An Ethics of Practice
Claudia Keelan asks readers to assume the role of the perpetual traveller, recognizing our essential condition on earth
Most think of an émigré as one who leaves her native land to find home in another. Claudia Keelan, in essays both personal and critical, enlists poetic company for her journey, engaging both canonical and common figures, from Gertrude Stein to a prophetic Las Vegas cab driver named Caesar.
What if, instead of trying to be “somebody,” one agreed to be “nobody”? What if our culture were less attached to a commodified “make your mark” ideology, and more informed by the “leave no trace” signs in national forests? Why not view the concept of possession as a silly dream—why talk of “my” child, “my” life, “my” house? Keelan charts the reality of this freer state in essays on the 2009 recession, Las Vegas, tornadoes, civil rights parades, and her eccentric neighbor. Mapping her own peripatetic evolution in poetry and her nomadic life, she also engages with Christian and Buddhist doctrines on the virtues of dispossession.
Ecstatic Émigré pays homage to poets from Thoreau and Whitman to Alice Notley, all of whom share a commitment to living and writing in the moment. Keelan asks the same questions about the growth of flowers or the meaning of bioluminescence as she does about the poetics of John Cage or George Oppen. Her originality is grounded by the ways in which she connects poetic principles with the spiritual concepts of via negativa demonstrated both in St. John of the Cross and Mahayana Buddhism. In addition, her essays demonstrate an activist spirit and share a commitment to the passive resistance demonstrated in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s concept of the beloved community and philosopher Simone Weil’s dedication to exile.
In addition to poetry scholars interested in a living poet’s method of reading, this book will interest social and spiritual activists cultivating mindfulness in relation to protest and the living present.
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