Rime & Confirmation: two excerpts from Orthoteny (w.i.p.)

The motivation behind all the work here in these Skunkworks is the composition of a version of that “modern myth of things seen in the sky”, whose working title is Orthoteny. That title is taken from the ufological writings of Aimé Michel, specifically his Flying Saucers and the Straight-line Mystery (1958).

Within the texture of the poetic work, such straight lines are the rimes or repetitions between parts of the myth or that connect the myth to the wider field of human culture. Within the phenomenon itself, such repetitions of shape, behaviour, and other features are taken as confirmation of the objective reality of UFOs and the entities associated with them. Such echoes are also often adduced as evidence the phenomenon has been a constant in human history. Ufologically, I am vigilantly critical of such ahistorical thinking, but in the context of the mythopoetic work they lend the theme vista.

As an example, I post two excerpts from the work-in-progress. The first is the fourth section of the poetic sequence, Magonian Latitudes, from my 1996 trade edition Ladonian Magnitudes, concerning the Thirteenth century story of a cloud ship whose anchor got caught in the door arch of Saint Kinarus’ Church, Cloera County, Ireland. (Irish poet and Nobel Prize laureate Seamus Heaney treats the same theme in the eighth section of his poem “Lightenings” from his 1991 collection Seeing Things). The second is from a section of my chapbook On the Phantom Air Ship Mystery (1995), “The Phantom Air Ship” that concerns an analogous story, this time from Merkel, Texas, in 1897.

 

[from Magonian Latitudes]

 

A marvel in Cloera County

            interrupted Sunday Mass

It befell an anchor on a rope

            caught in Saint Kinarus’ door-arch

Where the line ended in clouds

            the congregation saw some kind of ship

One crewman dove and swam down

            as if to free the flukes from the keystone

But they seized and would hold him

            but that the Bishop

On grounds terrestrial air

            may well drown one celestial

Forbade it

            and freed

Quick as limbs can swim he rose

            to hands on ropes and ladders

The anchor rang and cut

            the line coiled down about them

 

[from On the Phantom Air Ship Mystery] 26 April [1897]

 

Sunday in Merkel church-goers returning from evening service saw a dragging along the ground

Followed it bounce onto the tracks and catch a rail

A light ship’s anchor roped high up to a lamp brighter than a locomotive’s

And lit gondola-windows of an air ship

After nine minutes a small man in a cobalt blue jumpsuit

Came down the line to look things over and cut it

 

 

 

Skunkworks on Kevin Randle’s “A Different Perspective”

I had the honour and pleasure to be a guest on Kevin Randle’s podcast “A Different Perspective”.

We discussed all the things wrong with History’s Project Blue Book, the uncanny parallels between the Phantom Airship flap of 1896/7 and the post-1947 modern era, all that’s spontaneously literary about the history of UFOs, and the enduring, “hard kernel” of the mystery.

You can hear it all here.

Phantom Airship Crashes at Jefferson and Aurora

Since this year’s Solstice, Kevin Randle has been writing on the purported crash of an airship in Jefferson, Iowa in April 1897, providing a wealth of original material and even a photograph of an airship that landed in Waterloo, Iowa. He has gone on to contrast this story with that of the other, more famous, crash in Aurora, Texas the same month.

Randle concludes that both stories are hoaxes, perpetrated by the newspapers of the day to increase circulation. Of course, from the point of view of the mythos, what is important is that the waves of both 1897 and 1947 present with what Leonard Stringfield would term “Crash/Retrieval Syndrome”. Indeed, what is most valuable from a textual point of view is that, as Randle notes, the debris from the Aurora crash were dumped down the town’s well, which links the tale, at the level of the signifier, to that most famous crash/retrieval story, that of Roswell, i.e. Rose-well, a name that will bring to the minds of some readers the expression “sub rosa“…. ‘Aurora’, too, is a more suggestive name than ‘Jefferson’ in this context, as well.

For these, and other very likely contingent, reasons, my initial poetic treatment of the Phantom Airship Mystery includes the crash at Aurora, which I include below:

 

                17 April:  Aurora

 

The railroad passed

An epidemic just

 

The West Side burned down

Weevils got the cotton

 

                *

 

One came in from the north low over Wise County with the sun

Ten twelve miles an hour dropping toward the ground

Clear over the square right at Judge Proctor’s windmill

 

Three miles away they saw the flash and explosion

Fragments over three acres east and northeast

Windmill and watertank wrecked

                flowerbeds ruined

 

What remained of a small man disfigured past human resemblance

And his hieroglyphic log penned in violet

Together were buried in the cemetery that day

 

                *

 

I was in school that day and nothing happened

                He saw the air ship when it swung in low to crash

                                They wouldn’t let me see it but told me all about it

 

                                They went to the crash and saw the wreckage and torn-up body

                I heard about it all my life

It passed like any other story

 

In the Masonic Cemetery no unmarked graves

Never was a windmill at the Judge’s

Tons of metal found by the son down the well years later

 

Back to the Skunkworks

Just last week, a friend recently publicized a chapbook of mine composed and published airship2over twenty years ago, and the response, livelier than any to any of my work in recent memory, encourages me to return to the work that chapbook began.

I shouldn’t be surprised, in a way. This poem was the center-piece of the performances I gave during a tour of Germany in 1996, and then, too, the response was gratifying:  one audience member excitedly came up to me to say he would buy everything I would publish, and a friend I made during that tour, the German novelist Georg Oswald, approved with pleasure the approach I took to the material. And a few years later this sequence was well-received by Terry Matheson, a professor of English who has applied narratology to alien abduction reports and who was kind enough to even teach the poem below in one of his classes.

arnold_ufoSo, for interested parties, I append one of the first poems from this project, the last poem of my first trade edition, Grand Gnostic Central and other poems. and return to  back-engineering this “modern myth of things seen in the sky”.

 

Flying Saucers

 

Tuesday three in the afternoon 24 June 1947

Kenneth Arnold of Boise, rescue pilot, businessman, deputy sheriff and federal marshal, U.S. Forest Serviceman

At 9,000 feet crystal-clear conditions

Alone in his Callair between Chehalis and Yakima

An hour’s detour searching for a lost transport

Out of the blue a flash like just before a midair crash

Made him look left north of Mount Rainier

To see at ninety degrees

Nine seeming jet planes in a V pointed south

 

The echelon vaguely bobbing and weaving

Flashing reflections

Twenty-four miles off

Against Rainier’s snows, tailless—

Flying nearly forty miles

Between Mounts Rainier and Adams

Three times the speed of sound

The first crossed the ridge bridging the mountains

As the last came over its north crest five miles back

 

Nine crescents needing to be

Half a mile long to be seen

Flying that fast that far away

So smooth mirroring sunlight

Like speedboats on rough water

Wavering in formation

Like the tail of a Chinese kite

Wings tipping flashing blue white

Each like a saucer skipped over water