Lodestar Quarterly

Lodestar Quarterly
Figure reaching for a star Issue 13 • Spring 2005 • Poetry

Sestina for Stockhausen

Steven Schwartz

Asked at a press conference on Monday for his view of [9/11],
Stockhausen answered that the attacks were "the greatest work of art
imaginable for the whole cosmos. Minds achieving something in an act
that we couldn't even dream of in music, people rehearsing like mad
for 10 years, preparing fanatically for a concert, and then dying,
just imagine what happened there. You have people who are that focused
on a performance and then 5,000 people are dispatched to the
afterlife, in a single moment. I couldn't do that. By comparison, we
composers are nothing. Artists, too, sometimes try to go beyond the
limits of what is feasible and conceivable, so that we wake up, so that we open ourselves to another world."

What is this thing that we call art?
Is it anything that takes a form?
A table? A poem? Fireworks' explosion -- perhaps we need an emotion:
Fear, love, loss, joy. Does that make music out of the cries of those
who cannot sleep?

But it is not fair to ask. Philosophers lose sleep over questions such
as this. You and I, our art must answer these questions for itself.
Music for you, writing for me -- a love affair with form that drives
us both. But how far we can go, I fear, is not up to us. I wrote a
tale in which an explosion

is like a wedding; the bomb, the orgasm, the explosion all wrapped up
together. It's not new. The "Sleep of Reason" has been fertile ground
for us. The fear that we bring others I call good. For if not in art,
then where can we give the world's nightmares form and manage them? If
evil always came with theme music

life, and police work, would be easier, but no music can convey the
force, the shock, of a nearby explosion -- flying brick, cries, the
pressure of air on the ears. To form opinion, a bomb beats a bagatelle
any day. People sleep just as well when a film insults them. But with
our art we can try and divide the bomb and the bogeyman. Fear

makes cowards of us all; but a good stiff dose of fear is an
inoculation for the soul, if given right. The music in doctor's
waiting rooms is meant to soothe. The art of relaxation's as valid as
any other, and an explosion of calm would do us all wonders. But drama
and sleep do not mix well. Perhaps we need some new form

to show us how to live with both. Can your hands form some new notes,
my pen new words? For if not, I fear we may soon be, by your words,
obsolete. The sleep of death is a long and quiet one. Where is there
music in it? Perhaps you thought that music used explosion as note,
gunfire as trill. Now you claim not. But art

does not ever sleep; when it's time for a new form of art it will
arise. Perhaps we need a poetry of fear, a painting of pain, a music
played out in an explosion.

Go To: Issue 13 or Lodestar Quarterly home page