surmania – layers and (layering)

Phil Gomm, Flax (2020)


surmania layers

surmania layering

I know, I’m aware. When I was little, I feared two things: to be touched, and alien spaceships, though I suppose that dissipated when I first visited one (fun!). The haptophobia, though, never quite took flight, and it only became more extensive, deeper. I have my ways of becoming intangible, of becoming repulsive, of shedding magnetism. When I started posting on WordPress two years ago, my desire was to amplify myself, reach that final and most obscure cycle of creation which is and can only be external and communal. Some poems I’ve placed on here had such a sharp emotional density to me that such an act of exhibition was akin to pleading for the return of a lover. I became increasingly frustrated with my ineptitude at translating what isn’t, nor was ever intended to be, a cerebral or philosophical poetic spine; that’s not what I am. The heart of my poems is that of mine; it’s trauma, madness, rejection, humiliation, and they enjoy the measure of isolation and disfigurement that all of these sentiments carry. I’m rarely ever okay, but I’ve learnt an integral aspect of my being: you either make a monument of your pain, or you monument your pain, and the former is, to me, a necessary but very grievous process. I know my poems are never easy, they are never clear, never idoneous or clean or expectable. I know they are long and, as a cloud that makes me blush once said, (João-Maria waves at the sky), that might detract some folks from reading me. They might leave, and it’s okay if they do, it’s important. But I can’t paint myself of easy digestion while I can’t easily digest myself. I aspire for that parsimony and subtlety; I want that, but I’m not that, or I’m not always that. The composition above pinnacles that statement. But everyone who does read me, and comments, and e-mails me with incorruptible sweetness, you make this process of asking to be loved again incredibly lighter. I know I’ve been timid for a long time and only now am I starting to engage more, and though we all live creativity differently, I hope I’ve been lightening the experience for those that feel it heaviest, or at least doing something positive for you.

Phil Gomm, Flax (2020)

Published by João-Maria

A tick clinging to the bristles of a purple boar.

59 thoughts on “surmania – layers and (layering)

  1. A truckled vision! I found the ending of this poem very moving, João-Maria. Kneeling – slips of silence… flowerlessness treelessness waterlessness… Thanks. I shall carry this poem with me this coming week. To me (and I don’t know why) it evoked a stillness.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think there are three possibly central sensations in the poem (that I’ve counted), which are stillness, liminality and liberty, and whichever you identify as the core while reading will inevitably alter the meaning of the poem altogether.
      And I do keep my promises!
      Be sure to give it a shot, Bruce. You were part of the making of this poem, and I hope you find something worth carrying, in it. That would mean a lot to me.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Thanks João-Maria. This is a highly unmeaningless statement but: Poetry acts as poetry – so we shall see, and I am ready to be surprised!

        Liked by 3 people

  2. ‘Stillness is poison, my dad said. I lost a sister to stillness’.

    I love this line. It reads like the opening line of an important novel. There are many resplendent images in these verses, but there’s something killer about this one. An entire life sits beneath these twelve words, a complete story. I want to know what it is!

    Oh – and thanks for allowing me to co-habit here for a while. That was a nice surprise and you’re right, all these little acts of exhibition are fraught with sharer’s remorse and that sneaking 3am sense that it’s only masturbation really, so it’s reassuring to when work leaves you and lands usefully elsewhere!

    BTW – as a big Close Encounters of the Third Kind fan, what was it like inside the mothership?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sorry for the delay, Phil! Commenting on your work before replying to your comment of mine isn’t cordial. But I needed to be in a computer to reply to this. In the phone, I just go on a massive tangent and forget what I was replying to.

      Your remark on “an entire life sits beneath these twelve words” is accurate, in theory. You see, all parentheticals in the poem are extracted from my recollection of conversations in which someone exposed their trauma to me. That particular one was from an interview with a mechanic I did for school when I was 14. He spoke of how the car shop was from his father and he’d get beaten up if he was caught still and the abuse only became evident to others when his little sister died from what was believed to be an instance of domestic violence.

      Surmania is about that, I think, but I’m not too sure. Familial trauma, or something you can’t simply shut off, since it will be forever mixed into you. It’s a pyrexic feeling, to have trauma associated with your family, because it a double-puncture, a triple-puncture; it’s hard to place what it is.

      The layers and (layering) are truly just that, not a fancy artistic title, haha, I did weave conversations inseamed with my own digestion of my traumas, to create this in-and-out phasing characteristic of someone depersonalising. And of course, my staple ontic detours.

      Sharer’s remorse is absolutely a thing. And I did refer to this WordPress experience as an “onanism of expression” once, but I’m starting to realise that, although there is certainly that part of it, Art is invariably communicative, and if propound to make it, we propound to be viewed by it, even as just masturbatory gibbons spinning words around.

      And I can’t share details regarding the mothership, except that it is a fathership. Turns out the aliens are patriarchal too. Know what you made me miss? Watching the film “Contact”. What a classic. I love Jodie Foster.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Onanism of expression…that’s good. I’ll be a 21st century Whitman writing with my thumbs in the grass.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. You’re welcome João! And yeah thanks, that’s y i decided to migrate….

        Hey FYI, I have sent you an invitation to reconnect to my blog as a Follower. There has been some glitches with notifications. So I had to “remove you”. Pls check your mail n accept the invite if you would still like to follow my blog 🙏✨

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh that’s weird….perhaps you’ve blocked the invites. You can simply click on my name in WP reader & hit Follow. Else pls visit my site ( & enter your name / email & hit subscribe 🙏

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Idenfifiquei-me com muitas coisas que escreveste.
    Sabes, acho a tua poesia fantástica, com um cunho muito peculiar, teu, próprio. Para mim, não é pesada, é a tua forma de te expressares, tão válida como qualquer uma.
    Muito dos sentimentos que descreves também os sinto, também não me expresso de uma forma muito simples e, se na primeira leitura o sentimento pode parecer fácil e inocente, de todo que não o é. Existe uma grande rede, um labirinto, um traçado no meio do caos que é o emocional traduzido em palavras.
    Nem sempre me interpretam como me retrato mas é bom ler.
    Ler-te é, sem dúvida, gratificante João. Continua.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Eu compartilho todas as tuas palavras. Aliás, faço delas minhas. É mesmo isso: uma grande rede, um labirinto. Esta coisa de criar é bonita porque nunca acaba, mas é esse nunca acabar que atormenta tanto o processo.
      Ler-te é, também, magnifico. Muito obrigado, Irina. Tu és incrível.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. i like how you touch this and circumambulate it, or drift with it maybe, or in it – i’ve been bad at reading you and will try to let myself change that, but you have achieved more in two years, especially in connecting, than i – i do enjoy how you teach me, words i’ve never heard of

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Toni, I don’t think we can be bad at reading something. We read it if it compels us and we don’t if it doesn’t, and that’s okay.
      That’s a bit the purpose of the added text here: I don’t make myself very accessible either. I’m glad I get to teach you words, to you and some others that have also thanked me for it. Words are an awesome thing and the more we know, the merrier. One can never be too precise in poetry, right?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. it may be that i’ve not been lettign myself into that sort fo drift in this medium
        i have a greeek friend who can trounce me at scrabble — unless i cheat
        but every rule in poetry may be broken poetically, is my working hypothesis . . .

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, Basilike, not a genius, I don’t think. But if I’m a genius to you, isn’t that brilliancy enough?
      You’re also a incredible creator that I respect immensely and one of few I remember from way back when I started posting here. From one “Mediterranid” to another, eφχαριστο.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. What a sentiment and view on it. A kind of small manifesto (if there can be such a thing). Amazing insights and use of words and feeling. To monument or make a monument of it, I like that. I’m intrigued by your explorations of the interrelationship between the self and the writing, that’s my lifelong journey too. No answers and no end to it! Amen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, it’s certainly a manifestation of something. My explorations, as we say in Portugal, fall on a sack full of holes. At the end of the day, I believe it should be about the work, not the worker; but, when dawn reveals a night, I suddenly feel contrary: a creation is a figment of the creator.
      I think whenever the scale midpoints, I write a poem, or whatever. Thanks for coming by, Bill!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I found you in turn. I imagine my poetry is a child’s version of what you write. I love vocabulary and had thought I had an expansive collection of words—but you blow me away.

    I did struggle with the concept of nilpotency-despite reading three definitions, nothing made its way through my math-deprived brain to make sense of it in the passage. My apologies. It feels like I have failed your vision. But perhaps it is like looking into the sun—it is never safe unless you are half blinded by dark glasses. And you can only glimpse a portion of its magnificence as a result.

    And lastly, I omitted the word “effulgence” from my work for fear being hard to understand. Next time, I will try to be brave! Thank you for finding me.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Kirizar, it’s incredibly sweet of you to come by. I don’t think — at all — that your poems are a child’s version of mine. Gosh, not in the slightest. We have different styles; genres, even, but that in is one above the other in any scale. I truly enjoyed reading your poem. Like I said, it’s lofty and treacly and really sharp in how it is conceived, and sometimes, that’s exactly what I want to read.

      Concerning nilpotency, it’s not actually a word, but an expansion I “hand-crafted” I made from “nilpotent”. Though nilpotent originates in abstract algebra (and I know it from there), I used it more for its linguistic prowess. In this case, nil – nothing and potency, well, potency. Nilpotent is similar to impotent, but impotency preassumes that one had a power that was lost, and nilpotency, in my mind, describes a potency that was never there.

      And concerning words, use them, meld them, change them! That’s what they are for. I’m a formal creator and I don’t break many rules, but even to me, language is plastic and plasticity. We must make the most of it, if only to honour its richness and place in our lives!

      It’s great to have you!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You know, I thought that exactly about ‘nilpotency.’ It sounded like it would mean ‘not potent.’ Hence my confusion when it seemed to be rooted in math. It’s nice to know my instincts aren’t complete malarky–even if I don’t trust them.

        I’ll look forward to more works, when the mood for lyricism and vocabulary building strikes hot!

        It’s great to be had.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh, if I could write like you even now and then I would die happy.
    You capture me with every word, every phrase and every sentiment.
    Sometimes I read your work and wonder: Is he okay?
    Then I remember that anyone who can hypnotize me such as you do must be just that and more.
    You, my enigmatic colleague, are my guilty pleasure on a rainy afternoon.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, Mr. Ormsby, this means the world.
      Do you mean am I okay as in my state, or do you doubt if I’m okay as a writer. It’s most often a no to both.
      I’m happy to be your colleague and to capture you. It’s not easy to be enrapturing, these days. There’s a lot of everything.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. ‘you either make a monument of your pain, or you monument your pain, and the former is, to me, a necessary but very grievous process …’ … (I would imagine) a long- and hard-won piece of realisation; ‘grievous’ because it is such a fine line – for every word! – to balance between making a monument (without you in it) and being the monument with all the inherent cracks and misalignments from lack of perspective

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I don’t think it’s as much a realisation insofar as it succeeds the process. I think, especially considering I’ve been a creative from such a young age, that this was always my tacit filling-of-ewers for the coming thirst. I knew I’d be deconstructed by the world, eventually. I knew my frailty, my sore spot. Creating these monuments, these poems, is creating an indelible inner culture that tethers everything, such as an outer culture would. The quality of my humanship is no longer just the semantic of suffering, but the ability to decide: this is what my suffering is. This is the purpose.
      Of course, being in my early twenties, this is all quite vacuous “knowledge”. Tomorrow I’ll probably think differently. But, for now, this is how I feel.
      And welcome back to writing, Mr. Redford. ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

  9. What a trip. Loved it. Read it twice and may come back and read again. Dark…but lighter moments which also had depth. Seven minutes. So, interesting. Thanks – a poem which takes you away, such as this did for me, is proper skillful.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Samantha, that’s so incredibly nice. It’s true that darkness is deep, but lightness transcends depth. The wood-mouse could tell you so, haha.
      Thanks a lot for stopping by and giving me a chance.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. last night I potted plants recently acquired from a nearby nursery – my nails keep remnants of dirt lodged a bit too deep even with repeated scrubbing. fingers in soil, digging the holes, loosing coiled and compressed roots from container, carefully propping the tender stems upright, patting extra around the base in support – and then this poem, profusely abundant, rich as loam, carrying the history of what came before and the promise of what may yet emerge. you dig and prune and aerate and give the space for such as may grow (which is yet never promised to and may yet stunt). ~

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Michael, this is so very sweet of you. Just the other day, I was genuinely taken by your “opposite of pretichor”. I do treat Caliath a bit like a garden, I find. A very meticulous garden.
      If found etiolations before; parts of it dried and green-spent; helpless bodies. You forge, then, the space for such as may grow, even when you’re spaceless or become spaceless yourself. Preservation is important, but creation precedes us.
      Either way, it means a whole lot that you came by and left me such a luminant comment. Be sure to return. I’d find that something of great meaning.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Joao, you certainly have well deserved admirers among whom I am. Your artistic persona is effective, but it makes me worry. I don’t know what it would do to your poetry if you found a modicum of healing, but I’d feel better. Too many young artists fall victim to self destructive rashness. But that’s the pastor in me and none of my business anyway. Keep doing what you’re doing! Peace, Dave

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m not of the school of thought that one requires suffering in order to make beautiful Art. Creativity is not a product of pain, but pain centralises experience, be it in life or in creative life, when they are separate.
      I don’t think I’m spilling over to self-destructive rashness, though one is never quite certain of it while it is happening; I find my state to be poor, but that informs my craft. I’d do anything to be better, David, but it’s a bit out of my reach for now. I must manage it how I’m able, and I think poetry helps a ton. At least the act of writing it.
      And thank you for being an admirer, as I admire you much as well.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Andrea. Stillness used to be one of my favoured themes, around the time of vesaas. Even when I find to have over-explored some particular thing, it creeps its way back into my poems, sometimes anew, something more expanded than ever.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Beautifully done João, you are so talented.

    And this – ‘ I’m rarely ever okay, but I’ve learned an integral aspect of my being: you either make a monument of your pain, or you monument your pain, and the former is, to me, a necessary but very grievous process.’ is insightful, and something I recognise from as early as I can remember and still it goes on; I think of it as taking the pain, the dark and spinning it into gold, into something that shines, and do that by way of poetry and prose, though I have also created many paintings and prints that have done similar. It’s a kind of purge too. I didn’t intend writing a book, it was only once it was almost entirely written someone told me it could be my monument as such, and I liked the idea. My book will be my monument, it isn’t about sales, it isn’t about follow-up books, it isn’t to appeal to one section of people or another, it’s for me and I am inside it, and I’d like it to be loved and kept long after I’ve gone.

    So I’m making the cover out of solid gold.

    Hahahahahaha, not really. Though it will be along the lines of a cover of something like a Brother’s Grimm fairy tale book on the outside and have a ribbon inside to mark a page.

    There is a body of work ahead of you that you will consider your monument too, and even if you never do, others will consider it so, I am quite sure of this.

    You need to stop chucking it away first mind. *falls about*.

    I’m so pleased to see you have appreciative readers!

    Thank you for the mention.

    – Esme of Cloud fame sending love his way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, thank you so much, Esme! That means a ton, coming from you.
      I’m writing a book as well, though not a “life” book (unless it is the only one, which I doubt). I’ve just been enjoying the process of growing fond of it, you know? It’s akin to a child. You love it because it is yours and not-yours simultaneously, so your ego depersonalizes it and personalizes it on such an equalized level, all you have is some sort of fearful love and fearful possession and everything which you can see so timorously dissolved so quickly. I haven’t had any children, so, I wouldn’t know, but that’s how I assume it to be.

      All one could hope for is that the world treats your child well, or your book well, almost fully cognisant that such shan’t be the case, because it never is, even among the best of cases. Pain is indelible and inescapable, and having children, or having books, is just another modality of that.


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