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1983-2015
tearing the rag off the bush again
In Praise of Kenneth Warren (1951-2015) PDF E-mail


Self-suspended sacrifice to the cause, the well lived and well hanged man. That's what initially comes to mind when I think of Ken Warren. 23 is the number of the Hanged Man and it's also a chapter from The Book of Lies, where we get What Man is at ease at his Inn? / Get out...The Way out is THE WAY. Ken got out alright. Shortly after his retirement from over 25 years as the Director of the Lakewood Public Library he left behind his old life in Cleveland, and on sheer impulse bought a house on Lake Ontario in western New York. Water was essential to his working. Even in the dead of the Great Lake winter he'd do his Qui Gong every morning, sometimes lying flatout on the frozen water. His was a special attunement that I only knew a portion of. So I could speculate on many aspects of this life hotly pursued but it would be mere fictive uncertainty. Faced with this aporia I'll stick to what I narrowly know about Ken. In The Special Body we look at the body and yet avert any look into its anatomy (from outside). It's us, rather it's the option to hear that gets passed over (240). In the case of Ken Warren probably one of his greatest gifts or should I say talents, amongst many, was his laugh. Upwelling from his gut and soul Ken's baritone laugh was a piece of magical vibration that could alter most any mood on the spot. Born from an expertly tuned orator's voice proprioception at its finest. No matter how bad things were going Ken's laugh could always effectively subvert the negative. It had to be heard. In his written legacy a hint of this joyous outpouring can still be sampled (See Captain Poetry's Sucker Punch, Blaze Vox Press, 2012). His laughter brings to mind the legend of Tyl Eulenspiegel, from the low country of medieval Europe. Eulenspiegel, translates roughly as owl glass or howl glass, the incorrigible jester whose jokes and witticisms were devised to expose and or reflect the folly and irony of all around through his poignant interpretation of their machinations. Ken's writing demonstrated a high degree of selfawareness, a veritable speculum that reflects on him as much as it does on his readers. Literature at large was open game for Ken Warren. He knew not to take himself seriously, and in the Emperor Wears No Clothes, even though he had his fans, Ken realized that he enervated quite a few people with his own peculiar take on the Ferrini / Olson arena. He enjoyed it. With the realization of this series as an intrepid exposure he laughed all the way to the intellectual offshore antiacademic bank of independent learning. 

For Ken, as he told me in one of our last conversations, The Book is the Womb, the repository and safe space of all that is worth anything here. This was his strong belief in every way and his maintaining the journal of House Organ for 22 years, beginning in the winter of 1993, was the proof in the pudding of that devotion. The book as a touchstone fetish. As a result he never afforded House Organ an online presence or made available an eversion of his zinethis would have been an affront to the whole project. 

Milton suggested the poet's life should be a poem. To this aspiration The Special Body queries What is mortality? Has anyone raised that question within the interpreting guises of poetry or cultural artifact?(144) As a testament of sorts those of us who knew Ken Warren understood that he was House Organartifact and artificer covalent. Ken was the father of his Organ(ized family and anyone who got to know him through his magazine will attest to the level of care and enthusiasm he gave. The Organ subsequently has ceased pumping, being pumped. As for Dorn The Earth is a Turbine, a new standin for 'the machine(139) so is House Organ an engine, a series of stanzas in Ken Warren's living poem or l'oevre vie. Each issue was full of various poets' lodes with Ken's essays in the back, typically forming some psychopompic midrash to the encradled verse of that given issue. Towards the end his prose gained greater clarity and insight and concision. Who knows what he may have achieved had he been able to continue. The cessation of his word, breath, logos, the grinding stillness of the Organ answers an aspect of that question of mortality. There's an old saying, reality grows out of the end of a loaded shotgun barrel. Emptied, does it go beyond I wonder.

Then came suddenly 
to rest, the barrel utterly justified 
with a line pointing 
to the neighborhood of infinity. 

Ed Dorn, Gunslinger 

The emperor stripped of the sheath, his pen set down: these lines do point toward an infinite unfolding. The significance is laid open as its source is shut as if the words were part and parcel of what Bruno called the continuous body. The continuum is forever enriched where we are left to cope with remains. 

Ken's turbine was the anima mundi. And being a lover meant the world to him. His understanding of relationships was rooted in the animus. The animus has hooks Ken once stated to me, and we have a choice, we can either avoid them, stay in isolation, or allow them to grab us and take us for a ride. He then proceeded to elucidate on a number of poets who are armchair enthusiasts of the animus as far as he was concerned (who shall remain nameless). Ken himself was certainly not one of them by a longshot. He embraced the wonders of eros and danced that tarantella as long and as hard as it would take him. In The Special Body (Pleistoncenely aware) Soul...an erogeny of being beyond proof, beyond the capable negation of consciousness, re-
instituting the positivities of eros as ore.(135) In Sufiesque fashion to Ken it was the erotic ore that holds the real charge that digs us. He was devoted to matters of the heart and the heart's matter oddly enough was his undoing on this goaround. But the contra dance goes on no matter what and I'll wager Ken's probably having a ball on his new alternate line. 

Death is a negation of sorts, the penultimate apophasis for many minds here. At the close of Kydd's A Spanish Tragedy Revenge suggests that the endless tragedy begins in the afterlife. Hieronymo's bit off his own tongue, silenced himself, and then killed himself thus putting an exponentially reinforced termination to his word. Is this negation doubled or just madness taking care of business? In the case of Hieronymo the question will always arise: was he crazy like a madman, a fox or a little bit of both. Ken, the defrocked emperor, is undoubtedly a fox whose quill holds a knife's edge and a long shelflife. His tricksterly spirit should continue to reflect and multiply with each reading's polishing action. The big laugh will have its traction beyond our time. 

On the North Carolina Piedmont 
Robert Podgurski 
8/25/2015
 
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