognize her selfhood insofar as her death is contrary to his desire. He is left mirrorless and objectless, with the added dimensions of guilt for having figuratively killed her with his demands for unconditional love and acceptance, and fear that the ghoulmother will now revenge herself on him.
This crisis forces Stephen to recreate the mother image through language and memory.†
Unlike Joyce's Stephen Dedalus, Longpre does not reduce the Moon to an object in order to control and manipulate contradictory existential conditions. Apocalune regards a variety of fractures and catastrophes with understanding and clarity of purpose. Longpre shows us that even beyond language there is comprehension: compassion: communion.
† Hill, Marylu. “‘Amor Matris’: Mother and Self in the Telemachiad Episode of Ulysses”. Twentieth Century Literature 39.3 (1993): 329–343. Web.