Poetry Black Poetry White

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Poetry Black Poetry White

Post by Ginnie » Tue Feb 12, 2013 4:06 pm

This poem, written by Rene Daumal, I've always felt had something significant to say about verbal art and written art forms.

If anyone would care to discuss the themes that would be awesome.




As with magic, poetry is black or white, depending on whether it serves the sub-human or the superhuman.

The same innate tendencies govern the machinery of the white poet and the black poet. Some call these tendencies a mysterious gift, a mark of superior powers; others an infirmity or a curse. No matter. Or rather, yes! - it matters highly, but we have not yet reached the point of being able to understand the origin of our essential structures. He who could understand them would deliver himself from them. The white poet seems to understand his poetic nature, to free himself from it and make it serve. The black poet uses it and becomes its slave.

But what is this "gift" common to all poets? It is a particular connection between the various lives which make up our life, such that each manifestation of one of them is no longer simply its exclusive sign, but could become, through an internal resonance, a sign of the emotion that at a given moment is one's own color, sound or taste. This central emotion, deeply hidden within us, vibrates and shines only in rare instants. For the poet, these instants will be poetic moments, and at such a moment all his thoughts, feelings, movements and words will be the signs of this central emotion. And when the unity of their meaning is realized in an image stated in words, then most especially will we say that he is a poet. This is what we will call the "poetic gift," for want of knowing more about it.

The poet has a rather unclear notion of his gift. The black poet exploits it for his personal satisfaction. He believes that he can take credit for this gift, that he himself voluntarily makes poems. Or else, giving in to the mechanism of resonant meanings, he prides himself on being possessed by a superior mind, which has chosen him as its medium. In both cases, the poetic gift serves only pride and delusive imagination. Whether schemer or visionary, the black poet lies to himself and believes he is someone. Pride, lies - still a third term characterizes him: laziness. Not that he doesn't act and struggle, or that it seems to come from outside. But all this movement happens by itself; he keeps from personally intervening himself - this poor, naked self that wants neither to be seen nor to see itself as poor and naked, that each of us tries so hard to conceal under masks. It is the "gift" that operates in him, and he takes pleasure in it, like a voyeur, without showing himself. He wraps himself in the way the soft-bellied hermit crab takes shelter and adorns itself in the shell of the murex, made to produce royal purple and not to clothe shameful little runts. Laziness at seeing oneself, at being seen; fear of having no richness other than the responsibilities one assumes: this is the laziness I'm speaking of - oh mother of all my vices!

Black poetry is fertile in wonders like dreams and opium. The black poet tastes every pleasure, adorns himself in every ornament, exercises every power - in his imagination. The white poet prefers reality, even paltry reality, to these rich lies. His work is an incessant struggle against pride, imagination and laziness. Accepting his gift, even if he suffers from it and suffers from suffering, he seeks to make it serve ends greater than his selfish desires: the as-yet-unknown cause of this gift.

I will not say: so-and-so is a white poet, so-and-so is a black poet. This would be to fall from ideas into opinions, discussions and error. I will not even say: so-and-so has the poetic gift, so-and-so does not. Do I have it? Often I doubt it; sometimes I strongly believe I do. I am never certain once and for all. Each time dawn appears, the mystery is there in its entirety. But if I was once a poet, I wish to be a white one. In fact, all human poetry is a mixture of white and black; but some tends toward whiteness, the other blackness.That which tends toward blackness need make no effort. It follows the natural, sub-human downward slope. One need not make an effort to brag, to dream, to lie and be lazy; nor to calculate and scheme, when calculating and scheming are for the benefit of vanity, imagination or inertia. But white poetry goes uphill. It swims upstream like the trout to go spawn in its birthplace. It holds fast, by force and by cunning, against the whims of the rapids and the eddies. It does not let itself be distracted by the shimmering of passing bubbles, nor be swept away by the current toward soft, muddy valleys.

How does the poet who wants to become white wage this battle? I will tell you how I try to wage it, in my rare better moments, so that one day, if I am a poet, my poetry - grey as it may be - will exude at least a desire for whiteness.

I will distinguish three phases of the poetic operation: the luminous seed, the clothing in images, and verbal expression.

Every poem is born of a seed, dark at first, which we must make luminous for it to produce fruits of light. With the black poet, the seed remains dark and produces blind, subterranean vegetation. To make it shine, one must create silence, for this seed is the Thing-to-be-said itself, the central emotion that seeks to express itself through my whole machine. The machine by itself is dark, but it likes to proclaim itself luminous, and manages to make itself believed. As soon as it is set in motion by the seed's germination, it claims to be acting under its own steam, it shows off for the perverse pleasure of each of its levers and gears. So be quiet, machine! Work and shut up! Silence to word games, memorized lines, memories fortuitously assembled; silence to ambition, to the desire to shine - for only light shines by itself; silence to self-flattery and self-pity; silence to the rooster who thinks he makes the sun rise! And silence parts the shadows, the seed begins to glow, lighting, not lit. That is what you have to do. It is very difficult, but each little effort receives a little glimmer of light in reward. The Thing-to-be-said then appears in its most intimate form, as an eternal certainty - a pinpoint of light containing the immensity of the desire for Being.

The second phase is the clothing of the luminous seed, which reveals but is not revealed, invisible like light and silent like sound - its clothing in the images that will make it manifest. Here again, reviewing these images, one must reject and chain down those which would serve only easiness, lies and pride. So many beauties we would like to show off. But once the order is established, we must let the seed itself choose the plant or animal in which it will clothe itself by giving it life.

And third comes the verbal expression, for which it is no longer a matter simply of internal work, but also of external science and know-how. The seed has its own respiration. Its breath takes possession of the expressive mechanisms by communicating its rhythm to them. Thus, these mechanisms should, first of all, be well oiled and just relaxed enough so that they do not start dancing their own dances and scanning incongruous meters. And as it bends the sounds of language to its breath, the Thing-to-be-said also compels them to contain its images. Now, how does it carry out this double operation? That is the mystery. It is not by intellectual scheming: that would require too much time; nor by instinct, for instinct does not invent. This power is exercised thanks to the particular relation that exists between the various elements of the poet's machinery, and that unites matters as different as emotions, images, concepts and sounds in a single living substance. The life of this new organism is the poet's rhythm.

The black poet does almost precisely the opposite, although the exact semblance of these operations is performed in him. His poetry, of course, opens a number of worlds to him, but they are worlds without Sun, lit by a hundred fantastic moons, populated by phantoms, decorated with mirages and sometimes paved with good intentions. White poetry opens the door to only one world, that of the unique Sun, without false wonders, real.

I have said what one must do to become a white poet. As if it were that easy! Even in prose, in ordinary speech and writing (as in all aspects of my daily life), all that I produce is grey, salt-and-pepper, soiled, a mixture of light and darkness. And so I take up the struggle after the fact. I re-read myself. In my sentences, I see words, expressions, interferences that do not serve the Thing-to-be-said: an image that meant to be strange, a pun that thought it was funny, the pedantry of a certain prig who would do better to stay seated at his desk instead of coming to play the fipple flute in my string quartet. And remarkably enough, it is simultaneously a mistake in taste, style, or even syntax. Language itself seems set up in such a way as to detect the intruders for me. Few mistakes are purely technical. Almost all of them are my mistakes. And I cross out, and I correct, with the joy one can have at cutting a gangrenous limb from one's body.

[]

1941

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Re: Poetry Black Poetry White

Post by Lúthien » Tue Feb 12, 2013 7:34 pm

I really will have to think about this for a bit. I suppose I am not so very much into creating poetry, or at least not enough to actually have been confronted with matters such as this.

For now I am trying to place it in the modern axis that has "real literature" (i.e. psychological novels) at one end, and "(just) stories" (i.e. Tolkien) at the other. This has always seemed like a very odd criterium to me, possibly reflecting the modern notion that only facts are interesting.
Even at high school I was completely mystified why unspeakably dreary books by authors raised in a Calvinist family (who were frustrated because they always had to sing psalms on Sunday as a child) - or silly sexual escapades by a Mr. Two Brain Cells were apparently highly praised by everyone while for instance Tolkien wasn't. And I mean, even looking at the authors as persons: most of those modern authors may have a perfect instinct for what people find hip, but I don't scale them particularly high on any intellectual, creative or moral scale. Compare that to someone like JRRT!
Or in other words: it's all the same old group-popularity-nonsense.

So I suppose this poem here isn't talking about that axis. Heck, I only know very vaguely what white or black magic is. I know to a degree what goethic and - <the other one> is (though I've forgotten what the other was, and which was which): the one is used as a means to influence others, inflate one's ego or other such consumerist BS nonsense; the other to (indeed) "enlarge the soul" therewith coming closer to the Imaginal or Divine.

So would then Black Poetry be Hip Poetry maybe? If so, I understand it. White poetry would then be a true attempt to express something authentically felt about - well, the "higher". That's not the best definition, I know. But now I should go to sleep first :)

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Re: Poetry Black Poetry White

Post by Meneldur Olvarion » Tue Feb 12, 2013 8:14 pm

Poetry is out of my realm of expertise -- both to create or to usefully judge, but I looked up the author and found a few things that intrigued me:
Sometime in the year 1924 a precocious French poet named René Daumal had a mystical experience that became the determining event of his life.

Soaking a handkerchief in carbon tetrachloride— a powerful anesthetic he used for his beetle collection— the sixteen-year-old Daumal held it to his nostrils and inhaled. Instantly he felt himself “thrown brutally into another world,” a strange other dimension of geometric forms and incomprehensible sounds, in which his mind “traveled too fast to drag words along with it” (Daumal, Powers of the Word 164).

It was his first encounter with what he would later call “absurd evidence”— “proof” that another existence lies beyond the conscious mind. Obsessed with the mystery of death, René was determined to peek at “the great beyond.” When the anesthetizing effects of the fumes proved too great, René’s hand would drop from his face. He would then regain consciousness, his mind reeling— and his head aching— from its recent plunge into somewhere else.
[link]

I have to admit, it never would have occurred to me to try a chlorinated organic solvent as an entheogen (most of them are carcinogenic), but this guy was obviously "primed" to have those kinds of experiences, regardless of the particular mode of consciousness alteration. It makes me wonder what sort of results he would have had with Salvia or Peruvian Torch?

Tangentially, this brings to mind an issue I've discussed with Dineen a few times: it seems that most of Europe, and to a lesser extent, North America, for whatever reason lack the powerful, but safe entheogens that South America is blessed with. So, those interested in that route of non-ordinary consciousness induction and live in the "entheogen scarce" areas have traditionally turned to more dangerous ones like datura or henbane, or solvents in modern times.

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Re: Poetry Black Poetry White

Post by Meneldur Olvarion » Tue Feb 12, 2013 8:30 pm

Lúthien wrote:[...] So I suppose this poem here isn't talking about that axis. Heck, I only know very vaguely what white or black magic is. I know to a degree what goethic and - <the other one> is (though I've forgotten what the other was, and which was which): the one is used as a means to influence others, inflate one's ego or other such consumerist BS nonsense; the other to (indeed) "enlarge the soul" therewith coming closer to the Imaginal or Divine.
I think the terms you're looking for are magia (sometimes also called theurgy) and goeteia. See Tolkien's definition in place from Letter #155:
I am afraid I have been far too casual about 'magic' and especially the use of the word; though Galadriel and others show by the criticism of the 'mortal' use of the word, that the thought about it is not altogether casual. But it is a v. large question, and difficult; and a story which, as you so rightly say, is largely about motives (choice, temptations etc.) and the intentions for using whatever is found in the world, could hardly be burdened with a pseudo-philosophic disquisition! I do not intend to involve myself in any debate whether 'magic' in any sense is real or really possible in the world. But I suppose that, for the purposes of the tale, some would say that there is a latent distinction such as once was called the distinction between magia and goeteia. Galadriel speaks of the 'deceits of the Enemy'. Well enough, but magia could be, was, held good (per se), and goeteia bad. Neither is, in this tale, good or bad (per se), but only by motive or purpose or use. Both sides use both, but with different motives.
{Added later: To clarify this a bit, as I am familiar with these terms from my dealings with the Neo-Pagans: in essence, goeteia is ego-based attempted increase of one's personal power or material wealth, the sort of things the the so-called "Ceremonial Magicians" tend to go in for, particularly the "Chaos Mages". Magia as Tolkien is using it here is sort of the opposite pole, the "ego-death" state in which we shamans have our Visions and do our works.

Not that there can't be aggressive shamans (I've been in a number of battles in the Imaginal Realm myself) or philanthropic Ceremonial Magicians (though I personally have not heard of any), because it is the original intent behind an action that gives it its moral shading.}

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Re: Poetry Black Poetry White

Post by Ginnie » Wed Feb 13, 2013 2:41 pm

Every poem is born of a seed, dark at first, which we must make luminous for it to produce fruits of light. With the black poet, the seed remains dark and produces blind, subterranean vegetation. To make it shine, one must create silence, for this seed is the Thing-to-be-said itself, the central emotion that seeks to express itself through my whole machine. The machine by itself is dark, but it likes to proclaim itself luminous, and manages to make itself believed. As soon as it is set in motion by the seed's germination, it claims to be acting under its own steam, it shows off for the perverse pleasure of each of its levers and gears. So be quiet, machine! Work and shut up! Silence to word games, memorized lines, memories fortuitously assembled; silence to ambition, to the desire to shine - for only light shines by itself; silence to self-flattery and self-pity; silence to the rooster who thinks he makes the sun rise! And silence parts the shadows, the seed begins to glow, lighting, not lit. That is what you have to do. It is very difficult, but each little effort receives a little glimmer of light in reward. The Thing-to-be-said then appears in its most intimate form, as an eternal certainty - a pinpoint of light containing the immensity of the desire for Being.

The second phase is the clothing of the luminous seed, which reveals but is not revealed, invisible like light and silent like sound - its clothing in the images that will make it manifest. Here again, reviewing these images, one must reject and chain down those which would serve only easiness, lies and pride. So many beauties we would like to show off. But once the order is established, we must let the seed itself choose the plant or animal in which it will clothe itself by giving it life.
I find poetry often expresses so much because it is rich in the symbolism necessary for others to walk with us. Kind of like kindred spirits who journey down a road, one pointing and asking, "do you see that marvelous thing? And not just a reply can be offered but a communion of communication.

So often "talk" is two different monologues that may at times "connect" but do not "plug in" to have that current of intimate union. In poetry and myth and stories, I find I "plug in".

This portion of his writing seems to speak of this for me,

The birth of a communication, comes out of the dark, out of the silent nothingness, and it does so for everyone, and every communication. If we stand in front of what we communicate then it acts as interference and the communication dies before it's intended purpose of "mating" and bringing forth the next moment of conversation, in an additive fashion.

Or, if the creative spark is consumed by the ego of the one who generates it it's power is drained and there is nothing left for another, sort of invitations jg another to dinner, eating in front of another but if they want to eat it will be pot luck.

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Re: Poetry Black Poetry White

Post by Ginnie » Wed Feb 13, 2013 2:48 pm

Davy Willis Lee wrote:Poetry is out of my realm of expertise -- both to create or to usefully judge, but I looked up the author and found a few things that intrigued me:
Sometime in the year 1924 a precocious French poet named René Daumal had a mystical experience that became the determining event of his life.

Soaking a handkerchief in carbon tetrachloride— a powerful anesthetic he used for his beetle collection— the sixteen-year-old Daumal held it to his nostrils and inhaled. Instantly he felt himself “thrown brutally into another world,” a strange other dimension of geometric forms and incomprehensible sounds, in which his mind “traveled too fast to drag words along with it” (Daumal, Powers of the Word 164).

It was his first encounter with what he would later call “absurd evidence”— “proof” that another existence lies beyond the conscious mind. Obsessed with the mystery of death, René was determined to peek at “the great beyond.” When the anesthetizing effects of the fumes proved too great, René’s hand would drop from his face. He would then regain consciousness, his mind reeling— and his head aching— from its recent plunge into somewhere else.
[link]

I have to admit, it never would have occurred to me to try a chlorinated organic solvent as an entheogen (most of them are carcinogenic), but this guy was obviously "primed" to have those kinds of experiences, regardless of the particular mode of consciousness alteration. It makes me wonder what sort of results he would have had with Salvia or Peruvian Torch?

Tangentially, this brings to mind an issue I've discussed with Dineen a few times: it seems that most of Europe, and to a lesser extent, North America, for whatever reason lack the powerful, but safe entheogens that South America is blessed with. So, those interested in that route of non-ordinary consciousness induction and live in the "entheogen scarce" areas have traditionally turned to more dangerous ones like datura or henbane, or solvents in modern times.
Other than Peyote, and I am not sure of it's toxic qualities, you're right. I can't think of another. Tho, now that I think of it, poppy juice (which as been so thoroughly eradicated) was at one time common, and there is some suggestion that ergot was also used.


I didn't know about this experience of Daumal's and that is quite interesting. His unfinished work, Mount Analogies has a mythopoetic quality, I'd link to it but I am on my playbook and that makes such things difficult or next to impossible, tho the limitation could be more me than the playbook itself.

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Re: Poetry Black Poetry White

Post by Ginnie » Wed Feb 13, 2013 2:58 pm

Davy Willis Lee wrote:
Lúthien wrote:[...] So I suppose this poem here isn't talking about that axis. Heck, I only know very vaguely what white or black magic is. I know to a degree what goethic and - <the other one> is (though I've forgotten what the other was, and which was which): the one is used as a means to influence others, inflate one's ego or other such consumerist BS nonsense; the other to (indeed) "enlarge the soul" therewith coming closer to the Imaginal or Divine.
I think the terms you're looking for are magia (sometimes also called theurgy) and goeteia. See Tolkien's definition in place from Letter #155:
I think theurgia is a very interesting word, and it is burdened by an awful lot of conceptualization but scraping some barnacles off it can be useful. Is this not the practice where we enter into a conscious state? Shedding our beliefs and concepts and immersing ourselves in a different quality of reality?

I don't know but invocation and initiation speak to my experience.
Davy Willis Lee wrote:
JRR Tolkien wrote:I am afraid I have been far too casual about 'magic' and especially the use of the word; though Galadriel and others show by the criticism of the 'mortal' use of the word, that the thought about it is not altogether casual. But it is a v. large question, and difficult; and a story which, as you so rightly say, is largely about motives (choice, temptations etc.) and the intentions for using whatever is found in the world, could hardly be burdened with a pseudo-philosophic disquisition! I do not intend to involve myself in any debate whether 'magic' in any sense is real or really possible in the world. But I suppose that, for the purposes of the tale, some would say that there is a latent distinction such as once was called the distinction between magia and goeteia. Galadriel speaks of the 'deceits of the Enemy'. Well enough, but magia could be, was, held good (per se), and goeteia bad. Neither is, in this tale, good or bad (per se), but only by motive or purpose or use. Both sides use both, but with different motives.
{Added later: To clarify this a bit, as I am familiar with these terms from my dealings with the Neo-Pagans: in essence, goeteia is ego-based attempted increase of one's personal power or material wealth, the sort of things the the so-called "Ceremonial Magicians" tend to go in for, particularly the "Chaos Mages". Magia as Tolkien is using it here is sort of the opposite pole, the "ego-death" state in which we shamans have our Visions and do our works.

Not that there can't be aggressive shamans (I've been in a number of battles in the Imaginal Realm myself) or philanthropic Ceremonial Magicians (though I personally have not heard of any), because it is the original intent behind an action that gives it its moral shading.}

I don't see any discussion of magic in this Luthien, other than the use of white and black as distinctions. I'm certain Daumal's had no interest in ceremonial majic. He is speaking of something else.

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Re: Poetry Black Poetry White

Post by Lúthien » Wed Feb 13, 2013 3:50 pm

ginnie just wrote:
but honestly, I don't think that I wrote:
though JRR Tolkien certainly wrote:{fragment from Letters}
{Added later: To clarify this a bit, as I am familiar with these terms from my dealings with the Neo-Pagans: in essence, goeteia is ego-based attempted increase of one's personal power or material wealth, the sort of things the the so-called "Ceremonial Magicians" tend to go in for, particularly the "Chaos Mages". Magia as Tolkien is using it here is sort of the opposite pole, the "ego-death" state in which we shamans have our Visions and do our works.

Not that there can't be aggressive shamans (I've been in a number of battles in the Imaginal Realm myself) or philanthropic Ceremonial Magicians (though I personally have not heard of any), because it is the original intent behind an action that gives it its moral shading.}
I don't see any discussion of magic in this Luthien, other than the use of white and black as distinctions. I'm certain Daumal's had no interest in ceremonial majic. He is speaking of something else.
Well, I didn't write what's in that quote that says "but honestly, I don't think that I wrote" :huh:

However, I did first mention "magic" though :bigboss: but like this:
However, I admit that I wrote:Heck, I only know very vaguely what white or black magic is. I know to a degree what goethic and - <the other one> is (though I've forgotten what the other was, and which was which): the one is used as a means to influence others, inflate one's ego or other such consumerist BS nonsense; the other to (indeed) "enlarge the soul" therewith coming closer to the Imaginal or Divine.

So would then Black Poetry be Hip Poetry maybe? If so, I understand it. White poetry would then be a true attempt to express something authentically felt about - well, the "higher". That's not the best definition, I know.
Since I never came across the concept of black vs. white activities except in magic, I sort of assumed that there was a similar value judgement involved here. And surely, in the text you quote, it seems to me that black poetry is definitely regarded by the writer as the less desirable of the two. I also assumed a similarity to the effect of "whether or not it is put to use in an ego-context".

Isn't that correct then?
ginnie wrote:(...) I'm certain Daumal's had no interest in ceremonial majic. He is speaking of something else.
Did anyone suggest something like that then?
Look, I just brought the comparison up in order to be able to understand what the guy is talking about, since I have never heard of black or white in the context of poetry.
Since I did not assume that he was talking about the color of the pages the poetry is printed on, or the ink used in the process, I had to start somewhere. But that doesn't mean that I would even remotely feel a spark of an inkling of a need to suggest that Daumal was interested in ceremonial magic, or any magic at all, or even playing card tricks :)

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Re: Poetry Black Poetry White

Post by Ginnie » Wed Feb 13, 2013 4:50 pm

No, no Luthien, it's fine.. That was just a small correction, nothing more. I just wanted to reduce distraction, seems That flopped! I am stealing some emoticons. Gotta look at them more closely! :)

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Re: Poetry Black Poetry White

Post by Lúthien » Wed Feb 13, 2013 6:31 pm

You can't steal them because there's a limitless supply of them!! :console: B-) :) :-} :console:

:hi:

:spruce_up:

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Re: Poetry Black Poetry White

Post by Meneldur Olvarion » Wed Feb 13, 2013 10:24 pm

ginnie wrote:[...] Other than Peyote, and I am not sure of it's toxic qualities, you're right. I can't think of another. Tho, now that I think of it, poppy juice (which as been so thoroughly eradicated) was at one time common
Yes, back in the day (19th century) laudanum was pretty much as common as candy here in the U.S., and was sold in the same manner -- what we'd now refer to as "over the counter".
and there is some suggestion that ergot was also used.
Ergot is tricky. Ingest just a bit too much, and you'll end up with ergotism which in the Middle Ages was called Saint Anthony's Fire. There is some evidence that the kykeon used by many Mystery Schools in ancient Greece had ergot as an ingredient, and since by the nature of their organizations, was probably done intentionally, not accidentally were most of the other historical cases of ergotism. So they may have developed techniques of using it more safely. It's hard to tell now, as what was taught in the Mystery Schools was usually not publicized.

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Re: Poetry Black Poetry White

Post by Ginnie » Thu Feb 14, 2013 10:57 pm

It's pretty clear that some form of entheogen was used in the mysteries of Eleusis. I've thought of writing a first person perspective of an Eleusian experience, Naturally, I'd take a fair amount of licences.

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Re: Poetry Black Poetry White

Post by Meneldur Olvarion » Fri Feb 15, 2013 12:25 am

ginnie wrote:[...] I've thought of writing a first person perspective of an Eleusian experience, Naturally, I'd take a fair amount of licences.
That would be very interesting! I'd like to read it if you should decide to write it one day.

///Dave

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Re: Poetry Black Poetry White

Post by Ginnie » Fri Feb 15, 2013 1:17 am

Maybe I'll have to get on to that. :)

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Re: Poetry Black Poetry White

Post by Lúthien » Fri Feb 15, 2013 3:57 am

Maybe you should indeed. I think Stephan Hoeller also mentions them, but I forgot where and what.

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